Best cars to own: Driver Power 2022 results

Best cars to own: Driver Power 2022 results

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The Driver Power 2022 new-car survey is the UK’s best guide to what owners think of the shiny new cars that look so appealing on manufacturer websites and in dealer showrooms.

This year our survey is more powerful than ever, thanks to changes in the way we’ve gathered and analysed data from the tens of thousands of owners who have taken the time to share insights with us – and their fellow drivers.

Every year we ask consumers for their views on their cars and the ownership experience, with detailed questions across a range of categories, from driving performance to running costs. 

Once the numbers have been crunched, and statistical weightings applied, the survey delivers results representative of views on a national level. Those results start here, as we list the top 75 cars of 2022.

We’d also like to say a big thank you to everyone who took part in Driver Power this year! If you’d like to get involved and help fellow car buyers make the right choice, tell Driver Power about your car today.

Below you’ll find the top 10 cars in the Driver Power 2022 new car survey listed in reverse order. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the full results table listing the UK’s top 75 best cars to own. 

Want more Driver Power 2022 new car survey results? Check out the top rated cars by market sector and find out which cars rated best for the different Driver Power survey criteria from comfort to running costs. 

The Ateca retains its place in the top 10 of the survey from 2021, with value being cited as a major reason for purchase by drivers. There are few aspects of owning the SEAT SUV which really seem to disappoint, however, there are some surprising contrasts. For example, the steering responsiveness takes second place overall and road-holding is sixth, which is unexpected for an SUV-style car. 

But average engine performance and poor ride quality are a letdown, say owners, giving the SEAT 47th place for driving pleasure. Although luggage space is rated above average, drivers would like more flexibility in the seating.

Tesla has achieved chart-topping sales success several times in the past 12 months, and now it has moved into the top 10 of Driver Power, too, with the Model 3.

Owners love the electric car’s powertrain and it also takes number one spots for its running costs and acceleration. But while the overall picture looks like a triumph for Tesla, there is still one area which keeps the Model 3 out of the very top places in the survey: quality. It is rated as the worst car for the exterior finish and materials, and 70th for overall quality. An alarming 43.6 per cent of owners said they have experienced an issue. 

Owners really like the styling and quality of the C-HR. They think it is great to drive, too, with third place for the steering responsiveness and second position for the ride. Toyota’s hybrid powertrain is also praised for both its performance and frugality.

There are a few aspects of C-HR ownership which drag the scores down enough to keep it out of the top five, however. The car’s unusual styling is liked by owners, but seems to restrict visibility, because this is ranked 45th overall. The luggage capacity, shortage of interior storage spaces, and built-in sat-nav system are also criticised.

We’ve seen an impressive rise up the charts for Honda’s mid-size SUV, from 25th in last year’s Driver Power survey. This is fuelled by very good results for the powertrain, quality, visibility and rear-seat legroom. 

Owners also told us they like the way the CR-V drives, and scored the safety systems high enough to put the Honda in number one place for both functionality and ease of use. The heating and air-con are rated in second place. 

There are flies in the ointment, though, with drivers telling us they don’t like the infotainment. Some running costs, such as the insurance, are higher than average, too.

Sixth place in this year’s survey is an impressive result for the last generation of Kia’s hugely successful mid-size crossover. Owners tell us they love the practicality, styling and comfort both in the front and back of the Sportage. 

Children are also well catered for, according to the responses, while the technology is easy to use and servicing costs are reasonable. But while the chassis is rated as being above average, the driving experience is let down by the engines, with a 59th place for acceleration. Having to work the engine hard to make progress hurts fuel consumption, too; the Kia is ranked 53rd in this category. 

The Skoda Kodiaq gains one place this year, kicking off the top five for our 2022 survey. No other car gets a better score for practicality; you love its flexible seating arrangement (this model comes with five or seven seats), plus you also rate the large boot and excellent selection of interior storage spaces.

Kodiaq owners are also hugely impressed by their car’s reliability; the Skoda SUV comes first in this area. Overall build quality gets a high score, with owners particularly praising the design, fit and finish of the Kodiaq’s exterior.

What keeps the model from climbing any higher than fifth position are its powertrains; respondents tell us the engines don’t offer enough power for a vehicle of this size and the transmission is clunkier than they would like. 

There are also some complaints when it comes to running costs. Many owners say they aren’t getting the fuel economy they would expect from their Kodiaqs, and some drivers have also complained that the servicing costs are high.

Nevertheless, the Skoda gets a broadly very strong set of scores. Rear-seat legroom gets much approval, as one might expect from a large SUV, and the interior styling also receives praise, as does the amount of visibility that is afforded by the Kodiaq’s high seating position.

Case study: Living with a Skoda Kodiaq

Philip Roberts from Northamptonshire bought his Skoda Kodiaq around three years ago as a replacement for his previous Octavia Estate.

“When the Kodiaq first came out, I thought: ‘I like the look of that’,” he told us. “What finally drew me to it was when I visited the local Skoda garage and they had a red Kodiaq on display. I thought it looked fantastic and I’ve always been partial to red cars; every car I’ve owned in the past 15 years has been red, in fact. I assured myself that I would eventually get one and I did.”

Once Philip, who works in a police custody suite, had taken delivery of his Kodiaq, he was very happy with his purchase. The thing he likes most about the SUV – which is unsurprisingly finished in red – is the practicality it offers.

“It’s really spacious,” Philip reckons. “I’ve got a seven-seat one, which I don’t really need since it’s only me and my wife, but we have used all seven seats on occasions such as camping holidays. The amount of space is incredible; there’s nothing I can’t get in that car. When you’re carrying passengers, there’s lots of room for everybody and you have a nice, elevated driving position. I can’t fault it.”

Philip has been so fond of his last two Skodas that he’s ordered another one: a new Octavia Estate. It’s the first time he’s bought a car from the same brand three times in a row, which tells you everything you need to know.

Having won the Driver Power new-car survey outright in 2021, the Hyundai Kona has slid down a few places this year, but a fourth-place finish reinforces the fact that owners of this small SUV are extremely fond of it.

The Kona’s only category win in this year’s poll is for infotainment. Owners are particularly pleased with how easy it is to connect a smartphone, plus they say the Kona’s touchscreen is responsive, its satellite navigation works well and its controls are user-friendly.

There have been petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric versions of the Kona produced, and none of these is likely to disappoint, because this Hyundai SUV earns a strong mark for its engine and gearbox as well. Owners tell us the acceleration on offer is good, there are no noise complaints and the gearboxes are smooth.

We’re also informed that the Kona is highly reliable and screwed together well, plus its steering and brakes are responsive. And while you’re not overly impressed with the Kona’s boot space, its front seats are comfortable and there’s excellent all-around visibility. Other highlights for the Kona include the number of child-friendly features and safety features it offers, along with its low running costs.

Case study: Living with a Hyundai Kona

Living in central London, Evan Llewellyn needed a new car in 2019 when he discovered his diesel BMW didn’t comply with the newly introduced Ultra Low Emission Zone.

“I didn’t know much about Hyundai, but I saw the Kona in Auto Express and I liked the design,” he said, explaining how he had ended up opting for a petrol-engined example of the small SUV. “It’s very smooth and has lots of power – you just cannot fault it.

“The other fantastically good thing is the turning circle. When you live in London, you’ve got to be able to park, and the Kona is easier to park than anything else I’ve had.”

Evan also finds having an SUV – albeit a compact one – useful in the capital, because the raised ride height makes it easier to get in from a high pavement. And while Evan only drives around London on rare occasions, the Kona does get used on longer trips. “Most of all, we drive down to another house we have in Dorset,” he said. “It’s very comfortable and feels very safe. It’s better than my old BMW in terms of wind and road noise, too; you can open the rear windows and it hardly makes any sound.

“I’ve never had a moment’s problem with the build quality or reliability in the two and a half years I have owned the car. The touchscreen is very easy to use and, although some of the controls are a bit confusing, I mastered the cruise control and other functions very quickly.”

Kicking off our top three is the Kia Rio. Although this Korean supermini was second in last year’s poll, another impressive set of scores enables it to stay on the podium in 2022.

The Rio doesn’t have any category wins to its name this year, but it performs consistently well across all the sections. Owners highlight infotainment as being a strong area; the built-in sat-nav works well, while the touchscreen is suitably sensitive and there’s a good number of physical controls.

Kia’s supermini earns points for being good value for money, with drivers saying it’s cheap to run, too. Fuel economy is especially impressive as far as owners are concerned, and insurance premiums aren’t bad, either. Much of the Rio’s praise is for its interior, which you tell us is well made and looks the part. The front seats are particularly comfortable, but the rear seats offer a good amount of legroom as well, according to respondents.

Rio owners like the way their cars hold the road and find the brakes responsive, while the steering is decent, too. There’s good ride quality on offer and drivers say the boot space is decent for a car of relatively compact proportions. You also feel the Korean model comes with a good selection of safety features, all of which work well.

Case study: Living with a Kia Rio

Zoe Rogers from Lancashire has owned three Kias in a row, with the last two both being fourth-generation Rios.

“I had a Picanto before and I loved it, but it was just a bit small,” she explained. Zoe, who works in the NHS, upgraded to a Rio in order to get more room, but the high-spec GT-Line S model she wanted was only available as a manual, whereas she was after an automatic.

Nevertheless, she bought a version with three pedals, before trading it in 18 months later when Kia started offering the same model with an automatic transmission. Zoe’s glad she stuck with the top-spec Rio, because she loves all the equipment it comes with as standard.

“It’s got heated seats, a heated steering wheel, built-in sat-nav; any gadget you want, it’s got it in,” she said. “I particularly like the responsiveness and smoothness of the automatic. If you need to put your foot down, it will go, even in Eco mode. It’s a nice size, too, and it’s so comfortable to drive.

“Usually I just go to work and back, which is probably 10 miles each way, but I do go on the motorway to visit my sister in Cleveleys.

 “I took myself, my daughter and my son-in-law to Manchester Airport with suitcases the other week and it was absolutely fine. My son-in-law is about six-foot tall and he sits in the back  with no problems.”

It’s an upgrade from bronze to silver for the Mazda CX-5 this year, with the Japanese SUV swapping places with the Kia Rio to become our 2022 runner-up. CX-5 owners are impressed with how much car they got for their money, and they can’t fault the reliability or build quality of the Mazda, either.

They love the CX-5’s sharp looks and have lots of positive things to say about its exterior fit and finish. The praise continues inside, because you’re big fans of the way the CX-5’s cabin looks and is laid out. Interior build quality receives an impressive score, as do front-seat comfort and rear-seat legroom, plus visibility is good. The CX-5 is also cheap to service, you tell us, and other costs such as insurance aren’t too bad, either. Owners reckon the Mazda’s fuel economy could be a little better, however.

Nevertheless, you enjoy driving the CX-5. We’re told its steering is responsive and the Japanese vehicle handles well, plus the ride quality gets strong marks.

The CX-5 is also practical, as an SUV should be. You report that the Mazda has a large boot and plenty of other cubbyholes throughout the cabin to store oddments. You also find the seating arrangement flexible and versatile, but a few more child-friendly features would be welcome.

Case study: Living with a Mazda CX-5

Steve Curry from Tyne & Wear is an above-knee amputee and, as such, got his Mazda CX-5 through the Motability scheme two and a half years ago.

“The tech on it is absolutely first class,” he told us. “Lane-keep assist, reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, heated seats – it has everything you want.”

Not only does Steve love all the bells and whistles on his CX-5, but he’s fond of the way it drives, too.

“Some people say there’s a lag from the automatic gearbox, but when I floor it, it takes off like a rocket,” he continued. “I’ve owned Audis, Mercedes and Land Rovers, but the Mazda is the best car I’ve ever had.”

It really was a case of love at first sight for Steve and the CX-5, as he explained what happened when he want to put his order in at the Mazda dealership. “I was ordering black, but they had a display model in Machine Grey. I asked the salesman if I could change to that and he put it through.

The staff then spent two hours showing me round the car and explaining how everything works.” 

Steve added that although it’s about time for him to upgrade to another car, he’s not impressed with the current choices on the Motability scheme. And so

he’s extended the lease of his CX-5 for another two years because he’s so happy with it. “It’s been as reliable as anything,” he concluded. “I can’t fault it.”

Scores between the top few cars in a Driver Power survey are often close, but this year the winning Kia XCeed has a big margin over its nearest rivals. The small SUV has two category wins to its name: exterior plus ride and handling. No other car has better-quality bodywork, more responsive steering or more effective brakes, according to owners. The XCeed also scores highly for its looks, ride quality and handling.

There’s no area in which the Kia doesn’t perform well, but another highlight is its interior. You’re bowled over by the way the cabin is designed and how comfortable the front seats are, plus you say there’s excellent visibility and everything is built to a high standard, using great-quality materials. The XCeed’s touchscreen is highly visible and responsive, you say, while Kia has provided a good balance between physical and touchscreen controls. 

All the technology is easy to use and connecting a smartphone to the infotainment system is no hassle. You also rate the heating and air-conditioning systems.

Overall build quality is fantastic on the XCeed and owners report that it’s a cheap car to have serviced. Finally, the Korean model has a smooth gearbox, lots of cubbyholes and better child-friendly features than any other car.

Case study: Living with a Kia XCeed

Tracy Harrington, who works in catering, admits that for her a car is just something to get from A to B, but she couldn’t ignore the “great deal” Kia offered for leasing an XCeed.

“I think it’s a nice-looking car for its price,” she said. “It’s really spacious. My family are all really tall, but they can fit in the back; I’ve had three of them in the rear seats at once.

“The boot is ideal for the dog. I cart her everywhere in it. It’s just a really comfortable car and it doesn’t look cheap. It drives really nicely. I did ask if I can buy the car at the end of the lease, but they won’t let me.”

Nevertheless, Tracy is enjoying her time with the XCeed. “It feels really sturdy,” she said. “It may only be a 1.0 litre, but you can go zipping up the motorway with it. I’ve never had any problems, and always felt very safe and secure.

“It’s got Apple CarPlay and its own sat-nav. The phone connection and everything else work nicely. I’m mainly pottering about locally – the longest journey I’ve done in this car has been to north London in heavy traffic – but I wouldn’t have any hesitation in doing a longer trip in it.”

Tracy is just starting a new job that involves a longer commute, so when her current lease runs out she’ll be looking to buy something with top-notch fuel economy. Her positive experience with the XCeed means another Kia will certainly be in the running, though.

Your views matter. That’s the founding principle of the Driver Power survey, which was set up to help fellow car buyers understand what existing owners like the most about the UK’s most popular models  – and to reveal the things they’re not so keen on.

The surveys are ‘always on’, meaning you can add your views about a car you own at any time, and right now we’re particularly interested to hear from drivers of both electric cars and used cars, which we’ll feature in Driver Power special issues later in the year. 

So if you’re a new or established EV driver, or own a car that’s more than three years old, get involved!

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