Drivers Get the Most Emotional About These New Car Models

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Woman in love with her car
UfaBizPhoto /

American car owners are more dissatisfied with their vehicles — but a handful of models still evoke warm, fuzzy feelings of love, according to the J.D. Power U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

The study measures “emotional attachment and level of excitement” by having vehicle owners rate 37 attributes, including things like how comfortable they feel getting into the driver seat and how exciting it is to put the pedal to the metal.

For the second straight year, Americans reported a year-over-year decline in satisfaction with their vehicles, giving an average overall satisfaction score of 845 out of 1,000. This is the first time satisfaction has declined in consecutive years in the study’s 28-year history.

In a summary of the findings, Frank Hanley, senior director of auto benchmarking at J.D. Power, says drivers increasingly are “lukewarm” about their vehicles, despite new technology and design innovations:

“While innovations like charging pads, vehicle apps and advanced audio features should enhance an owner’s experience, this is not the case when problems are experienced. This downward trajectory of satisfaction should be a warning sign to manufacturers that they need to better understand what owners really want in their new vehicles.”

Still, some car models remain beloved. After asking owners to describe their emotional attachment to and level of excitement with their new vehicle, the following models came out on top.

The best model overall

Porsche 911 sports car
North Monaco /

The Porsche 911 inspired the deepest feelings of satisfaction overall. It received a score of 914 out of a possible 1,000.

To buy a Porsche, you will have to spend at least $100,000 — and that is just for starters. But deep-pocketed drivers love these cars.

The best minivan and pickup models

Kia Carnival minivan
Jonathan Weiss /

Minivan and pickup drivers rated these models highest:

  • Minivan: Kia Carnival
  • Midsize pickup: Hyundai Santa Cruz
  • Large light duty pickup: Nissan Titan

The best SUV models

Mini Countryman
fireflite59 /

SUV drivers named these models as best:

  • Small SUV: MINI Countryman
  • Small premium SUV: Genesis GV60
  • Compact SUV: Kia EV6 and Nissan Ariya (tie)
  • Compact premium SUV: BMW X4
  • Midsize SUV: Chevrolet Blazer
  • Midsize premium SUV: Lexus RX
  • Upper midsize SUV: Kia Telluride
  • Upper midsize premium SUV: BMW iX
  • Large SUV: Toyota Sequoia
  • Large premium SUV: Land Rover Range Rover

The best car models

Kia Rio
Jonathan Weiss /

According to drivers, the best car models are as follows:

  • Small car: Kia Rio
  • Small premium car: Mercedes-Benz CLA
  • Compact car: Kia Forte
  • Compact premium car: Lexus IS
  • Compact sporty car: MINI Cooper
  • Midsize car: Kia K5
  • Midsize premium car: Kia Stinger
  • Midsize sporty car: Dodge Challenger
  • Upper midsize premium car: Porsche Taycan
  • Large premium car: BMW 7 Series
  • Premium sporty car: Porsche 911

For more beloved vehicles, check out “The 26 Best New Car Models for Quality.”

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