Car research is a tricky affair, because everybody is biased… JDP is paid for by the auto industry. Consumer Reports takes money from the audio industry. Lemon-aid is written by one guy who inexplicably loves the Crown-Vic. Everyone has their own anecdotal loves and hates. Some are driven by nationalist reasons, etc… The only source I’ve been able to find that does away with bias via statistics, is the LTQI. When a car is traded in, it’s almost always sold directly to an auction house. The US has a national standards body for assessing these vehicles before they are put on the auction block. Every vehicle is assessed by a professional (of which there are thousands, so any bias is washed out by the shear number of people), and the results are put in a DB. The LTQI started mining this database for indicators of overall vehicle quality, especially on the long term. What came out as a clear winner was Toyota.
Year over year, their cars are always better than anyone else’s. Before the LTQI, I based most of my research on the Lemon-Aid guide, he rated my 626 and my Accent at 5 stars, very rare for him. I’ve been lucky, both cars have been extremely reliable. My Accent is up to 150K and runs like new. My 626 was a rust bucket, and it turns out that model has lots of issues with the slushbox, but luckily it was gone before I had to deal with any of that.
Anyway, to surmise, Toyota/Lexus last forever, and Honda are a near 2nd, but have increasing issues with their automatic transmissions over the last few years. I think you really only have one choice, the Toyota Hybrids, with the regular Toyotas as a close second (with the associated higher fuel consumption and C02 emissions).