Here's a hot tip: If you want a car that you can really get excited about, choose one that gives you great fuel economy, a fun driving experience and/or luxurious surroundings. That's the clear message from Consumer Reports' latest owner-satisfaction survey, in which all of the 10 highest scoring models feature one or more of those traits.
That list includes the top-scoring Chevrolet Volt extended range electric car, which gets the equivalent of 99 mpg when running on electric power, can go gas-free for about 35 miles and earned the highest tally for the second straight year.
Among the 44 models that achieved Consumer Reports' top owner-satisfaction Rating, 10 were fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrids, diesels and electric cars. Another 10 were purebred sports cars. And 13 were luxury or upscale models, with most of them delivering sporty handling, strong engine performance or both.
The annual owner-satisfaction survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, asks subscribers a single, revealing question: Considering all factors (price, performance, reliability, comfort, enjoyment, etc.), would they get their same vehicle if they had it to do all over again?
This year, responses came in on about 350,000 vehicles and more than 240 models, spanning the 2010 through 2013 model years. A model's score is based on the percentage of respondents who answered "definitely yes." And to earn the top Rating, a model needs to have at least 80 percent of owners say they would definitely get it again.
The Volt's 92 score edged out the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911 sports cars by 1 point. When the Volt achieved the top score last year, it had been in showrooms for only a few months and was being grabbed up by enthusiastic early adopters.
So Consumer Reports was curious to see whether it could hold on to that high level of loyalty. Despite some bad publicity over the past year, including reports of battery fires, this year's survey shows that the Volt's high satisfaction score is no fluke.
Other fuel-efficient models that scored among the best were Toyota's Camry Hybrid, Prius and Prius C, and the all-electric Nissan Leaf. Fuel-efficient models also account for the highest scoring models in the small-car and family-car categories.
The fun and luxury factors also generate a lot of enthusiasm among owners. Among the top 10 scorers, four are sports cars, including the Corvette, 911, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang. Another four are luxury cars that deliver sporty handling (Audi A7, Lexus GS and Audi A6) or have a powerful V-8 engine (Dodge Charger).
SUVs and crossovers tend to score lower as a group. Only five earned Consumer Reports' best Rating: the Subaru Outback, Mazda CX-5, V-8-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango and Porsche Cayenne. Three of the five pickup models that earned the highest rating are turbodiesel-powered, three-quarter-ton models: the Chevrolet Silverado 2500, GMC Sierra 2500 and Ford F-250. The other two are the Chevrolet Avalanche and Ford F-150 with an EcoBoost engine.
At the other extreme, the redesigned subcompact Nissan Versa Sedan came in with the lowest score in the survey, with fewer than half of its owners saying they would definitely buy it again. Other low scorers include the V-6 versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, and the Nissan Armada, Suzuki SX4 and Mitsubishi Outlander SUVs.
Of course, owner satisfaction shouldn't be the only thing you consider. Based on its road test results and reliability survey data, Consumer Reports suggests the following: If you want a great all-around sedan with excellent fuel economy, the 38 mpg Toyota Camry Hybrid is hard to beat. For an efficient economy car, the Honda Fit trumps all.
Among affordable fun-to-drive sports cars, the Mazda MX-5 Miata leads its class. And for a spirited luxury sedan, Consumer Reports suggests the Audi A6 or the less-expensive Infiniti G37.
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