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Best new cars to own by class: Driver Power 2023 results

From urban runabouts to sports cars and everything in between, these are the top vehicles in 2023

There are many different ways that consumers and reviewers can make use of the Driver Power survey data, but one of the most important is as an aid to making choices within the various car classes. That’s something most buyers will do in the real world, after all, and that’s why the class results of the Driver Power survey are so significant.

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As usual, we’ve split the results into their different vehicle classes, ranging from city cars through SUVs to executive cars and sports models. This year there are no less than 11 different classes covering all the cars ranked in the top 75 slots of the survey.

Definite trends are emerging. Last year we highlighted five Korean models in the top 12 of the small SUV class, and this year we can point to six Korean cars out of the 12. Likewise, of the top 10-ranking mid-to-large SUVs, we now have two Korean cars instead of 2022’s one, including the class champion, Kia’s Sorento. Will the data show a continuing shift to the east next year, and when will Chinese brands start to make an impact in the Driver Power ratings?

Best city car: Kia Picanto

The Kia Picanto is our best city car this year, and although it only just managed to finish in the top third of the survey, at 25th, it performed notably better than its nearest city-car rival, the Toyota Aygo, which managed only 67th position.

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What used to be a busy segment has become much less crowded, but the Picanto clearly still gives drivers what they’re looking for, with a top-10 ranking for value and top-20 scores for fuel economy and servicing. The Aygo is in the top 10 for economy, but nowhere near the Kia for servicing costs. It’s way off the Picanto for safety features and trails for reliability, interior style and quality, too.

Best supermini: BMW i3

This year marked the demise of the i3 electric supermini, as BMW retired the model. Ironic then, that 2023 should be the year that buyers and drivers have emerged to champion the BMW EV as the most satisfying-to-own supermini against some formidable opposition.

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Competitors include the Kia Rio, which was the survey’s overall bronze medallist in 2022 and in 20th position this year, while being pushed into second place in the class by the i3. Among the BMW’s other rivals are the MINI Hatchback, Citroen C3, Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris, which all finished in the top half of the Driver Power results table this year.

Best compact family car: Citroen C4

As this year’s supreme champion, it’s inevitable that the Citroen C4 is a class-winner, too. It achieves the feat in some style, finishing nearly two percentage points ahead of a following pack featuring such high-quality contenders as the Toyota Prius, Kia Ceed and Hyundai Ioniq.

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This trio ended up in eighth, 10th and 11th places overall, after which there’s a sizeable gap before the next group of contenders, which includes the Toyota Corolla, Nissan Leaf Mk2, Kia ProCeed, Vauxhall Astra and the MG5. None of these finishes higher than 41st place overall, while the MG5 is the lowest ranked, at 66th.

Best premium compact family car: Mercedes A-Class

The Mercedes A-Class and its closest rival in this class occupy different ends of the second half of the 2023 Driver Power table. Owners rate the A-Class in 39th and the BMW 1 Series in 72nd, suggesting the two groups of owners are enjoying quite different experiences with their cars.

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A-Class drivers rate powertrains 44th versus 75th for the BMW, and 33rd against 61st for practicality and boot space, while the BMW’s 45th plays 63rd for reliability, and it’s 27th versus 48th for infotainment. They’re not too far apart for cabin style or quality, but A-Class owners rate their front-seat comfort and driver visibility much higher than BMW owners do.

Best family car: Kia EV6

Kia’s EV6 is popular with electric-car fans, and the svelte five-door’s finish in the top 10 is testament to the model’s strong credentials. The EV6 delivers high category scores that put the Kia ahead of the class average for engine and gearbox smoothness and acceleration, as well as for styling inside and out.

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But the EV6 trails the class in some key areas, such as exterior and interior quality, plus all-round visibility. Boot space isn’t as good as the class average, and neither are the ride and handling or safety feature scores. However, the Kia scores a best in survey for its rear legroom and a second place for its useful cabin storage.

Best small SUV: Dacia Duster

Given the popularity of SUVs in the UK, you won’t be surprised to learn this is one of the most crowded classes in the survey, with 17 entrants ranging from the fourth-placed Dacia Duster to the Vauxhall Mokka in 75th and last place.

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The Duster is joined by one other top-10 contender, the sixth-placed Ford EcoSport. While the Ford beats the Dacia on comfort and style, it can’t compete with its boot space and running costs. The Kia XCeed, Hyundai Kona and Kia Soul make the top 20, with the VW T-Cross and Kia Niro 21st and 23rd, while the Ford Puma (33rd) and Renault Captur (34th) just fall into the top half of the table.

Best premium small SUV: Audi Q3

While the five premium contenders in this SUV class are desirable, none has set the Driver Power world on fire this year. The best of the bunch is the Audi Q3, in 27th place, while the Lexus UX is its nearest rival in 38th overall.

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The Q3 just beats the Lexus for exterior and interior style, but can’t match it for cabin quality. The UX trails for rear-seat legroom, luggage capacity and cabin storage, but is much more satisfying to drive, say owners, who rate the Audi pretty poorly for its ride, handling and powertrains. The Q3 can’t touch the Lexus hybrid for running costs, either, but seals its victory with much better infotainment.

Best mid-to-large SUV: Kia Sorento

The large SUV class is another crowded vehicle category, which features 18 cars, from the second-placed Kia Sorento to the 70th-placed Kia Sportage Mk5.

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Two other top-10 contenders are the Subaru Outback and Mazda CX-5, while the Skoda Kodiaq, Ford Kuga and Kia Sportage Mk4 are in the top 20, with owners rating the latter much more positively than its successor. The Toyota RAV4, Subaru XV and Peugeot 3008 make the top 30, but it’s downhill for the big SUVs all the way from there.

Back at the top, the Sorento bests the Outback thanks to higher scores for safety features, exterior style and infotainment.

Best premium mid-to-large SUV: Lexus RX

With the Lexus RX finishing third overall in the 2023 survey, it’s no great surprise to find it leading the premium mid-to-large SUV category, too. It’s the only car in its class to reach the top 10, with the next-best effort from the Polestar 2, which is rated 17th overall.

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There is a big drop before we get to the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Jaguar F-Pace, which are ranked 49th and 50th, followed by the Lexus NX, at 55th. Last place in the class goes to the Jaguar I-Pace, which rolls in at 65th.

The Lexus RX beats the I-Pace in every segment, with the Jag’s worst category scores awarded for reliability and value.

Best executive car: Tesla Model 3

Tesla’s newest saloon made it into the top 10 last year, and while it couldn’t repeat the trick – it slipped down to 22nd – it’s still significantly ahead of more traditional rivals in the sector, which include the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 3 Series and 5 Series, and the Audi A5.

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The Tesla gets great scores for its smooth and rapid powertrain, and takes a big lead on safety features. It does pretty well for infotainment, but where it really scores is in running costs, thanks to a free pass on MPG, a first place for servicing and 16th position for insurance, where the E-Class and 5 Series are ranked 72nd and 73rd respectively.

Best sports car: Toyota GR Yaris

The sports-car class is perhaps one of the most compromised of all, given the emphasis on performance, ride and handling over pretty much everything else. That’s borne out by the Toyota GR Yaris, which wins the class despite only managing 68th overall in the survey.

That’s more a function of the Driver Power survey format than a criticism of the sporty Yaris variant, which provides lots of fun thanks to a worthy win in the ride and handling category. Owners give it top-three levels of satisfaction for road handling, braking response and driving pleasure. A 26th for ride smoothness is par for the course on a sports model, too.

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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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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