Compact executives

* Driver satisfaction survey 2012 * Find out what fellow drivers think * Don't buy before reading this...

Compact executives

Winner Lexus IS
1 Lexus IS
Overall ranking 9th=
Another year, another class-leading performance from the Lexus IS. The sleek saloon outpaced its competition once again, although a shake-up in the overall model index meant it fell out of the top five for the first time. Owners might not have thought their cars to be the most beautiful, but they loved the way the exterior and interior colours were co-ordinated, and vouched for the cars build quality.

They also liked the way the controls were positioned within easy reach, and praised the intuitive media and sat-nav systems. The IS was rated highly for comfort, with soothing lumbar support and easily adjustable seats and seatbelts. Front passenger space was also given the nod, and owners thought there was enough space in the back.

It wasnt all plain sailing, though. Owners were worried that cabin materials would scuff or mark too easily, and they felt the sting of high fuel costs after getting fewer miles to the gallon than expected. This car had more reports of excessive fuel consumption than any other in its class.

However, drivers liked the ISs performance, and although it perhaps wasnt as quick off the mark as some rivals, they did praise the responsive steering and smooth gears. Visibility was highly rated, too, making lane changing largely stress free.

Owners were also relaxed at the dealership, reporting top-notch facilities and polite, helpful service advisers. Their cars were generally ready for collection on time, while workmanship was also praised.

This will come as good news to Lexus, because although the IS is still a class beater, the marque faces stiffer competition than ever before, having lost pole position in the JD Power brand index for the first time to Jaguar. How other compact executives rated

2 Jaguar X-type
Overall 16th
The X-type just missed out on the top spot. It was rated top for luggage space, and interior appeal was second only to the Lexus IS. Owners liked the well-thought-out cabin and Jaguar dealers, although charges were too high.

3 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Overall 21st=
Owners said the C-Class was a sweet-running car, even if things got a bit noisy during rapid acceleration. They loved its responsive steering and smooth gears. They were also happy with the dealer experience, but less so with the running costs.

4 Audi A5,S5
Overall 28th
The A5 was rated as the best-looking compact exec, and for the quality of its interior materials and sound systems. It was criticised for wind noise, oil consumption and water leaks, though. Owners were also less than happy with the rear space.

5 Audi A4,RS4,S4,Allroad quattro
Overall 29th=
Audis most compact executive scored more problems than any other in the class, with tracking, wiper, carpet and cupholder flaws. Seat adjustment also came in for criticism, but storage was deemed ample.

6 BMW 3 Series
Overall 43rd
A multitude of problems, the most significant concerning engine lights and ill-fitting mats, cost the BMW three places in the class standings. Impressive fuel economy was counterbalanced by dealer service that was rated below average for the class.

7 Mercedes-Benz CLC
Overall 64th=
Although owners said they received some of the best service from their dealers, and enjoyed the cleanest facilities, woeful fuel consumption prompting four times the class average number of complaints dented satisfaction ratings.

8 Saab 9-3
Overall 104th
Theres no one left at Saab to worry about yet another year at the bottom of the compact execs class, which is probably just as well: the results make grim reading.

Owners were least likely to find their cars visually appealing, inside or out, and ranked the 9-3 below every rival in almost every category, with the notable exception of fuel consumption. However, even that was considered substandard. Perhaps unsurprisingly after the upheaval and uncertainty Saab dealers have been through, customers marked them down on service, particularly when it came to fair charges.

Full results
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Case study
Name Martin Boyle
Age 52
Lives Godalming
Job Management consultant
Model 250C SE-L
Mileage with car 5000

My IS convertible has every factory-fitted option. I love it, and my wife likes to drive it, too, which wasnt always the case with our previous BMW Z4 and Honda S2000.

We already had a Lexus RX300 so we knew the product and service would be excellent.

This model is very rare with just the right colour combination (Mesa Red paint and Mellow White interior), and I love the fact that Porsche 911 owners come over to talk to me about it.'