Tops in Owner Experience
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why consumers love certain new cars, but over the last 21 years J.D. Power and Associates has developed a formula to determine which vehicles have the most desirable characteristics among new-car purchasers. The automotive research firm calls it the APEAL awards, which stands for Automotive Performance, Execution And Layout. Ratings are based on consumer evaluations of their 2016 model-year vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership across 77 attributes, which are factored into an overall APEAL score. For the 12th year in a row Porsche ranks highest among mainstream automakers, followed by BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.
Safety Tech Boosts Scores
This year’s study reveals that safety technologies such as blind-spot monitoring and low-speed collision avoidance have helped boost scores for vehicles that offer these features. “Technology-enabled safety features help drivers feel more comfortable and confident while driving their vehicles,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power. “These features are also ‘gateway technologies’ to autonomous driving capabilities, so the continued level of consumer interest in them will be a critical metric to watch as the industry evolves toward including more automation in new vehicles.” The following are the most “APEALing” vehicles in 25 categories, based on the 2016 study.
City Car — smart fortwo
Redesigned for the 2016 model year, the tiny fortwo is just 8.8 feet long – that’s about four feet shorter than the MINI Cooper – making it the smallest vehicle available in America. The fortwo has limited use given that it only seats two and doesn’t offer much cargo space, but for city dwellers the smart is a perfect fit. The tiny car is easy to park given its impressive maneuverability —the turning circle is a mere 22.8 feet. As expected, fuel economy is good with ratings of 34 mpg city / 39 mpg highway / 36 mpg combined when equipped with the twinmatic transmission.
Small Car — Chevrolet Sonic
Proof that you don’t have to buy a boring econobox to save money, the Sonic is available as a surprisingly roomy 5-passenger sedan or hatchback. It features a 60/40 split-folding rear seat for added versatility, and the hatchback has a hidden storage compartment in the cargo area. Choose the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and a manual transmission for the most enjoyment behind the wheel.
Small Premium Car — BMW 2 Series
The entry-level coupe and convertible in the BMW lineup, the 2 Series is available in 228i and M235i versions. The 228i is powered by a 240 horsepower 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder engine, while the M235i gets a TwinPower Turbo inline 6-cylinder powerplant that produces 320 horsepower. Both the 228i and M235i are available with either a standard 8-speed Steptronic sport automatic transmission or an available 6-speed manual. Both coupe and convertible are also available with xDrive all-wheel drive.
Compact Car — MINI Clubman
The MINI isn’t as mini as it once was, and the Clubman is actually pretty large — for a MINI. The 4-door Clubman offers a rather roomy interior. The tailgate has split rear doors that provide easy access to the cargo area. It may be larger, but the Clubman still delivers the fun-to-drive experience similar to the original MINI Cooper. Clubman is available with either a 1.5-liter 134-horsepower 3-cylinder engine or a more powerful 2.0-liter 4-cylinder unit in the S trim putting out 189 horsepower.
Compact Sporty Car — Buick Cascada
The 2016 Cascada is an all-new model, and the first Buick convertible for the U.S. market in 25 years. Cascada features a power soft-top that includes thermal and acoustic insulation; it can be lowered in 17 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. Powering this new convertible is a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 200 horsepower. Cascada features OnStar 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hotspot, Buick IntelliLink with a 7-inch diagonal touchscreen, HID articulated headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights and 20-inch aluminum wheels with a bi-color finish.
Compact Premium Car — Lexus RC
All new last year, the Lexus RC is designed as a sports coupe rather than a 2-door version of a sedan. Sporting the large Lexus grille, the RC features a wide stance with rear- or all-wheel drive. A variety of engines offer differing levels of performance, ranging from the 241-horsepower RC 200t to the RC F with its 5.0-liter V8 putting out 467 horsepower.
Premium Sporty Car — Porsche Boxster
Porsche’s 2-seat mid-engine roadster, the Boxster debuted as a 1997 model. In 2013 Porsche refreshed the Boxster with a chassis that was lighter, longer and wider than the previous version. Boxster is available in four different guises: Boxster, Boxster S, Boxster GTS and Boxster Spyder. Power options range from a 265-horsepower 2.7-liter flat 6-cylinder engine to the Boxster Spyder boasting a 375-horsepower 3.8-liter powerplant. Look for an all-new 718 Boxster coming for the 2017 model year.
Midsize Car — Kia Optima
The Kia Optima offers a great combination of attractive styling, roomy interior, considerable trunk space and excellent performance. Optima is available with a variety of fuel-efficient powertrains, including a hybrid model and high-performance turbo. The Optima is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ which means it offers crash-avoidance technology. Look for a revised Optima coming for the 2017 model year, as well as a new plug-in hybrid.
Midsize Sporty Car — Chevrolet Camaro
Chevrolet’s iconic sporty coupe, the Camaro is completely redesigned for the 2016 model year. With a more sculpted and taut look than its predecessor, Camaro gets built on an all-new chassis that tests 28 percent stiffer than the previous frame, providing refinement in both ride and handling. A new 275-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder is the standard engine for the base-level LT, with a new direct-injected 335-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine available as an option. The SS draws power from the 455-horsepower 6.2-liter LT1 small-block V8 engine introduced on the Corvette.
Midsize Premium Car — Audi A6
Audi has done an amazing job with vehicle design in the past few years, making the A6 one of the most attractive luxury sedans on the market. With its signature Singleframe grille and available LED headlights, the A6 certainly stands out from the crowd. The A6 can be equipped with the latest safety technologies designed to help the driver avoid a collision. Two engine options are available: a 252-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter or a supercharged V6 delivering 333 horsepower. Of course, the A6 is available with Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive system.
Midsize Premium Sporty Car — Porsche 911
For 50 years the iconic 911 has been one of the best sports cars on the planet, offering amazing performance while remaining comfortable and useful as a daily driver. Porsche recently launched the seventh generation of the 911, which has a wider front track and is longer, lower and loaded with new features. A plethora of 911 versions are now available, including the 560-horsepower 911 Turbo S.
Large Car — Nissan Maxima
At one time Nissan dubbed Maxima the “4-Door Sports Car,” and the brand is hoping to bring back this nickname with the all-new 2016 Maxima. Incorporating fresh styling that closely ties in with the rest of the Nissan lineup, Maxima is available in a number of trim levels ranging from S to Platinum. All Maximas have a 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine teamed with a new performance-oriented Xtronic continuously-variable transmission.
Small SUV — Hyundai Tucson
All new for the 2016 model year, Tucson has a fresh look, an updated interior and a number of new high-tech features. Tucson is more spacious inside, and under the hood it now offers a new 1.6-liter turbocharged engine with 175 horsepower as well as improved fuel economy. When equipped with optional Automatic Emergency Braking, Tucson earns the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.
Small Premium SUV — BMW X1
The revised second-generation BMW X1 came to market last fall, and sales more than doubled for the first quarter of 2016 compared to last year. The smallest of BMW’s three crossovers dubbed Sport Activity Vehicles, the new X1 design bears a strong resemblance to the larger models while offering more cargo capacity and interior room than its predecessor. For the U.S. market X1 is offered exclusively with a 228-horsepower version of BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, combined with an 8-speed Steptronic automatic transmission and xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive.
Compact SUV — Toyota RAV4
The Toyota RAV4 was one of the first “crossovers” when it arrived on U.S. shores in 1996. Twenty years later, the RAV4 is one of the best-selling vehicles in America and Toyota has just debuted an all-new version. This new RAV4 is available with a host of high-tech entertainment and safety features. With Toyota’s Safety Sense system, the RAV4 is able to autonomously stop to avoid a crash, making it one of the safest vehicles in America. Toyota also introduced a very efficient RAV4 hybrid that boasts 194 horsepower as well as 34 mpg in the city.
Compact Premium SUV — Porsche Macan
The fifth vehicle in the current Porsche lineup, Macan was a brand-new model for 2015. Styled after the larger Cayenne, the compact Macan still embodies all qualities expected from the iconic German sports car brand. Macan comes with full-time all-wheel drive, and is available in S, GTS or Turbo trims, the latter equipped with a 400-horsepower V6 engine capable of pushing this small SUV to 60 mph in a mere 4.4 seconds.
Compact MPV — Kia Soul
The Kia Soul is somewhat unique in the marketplace — there really isn’t anything else on the road quite like it. Completely redesigned in 2014, the cute, boxy hatchback makes great use of space; it has a small footprint but a surprisingly roomy interior, both for passengers and cargo. As with other Kia models, the Soul comes well equipped, making it a good value in the small people mover segment. Kia also offers the electric-powered Soul EV in a limited number of markets.
Midsize SUV — Kia Sorento
Kia’s 7-passenger crossover receives a complete redesign for the 2016 model year. In addition to updated styling that fits in with the rest of the Kia lineup, the Sorento has a roomier interior as well as a number of new features, including the latest version of Kia’s UVO entertainment and communication interface offering services such as Geo Fencing, Speed Alert and Curfew Alert. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, Sorento comes in a number of different trims with three engine options, including a powerful 290-horsepower V6.
Midsize Premium SUV — BMW X6
BMW calls the X6 a Sports Activity Coupe and it’s somewhat unique in the marketplace, since it offers the capability expected of a premium crossover but with sportier looks thanks to its coupelike profile. Available with luxury features such as 20-way seats covered in soft Nappa leather, Fineline Pure wood trim and a high-end Harmon Kardon audio system, the X6 also boasts some powerful engine options, including a 445-horsepower 4.4-liter V8.
Midsize Pickup — Chevrolet Colorado
All new last year, Chevy’s Colorado compact pickup has updated styling as well as new engines that boast segment-leading power and impressive fuel economy. Colorado can be equipped with the latest safety features — including available forward collision alert and lane departure warning — in addition to a standard rearview camera.
Minivan — Kia Sedona
An entirely new Sedona minivan arrived for 2015, and clearly it has been well received — sales are up more than 400 percent compared to 2014. The new Sedona incorporates styling cues that map to the rest of the Kia lineup. The completely updated interior offers more usable space with seating for eight, as well as a number of new features. One segment standout is the available “first-class” lounge seating — the second-row bucket seats can be slid rearward for plenty of legroom, and they also have retractable leg rests and airplane-style winged head restraints.
Large SUV — Chevrolet Tahoe
There aren’t many vehicles on the road that can compete with the Chevrolet Tahoe. With seating for up to nine occupants, plenty of cargo capacity, the ability to tow more than 8,000 pounds, and 9 inches of ground clearance for off-road adventures, the Yukon is one of the most capable SUVs on the road. Available with 2WD or 4WD, Tahoe can also be equipped with a suite of safety features as well as 4G LTE connectivity with a Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless phone charging, power-folding second- and third-row seats, an 8-inch color touchscreen and multiple USB ports.
Large Premium SUV — Land Rover Range Rover
Often considered the benchmark of premium SUVs, the Range Rover is the perfect mix of luxury features and impressive off-road capability. Inside, passengers find comfortable surroundings with high-end leather and wood trim, as well as the latest in entertainment and safety technology. The Range Rover also features a terrain response system that optimizes the big SUV to handle just about any terrain.
Large Light-Duty Pickup — Nissan Titan
Nissan recently introduced an all-new Titan and it is big — even by truck standards. Although referred to as a light-duty truck, the new Titan XD actually slots between a half-ton and three-quarter-ton pickup. Titan XD is available in five different levels, ranging from the base S to the top-level Platinum Reserve. Each trim is available with 2WD or 4WD in regular cab, extended cab and 4-door crew cab versions. And even though Titan has been equipped with a number of new features, it’s the 5.0-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel V8 that stands out, producing 310 horsepower and an impressive 555 lb-ft of torque at just 1600 rpm.
Large HD Pickup — GMC Sierra HD
GMC’s heavy-duty pickup truck received a fresh look for 2015 with bold exterior styling. The interior was redesigned to reduce noise intrusion, add more comfort and make controls more intuitive. Larger rear doors and updated seat designs provide easier ingress and egress. Sierra HD offers impressive performance with a wide choice of gasoline or diesel powerplants, including the 6.6-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel that provides a maximum towing capacity of more than 23,000 pounds.