The latest car satisfaction ratings are out – and not everyone is happy

Chris Davies - Feb 5, 2021, 1:22pm CST
The latest car satisfaction ratings are out – and not everyone is happy

The winners and losers in car satisfaction have been totaled up, and while there’s good news for Tesla it’s not such a happy situation for other automakers facing criticism for underwhelming models and frustrating cabin tech. While totaling up things like recalls, or comparing 0-60 mph times, are straightforward metrics, figuring out which vehicles and brands inspire the most warm, fuzzy feelings is a lot trickier.

After all, there’s not only variations in how people think about their transportation to take into account, but differences in perception of vehicles depending on price, category, and intended purpose. Still, Consumer Reports thinks it has a pretty solid metric.

It surveys owners about their satisfaction with their car across several categories – including in-cabin tech, comfort, and driving – and then uses that data to figure out how they feel over the first 1-3 years of the vehicle. That, the company argues, gives a more accurate view, with less of that “new car smell” impact (or, conversely, early frustrations with dealer experience and other factors).

The most satisfying car brands are topped by a controversial automaker

Tesla, you either love it or you hate it. Or, maybe you love or hate company CEO Elon Musk, or the vocal cohort of fans and owners who sing the EV-maker’s praises. Still, it’s not just unpaid PR: turns out, Tesla owners are actually the most satisfied, in Consumer Reports’ study.

The Tesla Model 3 was the most satisfying model, too, and indeed the automaker’s four current EVs take up four of the ten top spots on that list. The Model S (a refresh of which has just been announced) and Model Y are in third and fourth place – the Kia Telluride SUV takes spot two – while perennial driver-favorite, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, slots into fifth place.

Lincoln also makes a strong satisfaction showing, along with Ram and Chrysler. The Lincoln Aviator and Corsair SUVs are among the top ten vehicles, too. Still, the survey-takers point out, all four automakers cited in the top four also had plenty of reliability issues reported. With a three-year warranty typical, that could make for less happy owners when problems arise that they subsequently have to pay for.

At the tail end on happiness, an automaker with plenty to prove

Down at the bottom of the satisfaction list, meanwhile, is Infiniti. Nissan’s luxury arm “finished at or near the bottom across numerous factors, including value and when owners were asked whether they would buy their vehicle again” according to the survey.

Indeed, three of the automakers models took spots on the top ten “least satisfying” cars: the QX60 and QX50 crossovers, and the Q50 sedan. Compact crossovers dominated that list overall, such as the Mazda CX-3, the Nissan Kicks, Jeep Compass, Chevrolet Trax, and Ford EcoSport. Toyota’s C-HR and the Nissan Pathfinder also found their way onto the roster.

In-car tech just keeps frustrating

The war to dominate car dashboards in the future may be in full force right now, but feedback on what’s on the market today suggests there may be a low bar to compete with. According to the survey, Lexus and Infiniti shared four of the five bottom sports in the least-satisfied list, with the remaining position being snapped up by Acura.

Interestingly, all three automakers have something of a track record for arguably confusing infotainment decisions. Lexus has flirted with both trackpads and joysticks in the past, rather than touchscreens, neither of which have especially found favor for their ease of use. Infiniti’s situation, meanwhile, was left abundantly clear after the (much cheaper) Nissan Armada outclassed its QX80 luxury SUV cousin’s frustrating dual-display system.

As for Acura, it has committed to a touchpad-controlled system in its most recent models, eschewing a touchscreen in favor of an approach the automaker claims is less distracting.


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