AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers annually to determine how satisfied they are with their vehicle and what changes they want made. Based on this owner research, AutoPacific calculates the vehicles that owners want changed the least. The people who have purchased the vehicle are the people it was designed for. The data result in the AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award. Every year there are some results that stand out. The 2016 awards are no different. Here are some highlights:
• The top brand overall is Tesla – a one car brand at the time of the research, but that one car is on target with its buyers. The Tesla Model S is the top ranked Luxury Car.
• The top popular brand is GMC – for the third year in a row.
• The most ideal vehicle, overall, is the Volvo XC70.
• Subaru swept the crossover SUV categories in which it competes with the Outback winning the Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV category, the Forester winning the Mid-Size SUV category and the Crosstrek winning the Compact Crossover SUV category. That is a very impressive sweep.
Multiple year winners include:
• Jeep Grand Cherokee – winning the last six years in a row
• Volkswagen Golf – winning the last three years in a row and six of the last ten years
• Chevrolet Colorado – for the second year in a row
• Subaru Outback – for the second year in a row
• Subaru Forester – for the second year in a row
That Tesla has won so early in its lifetime is a testament to its planning, design and engineering teams. Maybe Tesla does not have the bureaucracy that bogs down bigger companies and allows it to effectively target the affluent buyers of its first vehicle.
Jeep has been fine-tuning the Grand Cherokee since the early 1990s. The fact that it has won the Ideal Vehicle Award for six years in a row shows that Jeep really does know what Grand Cherokee owners want.
The string of Ideal Vehicle Awards won by the Volkswagen Golf over the past ten years is impressive.
Finally, Subaru has solved the equation of successful small and mid-size crossover SUVs. Subaru sales have been steadily increasing and the Ideal Vehicle Award wins show the company understands crossover SUVs. Of course their “LOVE” advertising and dog-centric messages don’t hurt either.
Raising the Bar in a Competitive Segment The Koreans keep getting better and the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson (product code TL) is an example of how Hyundai has executed a segment-beater. Competing against big sellers Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5, etc. the new Tucson checks all the boxes. It is well styled and immediately identifiable as a Hyundai (looks almost too much like the Santa Fe Sport). It has a great package – good visibility, spacious front and rear seating, good cargo room, easy ingress/egress. The fit and finish is excellent inside and out. The interior trim materials have moved upwards – almost up to the next higher price class.
MY16 Hyundai Tucson
MY16 Hyundai Tucson
Hyundai Fell Behind in Segment – 2016 Hyundai Tucson Provides Conquest Opportunity The product is good enough to begin some serious conquesting. As the compact crossover SUV market has boomed over the past several years (growing 14.9% 2015CYTD), Hyundai has been left with a less-than-competitive product capable of selling around 45,000 per year. As such, Hyundai Motor America’s share of the segment slipped from about 6% to 2.5%. Some of that is due to capacity constraints from its Korean plant. A new plant in the Czech Republic has come on line and will be supplying Europe freeing up Korean capacity. With the new Tucson on sale in August, 2015, HMA’s volume is expected to rise to 56,200 in 2015 and up to 90,000 or higher in 2016. The 2015 Hyundai Tucson is good enough to pull that off if there is strong marketing support behind the vehicle (the last generation was essentially a “launch and leave” proposition with little marketing support). At 90,000 units, the Tucson will have about 6% of the segment.
Pre-Family Market Target Who will buy the 2016 Hyundai Tucson? HMA sees this as the entry targeted at “pre-family” singles and couples. Tucson is 8.5-inches shorter than the Santa Fe Sport that is targeted at “post-family” couples who no longer need the seven-passenger three row capacity of the 8.5-inch longer (than Santa Fe Sport) Santa Fe. Santa Fe is targeted at “core families”. Tucson democratizes technology by offering most of the latest gee whiz electronic features available on higher classes of products.
Hyundai describes its styling as bold and confident and it certainly comes across that way. It has a slightly more vertical windshield that helps ingress to the front seats. Tucson adopts Hyundai’s new corporate face with the hexagonal grille. From the side view, the Tucson is lean and wedgy. Exterior styling was by Hyundai’s European studio. The interior was styled in California. Ergonomics are outstanding with controls placed where expected. There is an 8-inch information screen with navigation and Hyundai’s BlueLink interface. The only criticism is with map graphics that don’t show enough detail and seem to show only major arteries, not the interesting spur roads you pass.
MY16 Hyundai Tucson
Powertrain OK but Full Throttle is Disappointing The base engine is Hyundai’s Nu 2.0L GDI 4-cylinder that has 164-horsepower and 151 lb ft of torque. The 2.0 L mileage figures are 23/31/26mpg. The 2.0L gets a six-speed automatic transmission. The optional engine, and the engine on the majority of Tucson models, is the Gamma 1.6L 4-cylinder Turbo with 175-horsepower and 195 lb ft of torque. The 1.6L mileage figures are 26/33/29mpg). The 1.6L gets a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. You definitely want the higher torque 1.6L Turbo. The torque is the key to performance feel. In the examples of the Tucson I drove, there was a noticeable lag when full throttle acceleration was wanted or needed from a stop (with traffic approaching, for instance). Pedal to the metal was disappointing. On a part throttle take off, this was not evident. It seemed to happen only when you really wanted the oomph. This is a characteristic an owner will learn over time, but Hyundai should sort it out ASAP.
The 2016 Ford Explorer marks the 25th anniversary of the vehicle line. When it launched as a 1991 model, the Explorer redefined what a sport utility vehicle should be – it was a high volume SUV with 4-doors (Ford wrongly estimated 4-door sales would be 30% of the mix – later, it became 100%). 7,000,000 sales later, Ford is launching a nicely updated mid-cycle product change. When the 2016 Ford Explorer launches, most people won’t be able to tell the difference from the present Explorer. While the vehicle’s sheetmetal ahead of the A-Pillar is all new and the liftgate and taillamps are all new, the differences are subtle to the casual observer. So while the change for 2016 is major, its appearance change is minor.
Honda launches its all-new 2016 HR-V sub-compact crossover sport utility vehicle in May, 2015. The 2016 Honda HR-V, based on Honda’s diminutive Fit sub-compact, is very spacious for what it is. The interior – at least the passenger compartment – feels about as big as the larger Honda CR-V. HR-V’s wheelbase is only a half inch shorter than CR-V allowing the big seating area, but its overall length is about ten inches shorter – less cargo room. The front seating area feels wider than you would expect in a vehicle this small. Ingress and egress are easy to the front seats. The rear seats are a bit tight. You have to maneuver your feet to get between the B-pillar and the seat and there is not much knee room. Cargo room is larger than it looks. The best feature Honda takes from the architecture of the Fit are the “Magic Seat” rear seats that flip and fold several ways to maximize the flexibility of the area behind the front seats.
Shared Platform with Renegade – Different Mission At a glance, the 2016 Fiat 500X is a solid addition to the Fiat lineup in the USA. Built alongside the Jeep Renegade at FCA’s Melfi, Italy plant the 500X shares the Renegade’s platform but has a dramatically different mission that demands tuning and settings to be very different. While the Renegade Trailhawk is at home off-road, the 500X is for the cities and suburbs.
B-XSUV How can a vehicle lead a class when you don’t know that that class is? What is a B-XSUV? The B-Class size in Euro-speak is the second from the lowest size class. Second, what is an XSUV? In AutoPacific-speak this means crossover sport utility vehicle. We refuse to call these things CUVs because it is important folks know they are supposed to be SPORT UTILITIES. This is a very new class with entries just beginning to land – Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, the Fiat 500x, etc.
Jeep Renegade So now lets talk about the 2016 Jeep Renegade.
The 2016 Jeep Renegade shares its platform with the 2016 Fiat 500X. The Renegade has rough and tough Jeep cues and mechanical bits that give it great chops off-road – American. The 500X is more of a urban cruiser – Italian.
It’s easy to like the all new 2016 Jeep Renegade on sale March 1, 2015. It is funky looking in a Jeep sort of way, small but wide, easy to maneuver, easy to get into and out of, easy to see out of. And it its base price is about $5,000 less than its new bigger brother the Jeep Cherokee. This puts its base price in the same area as the old, old, old Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot that we were frankly surprised to realize are still in production.
The built-in-Italy Renegade has Jeep-DNA styling cues including the seven vertical slot grill and trapezoidal wheel openings.
Smaller Than a Honda Civic While the Renegade is short – only 167-inches long – about 15-inches shorter than the Jeep Cherokee (182-inches in length), it makes up for that by being pretty wide. Renegade has a 101-inch wheelbase compared with the Cherokee’s 106-inch wheelbase. It is 74 inches wide, a bit wider than the Cherokee. The 2016 Jeep Renegade has 56-inches of front shoulder room compared with the 58-inches for the Cherokee, but 56-inches seems spacious and generous in the Renegade. Unlike the Cherokee, the Renegade has a lot of glass and good visibility. So from a packaging standpoint, the Renegade comes across like a larger vehicle. Thinking about a car to compare it to that everybody knows… Renegade has a shorter wheelbase and overall width than the 2015 Honda Civic, but is substantially wider. The Renegade is larger than the Honda Fit, but smaller than Civic. Wider than both.
The base 2016 Jeep Renegade comes with a six-speed manual transmission and a 1.4L Multi-air turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower. Optional sporting a 9-speed automatic transmission, is a 2.4L Multi-Air2 naturally aspirated Tigershark 4-cylinder with 180HP. If this sounds familiar the 2.4L/9-speed auto is also found in the Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Dart, Chrysler 200, and Ram Promaster City.
Capable On- and Off-Road Where the Renegade shines is in the dynamics. It is very maneuverable and easy to drive. Designed to be a true off-roader, the Renegade has good suspension travel and an excellent turning radius. The Jeep folks claim that the “Trail-Rated” Trailhawk version can traverse the Rubicon Trail, but we did not have the chance to prove it since we were in Hollister, California. We did, however, get to ease the Trailhawk down a grade that must have been about 45-degrees. With hill descent control engaged the Renegade slowly, but surely, worked its way down the grade.
Pricing The base price of the 2016 Jeep Renegade is $17,995 with a additional $995 for destination charges. Sneakily, that price does not include air conditioning (even the most basic vehicles sold in the USA have AC standard in most cases). That gets you a front wheel drive Renegade Sport with the 1.4L Multi-Air turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 6-speed manual transmission. The top model Trailhawk begins at $25,995, but when you check all the boxes the price can top $32,000. Not unreasonable for a new small SUV with loads of personality and capability.
What Would We Change The 2.4L 4-cylinder has 180HP which is sufficient for most circumstances. On the freeway, however, it would be nice to have a bit more power – maybe 200 or 205HP. The center stack navigation screen is 5.0-inches diagonally with standard UConnect and when you upgrade to the system with navigation the screen grows to 6.5-inches. In a world where bigger screens are better, we would have opted for a larger 8.4-inch screen. According to the Renegade’s product planner, this decision was made on the basis of styling, not cost or utility. Huh? Go with the bigger screen. On the plus side of screens, there is an available 7-inch reconfigurable display in the instrument cluster the driver can customize to display a myriad of information. Good going.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the highest scoring Mid-Size SUV in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The Grand Cherokee product development team has honed their knowledge of what Grand Cherokee buyers want over the years. The Grand Cherokee has won AutoPacific’s IVA and also the AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award for years in a row. This is a remarkable feat. The Jeep Grand Cherokee beat out some impressive group of mid-size SUV’s. Following the Grand Cherokee is the Nissan Xterra, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota FJ Cruiser, and the Jeep Wrangler. “Is this getting old, or what?” says AutoPacific President George Peterson. The Jeep Grand Cherokee continues to sweep its category and remains the Ideal Mid-Size SUV.”
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee owners were very pleased with their vehicles. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle Award questionnaire, the Grand Cherokee led or tied in nine categories.
The top five highest ratings by Jeep Grand Cherokee owners are: same exterior size, same tires, same wheels, same passenger room, and the same interior lighting as now.
Although the Grand Cherokee is at the top there are several things owners would change. Owners would like more advanced technology, more power and acceleration, easier to get in and out of, and more cargo space.
In the “This is Getting Boring Category”, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the highest scoring Mid-Size SUV in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. This is the fourth year in a row Grand Cherokee has won the award. The Grand Cherokee edges out some very impressive vehicles such as the Toyota 4Runner, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Jeep Wrangler, and the Nissan Xterra.
The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee wins and ties in thirty-three of fifty categories. The Grand Cherokee is within one tenth of a satisfaction rating point in ten other attributes. Jeep’s Grand Cherokee led in just over eighty five percent of the satisfaction categories.
The top ten highest ratings by Grand Cherokee owners are: exterior and interior styling, handling and braking, exterior color and size, the feel of the fabrics and materials, feeling safe while driving, the vehicles ride, and that it is fun to drive.
On Monday June 16, 2014, AutoPacific announced its 18th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA), identifying the most satisfying 2014 model year vehicles on the market. Other automotive awards provide information on defects – things gone wrong. AutoPacific’s research looks at the issue of vehicle ownership in a totally different way – how satisfied a new vehicle is to its owner. While it’s important to know how well a vehicle is screwed together, it is even more important to learn how well buyers and drivers feel about their vehicle.
The AutoPacific 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards objectively measure owner satisfaction with 50 separate attributes ranging from interior comfort and convenience to fuel economy and performance. “Vehicles that score highest in the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards are delivering value and satisfaction across a wide range of attributes,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “The winners perform well in 50 separate categories that objectively measure the ownership experience.” An industry benchmark for measuring how satisfied an owner is with his/her new vehicle, AutoPacific’s VSA are based on the results of responses from over 92,000 new vehicle owners.
For 2014, the most satisfying brands are Lincoln, Top Premium Brand and GMC, Top Popular Brand. The vehicle – car or truck – registering highest overall satisfaction is the new-for-2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class that also wins AutoPacific’s second President’s Award for achieving the highest VSA score ever. The truck with the highest overall satisfaction score is the new BMW X5 Premium Luxury Crossover SUV.
“With the launch of each new car and truck, carmakers try to improve the product and increase the satisfaction of their buyers,” explains Peterson. “By surveying a substantial number of owners who have purchased a new 2014 model year vehicle, The AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards provide an objective measurement of how well the makers are doing. More than one-third of new vehicle buyers are positively influenced by objective awards based on owner ratings when deciding on a new car or truck.”
The awards in 2014 are much more diverse than they have been in previous years, with no single brand dominating the results. Multiple top-ranked award winners are: Chevrolet with four winners; Lincoln with three winners; Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Kia, and GMC with two winners each.
The brands that improved their relative ranking positions in 2014 compared with 2013 are: GMC moving from 17th to 8th position; Lincoln moving from 6th position to 1st position; Ford moving from 25th to 19th; Chevrolet moving from 21st to 16th. Brands with the largest drop in position were Volkswagen moving from 16th to 28th position and Jaguar dropping from 7th to 17th.
From a manufacturer perspective, General Motors was tops with seven wins and Ford had four wins.
“AutoPacific 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards help vehicle buyers sort through an increasingly complicated selection of brands and models. For the 2014 model year, there are 274 models and 32 brands from which to choose a new vehicle. The VSA clearly shows the buyers which vehicles are at the top of the class they are considering,” says Peterson.
Top 2014 model year performers are:
PRESIDENT’S AWARD FOR HIGHEST VSA SCORE EVER: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
HIGHEST SATISFACTION PREMIUM BRAND: Lincoln
HIGHEST SATISFACTION POPULAR BRAND: GMC
2014 PASSENGER CAR WINNERS:
|Premium Luxury Car
Executive Luxury Car
Aspirational Luxury Car
Luxury Mid-Size Car
Premium Compact Car
BMW 3-Series GT
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
2014 LIGHT TRUCK WINNERS:
|Heavy Duty Pickup
Light Duty Pickup
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV
Luxury Crossover SUV
Large Crossover SUV
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV
Mid-Size Crossover SUV
Compact Crossover SUV
|Ford F-Series Super Duty
Jeep Grand Cherokee