Best car manufacturers 2020

We reveal the UK’s best car brands based on the feedback from car owners who took our 2020 Driver Power survey...

Having already unveiled the UK’s best new cars, now it’s the turn of their manufacturers to face the spotlight. Below you’ll find the world’s biggest brands reported on by the people who know them best – car owners.

Getting to grips with the themes linked to each maker is a worthwhile thing to do. That’s because, while most of us will consider a number of makes before settling on one, if you prioritise a specific aspect or two when drawing up your shopping list, having the information about which firms you might and might not want to consider is well advised.

Do you need your next motor to be cheap to run, for example? If so, we’ll detail the manufacturers to look out for in this report. Perhaps, instead, you prize practicality above all else, or maybe you need your car’s infotainment system to be feature-rich and easy to operate.

• Click here to take our Driver Power survey right now

Although our best cars to own rundown is something of a car-buyer’s bible, this makers’ survey could save you considerable time and shoe leather. Most firms have one-make franchises, so the last thing you want to do is traipse around numerous showrooms only to find, for example, that you don’t like the interior designs of a specific firm.

And, on one final note, it’s not just potential buyers who pay attention to these results; we know how closely staff at manufacturers read our Driver Power reports. The results are fed back up chains of command, so that your views have the potential to influence future car design. Thanks again to everyone to took part in Driver Power 2020.

Scroll down further to read our about the top ten best car manufacturers in 2020 and to view the full table of the top 30...

The top 10 best manufacturers 2020

1. Lexus – 90.85%

  • Key points: Lexus owners are delighted, once again, with the quality, design, and driving experience offered by their cars.
  • Average share of owners with faults: 11.1%

Ah, Lexus, welcome back, your throne awaits. The premium Japanese car maker wins our Driver Power brand survey in 2020, and for the fourth year in a row.

Other companies may be envious, but there’s no secret to Lexus’s repeated wins. Owners tell us no other manufacturer builds more reliable cars, for example, nor does any offer vehicles that are built to a higher standard. Lexus owners also love the way their cars look, inside and out, with no other maker building their cabins better.

And once out on the road, life behind the wheel of a Lexus appears to be excellent, with the firm making brakes and steering systems that are reported to be sharp, and ensuring ride quality is comfortable.

All these elements contribute to a deeply rewarding driving experience, owners say, while safety is another strong point, with the Lexus Safety System + suite of equipment playing second fiddle only to Subaru.

But while we hate to rain on the victor’s parade, it would be remiss not to highlight that there is one element of life with a Lexus that disappoints. Buyers may be prepared for slightly high fuel bills, but they may be less willing to ignore the poor marks for Lexus’s infotainment systems. Yet overlook this and the firm can do almost no wrong, however.

2. Kia – 90.84%

  • Key points: Fantastic in most areas; acceleration is about the only black mark.
  • Average share of owners with faults: 13.3%

Kia may have claimed pole position with the Sorento in our rundown of the best new cars to own, but it has to settle for silver in our brand survey.

Mind you, it’s not as if Kia owners report much in the way of hardship, enjoying infotainment systems that are more impressive than any other brand’s, along with immense levels of practicality, strong reliability, and cabins that are said to be well built and designed, as well as providing drivers with a good view out.

You also reckon Kia knows a thing or two when it comes to ride and handling, telling us the Korean company’s cars have responsive steering and brakes, ride well, and are enjoyable to drive.

So what keeps Kia off top place, and what could it do to win in 2021? Well, it could build faster cars, for one thing, with a rather negative acceleration score dropping the drivetrain category to (just) below average. But, really, that’s about it.

3. Subaru – 90.60%

  • Key points: Astonishing scores; if only Subarus were cheaper to run, though.
  • Average share of owners with faults: 12.1%

Subaru would be in with a chance of winning our Driver Power brand survey were in not for two key points.

The first concerns the company’s drivetrains, which owners of its cars say bring rather slow acceleration, together with a fair amount of noise.

The second major issue relates to running costs. As far as Subaru is concerned, this problem comes up frequently in our Driver Power reports, and it seems the company continues to build cars that have something of a taste for fuel.

But these issues are easy to prepare for, at least, and if you’re happy to do that, you’re also likely to be happy with almost everything else that relates to life with a Subaru. No other firm has better safety systems, you say, while its cars are also immensely satisfying to drive, have tip-top interiors, and can be relied upon to start when you need them to. Given these results, it’s easy to see why Subaru owners tend to be a loyal lot.

4. Mazda – 90.51%

  • Key points: Cheap to run, fun to drive and good-looking - what’s not to like?
  • Average share of owners with faults: 14.5%

Whatever Mazda is doing right now, it should keep doing it, as far as owners are concerned. Modern Mazda buyers are delighted with almost every aspect of their cars, saying that they look gorgeous, and are well screwed together.

These positive impressions continue inside, given cabin quality is said to be excellent, and interior styling is well regarded, too.

Mazda owners also say their cars handle very nicely, come with strong safety features, and don’t cost much to run. You also really like Mazda’s infotainment systems, possibly because the company has said it considers buttons and dials a better alternative to an over-reliance on touchscreen technology.

But although this focus may chime with many, it seems Mazda could do with turning its attention to practicality. While this result is not disastrous, it appears owners would like more child-friendly features, and more flexible seating arrangements. 

5. Skoda – 90.26%

  • Key points: Fantastic marks almost across the board, but styling lacks inspiration.
  • Average share of owners with faults: 17.2%

Our top-rated brand from within the Volkswagen Group, and a long-time favourite among Auto Express readers, Skoda does many, many things very, very well.

No other firm builds more practical cars, for instance, with Skoda stealing the limelight here once again thanks to vast boots, impressive kid-friendly features, and a wealth of interior storage spaces.

Skoda cabins are also well built and nicely styled, while the firm’s infotainment offerings impress with their fine smartphone connectivity and easy-to-use controls.

Running costs are another Skoda strong point, even if excellent servicing prices are offset by so-so fuel economy. But you like how your Skodas drive, giving good reports on the steering, brakes and ride quality.

If Skoda needs to work on one area, though, it could be its styling. While you say modern Skodas are pretty well built on the outside, you’re not totally taken with their looks.

6. Toyota – 90.09%

  • Key points: Great reliability and economy, but Toyota’s infotainment isn’t praised.
  • Average share of owners with faults: 9.6%

Japanese giant Toyota has cemented its reputation on affordability and reliability, but in more recent years has made a name for its hybrid tech. With around half of its European sales being hybrids, it seems owners are impressed with these set-ups.

Take running costs, for example: according to our data, a modern Toyota is excellent on fuel, and cheap to service. You also say the firm’s gearboxes are incredibly smooth, possibly because hybrids are linked to CVT transmissions; you wouldn’t mind a bit more acceleration, though, but you can’t have everything.

It is possible to have great reliability if you choose a Toyota, however; the firm gets a bronze medal in this category. But just be warned that owner satisfaction with Toyota infotainment systems continues to be rather negative.

Although you like how easy the screens are to see, you say that sat-navs, stereos and smartphone connectivity are disappointing.

7. Honda – 89.95%

  • Key points: Shame about infotainment and drive; Honda triumphs elsewhere.
  • Average share of owners with faults: 14.0%

Owners love how practical their Hondas are, for example, telling us the firm’s cars have huge boots and masses of cabin storage. You also say they have great safety features and are cheap to run, with servicing costs highlighted as particularly low; reliability and build quality are also responsible for impressive marks.

But, elsewhere, low marks creep in. Honda’s infotainment systems, for example, are poorly regarded, while the company’s cars aren’t that much fun to drive, with the steering, brakes and ride quality all coming in for criticism. You wouldn’t mind a bit more oomph from the engines, either, yet Honda’s gearboxes are at least said to be smooth.

But a company doesn’t make the top 10 of our Driver Power table by accident, and if you want a reliable, economical and practical car, it seems Honda has the model for you.

8. Peugeot – 89.87%

  • Key points: Impressive scores almost across the board, but storage is tight.
  • Average share of owners with faults: 12.0%

Small bills are something of a Peugeot watchword, you say, with a fourth-place score here, and no nasty surprises in the data: fuel economy, servicing and all other running costs scored well.

Another aspect of modern cars from Peugeot that please owners is their drivetrains. You say the firm makes quiet engines that pull well, even if Peugeot gearboxes are not the last word in smoothness.

Exterior styling is well regarded (a mark backed up by good build quality), while modern Peugeot interiors are nice places in which to sit, thanks to neat designs, comfortable front seats and spacious rear cabins.

In fact, Peugeot’s overall scores are hiding no nasty surprises at all, with a suite of strong results. If we’re being really picky, the company might want to have a look at creating some extra interior storage in its cars, but that’s about it.

9. Alfa Romeo – 89.84%

  • Key points: Incredible cars to drive, although running costs could be lower.
  • Average share of owners with faults: 28.6%

There are clear parallels between Alfa Romeo and Jaguar in some regards; both firms inspire loyalty and affection in the hearts of their owners, for example, even if their cars are sometimes far from perfect.

Echoes are also evident in our Driver Power brand results, with Alfa owners reporting their cars are fantastic to drive. Yet while Jaguar has to settle for just fourth place here, Alfa is rated in first position in this category.

Less positive is that Alfa owners, like those with a Jaguar on their driveway, say their cars are a little on the pricey side to run, while practicality could also be improved, with boot space reported to be particularly tight.

But you love front-seat comfort, while reliability – something of an old black mark for the Italian firm – is well rated, despite the high reported fault rate. You would like better sat-navs, though, even if the other infotainment scores impress more.

10. Volvo – 89.55%

  • Key points: Great safety kit and infotainment; owners see a fair few fuel pumps.
  • Average share of owners with faults: 20.5%

It’s good to see that even as Volvo has joined the premium makers, it remains true to its roots, and still ranks well for safety. This was, after all, the firm that invented the three-point seatbelt and gave the patent away for other firms to use.

One area where Volvos of old might not have scored so well is in the interior category but here modern Volvos triumph, you say. You love the cool cabin designs, as well as how well they are put together, while also reporting that rear-seat legroom is good, as is front-seat comfort.

Practicality also gets the thumbs up, with big boots, strong interior storage and a good roster of child-friendly features. Owners are also fans of Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system; the sat-nav, stereo and smartphone integration are all liked.

Areas for improvement include running costs, with economy said to be unimpressive, and other bills such as insurance felt to be high.

Best car manufacturers: 1-30

9Alfa Romeo89.84%
25Land Rover88.18%

You can get all of the Driver Power 2020 results here. Don't buy your new car without checking them...


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