Small family cars 11-17

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Small family cars 11-17

11: Seat Leon

Vehicle owner satisfaction score: 79.1%
Overall ranking: 47th
Seat seems to have stopped the rot with the Leon. Last year it was in 70th place, this year it climbs to 47th.

Owners like this car. They told JD Power it was fun to drive, good looking and had comfy seats and a cracking stereo, although some rivals scored better for visibility and cabin space.

Mechanical parts proved robust enough, although some owners reported problems with the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning.

If problems did occur, Seat dealers did a reasonable job in putting them right, without really going that extra mile. Ownership costs were also run of the mill.

12: Mazda 3

Vehicle owner satisfaction score: 78.9%
Overall ranking: 54th
The Mazda 3 is one of the big losers in the 2009 survey. It has fallen from 27th in 2008 to 54th.

Better scores for vehicle appeal are needed to push the 3 closer to the top of the class again; owners were underwhelmed by the engines and transmissions, while the spaciousness of the cabin and seat comfort were ranked no better than average.

On the other hand very little went wrong with the Mazda, especially with mechanical parts or the exterior. If trouble did strike, it was more likely to be with the seats.

Mazda dealers did a solid job, and servicing bills also proved reasonable. However, fuel costs were pretty high.

13=: Ford Focus

Vehicle owner satisfaction score: 76.8%
Overall ranking: 70th=
Ford should be disappointed with the Focus's performance because its year-on-year score has dropped by more than 3%.

The dealers have to shoulder some of the blame. Owners were less than impressed with the staff, the facilities or the quality of work. At least the bills for the work undertaken were reasonable, which is more than can be said for fuel costs. On the positive side, respectable reliability kept unscheduled dealer visits to a minimum.

Owners struggled to summon up much enthusiasm for their cars. They were happy enough with the cabin, but underwhelmed by its looks, all-round visibility and the performance of the Focus's engines.

13=: Vauxhall Astra

Vehicle owner satisfaction score: 76.8%
Overall ranking: 70th=
Having just pipped the Ford Focus last year, the Vauxhall Astra earns exactly the same score as its arch rival in the 2009 survey.

'Average' just about sums the Astra up. Owners had few horror stories for JD Power, but didn't go overboard with their praise, either.

Reliability is smack bang in the middle of class standards. If problems did occur, they were likely to involve the seats and the heating, ventilation and air-con.

Owners were reasonably content with the driving experience, but less than keen on the interior or the seat comfort. Dealers just about passed muster, but cars weren't always ready on time and the quality of work could be improved.

15: Renault Megane

Vehicle owner satisfaction score: 76.3%
Overall ranking: 81st
Renault has a lot of work to do to drag the Mgane out of the bottom half of the table.
Improved reliability should be top of the company's to-do list. The mechanical parts aren't too bad, but too many owners complained of problems with the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. Various issues with the exterior also had drivers pulling their hair out.

When it was working properly, the Mgane didn't do enough to outweigh its fragility. Scores for engine and transmission performance, the seats and the car's styling were all below average.

Running costs proved reasonable, but dealers need to try harder.

16: Citroen C4

Vehicle owner satisfaction score: 76.2%
Overall ranking: 82nd
Citron won't be pleased to see the C4 narrowly avoid the wooden spoon in this class for the second year running.

There are a few positives, if average scores can be taken as positives. Dealers did an adequate job and running costs were mostly reasonable, although some owners were unhappy with servicing bills.

Drivers were also unimpressed with the engine performance and the car's ride and handling. Most worryingly, more mechanical problems were reported than for any other small family car. Interior faults, including issues with the air-con, were also far too common.

17: Peugeot 307

Vehicle owner satisfaction score: 75.8%
Overall ranking: 86th=
The 307 completes the unfortunate trio of French cars at the bottom of this class.
The mechanical parts proved more robust than those in the Citron C4, but that's not saying an awful lot. Inside, too many owners reported trouble with the stereo. At least the exterior seemed reasonably well put together.

Dealers did a reasonable but unspectacular job, and didn't charge too much for servicing. However, high insurance premiums annoyed some.

What really cemented the 307's dismal result were low scores for appeal. Owners just didn't think much of the looks, or the way the car drives.

How they rated:
Click the image, below, to view a larger version of how all the cars rated.

Name: James Mair Job: GP Model: 2.0 TDI PD Elegance Mileage: 57,000'This car gets better and better. There's not a single rattle or squeak and I have never had a fault with it. Mine has the semi-automatic DSG gearbox, which makes light work of the commute. I easily get 50mpg, servicing costs are low and the solid, quality interior looks as good as new. I test drove a VW recently and I reckon the Skoda is better quality.'