26 of the Most Gratifying Cars to Drive

The gap is narrowing between the appeal of premium-brand cars and nonpremium brand cars. Find out why.

The gap is narrowing between the appeal of premium brand cars and nonpremium brand cars.

The reason? High-tech safety features.

The J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, released Wednesday, shows the “appeal gap” is as narrow as it’s been in a decade — 16 percent smaller than it was in 2006.

The type of safety features that helped close the gap include blind-spot monitoring and warning systems, park assist/backup warning, and collision avoidance/alert systems.

Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power and Associates, explains in a press release:

“Unlike other technologies, such as voice recognition, that can be challenging to operate, most safety features provide information in a more intuitive way, giving owners a greater sense of security.”

The APEAL Study, now in its 20th year, measures how gratifying a new vehicle is to own and drive.

This year’s study is based on responses from more than 84,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2015 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership.

The average 2015 APEAL Index score for nonpremium cars is 5 points higher than last year, bringing it up to 790 out of 1,000 points. The average score for premium cars is only 1 point higher, bringing it to 841.

The top-ranked models in each of the 26 vehicle classes in the APEAL Study are:

  • City car: Fiat 500
  • Small car: Chevrolet Sonic
  • Small premium car: Audi A3
  • Compact car: Volkswagen Golf
  • Compact sporty car: Mini Cooper
  • Compact premium car: BMW 4 Series
  • Compact premium sporty car: Porsche Cayman
  • Midsize car: Mazda 6
  • Midsize sporty car: Dodge Challenger
  • Midsize premium car: BMW 6 Series
  • Midsize premium sporty car: Chevrolet Corvette
  • Large car: Dodge Charger
  • Large premium car: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
  • Small SUV: Mini Countryman
  • Small premium SUV: Audi Q3
  • Compact SUV: Mazda CX-5
  • Compact premium SUV: Porsche Macan
  • Compact multipurpose vehicle: Ford C-Max
  • Midsize SUV: Nissan Murano
  • Midsize premium SUV: Porsche Cayenne
  • Midsize pickup: Chevrolet Colorado
  • Minivan: Kia Sedona
  • Large SUV: Ford Expedition
  • Large premium SUV: Infiniti QX80
  • Large light duty pickup: Ford F-150
  • Large heavy-duty pickup: GMC Sierra HD

Click the above link to explore the APEAL Study results in more detail.

Does safety technology impact how happy you are with your car? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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