Best new cars to own by class: Driver Power 2022 results

Our Driver Power survey covers 13 sectors of the new-car market, and there’s a star buy in every one. Here are this year’s class winners

Whether you’re shopping for a particular class of new car or browsing across a wider range of bodystyles and price points, it helps to know which of the many new car models on the market are the leaders in their respective classes.

This is especially the case with ultra-competitive categories featuring a large number of different models that sell in huge quantities. Other classes may have a smaller number of entrants, but if those models are all competent and comparable, we can tell you which one has the edge over its rivals.

Drivers looking for something practical and cheap to run with back seats that can be used occasionally may be tempted by a city car or supermini. Those who want more space, meanwhile, will be every bit as likely to look at compact family cars as they will small or mid-size SUVs.

There are also cars that cater to more specific needs – compact executive models often make sense for those who are racking up miles on business, while sports cars cater to thrill-seeking motorists.

Here, we’ve set out which cars take the gold medal in a range of popular classes in the UK’s new car market, allowing you to compare across as many as you want and see which of the best is right for you.

Best new cars to own by class

There are many ways consumers can make use of Driver Power survey information, but comparing cars within their respective classes is something almost everyone does before buying.

That’s why the class results of the Driver Power survey are so revealing, but there are plenty of other takeaways from looking at the data this way. For example, while it was already evident how effectively Kia has muscled its way into the value space with its range of small family cars, the fact that it’s now topping the Driver Power survey with an SUV must show to European car makers – if they had any doubts – that there may not be much of a future in their flight to pricier products. 

As European cars become ever more expensive and more ‘premium’, it leaves more room for value-focused brands to pitch a better deal. Out of the 12 most satisfying cars to own in the aspirational small SUV class, five are already Korean. So far, there’s only one Korean model in the top 10 large SUVs, but for how long?

Our poll also confirms the stranglehold SUVs have on the wider market. With eight out of the top 10 most satisfying cars being SUVs, it’s clear buying one is much more than a fashion statement, regardless of concerns over efficiency.

ClassWinner
Best city carKia Picanto
Best superminiKia Rio
Best compact family carKia Ceed
Best premium compact family carMercedes A-Class
Best executive carTesla Model 3
Best small SUVKia XCeed
Best premium small SUVVolvo XC40
Best mid-size or large SUVMazda CX-5
Best premium mid-size or large SUVJaguar F-Pace

Best city car: Kia Picanto

We've regularly praised the smallest car in Kia’s range, and our faith in its abilities has been matched by the loyalty of owners. The Picanto retained the city car class title following victory last year, and by a bigger margin than its Rio supermini sibling. 

The Picanto beat the second-in-class Toyota Aygo Mk2, which trailed by three per cent. The Hyundai i10 was a close third, and while all three cars scored decently, it was a trio of top-10 results in the value, mpg and running costs categories that helped the Picanto secure its class win and a 15th place overall in the survey. 

Low points, unsurprisingly for a city car, were practicality and boot space.

Best supermini: Kia Rio 

The supermini class is one of the hardest fought in the Driver Power survey, but the Kia Rio’s rating made it the class-topper for the second year in a row. 

Its 92.18 per cent overall score was a clear 1.5 points ahead of the Rio’s nearest rival, the MINI hatch, which led a following pack with differences mostly measured in tenths of a per cent. The Kia may not have gained any individual category wins, but a couple of fourth places for mpg and running costs, a fifth place for interior, and a sixth for reliability and value set the tone. 

Its worst rankings were for engine and gearbox plus ride and handling, but even here, owners still placed the Rio 15th and 10th respectively.

Best compact family car: Kia Ceed

Yet another repeat of 2021 category success is the Kia Ceed, which owners voted to a class win again this year. 

Finishing 16th overall in the survey meant the Ceed saw off competition from the SEAT Leon in second place (29th overall), and the Toyota Corolla in third place (38th overall).

Once again, the Ceed delivered a decent set of scores across the board, with owners predictably appreciative of the car’s value and reliability. But they also rated the Ceed highly in the exterior, and practicality and boot space categories. As with the Kia Rio and Picanto, it’s the powertrains that score lowest for satisfaction; in this case, 65th out of the top 75 cars.

Best premium compact family car: Mercedes A-Class

The Mercedes A-Class is another Driver Power favourite, repeating its 2021 class honours. Once again the Mercedes’ merits led owners to rate it more highly than its BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 rivals.

But in spite of this class win, the A-Class only ranked 30th out of the 75 cars in our published results. That was some way ahead of the BMW and Audi, suggesting owners in the premium category are not feeling as much love for their cars as those shopping at the bargain end of the market. Do higher prices also mean higher expectations? 

The A-Class was ninth for its interior, and its lowest score was for ride and handling, at 50th. The BMW 1 Series just pipped it there, ranking 46th.

Best executive car: Tesla Model 3

The Mercedes E-Class topped the poll for executive models in 2021, but Tesla owners turned the tables on established premium brands this year. The E-Class was rated sixth in class, with the BMW 3 and 5 Series, plus Audi’s A4 and A5 models, all performing better than last year’s class victor. 

While the BMW 3 Series came closest to knocking the Tesla off its top spot, with an overall ranking of 32nd out of 75 cars in the survey, the BMW was some way off the Tesla’s impressive ninth place overall. That said, the Model 3 had a mixed bag of results, winning both the engine and gearbox, plus mpg and running costs categories, but coming 48th for value and 73rd for exterior.

Established manufacturers bringing electrified rivals to the new-car market will be pleased to note they’re still competitive in more traditional areas.

Best small SUV: Kia XCeed 

Nothing XCeeds the success of Kia’s small SUV in its class, which is hardly surprising, given that we’ve lauded the model as overall victor in the 2022 Driver Power survey. 

We’ve already seen how the XCeed bucks the trend for Kia with a top rating overall in the ride and handling category, and a 13th place overall for its engine and gearbox. That’s the XCeed’s least impressive category rating, too, which is itself impressive.

In its class, the Hyundai Kona ran the XCeed closest, at fourth overall, closely followed by the Kia Niro (12th), the Dacia Duster Mk2 (14th), and the Peugeot 2008 Mk2 (17th). The Renault Captur finished in 31st place overall.

Best premium small SUV: Volvo XC40

Say hello again to the Volvo XC40, which has cemented its position at the top of the class following a similar win in last year’s Driver Power new-car survey.

This year, the XC40 (23rd overall) beat the MINI Countryman (36th) into second place in the class, followed by the Audi Q3 Mk2 (43rd) and Range Rover Evoque Mk2 (53rd). That’s a high-quality field, but there’s some distance between the contenders when it comes to customer satisfaction, as this survey shows.

Owners of the Volvo XC40 voted it to a class win with impressive top-10 scores for practicality and boot space, interior and safety. Exterior and reliability are also rated very highly, but owners aren’t as happy with value or mpg and running costs, where the XC40 rated 54th and 64th out of the top 75 cars in the survey.

Best mid-size or large SUV: Mazda CX-5

Here's another repeat victory in class, this time for Mazda’s CX-5 SUV, which has held on to its Mid-Large SUV title despite some very stiff competition.

Mazda’s SUV pulled it off in style, too, thanks to a second place overall in the 2022 Driver Power survey. The class runner-up was the Skoda Kodiaq (fifth overall), but in fact, larger SUVs counted for six out of the top 10 cars in this year’s survey, proving owners love these big family haulers.

The Mazda CX-5 took victory in the class thanks to excellent scores across the board, gaining a second place for value, third for reliability and fourth for exterior. Its worst result was a solid 25th for mpg and running costs.

Best premium mid-size or large SUV: Jaguar F-Pace

We didn't name a victor in this class in 2021, because we didn’t separate premium cars from more mainstream ones. For 2022 we have done just that, and it’s interesting to see the Jaguar F-Pace at the top of the pile.

It beat rivals such as the Mercedes GLC in second place, the Land Rover Discovery Sport in third and the Volvo XC60 in fourth, all ahead of the BMW X3 and X5. If you compare the overall scores of these models the results are even more stark; while the F-Pace just scraped into our top 20 overall, the BMW X3 and X5 were 71st and 74th respectively. 

Owners rated the Jag most highly for ride and handling, where it came fourth overall. Practicality and boot space was rated seventh, and engine and gearbox close behind in 10th. Value was a respectable 32nd, but mpg and running costs were ranked less well, at 66th.

Now tell us what you think of your car!

Driver Power depends on your input so please take the time to help your fellow car buyers by taking the survey and contributing to next year's results. You'll automatically be entered into our prize draw where you could win one of the three £100 Amazon vouchers we give away every month. Take the Driver Power survey today...

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