1: Lexus IS
Vehicle owner satisfaction score 83.9%
Yes, it's another class win for the IS — and deservedly so, with excellent ratings in no fewer than six of the eight categories.
Key to the IS's success were the excellent scores for quality and reliability, and in almost every consideration it was one of the best in the class. There were scarcely any mechanical problems or issues with the build, and the stereo and sat-nav were rated as the best in the class, as were the seats. The only slight area of complaint was that the air from the vents could smell stale.
Such a strong showing from the car was backed by up a faultless display from the dealers, while owners were also full of praise for how good the car looked. In terms of appeal, the only disappointment was the slightly cramped rear seats.
However, it wasn't all good news: owners said the fuel consumption was too high and that the car needed stronger performance.
2: Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Vehicle owner satisfaction score 82.3%
The C-Class might have the same four-star rating as last year, but there's been a real improvement in owners' satisfaction — enough to lift it to second in the class. Mercedes dealers nearly matched the excellence of their Lexus counterparts, while the car's build and reliability also generally rated as above average. The one exception was the seats, with some owners reporting squeaks.
Likewise, owners liked the way the car looked and drove, but they thought the ventilation was merely average and that the engines and transmissions could have been better.
3: Audi A5
Vehicle owner satisfaction score 81.7%
This is the A5's first appearance in this survey, but it's a fine debut, finishing in the top 20 overall. More than anything, it was the good scores for its stylish looks and classy interior that put it high up the results table. Owners also said they enjoyed driving the car, with the performance coming in for particular praise.
Among the ratings for appeal, only the relative shortage of space inside marked the car down, but that's no great surprise in a coupé.
What's more of a shock is that Audi dealers rated as only average, while the A5's quality and reliability were worse still. The CD player, speakers and hands-free system were particular problems.
4: Jaguar X-type
Vehicle owner satisfaction score 81.0%
On the face of it, this is a solid, mid-table performance, but the three-star overall rating hides some big inconsistencies. On the positive side, no other car was more highly rated for its fuel consumption and low insurance costs; Jaguar's dealers were rated above average in every respect; and owners were full of praise for the seats and spacious accommodation. On the other hand, owners were unhappy that the stereo couldn't play music in the format they wanted, while the hands-free system and clutch proved problematic and the ventilation inadequate.
5: BMW 3 Series
Vehicle owner satisfaction score 80.7%
The 3 Series finishes just behind the Jaguar X-type, because it was less consistent across the board. Owners particularly liked its excellent fuel consumption and the fine ventilation system, while there were relatively few complaints about the car's exterior. They also liked the engines and the look of the cabin, while the seats and the ride and handling were all rated as average.
There were only a few areas where the car was rated as below average: the boot was reckoned to be small and awkward to load; and service and insurance costs were thought to be too high.
6: Audi A4
Vehicle owner satisfaction score80.5%
Although the A4 finishes second from bottom in this class, this is still a fine performance. However, it may seem odd that its overall rating is so different from the A5's. After all, A4 and A5 owners agree on their cars' fair service costs, high fuel and insurance bills, and the average service from dealers. No, what consigns the A4 to its lowly position are the poor scores for its appeal.
The design of the cabin was rated as below average, while the ratings for practicality, comfort, and ride and handling were no more than average. Most disappointingly, quality and reliability were below average, with problems with the boot and CD player.
7: Saab 9-3
Vehicle owner satisfaction score 78.6%
The problem for the 9-3 is that it's a merely adequate car in a class of very fine rivals. Its overall score of 78.6% would have kept it well off the bottom in almost every other class. As it is, owners criticised the 9-3 for the relatively high cost of insuring and servicing it, they found the dealers' service below par and it was rated the least attractive car to look at and the least enjoyable to drive in the class, as well as having the worst audio and ventilation.
Finally, the 9-3 also scored the class's lowest marks for quality and reliability; the wipers, side windows and inadequate heating system were all problematic.
Compact executive league table
Click the image for a larger view.
Name Carl Stainer Age 30 Lives Epsom Downs, Surrey Job Airline cabin crew
Model Lexus IS250 SR Mileage with car 6000
‘I mainly use my car for motorway journeys, going to and from Gatwick Airport, as well as the occasional drive in the countryside. It’s refined, the seats are comfortable and it has a really smooth automatic gearbox. Plus, as it’s the SR model, it has a subtle bodykit that means it looks nicer than the standard car.
‘It has keyless start, but it’s irritating that there’s no slot inside for the key, so I have to keep it in my pocket.’