Initial Quality Winners
Korean car companies continue to be standouts in terms of quality — for 2018 Genesis, Kia and Hyundai are the three highest-ranking car brands in the annual J.D Power U.S. Initial Quality Study. For four years in a row Kia has topped the mass-market brands. 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 2018 model-year vehicles, surveyed after 90 days of ownership.
According to the 2018 IQS survey, new-vehicle quality has improved for the fourth consecutive year and is now at an all-time high, improving 4 percent over 2017. Quality improved across six of the eight categories measured, and 21 of the 31 brands measured showed improvement over last year. “There’s no question that most automakers are doing a great job of listening to consumers and are producing vehicle quality of the highest caliber,” said J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive Dave Sargent. “That said, some vehicle owners are still finding problems. As vehicles become more complex and automated, it is critical that consumers have complete confidence in automakers’ ability to deliver fault-free vehicles,” Sargent noted.
The highest number of problems reported are associated with 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 has improved over the last three years. The area that continues to see more problems each year is driver-assistance systems, which include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, collision avoidance/alert systems, and blind spot warning. “As we look to the future, avoiding problems with safety and driver assistance technology is critical,” Sargent said. “In an era of increasingly automated vehicles, vehicle owners have to be comfortable using foundational technologies like lane keep assistance and collision avoidance. Otherwise, automakers will not easily overcome consumer resistance to fully automated (driverless) cars,” Sargent concluded.
Winners and Losers
In its second year on the market, the Genesis brand ranks highest overall with 68 PP100. Kia ranks second while Hyundai takes the third spot, making this the first time that three Korean brands are at the top of the rankings. Porsche and Ford round out the top five. The Porsche 911 ranks highest for an individual model with a score of 48 PP100 — the lowest recorded since 2013. Mazda is the most improved brand with 25 PP100 less than the previous year. Mitsubishi, Cadillac and Infiniti also show impressive improvement. Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover sit at the bottom of the rankings, with the latter showing 160 PP100 for 2018. In addition to evaluating manufacturers, J.D. Power ranks vehicles in 20 different categories. Here’s a look at the IQS category winners for 2018.
Small Car — Kia Rio
The least expensive car in the Kia lineup, Rio is all new for the 2018 model year. Longer and wider than the previous model, the new Rio fits well with the rest of the Kia lineup thanks to the latest version of Kia’s “tiger nose” grille. The Rio gets power from a 1.6-liter engine producing 130 horsepower while delivering up to 37 mpg on the highway. The LX is the entry-level trim of the Rio with standard features that include a 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, a split-folding rear seat, air-conditioning, and a 5-inch display with an AM / FM / MP3 / Satellite audio system.
Small Premium Car — Acura ILX
The entry-level model in the Acura line, the ILX received a major update in 2016, highlighted by fresh styling that matches the rest of the Acura family, as well as a more powerful engine. The 2.4-liter direct-injection unit produces 201 horsepower — a considerable increase in power over the previous unit — while still achieving 35 mpg on the highway. The ILX comes well equipped with power heated front seats, a rearview camera, a power moonroof, “Jewel-Eye” LED headlights, Bluetooth connectivity and the latest in high-tech safety features. For 2018 Acura adds a Special Edition ILX featuring 18-inch alloy wheels, side sills and a rear spoiler.
Compact Car — Toyota Corolla
The Corolla is Toyota’s best-selling nameplate of all time — in fact, this is the 52nd year that a Corolla has been in the Toyota lineup. Refreshed for 2017, Corolla is powered by an efficient 1.8-liter engine that achieves 132 horsepower while delivering 35 mpg on the highway when equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission (the standard CVT gets 36 mpg). For 2018 Toyota has equipped all Corollas with Toyota Safety Sense-P, which includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Automatic High Beams.
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 started arriving in showrooms earlier this year 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 — Nissan Altima
The Altima is one of the best-selling vehicles in America and currently the top-selling passenger car in the Nissan lineup. This 4-door sedan is available in a variety of trims, ranging from the base-level S to the premium SL. Altima comes with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 179 horsepower, while the SL can be equipped with a more powerful 3.5-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower. Either engine is paired with Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. The popular sedan is equipped with NASA-inspired Zero Gravity front seats as well as Bluetooth communication services. For 2018 all Nissan Altimas have standard Automatic Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning. An all-new 2019 Altima with updated styling and powertrains is slated to arrive later this year.
Midsize Sporty Car — Ford Mustang
The latest-generation Mustang debuted for 2015 with a lower, wider stance; a lower roof height; wider rear fenders and a wider track. For 2018 the Mustang gets updated styling with a lower hood, a wider grille and a new front splitter designed to create what Ford calls “a meaner, leaner look.” In addition to the new look, the Mustang GT gets a more powerful 5.0-liter V8 engine, now producing 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful Mustang GT ever. A new 10-speed SelectShift automatic transmission is geared to improve responsiveness and performance. Mustang also is equipped with “Drag Strip” mode that keeps the engine in peak torque, delivering a sprint to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds.
Minivan — Dodge Grand Caravan
The first mainstream minivan on the market, the Dodge Grand Caravan now offers more style, versatility and technological innovation than any other time in its 30-year history. The lineup has been simplified to four trim levels: SE, SE Plus, SXT and GT. The standard engine for all trims is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 producing 283 horsepower, combined with a 6-speed automatic transmission to deliver EPA fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city / 25 mpg highway / 20 mpg combined. The future of the Grand Caravan is unclear with the new Chrysler Pacifica now on the market.
Midsize Premium Car — Lincoln Continental
Fifteen years after its cancelation, the Continental name returned to the Lincoln lineup — this time on the new flagship sedan for the brand. The Continental offers a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that produces 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. The interior is befitting of a Lincoln flagship with a quiet and relaxing experience for all passengers and available Perfect Position seats that can be adjusted up to 30 different ways with heating, cooling and available massage functions. The rear seats offer available adjustable recline, heating, cooling and massage as well. The outside door handles are an interesting and unique design element, moved from the traditional position in the door to the chrome trim below the windows and operated by a microprocessor-controlled E-latch electronic door handle that releases the door; an available auto-cinch feature secures the door when closed gently.
Large Car — Nissan Maxima
At one time dubbed the “4-Door Sports Car,” the current-generation Maxima retook this nickname for the 2016 model year. Incorporating fresh styling that closely ties it with the rest of the Nissan lineup, Maxima is available in several 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. For 2018 Maxima gets both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as Intelligent Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking. A special SR Midnight Edition features a rear spoiler, Intelligent Around-View Monitor, black trim and 19-inch gloss-black aluminum wheels.
Large Premium Car – Genesis G90
The flagship of the Genesis brand, the G90 makes a statement with its large, bold grille, a long wheelbase with minimal overhangs and 19-inch turbine-blade alloy wheels. Full LED headlights and taillights are also available, giving the luxury sedan a striking look at night. Inside, the G90 is everything one would expect from a high-end luxury sedan. Surfaces are swathed in Nappa leather and real wood, and the driver’s seat offers 22 power adjustments. In addition, G90 comes with the latest safety technologies as standard equipment, including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Keep Assist and Driver Attention Alert. Two engine choices for the G90 are a 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V6 producing 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque, or a 5.0-liter V8 producing 420 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque.
Small SUV — Hyundai Tucson
Hyundai’s compact crossover was redesigned for the 2016 model year with sporty styling and a new 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine combined with a 7-speed EcoShift Dual Clutch transmission. Late in the 2017 model year the Value trim replaced the Sport trim, which includes a Panoramic Sunroof, dual automatic climate control, an auto-dimming mirror and rear parking sensors. For 2018 Hyundai adds a 7-inch color display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to the Tucson Value. Look for an all-new Tucson coming for the 2019 model year with updated styling and an array of new convenience and safety features.
Small Premium SUV — Mercedes-Benz GLA (tie)
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, 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.
Small Premium SUV — BMW X1 (tie)
As SUVs continue to gain in popularity, it’s not surprising that the entry-level model of the BMW lineup would be a crossover. The revised second-generation BMW X1 premiered in 2016 with updated styling and many new features. The smallest of BMW’s three crossovers dubbed Sport Activity Vehicles, the 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 — Buick Envision
The Buick division of General Motors has experienced great sales success in China, and in 2016 Buick introduced a new SUV built in China. The Envision crossover slots between the small Encore and midsize Enclave crossovers. The 5-passenger Envision features styling that fits perfectly in the Buick lineup and employs a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 252 horsepower and uses Buick’s first Active Twin Clutch all-wheel-drive system. Occupants in the Envision will enjoy 8-way power front seats, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, tri-zone climate control and available OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
Compact Premium SUV — Lincoln MKC
The MKC is a premium 5-passenger crossover that shares a platform with the Ford Escape but carries its own styling, powertrain and features. In fact, the MKC is wider and longer than the Escape and has a unique clamshell rear hatch. The least expensive model in the Lincoln lineup, the MKC has a choice of two engines: a 2.0-liter EcoBoost unit producing 240 horsepower, and a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost that generates an impressive 285 horsepower. The standard equipment list is substantial, including such items as power heated front seats, SYNC with MyLincoln Touch on an 8-inch LCD display screen, a premium audio system with nine speakers, active noise control and a rearview camera. Look for a redesigned 2019 MKC arriving in showrooms soon.
Midsize SUV — Kia Sorento
Refreshed a few years ago, the Kia Sorento features exterior styling that now fits in with the rest of the Kia lineup. The Sorento has a roomy interior and can be equipped with 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 few trim levels with three engine options, including a powerful 290-horsepower V6. Sorento also is available with Autonomous Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, making it one of the safest crossover SUVs on the road. Arriving in showrooms now, the 2019 Sorento gets fresh styling and a number of new features.
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
The largest SUV in the Ford lineup, the Expedition has been completely redesigned for the 2018 model year. Expedition features a new high-strength, aluminum-alloy body and redesigned high-strength steel frame. Expedition has a more powerful turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine with standard Auto Start-Stop, combined with a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Off-road capability is improved with a newly available electronic limited-slip differential when equipped with Intelligent AWD. The 2018 model has more than 40 features and driver-assist technologies new to Expedition, including wireless charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, SYNC 3, SYNC Connect, power in every row, and a Panoramic Vista Roof. Expedition’s flexible seating includes second-row tip-and-slide seats that provide easy access to the third row even with child seats installed.
Light Duty Pickup — Chevrolet Silverado
The best-selling model in the Chevrolet lineup, the Silverado is available in many configurations with different cab and trim-level options, ranging from a basic work truck to the ultra-luxurious High Country. Chevrolet also offers many special-edition packages on the Silverado, including the Black Out Edition, Special Ops Edition and Texas Edition. Silverado can be ordered as a half-ton, three-quarter ton or the most capable one-ton Silverado HD. This broad range of availability helps make the Silverado a great option for practically any truck buyer. Look for an all-new 2019 Silverado coming to showrooms later this year.
Heavy Duty Pickup — Chevrolet Silverado HD (tie)
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.
Heavy Duty Pickup — Ford Super Duty (tie)
Redesigned for the 2017 model year, the F-Series Super Duty brings some serious capability to the full-size truck market. The Super Duty features a new exterior look, a completely updated interior and many new features designed around comfort, cargo hauling and towing just about any size trailer. It also features a high-strength aluminum alloy body and box, a powerful engine lineup and a high-strength steel frame. With multiple trim levels and body styles, the Super Duty pickup is available as an F-250, F-350 or F-450. Capability is off the charts: a properly equipped F-450 can tow up to 32,500 pounds or could haul a maximum-loaded F-150 in the truck bed — if it could fit.