Initial Quality Winners
Last year Kia became the first non-premium automotive brand to rank highest in the annual J.D Power U.S. Initial Quality Study. Proving it was no fluke, the Korean automaker remains on top for 2017. This important auto industry study has been conducted for more than 25 years by global marketing information services company J.D. Power. An automaker’s initial quality ranking is based on the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100). A lower IQS score indicates higher quality. The study is based on responses from more than 80,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2017 model-year vehicles, surveyed after 90 days of ownership.
According to the 2017 IQS survey, new-vehicle quality is at an all-time high, improving 8 percent over 2016. Quality improved across seven of the eight categories measured, including improvements in technology — Audio/Communication/Entertainment/Navigation — which has been cause for issues in the past. The ACEN category is still most problematic for new-car owners, but it also shows the most improvement over 2016. The only category to get worse since 2016 is Autonomous Technology, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, collision avoidance/alert systems, and blind spot warning.
Winners and Losers
Not only did Kia top all other automakers for the second year in a row, it also showed improvement by lowering its score by 11 points —to 72 PP100. The new luxury brand Genesis came in second, followed by Porsche in third place, with Ford and Ram in a tie to round out the top five brands. MINI was the most improved brand with 33 fewer problems reported per 100 vehicles. Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Volvo, Jaguar and Fiat exhibited the most problems and were at the bottom of the rankings. In addition to evaluating manufacturers, J.D. Power ranks vehicles in 23 different categories. Let’s look at the IQS category winners for 2017.
Small Car — Chevrolet Sonic
Not long ago there were no quality domestic-branded small cars on the market — this year one tops its category in the Initial Quality Study. The Sonic is redesigned for the 2017 model year, offering decent performance with a fuel-efficient 1.8-liter engine that produces 138 horsepower and delivers up to 38 mpg on the highway. Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a free six-month trial of the OnStar Guidance Plan, which provides automatic crash response, stolen vehicle assistance, roadside assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
Small Premium Car — BMW 2 Series
BMW’s small entry-luxury model for the U.S. market, the 2 Series joined the lineup as a 2014 model to replace the 1 Series. The 2 Series is a modern example of the type of sporty, agile, fun-to-drive car on which BMW built its reputation in the 1960s. For 2017 the 2 Series gets the latest generation of BMW’s TwinPower Turbo engine that offers increased horsepower and torque versus the outgoing version, as well as improved fuel economy. The high-performance M2 joined the lineup for 2016, powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine that produces 365 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque in overboost mode.
Compact Car — Kia Forte
Kia made several updates to the Forte for the 2017 model year — a new front bumper, a revised tiger nose grille, redesigned headlights with available Xenon HID, and new available LED taillights. As with other models from the Korean automaker, the Forte offers impressive value via standard equipment that includes an AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM audio system, USB input jacks, Bluetooth connectivity, a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The new standard 2.0-liter engine produces 147 horsepower and can be teamed with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission; it is rated at 34 mpg on the highway.
Compact Sporty Car — MINI Cooper
Considerably larger than the original version, the current MINI is still one of the smallest cars on the market. And like that original, the MINI is still front-wheel drive, fuel efficient and great fun to drive. MINI returned to the U.S. market 15 years ago in 2002 and has sold more than 750,000 cars in that time. The MINI Cooper was redesigned for the 2015 model year and is powered by a fuel-efficient turbocharged 1.5-liter engine 3-cylinder engine that produces 134 horsepower, while the Cooper S upgrades to a larger 2.0-liter engine that bumps horsepower up to 189. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard with a 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission optional.
Compact MPV — Kia Soul
There aren’t many vehicles on the market that can be called unique, but there aren’t really any vehicles on the road quite like the Kia Soul. Completely redesigned in 2014, the Soul tops the Compact MPV segment with the least number of issues for the third year in a row. It features a roomy interior for five passengers and a spacious cargo area — all wrapped in a funky package that redefines the “boxy” car segment. Adding a bit of excitement to the Soul lineup, Kia introduces a turbocharged version for the 2017 model year with a 1.6-liter turbo engine putting out 201 horsepower — which, surprisingly, is slightly more fuel efficient than the non-turbo Soul — and rated at 31 mpg on the highway.
Compact Premium Car — BMW 4 Series
BMW introduced the 4 Series in 2014 when the 4 Series Coupe and Convertible replaced the 2-door 3 Series variants. Then for 2015 BMW added the 4 Series Gran Coupe (which is a 4-door) sporting a coupelike profile. An updated 2018 4 Series is arriving in showrooms now, with design updates meant to distinguish 4 Series cars from other BMW models. The 2018 4 Series Coupe, Convertible and Gran Coupe are available as the 430i and 440i xDrive, with 430i xDrive and 440i arriving later. Updates include stiffer suspension, revised steering, new alloy wheels and new exterior colors.
Midsize Car — Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry is the best-selling passenger car in America, so it’s no surprise that this midsize sedan excels at just about everything to win that family car / daily driver heart of the market. Available with a choice of two gas engines as well as a fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrid powertrain, the Camry comes standard with many advanced safety features including enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, a 4-wheel anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and multiple airbags. Look for an all-new 2018 Camry arriving in showrooms later this summer.
Midsize Sporty Car — Ford Mustang
The current-generation Mustang debuted a few years ago with a lower, wider stance; a lower roof height; wider rear fenders and a wider track. Available as either a coupe or a convertible, the 2017 Mustang is offered with three different engine choices — a standard V6 and two performance options: a turbocharged EcoBoost four cylinder and a 5.0-liter V8, the latter producing 435 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque in the Mustang GT. For those in need of extreme performance, Ford also offers the Shelby GT350 boasting 526 horsepower. An updated 2018 Mustang Coupe debuted in January and is scheduled to go on sale later this year.
Minivan — Chrysler Pacifica
The Pacifica is an all-new minivan for the 2017 model year, and with fresh styling and a slew of innovations it is arguably the best minivan Chrysler has built since it created the category more than 30 years ago. Pacifica can be equipped with seating for up to eight occupants, which still leaves plenty of cargo space in the rear. Stow n’ Go seats can be folded into the floor for a completely flat cargo area all the way to the front seats. Passengers can enjoy an available Uconnect Theater featuring 10-inch high-res touchscreen displays with a variety of inputs and integrated games. There’s even an available Stow ‘n Vac — a powerful vacuum cleaner located conveniently behind the second row, and easily accessible from any door opening. Pacifica is also available as a fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid, making it the first hybrid minivan ever sold in America.
Midsize Premium Car — Lexus GS
All new last year, The GS is offered with several different powertrains, including the GS 450h high-performance hybrid that combines a 3.5-liter V6 gas engine and a water-cooled permanent-magnet electric motor for a total system output of 338 horsepower. But if more performance is required, there’s the GS F — the most powerful GS available. Thanks to its 5.0-liter V8 that puts out 467 horsepower, the GS F can sprint to 60 mph in a mere 4.5 seconds. The custom sport suspension and big Brembo brakes help drivers take proper control of all that power and makes this a great choice for the driving enthusiast.
Midsize Premium Sporty Car — Porsche 911
The Porsche 911 has topped the Midsize Premium Sporty Car category for the past seven years, and over the last 50-plus years the iconic 911 has become known as one of the best sports cars on the planet. Redesigned for 2017, the Porsche 911 is longer and lower with a wider front track than the previous model, with new features such as a new rear axle design, new electro-mechanical power steering, Porsche Torque Vectoring, and enhanced Porsche Active Suspension Management. The new 911 is offered with a variety of engine options, topping out with the Turbo S that boasts 580 horsepower from its twin-turbo 3.8-liter engine.
Large Car — Kia Cadenza
Kia introduced an all-new Cadenza earlier this year at the New York Auto Show. The updated sedan features fresh styling and an array of new features. Slotted between the Optima and flagship K900, the Cadenza gets a new body structure that is stronger, lighter and more rigid than the outgoing model. Two different grilles are used on the new Cadenza — lower trims have a similar look to other models in the Kia lineup, while the top-level versions come with the “Intaglio” grille, which features vertical faceted blades. Power is plentiful thanks to its 3.3-liter V6 engine producing 290 horsepower, and the stylish Cadenza is rated at an impressive 28 mpg on the highway.
Small SUV — Kia Niro
A completely new model for the Kia lineup, Niro is a purpose-built hybrid that also happens to be a stylish, versatile crossover SUV. All Niros feature the same hybrid powerplant: a 1.6-liter direct-injection 4-cylinder engine — designed specifically for hybrid use — teamed with a permanent magnet electric motor. Combined power is rated at 139 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, and unlike most hybrids the Niro employs a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that makes driving more engaging while still providing excellent fuel efficiency. Niro is most impressive when it comes to fuel economy — EPA ratings are as high as 52 mpg city / 49 highway / 50 combined.
Small Premium SUV — Mercedes-Benz GLA
The entry model in the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, the compact GLA crossover has been refreshed for 2018 model year. In addition to updated exterior styling, the GLA gets a new instrument cluster design, a standard 8-inch high-resolution display and a standard rearview camera. The GLA is available with a variety of powertrains, including the high-performance GLA45 AMG powered by a handcrafted AMG turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 375 horsepower.
Compact SUV — GMC Terrain
The Terrain is the lowest-price entry in the GMC lineup, but second only to the full-size Sierra pickup truck in sales. Terrain — sibling to the Chevrolet Equinox — seats five and is offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The standard engine is a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter EcoTec with a 301-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 available as an option. A new center stack design includes a storage shelf and updated control graphics. Earlier this year GMC debuted an all-new 2018 Terrain with bold styling as well as a new diesel engine option. The 2018 model is expected to arrive in showrooms this summer.
Compact Premium SUV — Porsche Macan
The compact Macan certainly stands out from the crowd, not only with the lowest number of issues in its class for the second year in a row, but with impressive levels of performance one would expect from a Porsche. The fifth vehicle in the current Porsche lineup, Macan was styled after the larger Cayenne and still embodies all qualities expected from the iconic German sports car brand. Macan comes with full-time all-wheel drive, and is available with various powertrains ranging from a 2.0-liter 252-horsepower 4-cylinder engine to a 440-horsepower V6 in the Macan Turbo with Performance Package.
Midsize SUV — Kia Sorento
Kia’s 7-passenger crossover received 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 offers a roomier interior as well as many 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. For 2017 Kia adds many advanced safety features including Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, making Sorento one of the safest SUVs on the road.
Midsize Premium SUV — BMW X6
BMW calls the X6 a Sports Activity Coupe and it’s somewhat rare 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 powerful engine options, including a 445-horsepower 4.4-liter V8. For those looking for even more performance, there’s the extreme X6 M with better handling and a powerful 567-horsepower V8.
Midsize Pickup — Nissan Frontier
The Frontier is one of the oldest models in the Nissan portfolio, but the small pickup is clearly still holding its own. Featuring more than 20 different configurations, the Frontier is available as a King Cab or Crew Cab, with rear- or four-wheel drive, as well as with long or short truck beds. Two engines are available: a 2.5-liter 152-horsepower 4-cylinder unit or a 4.0-liter V6 producing a more respectable 261 horsepower. Frontier can be equipped with a variety of features including a heavy-duty suspension, available off-road-tuned Bilstein high-pressure performance gas shock absorbers, skidplates (PRO-4X grade), and an innovative Utili-track Channel System for easy cargo securing.
Large SUV — Ford Expedition
Expedition is the largest SUV offered by Ford, with seating for up to eight passengers and an impressively large cargo area. An extended-length version — the EL — will satisfy those who need even more space and versatility. A powerful 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine is standard on all Expeditions, generating 365 horsepower and providing a towing capacity of 9,200 pounds. Earlier this year Ford debuted the all-new 2018 Expedition that features a new high-strength, aluminum-alloy body and redesigned high-strength steel frame, as well as updated styling and new features. The 2018 Expedition is expected to go on sale later this year.
Large Premium SUV — Infiniti QX80
As the flagship SUV of the Infiniti lineup, the QX80 combines a luxurious interior with impressive capability and versatility. Sporting a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 engine under the hood, the QX80 can haul as much as 8,500 pounds with seating for up to seven occupants. The interior is properly equipped with leather seat trim, a high-end Bose audio system, tri-zone climate control and the helpful Around View monitor. The QX80 is also available with the latest in safety technology, including Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention and Blind Spot Intervention.
Light Duty Pickup — Chevrolet Silverado
The Silverado is the best-selling vehicle in the General Motors lineup, as well as the perennial second-highest-selling vehicle in America. Winner of the prestigious North American Truck of the Year award in 2014, the Silverado 1500 is available in hundreds of configurations with different cab styles, drive systems, engines, bed lengths and trim levels. This broad range of availability helps make the Silverado 1500 a great option for practically any truck buyer.
Heavy Duty Pickup — Chevrolet Silverado HD
When consumers climb into the heavy-duty truck market, their choices narrow considerably. The Silverado HD combines impressive capability with a comfortable cabin and driving ease. The latter is further improved with Chevrolet’s New Digital Steering Assist power steering — designed to make hauling and trailering more manageable via electronic controls that enhance road holding and stability on the highway. Silverado HD can tow as much as 23,300 pounds when properly equipped.