The best car brands in the UK: Driver Power 2021
Considering your next car? The UK's top car brands are ranked in our annual owner satisfaction survey
Following on from our list of the UK's best new cars to own in 2021, we now reveal which manufacturers have impressed you the most in the past year.
For 2021, we’ve updated the Driver Power survey with new sections on technology and value for money, plus a percentage score for the number of owners who suffered a fault with their cars in the first year of ownership. This data has then been fastidiously analysed to give you a true picture of the experiences of real owners and what they really think of the brands operating in the UK car market.
The results represent crucial information to have before heading to showrooms or drawing up a shortlist of cars. Our results show brands fall into clear categories, with some excelling in making cars fun to drive, while others nail practicality, cheap running costs or reliability.
Some perform well in most areas, only to be let down by sluggish engines or poor infotainment systems. Others offer child-friendly interiors with lots of safety kit, so long as you don't mind more conservative styling.
Read on for the Driver Power 2021 manufacturer results to see which manufacturer is most likely to suit you...
Finishing at the top of our survey is Porsche, which has successfully managed to break the four-year winning streak of Lexus. It’s a very impressive feat, with the brand’s premium range of sports and luxury cars seeing off all rivals by winning six of our 10 categories.
The German manufacturer finished top in every single ride and handling category in our survey, including the road handling and driving pleasure sections, meaning owners genuinely love driving their cars. Owners were also wowed by Porsche design and with the build quality, telling us their cars are the most dependable in our survey with only 14.1% of owners reporting a fault.
Elsewhere, the brand was highly rated for practicality, scoring strongly for boot space and seating versatility. Respondents also told us that Porsche running costs are good, with impressive fuel economy, while the brand’s slick infotainment systems are excellent too. Despite the brand’s upmarket image and performance, owners were impressed with respectable servicing costs as well, with Porsche finishing 12th out of 29 brands in this category.
Kia has again finished in second place in our survey with a strong set of results across the board, namely a top 10 finish in every category. Owners gave high scores for the reliability and build quality of their Kias, with an average fault rate of 19.6% overall.
Owners were highly impressed by the quality of materials and value for money for the cost of their cars. Elsewhere, they told us that Kia’s cars are well styled inside and out and have responsive steering, excellent brakes and a refined ride quality. Practicality was also highly rated, with large boots, copious amounts of interior storage and versatile seating all impressing.
Scores for infotainment were also very strong, with good smartphone connectivity. You also tell us the systems are very easy to use, while the high quality of the sat nav and audio systems won praise too.
Taking the final podium spot in our survey, you tell us that Tesla offers the best powertrains of any car maker, with the US brand topping the acceleration category. Owners also praised the cheap running costs of their cars, as well as the cost of recharging and affordable servicing and insurance.
You also like Tesla’s safety features, with driver aids like the brand’s ‘Autopilot’ system proving popular. Owners also tell us that these systems are easy to operate and are quick to activate and deactivate, making them easy to live with. Build quality could be better though, with a high reported failure rate of 42.6%.
Mazda has continued its steady upwards trajectory again with a decent set of scores across the board for 2021. You told us your Mazdas are very well built, with strong reliability resulting in a fault rate of 34.6%. Also, you like the brand's styling, and the quality of the materials used inside and out.
Owners were very impressed with the way their cars drive, with driving pleasure, road handling and brakes all receiving strong scores. Ride quality and steering responsiveness were also highly praised. Mazdas are also great value for money and the infotainment systems scored highly. Overall, Mazda received the highest ratings for its smartphone connectivity and easy to use controls. Running costs are reasonable as well, with affordable insurance costs and decent fuel economy.
Toyota completes the top five with a great set of scores and positive praise from owners. According to you, Toyotas are well built and one of the most reliable brands in our survey with only 15.3% of owners reporting a fault with their cars.
The Japanese car maker also earned an excellent score in the engine and gearbox category, with notably good rates for smoothness, acceleration and engine note. You told us that your Toyotas are more economical than any other car maker here. Elsewhere, low running costs, including servicing and insurance were also impressive, and the infotainment systems received solid scores thanks to an excellent balance of touchscreen and physical controls.
Honda is well-known for its hybrid models, and with just 14.4% of owners reporting a fault, build quality was highly praised with owners saying their cars are very dependable too. Scores for the Japanese manufacturer were fairly consistent across the board, with practicality the standout thanks to excellent boot capacity, interior storage and flexible seating.
The Japanese brand received the highest score for rear-seat legroom and owners were positive about the interior styling. Fuel economy was also highly rated, along with the affordable servicing costs. Other areas you found impressive were the steering and brakes, which received good scores, and the air conditioning and heating systems. Owners also like the stereo systems and smartphone connectivity, which could be a little more user-friendly.
In seventh place is Jaguar, with what is the massive achievement of finishing ahead of upmarket German rivals including Audi, BMW and Mercedes. The strongest area according to Jag owners is the way they drive, with high ratings for road handling, steering and driving pleasure.
You also praised the build quality of your Jaguars but were less impressed with reliability. In total, 30.2% of owners reported a fault with their cars. Safety features are also impressive and they are reliable and easy to operate. Lastly, Jaguar’s design scored highly, along with the fit and finish of the materials. You also liked the comfy front seats, plentiful amounts of rear legroom and the stylish interior design.
Even though Mitsubishi is exiting the UK market by the end of 2021, owners still speak highly of the Japanese manufacturer. Areas that came in for strong praise from owners include the low running costs of their cars, with affordable insurance and servicing, and that good fuel economy was achievable. You also say that Mitsubishis are very reliable and well built, with only 12.9% of owners reporting a fault with their cars.
Practicality was also highly thought of as well, with owners full of praise for the boot space and the excellent interior storage cubbies. Additionally, owners also like the smooth gearboxes, user friendly infotainment systems and good smartphone connectivity.
Volvo delivered strong results in our survey with very comfy front seats, lots of space for rear passengers, upmarket interior design, and strong build quality inside and out. According to our respondents, no other car maker offers more interior storage cubbies either, and boot space was also widely praised too.
The brand’s safety technology was also well received, with high praise for the wide array of standard safety features, which are simple to use. You told us the brand’s infotainment systems are great but could be easier to use, and that the stereo systems are excellent. Owners reported that servicing costs are affordable but running costs can be high due to poor fuel economy. Reliability was strongly praised, too, with 20.5% of owners reporting a fault.
Rather like Jaguar, Alfa Romeo owners give their cars contrasting scores, suggesting that while they love some aspects of their cars, others feel strongly otherwise.
After four consecutive years of finishing at the top of our brand survey, Lexus will be disappointed by a 10th place finish. However, the scores for the Japanese luxury car maker are still very positive, with a high ranking for safety features, which you told us are easy to use and operate.
Owners told us that they are well built, with the brand scoring the lowest failure rate of our top 10 finishers at 9.8%. You also spoke highly of the quality of materials inside and out, the smoothness of the gearboxes and the excellent levels of refinement. When it comes to value for money and the quality of the infotainment systems, the brand could do better.
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