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Best new cars by class: Driver Power 2020 results

Our Driver Power survey covers 16 sectors of the new-car market, and there’s a star buy in every one. Here are your class winners

We recognise that modern car buyers often shop across classes, so if you’re unsure of what type of model you want, it pays to know what the best of the best is. For this purpose, we’ve broken cars down into their respective classes and ranked them accordingly.

There are city cars and superminis, which are perfect all-rounders as long as you don’t need lots of space for passengers and large items. Executive cars, meanwhile, are best for long-distance motorway cruising and more suitable if you often have people occupying the back seats.

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Then there are family cars, which used to just be made up of large hatchbacks, saloons and estates suitable for carrying children, pets and all the trappings that come with them. However, this part of the market has been diluted with the introduction of a huge variety of SUVs in varying sizes, which has greatly increased consumer choice.

Take into consideration sports cars for those seeking pure driving pleasure, as well as the growing number of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars available for those after the latest, cleanest cars, and you realise just how broad and comprehensive today’s new-car market has become.

Best new cars by class

Best city carKia Picanto
Best superminiKia Rio
Best compact family carToyota Corolla
Best premium compact family carLexus CT
Best family carSkoda Superb
Best small SUVKia Niro
Best mid-size SUVPeugeot 3008
Best large SUVKia Sorento
Best premium small SUVVolvo XC40
Best premium mid-size SUVVolvo XC60
Best compact executive carLexus IS
Best executive carBMW 5 Series
Best sports carMazda MX-5
Best plug-in hybrid carKia Niro
Best non plug-in hybrid carLexus RX
Best electric carMG ZS EV

Best city car: Kia Picanto

Kia’s smallest car is a big hit, with the third-generation model returning a solid set of scores. You love the way the Picanto looks, and it’s right to judge a book by its cover, because build quality lives up to the expectations set by its exterior design.

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One boasting point is driving dynamics – you’re massively impressed by the steering response and how the car grips the road, even if acceleration is a little lacklustre.

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You find that the Picanto’s cabin is a comfortable place to be, with good all-round visibility, and you’re happy with the user-friendliness of the physical controls and the functionality of the infotainment – including the sat-nav and smartphone connectivity.

Best supermini: Kia Rio

The supermini segment is hotly contested, but owners feel firmly that the best model on offer is the Kia Rio. It’s cheap to run and easy to use, you say, praising its low servicing costs and its intuitive touchscreen infotainment.

You tell us the Rio is enjoyable to drive, with responsive steering and brakes, while a host of safety features make you feel secure. Reliability is also pretty decent, you say, although you’d like slightly better overall build quality. You also mentioned the effective heating and air-conditioning, plus the strong quality of the built-in sat-nav.

Best compact family car: Toyota Corolla

First impressions are important, and the 12th-generation Toyota Corolla has made an outstanding one in its Driver Power debut.

The acceleration on offer from the Corolla’s hybrid powertrains is a big plus point, you say, and it’s made all the better by smooth gearboxes. These positives are complemented by great driving dynamics; you love the Corolla’s smooth ride and how well it holds the road. You’re also highly impressed by the speed with which it responds to steering and braking inputs.

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In spite of all this excitement, the Corolla remains cheap to run – especially when it comes to fuel costs. You also tell us overall build quality inside and out is superb.

Best premium compact family car: Lexus CT

The Lexus CT has been around for nearly a decade now, but owners are still keen to sing its praises. You like how the CT feels on the road, telling us that it handles well, has responsive steering and glides fairly comfortably over rough surfaces. Meanwhile, a smooth gearbox and quiet engine contribute to a relaxing driving experience.

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You love how the CT looks and feels; the quality of both the exterior and interior materials are almost beyond reproach, and you have total faith in the car’s reliability.

Although there isn’t as much room in the rear seats or boot, the seating is at least versatile enough for your needs, and the CT has plenty of child-friendly features.

Best family car: Skoda Superb

This class was extremely tight this year, but the third-generation Skoda Superb narrowly beat 2019’s winner, the Mazda 6.

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The Superb does everything that’s needed of a family car: it has a large boot, plenty of interior storage and good child-friendly features. There’s also a huge amount of rear legroom, while the driver’s seat position provides plenty of visibility.

You reckon the Superb’s running costs are very favourable and are impressed by its build quality. The infotainment system and smartphone connectivity are also top notch. On the road, you enjoy the Superb’s smooth ride and praise its powerful and quiet engines.

Best small SUV: Kia Niro

Whether bought in hybrid, plug-in or all-electric guise, the Niro is popular with its owners, and offers a smooth, quiet drive.

You were most impressed with the functionality of the infotainment system and everything that comes with it, including audio quality, smartphone connectivity and sat-nav – you found all of this to be very user-friendly, as you did the heating and air-conditioning system. Running costs are another plus point, you say, with servicing offering particularly good value.

In addition, you love the Niro’s interior, telling us how well styled and high-quality it is. There’s plenty of legroom in the back and an abundance of interior storage, too.

Best mid-size SUV: Peugeot 3008

When the second-generation 3008 arrived in 2016, it marked a huge improvement over its predecessor, and it won the Driver Power new car survey in 2018. While it hasn’t repeated that achievement, it has taken class victory thanks to a number of factors.

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You really prize the 3008’s driving dynamics – it’s responsive to driver input and holds the road in a smooth, confident manner. You say the Peugeot is very well put together, and doesn’t cost too much when it comes to fuel and servicing, either.

As is required of an SUV, it has lots of room in the boot and plenty of other interior storage spaces, while legroom in the rear seats isn’t an issue.

Best large SUV: Kia Sorento

For obvious reasons, this year’s overall Driver Power winner also came top of its class. It was practicality where the Sorento earned its best marks, with owners praising its spacious boot, versatile seating, child-friendliness and abundant interior storage.

This theme continued throughout the interior, as you lavished praise on the front seats for their comfort, and the back seats for the huge amount of legroom they offer. The driver’s seat also offers an excellent all-round view, and the interior’s styling makes the car a very pleasant place to be.

The Sorento’s other key areas of success included ride quality, driving pleasure, safety and its infotainment system, to name a few.

Best premium small SUV: Volvo XC40

Owners couldn’t emphasise enough just how much enjoyment there is  when driving the XC40; its steering is responsive and it rides smoothly, while acceleration is pretty decent.

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You also had good things to say about the infotainment system, with the stereo highlighted as excellent. The standout area, though, was reliability and build quality; you feel that it’s well made and dependable.

While economy was marked down, the XC40’s servicing and other costs are reasonable. You also gave good marks for rear legroom and boot space.

Best premium mid-size SUV: Volvo XC60

While the XC60 can’t match the smaller XC40 for responsiveness, it makes up for this with faster acceleration. You’re highly impressed by the XC60’s safety features, and are also big fans of its interior styling and quality; you also say the front seats are comfortable, and the rears spacious.

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Overall build quality and reliability are also rated highly, and you like the sound system and smartphone connectivity, but you’re less keen on the sat-nav. And while owners would rather the XC60 had slightly sharper brakes and were more fun to drive, you say it rides pretty well. The aforementioned safety kit is complemented by a host of child-friendly features, too.

Best compact executive car: Lexus IS

According to owners, the Lexus IS gets everything that a compact executive car stands for right. It has a smooth gearbox, quiet engine and comfortable ride, making it perfect for long-distance driving. It offers plenty of acceleration, responsive steering and braking, and good driving dynamics overall.

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The IS generally has low running costs, while build quality is exceptional inside and out. You love the way the car is styled and find it comfortable, although there could be more room in the back seats and boot. The front seats are supportive with good visibility, you tell us, and the interior layout is versatile enough for your needs.

Best executive car: BMW 5 Series

The 5 Series has long been an executive favourite. It seized victory this year thanks in part to its blistering acceleration – bear in mind the hot M5 model is included in this ranking.

The BMW’s powerful engines are complemented by a smooth gearbox and comfortable ride – in fact, you say it has great driving dynamics overall.

The infotainment system is another highlight, with great audio quality and an intuitive touchscreen, while exterior quality is also praised. You’re not so convinced by some interior materials, but the front seats are comfortable.

Best sports car: Mazda MX-5

For many years the MX-5 has been a staple of the sports car market, and the fourth-generation model is still hugely popular with owners.

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The roadster does well in all the areas you would expect it to – you gave it fantastic scores for its engine and gearbox, and love its sporty exterior styling. You found being behind the wheel of the MX-5 thrilling and couldn’t get over the way it handles.

In spite of the sporty thrills it offers, the Mazda is affordable to run, too, and you were also pleased with its build quality and user-friendliness.

Best plug-in hybrid car: Kia Niro

Our second class win for the Niro, after we split the data for the plug-in version from the rest of the range.

One point where the Niro PHEV shone was running costs – you say it’s capable of achieving fantastic economy, with a massive range promised from the brimmed fuel tank and fully charged battery. It also came first for servicing costs – a testament to the value for money offered by Kia dealers.

The Niro’s infotainment system was another big plus point – you find it easy to connect your smartphones to it, the touchscreen is responsive, the sat-nav works well, and you’re happy with the audio quality offered by the sound system.

Best non plug-in hybrid: Lexus RX

Lexus has been a purveyor of non-plug-in hybrids for longer than most, and its experience appears to have paid off.

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You told us the RX drives smoothly, runs quietly and has plenty of acceleration – all of this is thanks to the refined powertrain, which you also say is highly reliable.

The feeling of smoothness carries through to the rest of the car. You love the RX’s comfortable ride and say it’s a pleasure to drive. Overall build quality is top notch, interior quality is particularly impressive, and you’re fans of the way it’s styled, too.

The interior is also kitted out with plenty of storage, while the seats are easy to adjust and there are lots of child-friendly features.

Best electric car: MG ZS EV

The electric-car market is expanding, but Driver Power owners have one clear winner, and it’s the electric ZS SUV. After filtering out the electric version from the petrol model’s results (something we have to increasingly do with more makers offering one car with multiple powertrains) the ZS triumphs over electric rivals such as the Nissan Leaf.

The ZS EV manages this for a number of reasons, chief among which are rock-bottom running costs, highly regarded drivetrains, and a series of fantastic marks in the ride and handling category. These are areas where the standard ZS does fairly poorly, so it seems switching to electricity brings with it greater ownership satisfaction.

Is your car listed in our 2020 Driver Power survey? Let us know what you think of it in the comments section below...

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