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The 14 Best Japanese Cars And A Surprise Subaru Top Pick

Are any Subaru models among the best Japanese cars this year? I'm not surprised the Subaru Outback makes the U.S. News list, but another Subaru on this year's list of fourteen best models is a surprise. Check them out here and see if you agree.

There are many reasons to buy a Japanese car.

Which are the best Japanese cars you can buy this year? Japanese vehicles are popular because they are affordable, reliable, and fuel-efficient. Which models would you pick to make this year's U.S. News Best Japanese Cars list? 

U.S. News says, "Whether you're looking for the fuel efficiency and compact design of a city-friendly sedan, the versatility of an SUV, or the performance of a sports car, Japan's selection of vehicles has something for everyone."

For all those reasons and a few more, the Subaru Outback makes the new U.S. News list, and I would choose the 2024 Outback. Subaru has another model on the list that's a surprise pick. First, let's look at the Outback

One of a kind

The Outback is truly unique. It's a rare model that should be included because it drives and rides like a car, but it also has the utility and versatility of an SUV. There's no other model like it. Read my recent report here. 

What does U.S. News say?

U.S. News says, "The Subaru Outback is a spacious and capable wagon with an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance, standard all-wheel drive, and more than 75 cubic feet of cargo space. The standard 182-horsepower four-cylinder engine feels underpowered, so we'd recommend checking out the upgraded 260-horsepower turbocharged engine. The Outback has a comfortable ride and can even tackle some light dirt roads."

"Standard features on the Outback include cloth upholstery, manually adjustable front seats, two 7-inch touch screens, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. It also has a suite of safety features such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keep assist."

So, the Subaru Outback definitely belongs on the best Japanese cars list. Before I discuss the surprise Subaru pick, I'll tell you which model it is not. The other top Subaru choice is not the Subaru Forester or Subaru Crosstrek.

Why not those two?

The 2024 Subaru Forester is outselling the Outback for a reason, and the Crosstrek is not far behind. Both models hit the "sweet spot." Read my report here. 

The 2024 Subaru BRZ is the surprise model, scoring higher than the Outback. I've listed the U.S. News Best Japanese Cars in 2024 from last to best.

  • 2024 Toyota Camry Hybrid: Overall Score: 8.3/10 | $28,855
  • 2024 Mazda CX-90 Plug-In Hybrid: Overall Score: 8.3/10 | $49,945
  • 2024 Subaru Outback: Overall Score: 8.3/10 | $28,895
  • 2024 Toyota Supra: Overall Score: 8.3/10 | $46,440
  • 2024 Honda Accord: Overall Score: 8.4/10 | $27,895
  • 2024 Mazda CX-30: Overall Score: 8.4/10 | $24,995
  • 2024 Mazda CX-5: Overall Score: 8.4/10 | $29,300
  • 2024 Mazda CX-90: Overall Score: 8.4/10 | $39,595
  • 2024 Mazda3: Overall Score: 8.5/10 | $24,170
  • 2024 Subaru BRZ: Overall Score: 8.6/10 | $30,195
  • 2024 Toyota GR86: Overall Score: 8.6/10 | $29,300
  • 2024 Acura Integra: Overall Score: 8.6/10 | $31,800
  • 2024 Honda Odyssey: Overall Score: 8.6/10 | $38,240
  • 2024 Honda Civic: Overall Score: 8.7/10 | $23,950

Of the fourteen best Japanese cars in 2024, the 2024 BRZ ranks number five overall. Are you surprised? I am. Don't get me wrong, the BRZ is a great model. It's co-developed with Toyota, and it's the best sports car value in America.

U.S. News says, "The 2024 Subaru BRZ is a rare thing in the modern car market: a straightforward rear-wheel-drive sports car with an affordable price and a driver-focused cockpit. It features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 228 horsepower, routed through a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The BRZ has direct, playful handling and is a joy to drive."

"Inside, the BRZ has supportive seats and modern technology, including a user-friendly infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The BRZ has driver-assistance systems such as front and rear automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control."

BRZ is no ordinary car.

The BRZ is not just a car, it's a different breed—a sports car. It's more than just a top Japanese car pick, it's a rear-wheel-drive two-door sport coupe. This distinction sets it apart in the market. 

The BRZ is not just a car, it's a unique offering from Subaru. It's a boutique model designed to attract new customers to Subaru retailers. While it may not be the primary car for many, its unique value proposition makes it special and appreciated by its fans. 

If it is the customer's only car when the BRZ owner outgrows the two-door coupe, which models do they buy? They will return to Subaru and buy one of its top-selling SUVs, an all-wheel-drive Crosstrek, Forester, or Outback.

Back to Forester and Crosstrek

Subaru hit the sweet spot with the Forester and Crosstrek. America's car-buying preferences have changed. A report from the Motley Fool says that big truck-based SUVs were hot a decade ago, and as gas prices rose, buyers started favoring small SUVs instead. U.S. buyers have fallen in love with SUVs, and recently, they favor compact and midsize SUVs.

Subaru has been producing multi-purpose vehicles like the Forester SUV, Crosstrek, and Outback crossover for decades. Although Subaru is now appealing to a larger segment of the population, it is still at the right place at the right time. Subaru hits the sweet spot in the market, and that's why Forester and Crosstrek are hot models. 

The 2024 BRZ is an excellent sports car and deserves recognition. Subaru of America sold 227 BRZ sport coupes in May. They sold 15,345 new Forester compact SUVs and 13,836 2024 Crosstrek subcompact SUVs. 

Buyers are not breaking down the door to get the BRZ. They are standing in line for the Forester and Crosstrek. 

It's Your Turn

What's your take on the BRZ's inclusion in the Best Japanese Cars list? Should it be ahead of the Outback? And what about the Forester and Crosstrek? We're eager to hear your thoughts. Click the red 'Add New Comment' link below and join the conversation.

I am Denis Flierl, a top Torque News reporter since 2012. I’ve invested over 13 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role, working with every major car brand. I am an experienced Rocky Mountain Automotive Press member. You'll find my expert Subaru analysis here. Follow me on my X SubaruReportAll Subaru, WRXSTI, @DenisFlierlFacebook, and Instagram.

Photo credit: Subaru


RandO (not verified)    June 30, 2024 - 12:00AM

After years of german car ownership I just decided to get smart n stress-free. Selecting from Toyota Harrier, Lexus NX and Honda Civic, I chose the Civic Hybrid. And we'll live n drive happily ever after...

Allan (not verified)    July 8, 2024 - 8:41AM

Just got a 2024 Forester touring. Very impressed so far and mpg has been excellent (31.3 average). Gave my daughter our 2013 Legacy still running strong at 150k miles so testament to their parts quality. I drive a Tesla model 3 but my wife wasn’t ready for another ev. So we switch back and forth on trips. The extra money I have to pay on Tesla insurance cancels the gasoline savings so it’s basically a wash.
I think the attraction to small sports cars ended years ago with tiny sales numbers for Miata, brz, etc. Even larger sports cars are barely selling—-nobody wants a coupe and no one wants stick shift. Continuing to manufacture these small niche vehicles will make no sense—-even the wrx.