Britain's most influential car ownership survey is 10 years old – and to celebrate, we have compiled a 35-page special naming the finest cars and best manufacturers of the past decade!
Back at the start of 2002, we asked readers to rate their cars in 10 key categories as we launched Driver Power. The results were staggering. Thousands of you responded, and in Issue 701 (24 April 2002), we published the results for the first time. Editor David Johns hailed it as “the ultimate car reliability and satisfaction” survey, and that’s exactly what Driver Power has become.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve received a mind-boggling 302,051 responses rating every aspect of car ownership, from new and second-hand models to dealer service, and insurers to breakdown operators.
Some companies have fared brilliantly, others less so – but one thing is clear: Driver Power is a survey that the industry respects and takes extremely seriously. Car makers regularly analyse our findings so they can review where they can improve their models and customer service.
And frequently they put their findings into action, as evidenced by the concerted efforts some have made into upgrading their dealer networks. All this backs up the key message that we have reinforced time and time again over the past 10 years… “Your opinion counts.” By telling us what you like and dislike about your car ownership experience, you really can effect significant change.
In this week's issue, you can find out how each manufacturer performed, as well as a rundown of the top 50 cars of the last 10 years. In the meantime, we reveal the Car of the Decade, Manufacturer of the Decade and Most Improved Manufacturer of the Decade, as voted by the most important people in the industry – you.
Car of the Decade: Jaguar XF
All hail the Driver Power champion of champions: the Jaguar XF. With ratings high enough to better every other car entered into the survey over the past 10 years, the British-built executive saloon is clearly among the finest big cats ever.
The sleek four-door is one of only four models to manage an average rating of more than 90 per cent, after surpassing the expectations of drivers in every judging category. From fantastic performance to brilliant ease of driving, the XF has got the lot.
It proved an instant hit from launch in 2008. The BMW 5 Series rival replaced the ageing S-Type, and was charged with continuing the Jaguar renaissance started by the XK. It shunned practicality in favour of style, and couldn’t have been more successful. The XF was crowned Auto Express Car of the Year in 2008, and finished at the peak of the Top 100 on its Driver Power debut 12 months later. Put simply, it’s one of the best all-round cars of the century so far.
Manufacturer of the Decade: Lexus
Getting to the top of your field is one thing – but staying there is another matter entirely. The good news for Lexus is that after scooping the title of Britain’s favourite car brand in our original 2002 Driver Power poll, it went on to secure seven consecutive first place finishes.
In the last three years, the luxury brand has played second fiddle to Skoda, but Lexus still reigns supreme as the strongest and most consistent performer in our decade of surveys.
Cars like the original IS saloon, its 2005 replacement and the RX off-roader have cemented the company’s reputation for incredible reliability, build quality and comfort.
Most Improved Manufacturer of the Decade: Hyundai
In a decade of Driver Power, there have been some remarkable results – but none has been more impressive than Hyundai’s rise through the ranks. When we first published our hard-hitting customer satisfaction survey in 2002, the Korean company languished in the bottom six.
Fast forward 10 years, and the brand is one of the top performers, having finished as fourth best maker in 2011, and it’s now lifted our award for Most Improved Manufacturer. No other marque has experienced such a meteoric rise.
Much of this success can be put down to the outstanding performance of the firm’s i30. Launched in 2007, the family model made a stunning start to its Driver Power career, slotting straight into the number one spot on its debut in 2010. By contrast, the elderly Lantra – a direct descendent of the i30, and one of Hyundai’s first attempts to storm the European sales charts – could only manage a lowly 79th place in 2002.