Consumer Reports annual owner satisfaction survey generally finds the cars that inspire the strongest consumer loyalty are typically vehicles that are either fun to drive, deliver great fuel economy, are fashionably green, or envelop owners in a high-tech, luxurious driving environment.
This year, the Tesla Model S all-electric luxury sports sedan, which provides a combination of all of those attributes, tops the ratings.
Owners of the Tesla Model S gave it the highest owner-satisfaction score Consumer Reports has seen in years: 99 out of 100. While the $89,650 Model S isn’t for everyone, CR collected more than 600 survey responses from owners of 2012 and 2013 models. Moreover, its owner-satisfaction score matches the near-perfect 99 overall test score the Model S earned in Consumer Reports’ performance ratings.
“In testing, the Model S stands out for its innovative design, outstanding performance, and surprising practicality. These results suggest Tesla owners are very, very satisfied,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of automotive testing.
Consumer Reports’ annual owner-satisfaction survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, generates ratings by asking 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, Consumer Reports received responses on about 350,000 vehicles and more than 285 models and variants spanning the 2011 through 2014 model years.
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, Dodge Charger (V8) large sedan, and the diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf TDI compact car.
Luxury and high-performance cars tend to do well in CR’s owner-satisfaction ratings, and Audi had more high-scorers than any other luxury brand. But models without a prestige brand 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.
“Novelty can play a big role in launching a car into the top ranks, which isn’t surprising because brand-new designs can generate a lot of excitement. But enthusiasm can wane quickly if a car turns out to be not very special,” said Anita Lam, Consumer Reports automotive data program manager.
That’s the case with the Toyota Prius C hybrid, a smaller version of the regular Prius. It garnered one of the highest scores in its 2012 debut year but dropped a significant 10 points this time around. Other cars that faded significantly in their owners’ estimation were the Chrysler 200, Hyundai Sonata, and Subaru Impreza hatchback.
In past years, CR’s survey showed that”green” fuel efficient cars, including electrics, hybrids, and fuel-sipping diesels, have also done well as a class in owner satisfaction, even though they aren’t known for outstanding comfort or engaging performance. Especially notable is the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which finished first in 2011 and 2012 surveys. It slipped to third this time, but its score of 91 was only one point lower than last year’s. Volt owners continue to love the car about as much now as three years ago, suggesting that the Volt has some staying power beyond its novelty.
Other perennial favorites that pleased their owners year-in and year-out include the BMW 3 Series, Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang (V8), Jeep Wrangler, Lexus LS, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Porsche 911, and Toyota Prius. Year-in and year-out, these models almost always rank among the best.
At the other end of the spectrum was 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 the bargain-priced sedan 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.