Kia, Tesla Tops in Satisfaction
Kia is doing something right — after scoring at the top in the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, the Korean brand has been named a leader in AutoPacific’s 2016 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. An automotive marketing and product-consulting firm based in Tustin, California, AutoPacific publishes a variety of automotive studies. The VSAs are based on survey responses from more than 66,000 owners of new 2015 and 2016 model-year cars and trucks. While Kia was named the Highest Satisfaction Popular Brand, Tesla is the Highest Satisfaction Premium Brand for the second year in a row. “Kia has been coming on strong for years and has won many individual vehicle awards,” says AutoPacific president George Peterson, “but this year they dominated among popular, non-luxury, brands, with a total brand score that is 16 points higher than the nearest competitor, GMC.”
General Motors topped the most categories, and the Cadillac Escalade earned the President’s Award with the highest satisfaction score to date. Of the 23 winning vehicles, six of them had been redesigned for the 2016 model year, including the Kia Optima, Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Camaro, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Lexus RX, and Hyundai Tucson. Peterson points out, “While six of the winning vehicles were redesigned for the 2016 model year, the Kia Optima and Chevrolet Camaro have greatly exceeded the scores of their nearest segment competitors.” Here’s a look at the most satisfying cars for 2016.
Luxury Car — Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The flagship of the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the S-Class is often regarded as the benchmark for luxury sedans. The S-Class can be equipped with practically every comfort and high-tech feature imaginable, including hot stone massage, interior fragrances — even sheepskin floor mats and a small refrigerator between the rear seats that holds two champagne bottles. A number of variants are available, including the powerful S65 with its hand-built twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 engine that delivers 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque.
Aspirational Luxury Car — Volvo S60 / V60
The stylish S60 sedan and its V60 wagon sibling are the entry vehicles into the Volvo lineup. Available with front- or all-wheel drive, the S60 / V60 can also be had as Cross Country models with a bolder look and increased ground clearance. The sedan / wagon duo also earned the highest safety ranking from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety thanks to a number of advanced safety features, including Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake as well as Cyclist and Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake.
Luxury Midsize Car — Nissan Maxima
The Nissan Maxima is all new for the 2016 model year with a bold design, more power and improved performance — all to attract drivers who prefer a sport sedan to a more traditional large car. With the 2016 Maxima, Nissan is looking to reclaim the 4-Door Sports Car (4DSC) title. Power comes from a revised 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine combined with a new performance-oriented Xtronic continuously-variable transmission.
Large Car — Hyundai Azera
The stylish Azera sedan fits neatly in the Hyundai lineup between the midsize Sonata and the luxurious Genesis. Available in base or Limited trims, the front-wheel-drive Azera gets power from by a 3.3-liter V6 engine producing 293 horsepower while delivering up to 28 mpg on the highway. Even the base-level Azera comes loaded with heated and cooled front seats, leather trim, heated rear seats, a navigation system with an 8-inch display, a rearview camera and a 14-speaker 550-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system. Blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic assist are standard as well.
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.
Premium Compact Car — Mercedes-Benz CLA
Now in its third year on the U.S. market, the CLA-Class is positioned as the entry-level Mercedes-Benz option below the top-selling C-Class. With front-wheel drive or available 4MATIC all-wheel drive, the CLA250 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The high-performance AMG CLA45 4MATIC gets power from a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. An updated 2017 model is scheduled to arrive in fall 2016 with a design face-lift featuring new front and rear bumpers, new wheel designs, new seat covers and chrome-plated controls.
Compact Car — 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.
Economy Car — Honda Fit
It’s no surprise to see the Honda Fit on this list — the compact hatchback is one of the most versatile small cars on the road. Completely redesigned last year, the Fit offers a surprisingly spacious interior with a versatile seating system that allows for all sorts of cargo configurations. With its small footprint and high level of utility, the Fit makes an excellent alternative to the typical large crossover.
Sports Car — Chevrolet Corvette
Ever since its introduction in 1953, the Corvette has been the flagship sports car of the Chevrolet brand. This is the seventh generation and arguably the best version ever. In addition to the considerably-improved interior, the current ‘Vette’s updated styling and impressive performance put it in company with some of the best sports cars on the market. All Corvettes offer impressive V8 power including the most powerful production Corvette ever: the Z06. Its supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine puts out 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful GM production vehicle ever made.
Sporty Car — Chevrolet Camaro
One of the most recognized cars of all time, the Chevrolet Camaro is all new for the 2016 model year. The new Camaro design is more sculpted and taut, which makes the car look lower and wider than the previous model. Built on an all-new platform, the Camaro is stiffer and lighter than its predecessor and available with its first turbocharged engine as well as a powerful 455-horsepower V8 powerplant.
Heavy-Duty Pickup — GMC Sierra HD
The GMC Sierra HD provides a great combination of luxury and high-tech features with impressive hauling and towing capability. There’s even the Sierra Denali HD that features 20-inch chrome aluminum wheels, HID projector headlamps, heated and cooled leather seats, and high-end audio and navigation systems. When properly equipped, the big pickup can tow more than 23,000 pounds or carry a payload of more than 7,000 pounds. With the powerful, efficient 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine, the Sierra HD can travel almost 700 miles between fill-ups.
Light-Duty Pickup — GMC Sierra
With all-new styling for 2016, the GMC Sierra is one of the best-selling trucks in America. Sierra 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 Sierra 1500 a great option for practically any truck buyer.
Compact Pickup — Nissan Frontier
The Frontier is Nissan’s entry in the midsize pickup truck market, featuring more than 20 configurations. Available as a King Cab or Crew Cab, the Frontier can be had 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.
Luxury SUV — Cadillac Escalade
The best-selling full-size luxury SUV, the Cadillac Escalade actually outsells all Cadillac car models. Over time Escalade has carved out a unique position as a signature luxury SUV, building on its bold styling with a smart redesign for 2015. The current generation features a large highly-detailed chrome grille and signature full-length LED taillights. Premium materials and tasteful ambient lighting make the interior feel luxurious and comfortable. Escalade also comes equipped with OnStar with 4G LTE connectivity, as well as being a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Large SUV — Chevrolet Suburban
An all-new version of the Suburban was introduced for the 2015 model year — 80 years after the first Suburban Carryall went on sale. One of the largest SUVs on the market, the 12th-gen Suburban can carry up to nine passengers with plenty of room for cargo. The Suburban features fresh styling, a fuel-efficient (relatively speaking) EcoTec3 V8 engine and plenty of available high-tech options including 4G LTE connectivity with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless phone charging, a rear-seat entertainment system with Blu-ray player and up to six USB ports.
Midsize SUV — Toyota 4Runner
As one of the few remaining truck-based SUVs on the market, the 4Runner offers capability that can’t be found in most car-based crossovers. With a 270-horsepower V6 engine that can tow up to 5,000 pounds, 4Runner boasts a number of high-tech features in addition to the full-time 4WD system, making it one of the most capable SUVs available today.
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV — Mercedes-Benz GLE
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class was one of the first luxury SUVS when it debuted as a 1998 model, and for 2016 it gets renamed GLE-Class to align with the other Mercedes-Benz SUV names. The overall shape of the revised model is familiar, but the 2016 GLE receives updated styling, new wheel designs and a redesigned interior with new color and trim options. A number of variants are available, ranging from the GLE350 powered by a 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine with rear-wheel drive or 4Matic all-wheel drive to the outrageous Mercedes-AMG GLE63, powered by a 550-horsepower bi-turbo 5.5-liter V8.
Luxury Crossover SUV — Lexus RX
Redesigned for the 2016 model year, the popular Lexus RX continues as the top-selling luxury SUV, outselling the second-best seller nearly two to one. One of the first luxury crossovers when it debuted as a 1998 model, the RX combines the utility of an SUV with the ride and comfort of a luxury sedan. The Lexus RX design has always been elegant and sophisticated but conservative, although that changes with the bolder 2016 design. There’s a new aggressive grille up front, and overall the design features more sharp angles, and the blacked-out C-pillars create a floating roof effect. Inside the RX is optimized for five passengers, and the rear seating position is lowered to be more comparable to the flagship LS sedan.
Large Crossover SUV — GMC Acadia
GMC’s Acadia is the twin to the Buick Enclave but can be configured to carry up to eight passengers — unusual in this SUV class. Adding to the GMC’s versatility, both rear rows can be folded flat to create a very large space that can handle cargo as wide as 48 inches. All-wheel drive is available, and when properly equipped the Acadia can tow up to 5,200 pounds.
Premium Midsize Crossover SUV — Nissan Murano
Nissan’s Murano, now in its third generation, is one of the more stylish crossovers on the market. It carries the new Nissan design direction with V-Motion front end, boomerang lights and floating roof treatment. Inside, drivers will find a large information and control center with an available 8-inch color touchscreen. In an effort to simplify controls, the number of audio and navigation switches has been reduced by 60 percent — from 25 to 10 — for a less distracting experience. An available power panoramic moonroof makes the Murano feel larger inside.
Midsize Crossover SUV — Nissan Rogue
The Nissan Rogue was redesigned for the 2014 model year with the Nissan V-Motion grille, which presents a bolder front end and a more refined overall look. Rogue is powered by a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, and with its advanced Xtronic transmission it can achieve as high as 33 mpg. Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive optional. Three-row, 7-passenger seating is also an option. The 2016 Rogue adds available Forward Emergency Braking, a Motion-Activated Power Liftgate, NissanConnect Services powered by SiriusXM and Siri Eyes Free.
Compact Crossover SUV — Hyundai Tucson
All new for the 2016 model year, the Hyundai Tucson has a fresh look, an updated interior and a number of new high-tech features. When equipped with the optional Automatic Emergency Braking, Tucson earns the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation. The new 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.
Minivan — Kia Sedona
Redesigned last year, the Kia Sedona was updated with styling similar to a crossover SUV without losing any functionality expected of a minivan. One of the standout features on the new Sedona is second-row “First Class” lounge seating that can be positioned for impressive legroom; it includes retractable lower leg rests and airplane-style winged head restraints. Kia also offers YES Essentials fabric technology for the Sedona, which provides protection from spills with stain-repelling and stain-releasing fabric — a great feature if you have messy kids sitting in back. Another cool feature is the automatic rear liftgate — stand behind it for three seconds with the key fob in your pocket and the liftgate magically opens.