Best car manufacturers 2019

24 Apr, 2019 11:50am

We reveal the UK’s best car brands based on the feedback from car owners who took our 2019 Driver Power survey...

Welcome to our Driver Power 2019 brand survey. We’ve already counted down best new cars to own; now we do the same with the makers that build them.

The results we publish from Britain’s number one car satisfaction survey are telling; you’ll be able to determine the broad trends that characterise life with cars from 30 manufacturers.

Some brands, for example, may produce models that have a halo effect, and rank high up. But if these cars are exceptions to the rule, and the firm’s other products are underwhelming, you’ll be able to sniff this out in our Driver Power brand survey; there’s no hiding here.

• The best new cars to own 2019

Do the featured manufacturers produce vehicles that generate positive reliability reports? Do they fit infotainment systems that are up to standard? Are their cars good to drive, or affordable to service? These are just a few of the key questions addressed by our brand survey, which should be a one-stop shop for those wondering if the grass might be greener with another maker’s logo on their steering wheel. You can also see if your general impressions of a company tally with thousands of our readers’.

Competition among the 30 brands featured here is tough; there are mere fractions of a percentage between our first-placed manufacturer and our runner-up. But with thousands of owners from around the country reporting back to us on life with their new cars from 30 companies, such seemingly small degrees of separation can actually represent large swings of opinion.


So read on to find out which head offices will be cracking open the champagne to celebrate lofty finishes, and which might want to ask themselves why owners feel they could be doing better.

Have a look through our interactive data table below, or scroll down further to read our rundown of the top ten best car manufacturers in 2019...


The top 10 best car manufacturers 2019 

10. Toyota – 90.54% 

Key points: Low running costs, but Toyotas aren’t the most practical cars, you say.
Average share of owners with faults: 11.7%

Even though the Prius finished as Britain’s number one new car to own, maker Toyota couldn’t replicate that result in the brand table.

Tenth place isn’t to be sniffed at, of course, but preventing the brand from pushing further up the rankings are disappointing marks for practicality and a below-par score in the interior category.

You say Toyota interiors lack the wow factor, while its boots aren’t that big and interior storage is limited.

Still, life with a car from the brand impresses in several areas: the best category score is running costs. It’s third here, with excellent reported fuel economy and impressively low servicing bills. Reliability is also rated strongly, and you say Toyotas feel like high-quality products.

But don’t expect your Toyota to be quick, according to our readers: 26th for acceleration indicates progress is leisurely, even if the engines are quiet and the gearboxes smooth. 

9. Jaguar – 90.72%

Key points: Fantastic to drive, but Jag reliability needs improvement.
Average share of owners with faults: 29.8%

Jaguar’s cars generate some truly great scores, helping the brand rank fourth for engines and gearboxes, second for ride and handling, and fifth in the exterior category.

For example, you love your Jags’ acceleration, and also consider the company’s gearboxes to be smooth. Similar compliments are given for the driving experience thanks to responsive steering and brakes, a smooth ride, and an enjoyable experience behind the wheel. The safety features also impress.

These are all fundamental elements of car ownership, and are likely to be greatly appreciated by owners. Less likely to generate positive impressions, unfortunately, are the reliability glitches. The firm comes near the bottom of the chart in this area, and an unimpressively high proportion of you reported a fault of some kind.

Owners also criticise rear legroom in their Jags, and say that visibility from the driving seats isn’t great.

8. Suzuki – 90.75%

Key points: Stellar economy, but interior quality lets Suzuki down.
Average share of owners with faults: 11.6%

Are running costs the be-all and end-all for you? Head to your local Suzuki dealer. No other brand does better for mpg and running costs.

And if you’re after a reliable car, a Suzuki should also fit the bill, with the brand scoring well in this area, too. Acceleration, handling and rear-seat legroom generate positive scores for the Japanese company in our survey as well.

But it can’t all be good news, and Suzuki owners tell us of areas for improvement. Take the infotainment systems, for example: they criticise poor stereo quality, unimpressive smartphone connections and so-so navigation. You’re not too sold on how sensitive or easy to see these screens are, either.

Suzuki may also want to engineer a smoother ride into its cars; this was another area that generated negative feedback across the brand. The same is true of interior design: you don’t like the way Suzukis look inside, and are even less keen on the fit and finish.

7. Honda – 90.97%

Key points: Infotainment lags behind, although Honda does many things very well.
Average share of owners with faults: 18.6%

Peerless practicality, top-notch safety features, lots of rear legroom, rock-bottom servicing costs and strong fuel economy – Honda clearly does several things right if its Driver Power results are anything to go by.

Some of the practicality aspects may be related to the ‘Magic’ seats in the Jazz and HR-V, with their bases that fold up, cinema-style; either way, you say Honda’s seats are flexible. The brand’s cars are also child-friendly, according to our data, are finished to a high standard outside and perceived as reliable.

As with Suzuki, however, Honda could do with upping its game on infotainment. You’re unimpressed with the smartphone tech, and don’t like the sat-navs and stereos.

Honda engines are also criticised; you rate them poorly on acceleration and say they’re noisy, although the gearboxes are felt to be smooth. The current design language is slated as well, which may not surprise those who find the latest Civic too edgy.

6. Subaru – 91.09%

Key points: Owners report high running costs, but say Subaru is the number-one brand for safety.
Average share of owners with faults: 15.3%

We’re high up the Driver Power brand table here, so it’s no surprise that Subaru does more things right than wrong. First, the negatives: you say the firm’s cars need to be faster, cheaper to run and more stylish.

Don’t let that put you off, though, because a company doesn’t rank sixth by accident. Speaking of which, Subaru is first in our safety features category, with owners impressed with the protective kit on their cars.

And while acceleration is rated poorly, you’re more complimentary about engine noise, gearbox smoothness and handling – all areas in which Subaru scores very well indeed. Also praised is the build quality of the company’s
cars, inside and out, while overall reliability is judged favourably and visibility from Subaru drivers’ seats is without equal. In addition, you say you’d struggle to find a brand making more practical cars, with interior storage especially strong, according to our Subaru-owning readers.

5. Skoda – 91.36% 

Key points: Respondents praise Skoda in almost every area of the survey.
Average share of owners with faults: 13.7%

Skoda reaches the heights of fifth with a number of laudable category scores, and barely a black mark.

Close to last place for sat-nav is its one hiccup, and that can arguably be overcome with a decent hands-free smartphone set-up. While the brand wasn’t marked brilliantly for its cars’ ride and handling, either, and the same is true for safety features, these categories still generated above-average scores, and Skoda excels in almost every other area.

Take practicality: you say the firm’s cars offer more interior storage than those of any other brand, while Skoda boots are vast, and rear legroom generous. You also rate Skoda’s reliability, tell us its cars are well built and feel running costs are more than acceptable. It’s a similar story across Skoda’s results; these cars have great stereos and sensitive touchscreens, offer plenty of child-friendly features, and feature fast engines and smooth gearboxes. If we’re being picky, you say the front seats could be comfier. 

4. Mazda – 91.51% 

Key points: Low practicality scores are the only things holding Mazda back.
Average share of owners with faults: 16.3%

Narrowly missing out on a medal, Mazda has had an excellent Driver Power 2019, bringing in a strong set of results. Owners say their cars are well styled and built externally, and feature fast, quiet engines that are connected to smooth gearboxes.

Climb aboard and these positive impressions continue: the company designs stylish, well-made cabins, fits comfortable front seats and offers infotainment systems comprising perfectly pitched stereos, spot-on sat-navs and seamless smartphone connectivity.

Out on the road, the good news for Mazda continues, thanks to responsive brakes and steering, and the well-judged ride quality you say the firm engineers into its cars.

And when it’s time to stop for fuel or book a service, the bills are low. So is Mazda the perfect car company? Not quite; the practicality scores hold it back. Boot space and interior storage are criticised, and you feel the cars could be more child-friendly.

3. Kia – 91.54%

Key points: You tell us that Kia makes comfortable, reliable, high-quality cars.
Average share of owners with faults: 11.4%

Kia bags bronze in our Driver Power brand survey, generating almost universally positive owner feedback.

For starters, you say the firm builds cars with appealing interior designs, high-quality fit and finish, good driver visibility and comfortable front seats. The same is also true when it’s time to load items, with Kias featuring big boots, flexible seats, plenty of interior storage and roomy rear seats.

You’ve found your Korean cars reliable, too, with below-average reports of faults as well as a strong score for overall perceived quality. Owners tell us that their Kias are cheap to service as well, although reported fuel consumption is
ever so slightly below average.

There are a couple of other slight downsides: the company’s engines don’t seem that quiet or quick, while its gearboxes could do with being smoother. Kias also handle in a respectable way, rather than an impressive one, our survey reveals.

2. Alfa Romeo – 92.04%

Key points: Alfas are great to drive and feature unbeatable powertrains.
Average share of owners with faults: 28.2%

Bravo, Alfa Romeo. A silver medal in a tough competition, and only a fraction of a percentage separating the Italian firm from the number-one spot in our brand rankings.

You love Alfa’s engines; the company steals an unprecedented clean-sweep of first places among all the individual scores that make up this category. It also topped the ride and handling chart, with an equally impressive result across this field.

Owners complimented the safety features available, and praised their Alfas’ interior designs as well.

True, the percentage of drivers reporting a fault is worryingly high, but that doesn’t stop you awarding a decent reliability result – so the issues are presumably minor, or dealers fix them with professionalism.

The only score really holding Alfa back is practicality: boots, interior cubbies and child-friendly features disappoint. If you’re prepared for this, you should also be prepared to love life with an Alfa Romeo. 

1. Lexus – 92.06% 

Key points: Lexus owners post scores that rank the brand close to perfection.
Average share of owners with faults: 8.6%

It’s an astonishing performance from Lexus in Driver Power 2019. Not only did the brand field three models in the top 10 of our new car survey, it also tops the brand table, with a series of deeply impressive scores. The manufacturer takes a gold, silver or bronze medal in six out of our nine categories, a result no other company comes close to.

No firm produces more reliable cars than Lexus, according to your reports, and no manufacturer designs or builds better exteriors. No company offers more neatly styled or solidly built interiors, either.

These attributes have helped Lexus to its third consecutive Driver Power brand win, and the company can seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of our readers.

We say seemingly, but there is one area that bosses at the company may wish to address: the score Lexus owners award to their cars’ infotainment systems is rather disappointing. A ranking of 24th in this category is at odds with the company’s other Driver Power positions this year, and indicates that customers expect better.

But that appears to be the only shadow cast on the Lexus ownership experience. In almost every other area, you have nothing but praise for the company’s cars.

You can get all of the Driver Power 2019 results here. Don't buy your new car without checking them...