Best car manufacturers 2021
We reveal the UK’s best car brands based on the feedback from car owners who took our 2021 Driver Power survey...
What are the best car manufacturers in the UK? The 2021 Driver Power survey provided detailed responses from vehicle owners and we’ve analysed the data to find out how the UK’s biggest brands stack up.
Our Driver Power survey has been updated to mark its 20th anniversary, and our brands section includes similar changes to the new-car results. That means more questions about tech, a new assessment for value for money, and even greater rigour when it comes to data processing. We’ve also included a percentage score based on the number of owners who said they’d had a problem with a specific maker’s cars.
While the new-car survey pits individual models against each other and makes comparisons between different classes of car, we recognise that many buyers shop across segments. After all, showrooms are notoriously tempting places, and people often drive away from a manufacturer’s dealership in a car with the same emblem on its bonnet, but that might be larger, smaller, faster or taller compared with the one they originally set out intending to buy.
Our brands survey is therefore a great tool, because it can tell you which manufacturers are best equipped to offer you certain characteristics if you opt for a particular marque.
Scroll down to read our about the top ten best car manufacturers in 2021 and to view the full table of the top 29...
The top 10 best manufacturers 2021
1. Porsche – 93.20%
- Key points: Porsche doesn’t fall short in any area of our survey. It is a true all-round sports luxury brand that offers buyers exactly what they want.
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 14.10%
Topping the tables of our brand rundown is Porsche. It’s a premium maker for sure, but here is a company with cars that more than justify their prices, according to your feedback. The German sports and luxury car maker won six out of the 10 categories our brands are judged on and, in doing so, blew the competition away.
It should come as no surprise that one of the most well established performance firms in the world won every single field in the ride and handling category, including driving pleasure and road handling; that’s an astonishing result nonetheless, though, and a feat we can’t remember any other maker achieving.
Owners also love the design and build quality of their Porsches, and the brand even scored well for practicality related matters such as boot space and seating versatility. Those results were no doubt bolstered by the Cayenne and Macan SUVs, but they indicate Porsche is meeting and exceeding owner expectations in many areas.
You say the fuel economy you get from your Porsches is good given the performance on offer, while the infotainment systems are excellent in every way. Everywhere you look, in fact, Porsche impresses. It might seem likely, for example, that owners would report expensive servicing, but even here the brand does reasonably well, finishing 12th out of our 29 makers. Similarly, despite being cars that are designed to be driven hard, you tell us no other firm makes more dependable vehicles, something that’s backed up by a below-average fault rate.
There’s barely a bad word to be heard about Porsche, and the manufacturer is a more than worthy winner of our brands rundown.
2. Kia – 90.14%
- Key points: Strong scores right across the board; reliability and build quality being highlights.
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 19.63%
A brilliant set of scores for Kia that never stray outside the top 10 in any single category. The Korean brand also beat its sister firm Hyundai, as well as every one of its rivals in terms of price and segment.
Kia’s investment in research and development has paid off, it seems, illustrated by superb scores for overall reliability and build quality. Owners are hugely impressed by the quality of the materials used in their cars for the price, while value for money is another major strong suit.
Kias are well styled inside and out, you say, and have effective brakes, responsive steering and smooth rides, while handling well and being fun to drive. You also tell us your Kias have extremely versatile seating, with large boots and lots of interior storage spaces. Scores for infotainment are also excellent, with you telling us the systems are easy to use, with well balanced controls and good smartphone connectivity, satellite navigation and audio.
3. Tesla – 89.39%
- Key points: Tesla wins big for powertrains, running costs and tech, but quality could improve.
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 42.59%
We may not frequently find Tesla in our Driver Power survey, but the Model 3’s success has helped the all-electric US brand hit the ground running, and take the bronze medal.
You say no other brand’s cars have better powertrains, with Tesla top for acceleration. Owners also praise practicality, with big scores for boot capacity and interior storage spaces. You tell us your Teslas are very cheap to run, not just with ‘fuel’ savings, but also when it comes to servicing and insurance. Overall build quality could improve, though, while the reported fault rate is high.
Tesla is known for fitting its cars with lots of cutting-edge technology and driver aids, including its Autopilot adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping system.
These features prove popular with owners, who feel their Teslas have an unparalleled number of safety features and that these can be activated and deactivated perfectly easily and quickly.
4. Mazda – 89.38%
- Key points: Well made and smart-looking, Mazda’s models are also a joy to drive.
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 34.58%
Mazda gets a very tidy set of scores across the board. Owners are very positive about the way their cars drive, with road handling, driving pleasure and brakes standout areas, while ride quality and steering responsiveness are also praised.
Mazdas have brilliant overall build quality, your scores show too, with reliability a strong area. In addition you’re impressed by the materials used inside and out on your models, which also have excellent styling, you tell us.
Mazdas are considered great value for money by owners, and the brand also scores some wins in the infotainment area. No manufacturer was ranked better for the user-friendliness of its controls or for its smartphone connectivity, and you also tell us Mazda’s heating and air-con systems work effectively.
Finally, running costs are reasonable for Mazdas. You say insurance tends to be cheap and fuel economy is respectable.
5. Toyota – 88.00%
- Key points: Toyotas are considered unrivalled for fuel economy, and are well built and reliable.
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 15.27%
We’re into the top five now and brands need to score extremely well and consistently to reach this point. Toyota has done just that, with owners having lots of positive things to say about the Japanese maker.
Toyota gets some high marks for the stereo systems, plus owners say there’s a great balance between physical and touchscreen controls for the infotainment, indicating things have improved a great deal in recent years for the brand.
The manufacturer earns a solid score in the engine and gearbox category, with equally good ratings for acceleration, engine note and gearbox smoothness. Owners tell us their Toyotas are well built and prove reliable as well.
Additionally, the maker beats every other brand in this survey when it comes to fuel economy, helped, no doubt, by its wide range of hybrid models. All other running costs, including servicing and insurance are also low.
6. Honda – 87.54%
- Key points: Hondas are deemed practical and economical, with good boot capacities.
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 14.44%
Honda achieves a fairly consistent set of scores across the various categories. The best area for the firm is practicality. You tell us Honda’s cars usually have excellent boot capacity, with flexible seating and plenty of interior storage spaces.
Interiors also find favour with owners. No brand earned a better score for rear-seat legroom, and there was general positivity around the cabin styling and build quality of the Japanese manufacturer’s cars.
Hondas are also extremely good on fuel, we’re told, and don’t cost much to service either, even though insurance and some other costs can be a bit high. The brand did pick up good marks for its steering and brakes, however.
Furthermore, Honda’s vehicles come with great air-conditioning and heating set-ups, along with strong stereos and good smartphone connectivity, even if its systems could be more user-friendly overall, you tell us.
7. Jaguar – 87.52%
- Key points: Jaguar makes cars that drive well and ride comfortably.
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 30.22%
Seventh place in this survey is a big achievement for Jaguar and one it will be proud of, because it positions the firm ahead of its key rivals in the premium car market, including BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Volvo.
Jaguar’s strongest area is the way its models drive. Owners ranked them highly for road handling and steering responsiveness, while driving pleasure was also praised.
You tell us your cars have lots of safety features that work well and are easy to turn on or off. You also have good things to say about the build quality, and while reliability isn’t quite so well thought of, Jag finishes in the top half of the survey in this area, indicating when faults manifest, they may not be serious.
Exterior design, plus the fit and finish of the materials used here are also positive, according to owners. Interior styling gets a good reception as well, and you find the front seats are comfy, while there’s lots of space in the back of most of the firm’s cars.
8. Mitsubishi – 87.38%
- Key points: Mitsubishis are cheap to run, reliable and practical
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 12.86%
Not only is Mitsubishi a small brand in the UK, but by the end of 2021 it will have become a purely aftersales service, having announced an exit from our new car market. That’s a shame, because owners clearly approve of the brand’s products.
Low running costs are a big plus for the firm’s cars: insurance and other ancillary costs tend to be cheap, as does servicing, while good fuel economy is achievable. You also say that your Mitsubishis are extremely reliable, with good overall build quality, too.
Another area the firm does well in is practicality, with owners praising the large boot capacities the brand’s models tend to have, while there’s a good selection of interior storage spaces available as well.
In addition, you report that your Mitsubishis have very smooth gearboxes as well as user-friendly infotainment systems that benefit from sensitive touchscreens and good smartphone connectivity.
9. Volvo – 87.34%
- Key points: Volvos are practical, luxurious and cheap to service.
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 20.49%
A strong result for Volvo here, partly led by the interior quality and practicality these premium Swedish cars offer. No brand has a better selection of cubbyholes in its cars according to respondents, and boot capacity is a strong area, too.
You can also expect very comfy front seats, with lots of space for rear passengers as well. The brand’s cabins are elegantly styled and well made, and that build quality also extends to the exteriors of the cars.
Volvos, you say, have an excellent number of safety features fitted as standard, and these are simple to activate or deactivate. Furthermore, it doesn’t cost a lot to get a Volvo serviced at a main dealer, but running costs are pushed up by reportedly high fuel consumption.
Moving to the infotainment side of things, Volvos have excellent stereo systems, according to owners, but the overall user-friendliness of the set-ups needs to be improved, you tell us.
10. Lexus – 87.11%
- Key points: Lexus praised for the build quality and refinement of its cars, as well as their safety.
- Average share of owners who had faults with their cars: 9.79%
It’s no small feat for a car maker to reach the top 10 of the Driver Power brands survey, but Lexus has a habit of winning, taking first prize in 2020 and several years before that.
A drop to 10th place will be a disappointment for the Japanese firm, but the survey has undergone changes this year, such as the inclusion of two rival brands not normally featured, plus additional questions posed to respondents relating to value for money and infotainment systems.
Lexus still earned some very good scores, though. You say the safety equipment functions well and is easy to activate and deactivate. Cars from the luxury arm of Toyota are well made, too; you raved about the quality of the materials used inside and out, with overall quality earning a respectable score. You also tell us Lexus cars have smooth gearboxes and are quiet, but the firm loses points when it comes to value, and where its infotainment is concerned.
Best car manufacturers: 1-29
You can get all of the Driver Power 2021 results here. Don't buy your new car without checking them...