Lots of people love their cars. But as Consumer Reports has consistently seen in its yearly owner satisfaction ratings, the vehicles that inspire the strongest loyalty are ones that are fun to drive, deliver great fuel economy, are fashionably green or envelop you in a high-tech, luxurious driving environment.
So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Tesla Model S all-electric luxury sports sedan, which provides all of those attributes in one car, topped its latest ratings with the highest satisfaction score Consumer Reports has seen in years: 99 out of 100. (The survey was conducted last spring, before the three Tesla vehicle fires in the United States and Mexico.)
Though the $89,650 Model S isn’t for everyone, Consumer Reports did draw about 600 survey responses from owners of 2012 and 2013 models. Moreover, its owner satisfaction score matches the near-perfect 99 overall test score that the Tesla earned in its test program, which made it CR’s highest-rated vehicle. The Model S stands out for its innovative design, outstanding performance, surprising practicality, long 200-mile-plus driving range for an electric car and low driving costs.
Other models that topped their categories in Consumer Reports’ latest owner satisfaction ratings are the Porsche Boxster sports car (which was second overall), Audi A6 luxury sedan, Mazda6 midsized sedan, Subaru Forester SUV, V-8 Dodge Charger large sedan and diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf TDI compact car.
The annual owner satisfaction survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, asks Consumer Reports magazine and Web subscribers a key, revealing question, “Considering all factors (price, performance, reliability, comfort, enjoyment, etc.), would you get this car if you had it to do all over again?” A model’s score is based on the percentage of respondents who answered “definitely yes.” This year, responses were received on about 350,000 vehicles and more than 285 models and variants spanning the 2011 through 2014 model years.
At the other end of the spectrum from the Tesla is the subcompact Nissan Versa sedan, which garnered the lowest score for the second year running. Only 45 percent of its owners said they would definitely get it again. Other models that didn’t generate much enthusiasm in their categories are the Nissan Rogue and Jeep Compass small SUVs, Acura ILX compact luxury sedan, Kia Optima Hybrid, four-cylinder Chrysler 200, Kia Sedona minivan and Nissan Armada large SUV.
FEELING THE LOVE ... OR NOT
Luxury and high-performance cars tend to do well in this survey, and Audi had more high scorers than any other luxury brand. But models without a prestige nameplate or a sporty focus also made a mark. The redesigned Mazda6 and Subaru Forester, for example, are moderately priced, mainstream vehicles that outscored all models from BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
For the past several years, “green,” fuel-efficient cars, including electrics, hybrids and fuel-sipping diesels, also have done well as a class, even though they aren’t known for outstanding comfort, long feature lists or engaging performance. Especially notable is the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which finished first in Consumer Reports’ 2011 and 2012 surveys. It slipped to third this time, but its score of 91 was only one point lower than last year’s. So Volt owners continue to love the car about as much now as three years ago, proving that the Volt has some staying power beyond its novelty.
Occasionally a brand-new car craters immediately. That happened this time with the Acura ILX, an upscale version of the Honda Civic, which delighted barely half its owners in its first year.
Perennial favorites that please their owners year in and year out include the BMW 3 Series, Chevrolet Corvette, V-8 Ford Mustang, Jeep Wrangler, Lexus LS, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Porsche 911 and Toyota Prius. They almost always rank among the best.
2013 Consumers Union Inc.