Consumer Reports puts cars through more than 50 tests over rough roads, on highways, in braking and emergency handling.
While many Japanese cars score very highly, Consumer Reports says a surprising number haven't made the grade recently.
"One car that really disappointed us was the Acura RLX. This luxury sedan costs $55,000, and it's just not competitive,” said Tom Mutchler of Consumer Reports.
For $16,000 less, Consumer Reports says the Chevrolet Impala delivers a much more comfortable ride and handles better.
"Another Japanese car we don't recommend is the Honda Crosstour,” Mutchler said. “It aims to have the comfort of a sedan, the flexibility of an SUV and the cargo space of a station wagon. The problem is it doesn't really do any of this well."
Some small Nissans also scored too low for a Consumer Reports recommendation.
"The Nissan Sentra is good on gas, but handling isn't agile, it's noisy inside and the front seats are uncomfortable,” Mutchler said.
The subcompact Nissan Versa has those same drawbacks, and it hasn't proved very reliable in Consumer Reports surveys.
Testers also don't recommend Toyota's least expensive car - the Yaris.
"The Yaris is very reliable and fuel-efficient, but it just feels extremely cheap and unpleasant to drive,” Mutchler said.
For the same money, around $16,000, Consumer Reports says drivers are better off with the Hyundai Accent.
Two other Japanese carmakers, Subaru and Mazda, have an excellent record at Consumer Reports' test track. Nearly all of their models are recommended.