JD Power survey 2012 - Small family cars
Overall ranking 12th=
It’s another win for the Skoda Octavia. For the fifth time in six years it’s been judged by its owners to be the best buy in the small family cars class.
The Skoda might not be everyone’s idea of the sexiest motor on the market, but that’s not where this car’s appeal lies. Its owners love it because it’s well built, reliable and ultimately very practical.
The roomy Octavia beat all its rivals on space, with expansive leg- and headroom in the front and rear providing comfort for all occupants. The cavernous, well-shaped boot also impressed; there’s no grappling with high lips or ledges for Octavia owners.
In fact, the Octavia was deemed practical in every sense, including the all-important area of fuel economy, with efficient engines keeping owners’ bank balances healthy. Running expenses impressed all round, with the Octavia delivering low insurance, fuel consumption, and service and repair costs.
However, this car’s charm didn’t stop at smaller than average bills; drivers also enjoyed its dynamic, responsive handling, smooth gearchanges and sparky acceleration, even at motorway speeds.
There’s no doubt about the fun to be had in an Octavia, but thankfully that’s not at the expense of safety. Owners liked the way the instrument cluster was angled, and scored the car highly for visibility, particularly when changing lanes. Parking was described as a breeze, too.
The car wasn’t a paragon of virtue. The problems concerning exterior lights and mirrors, wipers and foggy windows that were raised last year persisted, and there were some reports of water leaking into the cabin. However, when things did go wrong, dealers were quick to respond and get the car back on the road quickly.
With so little to find fault with, it’s not surprising that Skoda’s best-selling car has topped its class yet again. Owners’ satisfaction with attentive and friendly service staff should go a long way to keeping it there.
2 Toyota Auris
From loser to near-winner, the Auris has leapt 10 places this year. Quality, reliability and running costs were lauded, as were the dealers, with praise for the friendly staff and workshop booking system. Squeaky seats were a minor niggle.
3 Audi A3/S3
Owners loved the Audi’s styling, entertainment system and comfort, but it stumbled on reliability, with gripes about demisting, noisy brakes and wipers. Owners most disliked service and repair, and insurance costs.
4 Kia Cee'd
A bounce back for the Cee’d from its slump to ninth last year. Owners liked its ease of access, storage space and visibility. Battery failure was a noted mechanical problem, but dealer service was among the most highly rated in this class.
5 Honda Civic
A slide of three places for the Civic. Owners were still wowed by the car’s styling, but quality didn’t live up to expectations, with more problems (albeit minor) reported than the industry average. Ownership costs were also thought steep.
6 Seat Leon
The driving experience kept Leon owners happy, and they praised the engine on all counts bar fuel consumption. Unresponsive heating helped to make the car easily the worst in class for fogged-up windows. Dealer service was improved, though.
7 Volkswagen Golf
A very average performance from the Golf for the second year in a row. Owners found little to mark this car out from its rivals, but did enjoy its driving dynamics, citing responsiveness, pace, stability at speed and smooth gearchanges.
8 Citroen C4
The C4 was rated second only to the Octavia for fuel economy. Owners also liked its performance. Corrosion let it down, though. The make’s dealerships were thought a little shabby, but service costs were considered excellent.
9 Mazda 3
No change for the Mazda 3 ownership experience, with average service and running costs. Surprisingly, rust was an issue, along with the highest tyre wear in this segment, but it was also top for comfort, with good heating and sound systems.
10 BMW 1 Series
Handling and performance were the best features of the 1 Series, but owners worried about rear-seat comfort. Service advisors were thought the least courteous in class and the least likely to give a good explanation of the work needed.
11 Renault Megane
An average performance pushed the Mégane three places up the rankings. It impressed mechanically, and its looks drew praise, but there were plenty of gripes, including front door and lock problems, ill-fitting car mats and fluid leaks.
12 Peugeot 308
Owners said they were treated well by their dealers, but not so well by the car: seat adjustments didn’t do the job, cabin temperature was tricky to control and blower noise intrusive. Water leaks and clutch problems were also cited.
13 Hyundai i30
The i30 was mechanically reliable, but noisy suspension, clunky gearshifts and unsporty handling took the edge off for many owners. Also reported were issues with opening and closing the fuel cap, and with the door locks.
14 Volvo C30
Although C30 owners were the most proud of their cars’ styling and build quality, they didn’t rate them as highly as last year. They were least impressed with the rear space, and felt they were charged over the odds for servicing and repairs.
15 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
The A-Class lost its top-five ranking thanks to bad smells from the ventilation system, and wind noise. Saving graces included easy cabin access and the company’s rating as one of the best in class for service.
16 Ford Focus
The Focus rated average in all categories except for reliability and dealer service, where it was below par. Odd brake issues, slow-reacting air-con and heating, and poor radio reception were all mentioned, along with cupholder problems.
17 Vauxhall Astra
With Fiat out of the running in the small family class this year, the Astra was left bringing up the rear. Beleaguered owners had few positive things to say about the car, and reserved particular criticism for inadequate passenger head- and legroom in the front, and ineffective lumbar support from the driver’s seat.
They also complained about the unattractive instrument cluster and found the audio and air-con controls distracting to use on the move. Worryingly, the Astra had more engine warning light problems reported than any of its rivals. With the Astra’s recent loss of showroom popularity to the Golf, this result will give Vauxhall cause for concern.
Click on table for larger view
Featured in this story