Best cars to own: Driver Power 2019 results

17 Apr, 2019 8:00am

Thousands of you had your say in the UK’s largest car satisfaction survey. So here are the best buys

Welcome to Driver Power 2019 and, first of all, thank you. Seemingly every business and service asks for feedback these days, so we’ve been truly overwhelmed by the thousands of you who took the time to complete this year’s new car ownership survey.

Driver Power is the UK’s largest, most comprehensive car satisfaction poll, asking myriad questions on life with the models you’ve bought over the past 24 months. We get down to minute detail like infotainment screen sensitivity and levels of legroom. As well as compiling quantitative scores for those areas and 29 others, we add your subjective comments on life with your cars.

The big question will be which model is this year’s Driver Power winner; can Peugeot’s 3008 retain its 2018 crown? Beyond that, we list your category kings – the cars rated cheapest to run or the best handling. You’ll also find our 16 class winners; vital if you know you want, say, a city car or a premium mid-size SUV. 

Whether or not you took part in Driver Power this year, we hope you’ll find the results useful. And if you didn’t complete the 2019 survey, there’s always next year.

Best car manufacturers 2019

Below are the full results of the 2019 Driver Power new car survey. This includes details of how the rating system works, an interactive table and full details on the top 75 best cars to own. Click on to page two for the best cars to own in each market segment, from city cars to SUVs...

A. This number tells you where the car sits in the Driver Power top 75. If your model isn’t listed, we didn’t get enough responses to cover it.
B. Here we tell you how long each car has been in production for, as well as the main things – good and bad – owners commented on when responding to the survey.
C. We have nine judging categories, and the percentage is the average of a car’s scores. This is its rating, and defines its chart position.
D. These bars represent those scores in each of our nine judging categories. In short, the longer the bar, the better the car performed. 
E. We asked owners to report whether their car had suffered faults, and here we spell out what the most common troubles were.
F. In addition, we’ve picked out some interesting comments – some favourable, some less so – from owners of each model.

 

Driver Power 2019: The top 10 best cars to own 

1. Toyota Prius – 93.22%

Key points: Efficient and safe hybrid is our Driver Power 2019 champion.

You rank the Toyota Prius as number one in our Driver Power 2019 survey, crowning it Britain’s best new car to own.

This is thanks to the hybrid family hatch’s wide range of talents. Take running costs. While the Prius naturally brings bigger bills at the pumps than a pure-electric car, owners tell us it offers savings elsewhere, such as with insurance (which can be relatively expensive for EVs). You also heap praise on the servicing costs, and our accumulated data places the car a strong third for fuel consumption.

Interestingly, the Prius gains similarly high individual marks for the three elements that make up our engine and gearbox category, suggesting it’s as smooth as it is fast and quiet, and Toyota has refined its hybrid tech impressively. Owners also award high scores for the car’s safety features. 

It’s not all good news; you tell us that the sat-nav could be better and the controls could be more user-friendly, and drivers would also like Toyota to tone down the styling inside and out, it seems. But the ratings here are not disastrous; certainly not enough to knock the Prius off the top spot.

Factor in a smooth ride, an enjoyable driving experience, excellent reliability and impressive levels of perceived quality, and Toyota’s hybrid is clearly a thoroughly deserving winner.

Has it ever gone wrong?

Yes: 14.5% 

Number of issues reported is below average. You’re most likely to tell us about electrical problems

Living with a Toyota Prius

Keith Smith, a semi-retired health and safety officer from Staffordshire, spreads his life between his main home near Burton-on-Trent and his lodge in North Wales. Driving between these properties every week means Keith needs a car that can return top-notch fuel economy, and he reckons the Toyota Prius Excel he bought in September 2018 has been a wise choice.

“Instead of spending £100 a month on fuel, it’s less than £50,” Keith told us, when comparing the economy of his old SUV with that of his Prius. One might assume this switch came at the cost of some interior space, but Keith assured us this isn’t the case, and highlighted this as one of the reasons he loves his latest car.

“There’s so much room in the Prius without putting down the back seats,” he said. “It’s got a very big boot. Genuinely, the car caters for everything that I need it to do.”

Keith was also full of praise for how the Prius has evolved since he last owned one a few years ago. “I have so much faith in the brand,” he explained. “My old Prius was a 60-plate and the changes Toyota has made to it since then are unbelievable. All the safety features that are built into the car now are simply mind-blowing.” 

Your view

“There’s no indication when the Prius changes from EV to hybrid mode. It’s so good I wish I’d bought one years ago.”

“The brakes have just the right sensitivity and are easy to modulate. The regenerative braking is better than I expected, too.”

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2. Lexus IS – 93.19%

Key points: Strong economy and interior scores, but IS infotainment system is criticised.

The Lexus IS climbs nine positions from last year’s chart to achieve a podium finish in Driver Power 2019, and missed out on the top spot by only the thinnest of margins.

You love the drivetrains (the vast majority are hybrid), saying they’re quiet, smooth and provide strong acceleration. Owners are also massive fans of the interior, both in terms of the design and how well it’s put together. The front seats are comfortable, while the view out is excellent. 

The IS impresses on the road as well, with its responsive steering and brakes, excellent ride and great handling. And, unlike the big RX SUV, the saloon gets a strong score for economy, plus you rate the exterior highly for its looks and construction. But the saloon shape translates to a decent, rather than outstanding, result for practicality.

Infotainment brings the lowest rating on the IS’s category score card, although you tell us you like the smartphone connectivity, and that the sound systems are decent. 

The sat-nav system picks up a middle-of-the-road ranking, but there’s sharp criticism of the visibility and sensitivity of the infotainment system. Given that the IS features a similar mouse-like input control set-up to the RX, this seems to be a configuration owners are unenthusiastic about.

Has it ever gone wrong? 

Yes: 4.2%

IS generates the second-lowest number of reported faults (second only to the Nissan Juke, which ranked 27th), with engine and brakes most fragile

Living with a Lexus IS

Retired doctor Kavas Arjani loves the Lexus IS so much that the 300h Sport model he bought in January 2018 is his third – and he’s just ordered a fourth to replace it.

“The looks are what really drove me to buy it in the first place,” he told us. “But the build quality inside is extremely good as well.

“I can’t praise it enough. It’s very quiet, and the electric aspect is very useful around town. I get about 50mpg with the Sport, so the fuel economy is very good. I don’t have any complaints about it.”

Kavas lives on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and drives around 15 miles a day, but often goes further afield.

“We’ve been to Manchester, Oxford, London and even Cornwall in the Lexus,” he continued. “I love the IS because it’s a tremendously good long-distance cruiser.”

Another winning part of the Lexus ownership experience for Kavas has been the dealer network, probably helped by the fact that he hasn’t encountered a single fault with any of his three cars.

“Lexus dealers are probably the best,” he said. “The buying process is pressureless and painless, and they’ve got so much time for you.” 

Your view 

“I absolutely love the exterior – it’s stylish, contemporary and was one of my main reasons for choosing the IS.

“I like the seven years’ free sat-nav map updates. The ability to wirelessly connect my smartphone for traffic and weather updates is also useful.” 

3. Alfa Romeo Giulia – 93.00% 

Key points: Handsome, sharp-handling Giulia could be better on fuel.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia junior executive takes the bronze medal for the second year running in the Driver Power overall rankings, and this is largely down to the way it drives. It was the top-rated car for handling in our entire poll. 

The company will no doubt be delighted with such a strong result, also partly driven by the punchy engines the car has under the bonnet – the Giulia sits in the number-one spot for acceleration, for example. On top of that, owners tell us that the eight-speed automatic gearbox serves up smooth changes.

The Giulia’s styling was also very highly praised indeed by owners, although this result is slightly undermined by the fact that the exterior build quality was spoken of in significantly less glowing terms. 

You’re big fans of the safety features in the Giulia, though, and say the interior is well designed and finished. Owners also praise the comfort offered by the front seats, even if you say rear legroom could be more generous. 

In fact, practicality is not the Giulia’s forte – it isn’t the biggest saloon, after all. You say the boot is small, while interior storage is limited. Fuel economy also generates a pretty poor score, although that might be connected to the amount of fun you say you have behind the wheel.

Has it ever gone wrong? 

Yes: 28.0% 

A relatively high proportion of Giulia owners report issues, most often electrical glitches.

Living with an Alfa Romeo Giulia

Having owned Fiats and Abarths all his life, Michael Brooks switched to Alfa Romeo in 2017 when he took delivery of his Giulia Veloce.

“There’s an emotive link to it,” said Michael, a business performance coach from Corby, Northamptonshire. “You hear people talk about the passion for the brand, and you feel that when driving it.”

The buying experience got things off to a good start. “The dealer was really professional,” he recalled, “and had a great understanding of the car.”

Michael covers around 30,000 miles a year in his Giulia on all sorts of journeys, including his daily commute and ferrying his 15-year-old son to and from football matches. “It’s a really nice car to drive,” he added. “You feel really comfortable in it. The performance and handling are strong.”

And although Michael has encountered a couple of minor issues with his Giulia, his dealer dealt with them “very quickly”. In fact, Michael’s impressions of the Giulia are almost universally positive. “The overall package is brilliant,” he explained. “It’s great to drive, stunning to look at and you feel really proud driving it.” 

Your view

Auto box is seamless and never fails to select the right gear. Engine braking when changing down is excellent.”

“The Giulia is smooth, corners quickly when you need it to and holds its line well. It’s very stable on the road and always feels secure.”

4. Kia Sorento – 92.98%

Key points: Practical, with a great interior, but Sorento is heavy on fuel.

With the Kia Sorento, the Korean car maker takes a different approach to Driver Power front-runner Lexus in the large SUV market. It offers seven seats as standard at a more affordable price, together with conventional petrol and diesel engines, instead of the RX’s hybrid powertrain. 

Respondents to our survey say the Korean brand is onto a winner as a result: the Sorento climbs three places over its Driver Power 2018 position, overtaking the RX in the process to clinch an impressive fourth overall. Key to this success is practicality; no other car ranked better in this category. 

And while the RX’s infotainment system is a weak point, owners praise the Sorento’s satellite-navigation set-up, plus the stereo, smartphone connectivity and overall user-friendliness of the technology. 

The Kia also offers a top-notch interior, with comfortable front seats, neat styling inside, impressive build quality and a good view out from the driver’s seat. You say it looks good and is solidly built on the outside, too.

But its status as a large SUV isn’t the only thing the Sorento has in common with the RX; it also shares the Lexus’s high running costs. So while owners give the big Kia a genuinely impressive rank for its competitive servicing bills, fuel economy is felt to be undeniably disappointing.

Has it ever gone wrong? 

Yes: 19.7%

A fifth of you say your big Kia went wrong, with engine issues standing out as most frequent. 

Living with a Kia Sorento

Nigel Milligan drives a Kia Sorento in KX-2 trim, and you’d be very hard-pressed indeed to persuade him to buy any other car.

“I’ve only had this one for a month, but it’s my fourth Sorento. It’s just so versatile,” said Nigel, an IT manager from Heywood, Lancs. “We’ve got a big family and we can all go out in it easily. It can even fit three bikes on the roof. Whatever we as a family need it to do, the Sorento can cope with it.”

Nigel was initially drawn to the big Kia SUV’s pulling power and grip. “We’re into caravanning, and I need a big 4x4 to pull the caravan and get onto and off slippery pitches,” he explained. 

The Sorento has been able to cut it even when the going gets really rough. “During the Beast from the East, it ploughed through two feet of snow,” he said. “The wheels were caked in the stuff, but it didn’t stop going.”

Nigel has also been pleased with the all-important aftersales experience. “The dealer has been fantastic,” he added.

The Sorento offers good value, too, according to Nigel. “You get a heck of a lot of car for your money,” he told us. “I’ve got Apple CarPlay, a reversing camera, heated seats. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d stick with a Sorento.” 

Your view 

“CVT gives smooth acceleration with no kickdown and instant power, so it’s quick off the line.”

“The fuel economy in town and on motorways is unbelievable. I achieve 70mpg and the number of visits I make to petrol stations has halved.” 

5. Lexus RX – 92.87% 

Key points: Peerless interior design, but RX infotainment frustrates.

A repeat performance sees the Lexus's largest SUV finish in precisely the same position it did in 2018. And when you consider the way cars traditionally slip down the rankings as time marches on, this is an impressive result for the RX.

One glance at the scores will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about life with an RX. It’s characterised by smooth, positive acceleration, comfortable, flexible seating, an impressive driving experience and a stellar reliability record.

The big Lexus also performs well in the interior category, picking up a gold medal in this area, while the exterior styling generates strong scores. On top of all that, you say the perceived quality is impressive in every area.

It is hard, however, to overlook a couple of aspects in which the RX is marked down. For starters, owners criticise the running costs, mainly down to poor fuel economy, suggesting that a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain and a large SUV body aren't the best of bedfellows.

And there’s no hiding your dislike of the Lexus’s infotainment system. Given that user-friendliness generates the lowest individual score in this area, the brand’s Remote Touch interface is likely to be the culprit.

Has it ever gone wrong? 

Yes: 8.1%

Electrics are your most common complaint, but big and plush SUV doesn’t often throw up any issues. 

Living with a Lexus RX

Paul Ryan previously owned three Lexi before switching to an Audi, but now he’s gone back to the Japanese brand by purchasing an RX 450h, complete with the Premium Pack.

Paul, from Epsom, Surrey, was impressed with his RX before he’d taken delivery. He said: “What I like about Lexus is you get all the stuff you normally have to pay extra for as standard. You know what you’re getting for the price.”

The company’s renowned retail network also stood out. “I bought it from Lexus Twickenham, and it’s a first-class dealership,” he told us. Paul hasn’t owned his new RX for very long and commutes to work during the week by train, so he mainly uses it for pottering about at weekends. Nevertheless, he’s already been struck by just how refined and efficient it is for such a large vehicle. “It’s a big car, but it’s incredibly smooth,” he explained. “You don’t hear the engine and it’s surprisingly economical; I’m averaging about 40mpg, which is really good.”

As with other RX owners, Paul, who works in finance, is impressed with the interior, too. “Everything is so well put together and made of the best materials,” he told us. “It’s silky smooth to drive.” 

Your view 

“The paint has a rich depth to it and the doors, handles, roof rails and general trim have a superior look and feel.”

“Acceleration is excellent, although I suppose that’s to be expected from an electrically assisted 3.5-litre engine.”

6. Skoda Kodiaq – 92.75%

Key points: Practical, handsome Kodiaq has impressive infotainment system.

Driver Power, like the new car market, is peppered with SUVs of all shapes and sizes, but few (two, to be accurate) impress more than the appealing Skoda Kodiaq. 

It would be difficult to find a more practical car, for example, because you say the Kodiaq has a vast boot, acres of rear legroom, loads of interior storage space and a raft of helpful touches. Other feathers in the big Skoda’s cap include a top-notch infotainment system, a stylish interior and a strong sense of overall quality. 

Given its numerous strengths, the Kodiaq’s rather disappointing fuel economy should be bearable.  

Has it ever gone wrong?

Yes: 22.6% 

Almost a quarter of you reported faults with your Kodiaq; mostly to blame were electrical glitches

Your view

“The engine is a strong performer. It accelerates nicely from 0-60mph and has all the motorway grunt I need.”

“The sat-nav system is very good. I like that I can set the address on my computer and transfer it to the car via WiFi.”

7. Peugeot 3008 – 92.69%

Key points: Previous Driver Power winner scores well in almost every area.

Last year’s Driver Power champion falls six places to an honourable seventh, indicating the Peugeot 3008 hasn’t lost much of its lustre over the past 12 months. 

The car’s interior design still works well for you, while you remain in love with its infotainment system, too. Practicality, the driving experience, quality and the exterior styling are all singled out for praise, plus the 3008’s gearboxes are smooth, and its engines quiet. 

It takes some determination to find areas where owners have negative views, but acceleration could be swifter, while servicing costs could come down a bit.  

Has it ever gone wrong? 

Yes: 15.1% 

Popular SUV leaves 85 per cent of you with no issues; electrical niggles crop up most often

Your view 

“The gearlever’s position makes it easy to find gears. It changes very smoothly and the ratios are well matched.”

“I’m disabled and find getting into and out of the car easier than in other cars. There’s also lots of legroom – one of the reasons I chose it.”

8. Hyundai Ioniq – 92.67%

Key points: Impressive Ioniq is cheap to run and dependable.

The Hyundai Ioniq is a bit of a anomaly in the automotive world because of its availability as a PHEV, hybrid or EV. But Hyundai’s decision to pitch the car at buyers with different requirements seems to be paying off.

You rave about the running costs, for one thing, telling us that servicing is cheap and fuel economy impressive. You’re also fans of the available safety features, and are pretty impressed with the reliability. 

A humdrum score for handling, a middling rank for interior design and a shortage of child-friendly features are the only minor blots on the Ioniq’s copybook. 

Has it ever gone wrong? 

Yes: 16.2%

You say the Ioniq is average for problems. Engine ties with electrics and gearbox for snags.

Your view

“Despite the sloping roofline, I’ve never had a problem with visibility when parking, reversing or overtaking.”

“Best sat-nav I’ve ever had. Information delivered clearly and in good time, with an accurate display of the vehicle’s location.”

9. Lexus GS – 92.64%

Key points: Reliable, smooth and stylish – the GS performs strongly.

The Lexus GS was recently been replaced by the ES, but Lexus should be under no doubt the new model has very big boots to fill, according to our respondents. 

GS owners are genuinely impressed with their cars’ reliability, for one thing, while the hybrid drivetrain is responsible for some mighty scores relating to smoothness, refinement and acceleration. 

You’re not as sold on the GS’s infotainment, though, while the traditional three-box saloon format may explain why other cars are felt to be more practical. These are minor blemishes, however, on the Lexus’s score card. 

Has it ever gone wrong?

Yes: 9.1% 

Brakes are your most common complaint, but few owners tell us of problems in general. 

Your view 

“Daring, modern styling sets the GS apart from its German competitors. It’s well proportioned and classy.”

“There’s no jarring motion, no matter how hard the accelerator is pressed. It’s useful that the energy from braking recharges the battery.” 

10. Kia Niro – 92.63% 

Key points: Impressively low running costs and great infotainment with Niro.

Last year’s Driver Power silver medallist falls slightly in the overall rankings in 2019, but Kia should still be pleased with the Niro’s great performance. 

Infotainment and running costs are responsible for the Niro’s two best category results, with the hybrid drivetrain no doubt helping in the latter of these two areas. You also rave about the legroom in the back, consider quality to be excellent, and like the neatly styled, well-built interior. 

It’s a shame the same can’t be said for the Niro’s exterior looks (although build quality on the outside scores well), while acceleration is rather tepid.

Has it ever gone wrong?

Yes: 15.9% 

Niro does pretty well, with electrical issues the most frequent gremlin you report

Your view 

“I have a very bad back, but the upright position and electric adjustment of the seat itself make long journeys easier.”

“Build quality is first rate. All of the shutlines are tight and the panel alignment is excellent. There’s no corrosion on any of the chrome.”

Best cars to own: places 11 to 20…

So you’ve seen the top 10. Below are the 10 cars that just missed out this time… 

11. Mazda 6 – 92.56%
12. Subaru Outback – 92.49%
13. Kia Sportage – 92.45%
14. Mazda CX-5 – 92.30%
15. Skoda Karoq – 92.27%
16. Volvo XC60 – 92.13%
17. SEAT Arona – 91.90%
18. Nissan Leaf – 91.86%
19. Toyota C-HR – 91.80%
20. Kia Stonic – 91.79%

Click through to page 2 for the list of winners by class, including best city car, best executive car, best green car and more...

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