While a well-designed, reliable vehicle makes the majority of owners satisfied, two factors are guaranteed to satisfy people the most: performance and fuel economy.
This trend plays out every year with both three- and five-year-old used vehicles. In fact, many of the same models on our new-car “Definitely buy again” list are found here.
The three-year-old vehicle that still excites its owners the most is the Dodge Challenger V8, followed closely by the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Mustang V8. 90 percent or more of Challenger and Corvette owners would buy their cars again, a greater percentage than the Toyota Prius, the top-scoring fuel-efficient car, of which 85 percent of owners would do it again.
When looking at five-year-old vehicles,the percentages are slightly lower, but some of the same vehicles rise to the top. The Chevrolet Corvette, with an 85 percent satisfaction level, is tied with the Prius. Both are outscored only by the Porsche 911 and Cayman (87%), with the Mazda Miata (84%) and Ford Mustang V8 (83%) nipping at their heels. Two luxury cars buck the trend and just crack the 80-percent plateau: the Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Each year Consumer Reports asks the following question on our Annual Auto Survey: “Considering all factors (price, performance, reliability, comfort, etc.), would you get this car if you had it to do all over again?” Respondents have four choices, from “definitely yes” to “definitely no.”
For 3- and 5-year-old models (2010 and 2008 model years), we tallied the percentage of respondents from our 2012 survey that said they would definitely get the same car again.
The other three-year-olds that crack the 80-percent level of satisfaction are also sporty or fuel efficient. The Mini Cooper S, Mazda Miata, Chevrolet Camaro V8, and Volkswagen GTI are all sporty cars, while the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid, and diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta sedan TDI are known for impressive mileage. One car that snuck over the threshold is the prac-tical four-cylinder Subaru Outback Wagon. Another AWD car, the Lincoln MKZ, also scored above 80 percent.
At the other end of the spectrum are the cars that receive little love from their owners. In the majority of the cases there is a link between a vehicles’ poor performance in Consumer Reports testing and a poor owner satisfaction score. That certainly is the case with cars such as the Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Cobalt, Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Ranger, and Jeep Liberty, all of which were among the least-satisfying cars on both the three-and five-year lists.
Others, however, are a puzzle. The Acura RDX scores well in our tests and has above-average reliability, yet has low satisfaction scores. Its unimpressive fuel economy
and performance may play a part in that. Poor reliability is the likely reason for the 2008 GMC Acadia’s unimpressive satisfaction score.
One model that stands out is the Honda Civic Hybrid, whose owners were not impressed enough by the fuel economy. Our reliability data has shown that many owners have complained about needing to replace hybrid drive batteries, which are expensive if out of warranty, and the 2009 Civic Hybrid is one of the worst offenders.