JD Power customer satisfaction poll '08 - Small family cars

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Skoda Octavia owners can't get much happier, although Toyota Corolla drivers have wide smiles, too. This time, however, a Japanese car also finishes last.

Small family cars results table

1. Skoda Octavia
Score 85.2%
Overall ranking 4th

Well done, Skoda. This is the second class win in a row for the Octavia, which only just falls short of the overall podium.

So what's so good about it? For starters, owners reported that it very rarely broke down.

The transmissions and engines proved dependable, the controls and switches worked reliably for mile after mile, and the cabin was well built.

Owners enjoyed the car, too, with high marks for performance, ride and handling and, in particular, the comfortable and roomy cabin. The styling earned a thumbs-up, too.

When owners did have to visit a dealer, the welcome was warm, and the service prompt and efficient.

Keen running costs helped clinch the Octavia's class win. It's the only small family car to be rated 'excellent' in this category.

2. Toyota Corolla
Score 84.0%
Overall ranking 9th

More than any other car, the Corolla kept up the pressure on the Octavia with some impressive scores across the board.

It was even more reliable than the Skoda, with excellent marks for the mechanical parts, and interior and exterior build quality. Dealer service was also from the top drawer.

However, the Toyota appealed to the head more than the heart. Owners rated the driving experience as average, and the middle-of-the-road looks attracted middle-of-the-road scores.

3. Honda Civic
Score 83.5%
Overall ranking 12th

The Civic is no stranger to the sharp end of the JD Power survey. This is its fourth successive top-three finish in the small family car class.

Honda's dealer network can claim its share of the credit. Owners found the staff helpful and efficient, and it was easy to get the car booked in. The bills weren't too painful, either, and other running costs were also low.

Mechanical parts proved robust, although not a match for the Corolla's. The number of exterior problems reported is a disappointment, however.

4. Audi A3
Score 82.6%
Overall ranking 20th

Nothing if not consistent, the Audi A3 finishes fourth in this class for the second year running.

Owners liked the A3. They enjoyed driving it, found the seats comfortable and loved the car's looks.

Robust mechanical parts, reliable switchgear and a well-built cabin made unscheduled visits to the dealer few and far between.

Its weakest points were the average dealer service and running costs.

5. Mercedes A-Class
Score 82.2%
Overall ranking 26th

A-Class owners are a happy and contented lot. They told JD Power that very little went wrong with their cars; the transmissions and engines, in particular, hardly skipped a beat.

The cabin held together well, although exterior problems were more common.

The practical cabin and the looks met with approval, but performance and ride and handling could have been better.

Fuel consumption was pleasingly low and insurance bills were reasonable. However, if owners did have a gripe, it was that the cost of servicing and repair work was too high.

6. Mazda 3
Score 82.1%
Overall ranking 27th

Fifth in class last year, the Mazda 3 drops one place in 2008. Its score is actually slightly better than in 2007, though, which just goes to show how tough the competition is among small family cars.

Above-average reliability is the foundation of the Mazda's success. Owners didn't just trust the 3 - they enjoyed it, too, with impressive scores for ride and handling, and the comfortable, practical cabin.

Running costs were only average, though. An improvement here and the Mazda could challenge the very best.

7=. Subaru Impreza
Score 81.7%
Overall ranking 30th=

A good overall finish disguises some up-and-down scores for the Impreza.

Running costs proved pretty diabolical. Owners reported that fuel bills were the biggest problem, with one of the worst scores in the whole survey.

Insurance premiums and the price of servicing weren't much better.

On the other hand, owners loved the driving experience and the Impreza's looks. Reliability was good, too, with robust mechanical parts and a well-assembled cabin.

Dealer service was rated alongside the very best.

7=. Volkswagen Golf
Score 81.7%
Overall ranking 30th=

The Golf's overall score is identical to the Subaru Impreza's, but the VW puts in a much more even performance.

Owners rated reliability as solid rather than spectacular. Some reported niggling problems with the controls, and the air-con could be troublesome. At least the transmission was strong.

Engine performance picked up high scores, and owners liked the way the Golf rode the bumps, and enjoyed its handling round the bends. The cost of keeping the car running was low.

9. Vauxhall Astra
Score 80.5%
Overall ranking 44th

Finishing in 44th place might not sound like much, but it's a huge improvement for the Astra, which was 99th last year.

The dealers have pulled their socks up, and so picked up an average rating. Owners were happier with running costs than they were last year, too.

Mechanical parts proved reasonably robust, although there were an above-average number of issues with the stereo.

If the cabin were more appealing, the Astra may have finished higher still.

10. Mitsubishi Lancer
Score 80.3%
Overall ranking 45th

The Lancer is Mitsubishi's strongest car in the 2008 survey, and does enough to sit in the top half of the overall results.

Scores were average in five of the eight categories. Running costs weren't, though: insurance and servicing bills were nearly as shocking as the Subaru Impreza's.

On the positive side, hardly any owners had problems with their car's paintwork, while Mitsubishi's dealers showed they know how to keep customers satisfied.

11. Ford Focus
Score 79.9%
Overall ranking 51st=

Ford won't be pleased to see the Focus overtaken by the Astra in this year's survey, but there's comfort in knowing the car's score is better than last year's.

Owners didn't have many complaints, but they weren't exactly raving about the car, either. The Focus was rated as average in seven out of eight categories - exterior quality was the only respect in which the Ford was better than the norm.

Dealers did a decent job, and running costs were about what owners expected.

12. Peugeot 307
Score 79.6%
Overall ranking 58th

Something must have changed at Peugeot, because the 307 has taken a big leap forward. From 102nd out of 113 cars last year, it's now 58th out of 100 models.

There were still too many faults inside the cabin, though, especially with the air-conditioning. The engines weren't as reliable as they should be, either.

On the other hand, owners praised the comfortable cabin, while dealers did a reasonable job and fuel bills were low.

13. BMW 1 Series
Score 79.2%
Overall ranking 65th

The BMW's score is very similar to last year's, but while the 1 Series has stood still, others have improved - it drops from eighth to 13th.

Dealers could have done more to help the cause. Owners found the facilities plush, but it wasn't easy enough to book the car in when needed.

Steep fuel bills and the high price of servicing and repairs were also disappointing.

Mechanical parts proved durable, however, and little went wrong inside the 1 Series' cabin.

14. Chevrolet Lacetti
Score 78.9%
Overall ranking 68th

Chevrolet needs to build a more reliable car if it wants a better result from the Lacetti.

More than a third of owners had engine problems, and almost half had trouble with the suspension, steering or brakes.

Drivers were lukewarm about the Lacetti's performance, but said the cabin was comfortable.

Low running costs and good dealer service helped save the Lacetti from a more lowly finish.

15. Seat Leon
Score 78.8%
Overall ranking 70th

Bad news for Seat - the Leon seems to be going downhill fast. A respectable 45th last year, it drops to 70th in 2008.

The dealers must shoulder some of the blame - average last year, poor this year. Owners weren't happy with facilities, and cars weren't always ready on time.

At least the engines were reliable and owners liked the Leon's looks.

16. Renault Megane
Score 78.7%
Overall ranking 72nd

A customer satisfaction score of 78.7% isn't great, but at least the Megane is heading in the right direction. It scores 3.4% higher than it did last year.

The Megane picked up decent marks for vehicle appeal. Owners enjoyed the ride and handling, and the comfortable seats. Fuel economy proved good, too.

Reliability was a worry, though. There were too many complaints about the exterior, an above-average number of engine problems and lots of trouble with the suspension, steering or brakes.

Dealer service needed to be better, too.

17. Citroen C4
Score 78.2%
Overall ranking 83rd

The C4 just avoids the wooden spoon in this class. Owners said that running costs were keen, and they liked the car's sharp styling, but good looks only get you so far.

Mechanical faults were too common. The transmissions were dependable, but too many owners moaned about engine, steering, suspension or brake problems. Poor build quality in the cabin was another complaint.

Owners weren't wild about the way the C4 drives, with below-par scores for performance, and ride and handling.

Its ratings for comfort were a little disappointing, too.

18. Nissan Almera
Score 78.0%
Overall ranking 85th

There aren't many Japanese cars that have done badly in the JD Power survey, but the Almera is one of them.

If you just need a car to get you from A to B without breaking down, the Nissan isn't such a bad choice, since the oily bits proved reasonably robust.

The real problem is an almost complete lack of appeal. Owners didn't enjoy driving the car, or find it especially comfortable. They never warmed to the frumpy looks, either.

Small family cars results table

Table: results by model

Table: results by manufacturer

JD Power customer satisfaction poll '08 - Family cars


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