Initial Quality Winners
Kia continues to be a standout as the highest-ranking brand in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study, although this year the Korean brand shares the crown in a tie with a time-honored American make associated with muscle — Dodge. The 2020 IQS marks the 34th year that global marketing information services company J.D. Power has been conducting this important auto industry study. An automaker’s initial quality ranking is based on the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles, or PP100. A lower IQS score indicates higher quality. The study is based on responses from 87,282 purchasers and lessees of new 2020 model-year vehicles who are surveyed after 90 days of ownership.
For 2020 the IQS study has undergone a redesign to move into its fifth generation. The study is now based on a 223-question survey organized into nine vehicle categories: infotainment; features, controls and displays; exterior; driving assistance (new for 2020); interior; powertrain; seats; driving experience; and climate. “The Initial Quality Study is the industry benchmark for new-vehicle quality and, year after year, automakers apply the insights they learn from consumers to make positive changes,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. “The higher problem levels we see in this year’s study don’t mean vehicle quality has worsened; rather, the redesigned study asks additional questions that allow owners to cite more of the problems that they are experiencing,” Sargent noted. Infotainment continues to be the biggest issue, representing 25 percent of the problems reported. This includes complaints about voice recognition; Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity; touchscreens; navigation systems; and Bluetooth connectivity.
First Time for Tesla
For the first time, U.S. electric car manufacturer Tesla has been included in the annual IQS study — although not officially. “Unlike other manufacturers, Tesla doesn’t grant us permission to survey its owners in 15 states where it is required,” said Doug Betts, president of the automotive division at J.D. Power. “However, we were able to collect a large enough sample of surveys from owners in the other 35 states and, from that base, we calculated Tesla’s score,” Betts observed. Tesla’s overall score is not very favorable; with a reported 250 PP100, it ranked at the bottom of the list.
Also for the first time, the Chevrolet Sonic earns the best score of any vehicle in the study with a rating of 103 PP100. Kia and Dodge rank the highest overall with 136 PP100 — the first time a domestic brand has ever been at the top of this highest-quality list. Chevrolet and Ram come in third and fourth, respectively, and Genesis rounds out the top five. For the fourth year in a row, Genesis is the top-ranking premium brand, followed by Lexus and Cadillac. In addition to evaluating manufacturers, J.D. Power ranks vehicles in 20 different categories. Here’s a look at the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study category winners.
Small Car — Chevrolet Sonic
Not only did the Sonic rank the highest in initial quality for 2020, this small Chevrolet is one of the lowest-priced vehicles in America. The Sonic shines as a great example of an American-built small car, with more than 30 percent of its buyers below the age of 35. All Sonics are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that produces 138 horsepower, teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission. (The 6-speed manual is no longer available.) Surprisingly well equipped, the base-level Sonic LS features air-conditioning, a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth streaming for two devices, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and an available Wi-Fi hotspot.
Small Premium Car — Audi A3
Audi’s entry-level luxury car originally arrived in the U.S. as a 2006 model in 4-door hatchback configuration only, but in 2015 Audi changed the A3 lineup to include a sedan and cabriolet. The A3 carries the styling cues of higher-end Audi models, and is available with the brand’s signature quattro all-wheel-drive system. Premium standard features on the A3 include a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, a 12-way power driver’s seat, leather trim, dual-zone climate control and a high-end audio system. Audi also offers the A3 with the brand’s innovative virtual cockpit, as well as a suite of advance driver-assist technologies.
Compact Car — Kia Forte
Redesigned last year, Kia Forte continues as the highest-quality compact car in the J.D Power 2020 U.S. Initial Quality Study. With new styling and updated features, the Forte is powered by a 2.0-liter 147-horsepower engine matched to a 6-speed manual gearbox; the base-level Forte FE is EPA rated at an impressive 37 mpg on the highway. Standard equipment on this small sedan includes air-conditioning, an 8.0-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera with dynamic parking guide, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, forward collision avoidance, lane departure warning and driver attention warning.
Compact Sporty Car — MINI Cooper (tie)
One of the smallest cars available in America, the MINI Cooper was recently updated with a new MINI logo, new alloy wheels, MINI logo projection from the driver’s side exterior mirror, new interior features such as wireless phone charging and rear LED lights with a Union Jack design. A rearview camera and park-distance control are standard across the MINI lineup. Even though the styling has been updated, there’s still no mistaking that classic “bulldog” look, and the MINI retains its fun-to-drive characteristics. The MINI Cooper is great fun with its base-level turbocharged 3-cylinder engine; however, the top-level MINI Cooper John Cooper Works takes that same small package and turns up the heat with more power and a number of performance upgrades. MINI has also introduced its first regular production electric vehicle, the Cooper SE. The MINI Cooper SE has an EPA combined fuel economy rating 108 MPGe and a range of 110 miles.
Compact Sporty Car — Hyundai Veloster (tie)
An all-new Veloster rolled out last year with a refreshed design as well as other improvements. This sporty coupe continues to stand out with its unique 3-door configuration: one door on the driver’s side, two on the passenger side. The base Veloster 2.0 is powered by a 147-horserpower engine and comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, a rear spoiler, a 6-speed manual transmission and 17-inch alloy wheels. Forward collision avoidance and lane-keeping assist are also standard. For those seeking a bit more excitement, Hyundai offers the Veloster N, which has more aggressive styling and a high-performance turbocharged engine to match.
Compact Premium Car — Genesis G70
Genesis spun off as an entirely new brand for the 2017 model year, launched by parent company Hyundai to move its clientele upscale. The G70 sport sedan is the entry model of the lineup and it continues as the top-ranked compact premium car. Well equipped with features such as power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8-inch color touchscreen display and 18-inch wheels, the G70 also features the latest advanced safety tech as standard equipment across the board. This includes forward collision avoidance with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist and driver attention warning.
Midsize Car — Chevrolet Malibu
A familiar name in the Chevrolet lineup off and on for more than 50 years, the Malibu received fresh styling and upgraded features last year. Sales are not as high as they once were, since typical passenger cars buyers now tend to opt for more popular crossovers, but the Malibu is still the best-selling passenger car in the General Motors portfolio. Attempting to give Malibu a shot in the arm for the 2002 model year, Chevrolet offers the Malibu RS featuring a black sport grille, black bowtie emblems, a rear spoiler, dual exhaust and 18-inch machined wheels. A fuel-efficient 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is standard on all but the top-level Malibu Premier, which gets upgraded to a more powerful 2.0-liter turbo generating 250 horsepower.
Midsize Sporty Car — Ford Mustang
One of the most iconic vehicles on this list, the Mustang has been a fixture on American roads since its introduction more than 50 years ago. The latest-generation Mustang lives up to its image with a low, wide stance. A few years ago the Mustang received updated styling with a lower hood, wider grille and new front splitter designed to create what Ford calls “a meaner, leaner look.” Ford added a range of powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder engines to the mix, although the Mustang GT still gets a proper V8 engine producing 460 horsepower. For those seeking ultimate performance, Ford offers the Shelby GT350 and GT500 — the latter boasting a supercharged V8 grinding out a prodigious 760 horsepower.
Midsize Premium Car — Cadillac CT5
Cadillac introduced the brand-new CT5 compact sedan for the 2020 model year in both Luxury and Sport versions. Built on Cadillac’s rear-wheel-drive architecture, the CT5 features a fastback profile inspired by the Escala concept car, moving away from Cadillac’s hard-edged designs with a more fluid and sculpted aesthetic. The 2020 CT5 is offered in three trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury and Sport, with a Platinum Package available for Premium Luxury and Sport. The standard engine is a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged engine that produces an estimated 237 horsepower, while the Luxury Premium and the Sport can be equipped with a more powerful 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces an estimated 335 horsepower. Cadillac’s Super Cruise technology — hands-free driver assistance for highway driving — is also available on select CT5 trim levels.
Upper Midsize Premium Car — Cadillac CT6
The flagship sedan of the Cadillac line, the CT6 features the latest brand styling with a high level of luxury inside. Even the base-level trims come well equipped with LED headlights and taillights, active noise cancellation, heated front seats and an UltraView power sunroof. Additional features such as quad-zone climate control, automatic parking assist and adaptive cruise control can be found on higher trim levels. All CT6 models come with full-time all-wheel drive as well as the latest active safety technology. Also available is the CT6-V, which brings an even higher level of performance with a 4.2-liter Blackwing twin-turbo V8 powerplant producing 550 horsepower. Unfortunately Cadillac has discontinued the CT6; however, there may still be vehicles available in showrooms.
Large Car — Nissan Maxima
At one time dubbed the “4-Door Sports Car,” the current-generation Maxima retook this nickname when it premiered for the 2016 model year. Last year the Nissan flagship received revised exterior styling including a larger V-Motion grille, interior updates and Nissan Safety Shield 360 with advanced driver-assist systems as standard equipment. Inside, the updated Maxima features a driver-oriented cockpit and seating for five occupants, with a new seat insert pattern and charcoal headliner for the Maxima SR and Platinum Reserve Package. The exclusive powertrain for all trim levels is a 300-horsepower version of Nissan’s award-winning 3.5-liter V6 engine combined with a CVT transmission.
Large Premium Car — BMW 8 Series
The original BMW 8 Series flagship sport coupe premiered in 1990, and after a 20-year hiatus the 8 Series returns as BMW’s top coupe. The V12 is gone, but a new twin-turbo V8 in the M850i offers considerably more power than its predecessor, and now the 8 line includes a convertible, 4-door Gran Coupe and all-wheel drive. Available with a range of engines, the top-level M850i has a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 produces 523 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. According to BMW, the M850i will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and has a top speed limited to 155 mph.
Small SUV — Kia Soul
All new for the 2020 model year, the Kia Soul offers fresh styling and an array of new features. Even as the Soul retains its iconic shape, it receives a modern look with slim headlights, LED daytime running lights and boomerang-shaped taillights that frame the rear window. Available in multiple trim levels, the Soul’s entry-level LX comes with cloth seat trim, a trip computer, a 7.0-inch color touchscreen display, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, one USB outlet, a split-folding rear seat and 16-inch steel wheels.
Small Premium SUV — Jaguar E-PACE
The first Jaguar to earn a category-level award in the history of the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, the E-PACE is the brand’s entry-level 5-passenger crossover. The E-PACE styling mimics the brand’s larger F-PACE, albeit in a much smaller package. Available in a number of trim levels, all E-PACEs come with LED headlights, all-wheel drive, JaguarDrive control with selectable drive modes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 10-inch TouchPro touchscreen and 17-inch alloy wheels. Power comes from a 2.0-liter Ingenium 4-cylinder engine producing 246 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a ZF 9-speed automatic transmission. The advanced all-wheel-drive setup features a torque-vectoring system that distributes torque between the front and rear axles based on driving conditions.
Compact SUV — Hyundai Tucson
Hyundai introduced an all-new Tucson last year, easily spotted thanks to a new headlight design that features LED daytime running lights as well as a new rear fascia, redesigned taillights and available 18-inch wheels. Inside, even the base-level Tucson standard equipment includes a 7-inch touchscreen display, multiple USB chargers, a rearview camera and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Forward collision-avoidance assist and lane-keeping assist are both standard as well, with additional safety and technology features available such as blind-spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Two engines are available, including a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder unit producing 181 horsepower.
Compact Premium SUV — Cadillac XT4
The smallest crossover in the Cadillac lineup, the XT4 is the luxury carmaker’s first entry in the crowded premium compact crossover segment. The XT4 is easily recognizable as a Cadillac with its signature vertical headlight treatment and familiar grille, as well as tall taillights at the rear. Even the base-level Luxury trim is well equipped with standard features including leatherette trim, power front seats, dual-zone climate control, an HD rearview camera, two USB ports (one type A, one type C), an 8-inch display screen and an AM / FM stereo with seven speakers, as well Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. The XT4 comes with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is available on all trim levels.
Midsize SUV — Nissan Murano
One of the more stylish crossovers on the market, Nissan’s Murano received exterior updates last year including a larger, more prominent V-Motion grille flanked by redesigned LED headlights and new LED fog lights. The taillights are also a new design, and new 18- and 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels are offered. The new Murano can be equipped with Nissan Safety Shield 360, a package of six active safety and assistance technologies to provide active driver assist, crash avoidance and pedestrian detection. All Muranos are powered by a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 powerplant teamed with an Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Murano is offered in front-wheel drive or with an available intelligent all-wheel-drive system.
Midsize Premium SUV — Lexus GX
Many of today’s midsize utility vehicles — such as the Lexus RX — are crossovers based on car platforms, but the Lexus GX is a highly-capable off-road vehicle based on the same platform as the Toyota 4Runner. Utilizing truck-like body-on-frame construction, the GX 460 gets power from a 4.6-liter V8 engine that produces 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of torque with a full-time 4-wheel-drive system, advanced dynamic control systems and a 6,500-pound towing capacity. Despite exceptional off-road capability, the GX 460 features luxurious amenities inside, while the standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System delivers a smooth, comfortable ride outside.
Upper Midsize SUV — Kia Sorento
Kia introduced an all-new Sorento last year with updated styling and a more upscale interior. With standard seating for seven, this popular crossover can be fully decked out with features such as dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 630-watt premium sound system, a panoramic sunroof and premium Nappa leather trim. Available with front or all-wheel drive, the Sorento is powered by either a 2.4-liter 185-horsepower engine or a more powerful 3.3-liter V6 making 290 horsepower. The Sorento’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems include forward-collision warning system, blind-spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision warning and lane-keeping assist.
Upper Midsize Premium SUV — BMW X6
More than 10 years ago BMW debuted the X6, a Sports Activity Coupe that combines the attributes of a sport-utility vehicle with a coupelike roofline. For the 2020 model year BMW introduces the third generation of this sporty crossover. The X6 gets a new look featuring slim trapezoidal Adaptive Full LED headlights and slim L-shaped LED taillights. The roofline flows into a double bubble at the rear, with twin spoilers above the rear glass. Three trim levels are offered, topping out with the X6 M50 sporting a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter TwinPower V8 engine producing 523 horsepower.
Large SUV — Nissan Armada
Many SUVs have migrated to more carlike unibody construction, but the big Nissan Armada remains a body-on-frame design capable of handling considerable cargo and towing duties. This full-size SUV carries up to eight occupants while still retaining plenty of space for cargo. The Armada’s 5.6-liter V8 engine generates an impressive 390 horsepower. With this much power on tap, the Armada can tow up to 8,500 pounds. This may be an old-school truck-based SUV, but the Armada is fully modern inside with the latest high-tech connectivity and safety features, including adaptive cruise control and forward emergency braking.
Large Premium SUV — Cadillac Escalade
The largest luxury SUV on the U.S. market, the Escalade makes a statement with its massive chrome grille, unique vertical LED lighting that projects through stacked crystal lenses, and 22-inch aluminum wheels. Carrying its occupants in the utmost comfort, Escalade is available with heated front- and second-row seats, an advanced Bose audio system and an optional Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system. Thanks to triple-sealed doors, acoustic-laminate glass and Bose Active Noise Cancelation technology, the Escalade provides a quiet, solid ride. Look for an all-new 2021 Escalade arriving in showrooms soon.
Minivan — Kia Sedona
The minivan hasn’t been completely replaced by the SUV, and the Kia Sedona is one of the reasons why. With styling similar to the rest of the Kia lineup, the Sedona received a refresh last year with a bolder appearance as well as a more refined interior. Sedona is available with the latest advanced safety technologies including forward collision avoidance and blind-spot collision warning. Sedona can also be equipped with a new rear-seat entertainment system that adds 10.1-inch dual touchscreens located on the backs of the front seatbacks. Adding to the available luxury are second-row “First Class” reclining lounge seats with retractable footrests.
Midsize Pickup — Ford Ranger
Following an eight-year hiatus, the Ford Ranger returned to the U.S. market last year. Ranger is available in three trims (XL, XLT, Lariat), two body styles (SuperCab, SuperCrew) and 2WD or 4WD. All variants come with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine that produces 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Inside, the Ford Ranger offers seating for up to five, a center stack with an 8-inch touchscreen for the available SYNC 3 system, and dual LCD screens in the instrument cluster to display vehicle, navigation and audio information. Even though Ford sells the Ranger pickup in other areas of the world, when the company brought the midsize model back to the U.S. it reengineered the new truck specifically for the North American market.
Light Duty Pickup — Toyota Tundra
With the idea of creating something for everyone, Toyota offers nearly 50 different configurations for this full-size pickup, with multiple cabs, bed lengths, powertrains and trim levels. Trims range from the basic SR to the luxurious Platinum, and Tundra offers impressive capability as well as Toyota’s reputation for reliability in a very tough truck market. Toyota also offers a TRD Sport version of the Tundra, which features sport-tuned Bilstein shocks and TRD front and rear anti-sway bars, as well as a mesh grille, LED headlights, LED fog lights and a color-keyed hood scoop.
Heavy Duty Pickup — Ford Super Duty
Ford introduced an updated Super Duty pickup for the 2020 model year with fresh styling, more capability, new features and an all-new off-road Tremor package. Ford also upgraded the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 to produce 475 horsepower and a class-leading 1,050 lb-ft of torque at a mere 1600 rpm. With the right configuration, the Super Duty F-450 can tow up to 37,000 pounds — almost five times its own weight — and is also best in class for heavy-duty trucks. A diesel-powered F-350 with dual-rear wheels can haul up to 7,850 pounds — also the top of the heavy-duty class. The new Super Duty packs plenty of high-tech features including the innovative Pro Trailer Backup Assist, making this difficult trailering task surprisingly easy.