Most Satisfying New Cars of 2020
When shoppers spend hard-earned cash on new vehicles, they hope to be satisfied with their purchases. Automotive consulting and research firm AutoPacific strives to help with that. The company publishes annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards that identify the most satisfying new cars on the market. “AutoPacific VSAs give consumers true, unbiased insight into which vehicles are providing their owners with the most satisfying experience,” said AutoPacific president George Peterson. AutoPacific’s research pinpoints the top vehicles in multiple categories based on responses from more than 73,000 new car and truck owners. Satisfaction is measured according to 27 separate attributes ranging from driving performance to seating comfort and interior design.
Highest Satisfaction Premium Brand — Lincoln
In addition to selecting category winners, AutoPacific names the brands that rank highest overall. For 2020 Lincoln wins the Highest Satisfaction Premium Brand award — a repeat performance from 2019. A range of updated premium crossovers such as the Aviator and Corsair have helped Ford’s luxury brand retain this strong position.
Highest Satisfaction Popular Brand — Ram
For the third year in a row, Ram takes the Highest Satisfaction Popular Brand award. The all-new Ram 1500 received high ratings in performance attributes such as braking, handling, ride and acceleration. Styling, interior comfort and safety features also contribute to the Ram’s high satisfaction rating.
Most Satisfying Vehicle Overall — BMW X6
BMW introduced the third generation of the X6 sporty crossover for the 2020 model year, and the new model not only ranks highest in this year’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, it also reigns at the top of its category in the most recent J.D. Power studies. For the new model year, X6 receives a new look featuring slim trapezoidal Adaptive Full LED headlights and slim L-shaped LED taillights.
Premium Luxury Car — Genesis G90
Three years after its introduction, the Genesis flagship gets a major refresh for the 2020 model year including extensive exterior and interior updates to showcase the evolving design language of the brand. Available with a choice of two powerful engines, the G90 comes with a long list of standard features including tri-zone climate control, Nappa leather seat trim, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, interior ambient lighting, power door closers, a 12.3-inch HD display screen and a Lexicon 17-speaker surround-sound audio system. The G90 beat all other models in this segment by scoring the highest in 22 out of the 27 attributes in the AutoPacific satisfaction study.
Executive Luxury Car — Mercedes-Benz E-Class
As expected from a Mercedes-Benz, the E-Class offers considerable luxury and performance in a midsize package. Available in sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon form, the E-Class comes well equipped with the latest infotainment, comfort and safety features. Multiple powertrains are offered, including a full line of high-performance AMG variants that boast more than 600 horsepower. According to AutoPacific, the E-Class barely edged out the Audi A6 for this title. Look for an all-new E-Class coming to showrooms later this fall.
Standard Luxury Car — Alfa Romeo Giulia
Although the Giulia stands out thanks to impressive performance, it had previously failed in customer satisfaction due to its less-than-ideal infotainment system. For 2020 Alfa Romeo introduces a much-improved system, earning the Giulia ratings that make it a winner in the Standard Luxury Car category. Alfa Romeo offers the Italian-styled sport sedan in multiple trim levels — the standout being the top-level Quadrifoglio, which features a 2.9-liter bi-turbo V6 engine rated at an impressive 505 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, making Giulia the most powerful production car ever from the Italian automaker.
Compact Luxury Car — Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Last year Mercedes-Benz introduced the entry-level A-Class in America to entice new buyers to the brand. With a starting price around $33,000, the A-Class is the least expensive Mercedes-Benz available in the U.S. Although classified as entry level, the A-Class clearly has the panache of a Mercedes-Benz and can be outfitted with a full range of luxurious, high-tech features including dual 10.25-inch displays integrated together for a more upscale appearance. The A220’s turbocharged engine offers great performance, making the A-Class fun to drive — a sentiment confirmed by the 2020 AutoPacific study.
Large Car — Chrysler 300
Proving that a car doesn’t have to be all new to be most satisfying, the aging Chrysler 300 tops the Large Car category of the annual AutoPacific study. The iconic 300 received its most recent face-lift in 2015, gaining a new grille and stylish LED headlights. Chrysler also added a Platinum edition that features quilted Nappa leather, hand-sanded wood trim, a Poltrona Frau leather-wrapped instrument panel as well as 20-inch wheels. Today the 300 carries the latest advanced safety features and — in a nod to the original model — still offers a HEMI V8 engine in the 300C.
Premium Mid-Size Car — Hyundai Sonata
The Hyundai Sonata is all new for the 2020 model year, and with updated styling and improved features it bests strong competition in the Premium Mid-Size Car category. The new Sonata has a striking profile with unique lighting — daytime running lights sit behind chrome strips that trace the inner edge of the headlight, shining through tiny perforations in the chrome when lit, yet hidden by the chrome when turned off. A full range of trim levels and powertrains are available, including a fuel-efficient hybrid.
Compact Car — Kia Soul
Ten years ago Kia joined a trend toward small, boxy people movers when introducing the Soul, and in its 2020 iteration the diminutive Soul remains the only boxy model on the road. The 2020 Soul retains its iconic shape but gets a modern edge with slim headlights, LED daytime running lights and boomerang-shaped taillights that frame the rear window. Soul is also new under the skin, thanks to a lighter-weight platform designed to reduce road noise while improving handling and comfort. Sold in a number of trim levels, Soul is available with a turbocharged powerplant or as a fully electric vehicle.
Subcompact Car — Nissan Versa
The Nissan Versa had been the lowest priced new car in America for a number of years, but for 2020 the Japanese brand gives up that title with the introduction of an all-new Versa with fresh styling, a premium interior, the latest high-tech safety features and a much improved ride. These attributes have helped this entry-level model earn the highest satisfaction rating in the VSA Subcompact Car category. Available in three trim levels, each Versa comes well equipped with multiple USB ports, a pushbutton start, Bluetooth connectivity and the most advanced safety technology.
Sports/Sporty Car — Dodge Challenger
The American market is awash with retro-designed vehicles, but Dodge does one of the best jobs by capturing the essence of a classic muscle car and incorporating it into the thoroughly modern Challenger. The 2-door Challenger offers the latest in high-tech entertainment and safety features, but this retro-looking coupe is really all about performance. Winning the VSA Sporty Car award for the fourth year in a row, Challenger is available with a variety of high-powered engines, ranging from a 305-horsepower V6 to the extreme Challenger Hellcat Redeye that boasts a massive 797-horsepower supercharged V8 that moves this modern muscle car to a top speed that exceeds 200 mph. Even more impressive — this beast can seat up to five passengers and has an EPA rating of 22 mpg highway.
Full-Size Pickup — Ram 1500
In the last year Ram introduced an all-new, light-duty 1500 as well as a heavy-duty 2500 and 3500, and based on sales these trucks are the best Ram has ever delivered. The popularity of the new trucks has also contributed to the Ram 1500 earning the highest satisfaction in this category for the second year in a row. Ram trucks feature exterior styling that keeps the brand’s signature big-rig look, and the interior is one of the nicest on the market with an available 12-inch vertical display screen. Six trim levels are available, as well as a range of powertrains that will eventually include a hybrid system. For those seeking even more performance, Ram recently introduced the TRX — an off-road-ready truck featuring a 702-horsepower supercharged V8 engine.
Compact Pickup — Honda Ridgeline
Unlike any other pickup truck sold in America, the Ridgeline features unibody construction, which contributes to a comfortable ride more in keeping with a car than a typical pickup. Other unique features include a dual-action tailgate and lockable in-bed trunk; both were called out as attributes that contribute to Ridgeline’s rank at the top of the competitive Compact Pickup category. Every Ridgeline comes equipped with the latest high-tech safety features and tri-zone climate control, as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Other add-ons include leather seat trim and a 540-watt premium audio system with truck-bed speakers.
Luxury SUV — Lincoln Navigator
When the Navigator premiered for the 2018 model year, it didn’t stray much from the look of the concept revealed one year earlier. Made to be luxurious as well as family friendly, Navigator offers multiple USB ports, wireless phone charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A rear-seat entertainment system is also available featuring two 10-inch display screens. This big Lincoln has big power to match — a twin-turbo V6 engine that produces 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque, delivered through a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is an impressive 8,700 pounds — more than almost any other luxury SUV. These sought-after features continue to keep Navigator popular with consumers, and keep it classified as the top Luxury SUV in the annual AutoPacific study for the second year in a row.
Large SUV — Nissan Armada
Even while many SUVs have migrated to a more carlike unibody construction, the big Nissan Armada remains a body-on-frame design capable of handling considerable cargo and towing duties. Earning the top spot in AutoPacific’s Large SUV VSA category for the second year in a row, this full-size SUV carries up to eight occupants while still retaining plenty of cargo space. The Armada’s 5.6-liter V8 engine generates an impressive 390 horsepower. With this much power on tap, Armada can tow up to 8,500 pounds. This may be an old-school, truck-based SUV, but the Armada is fully modern inside with the latest high-tech connectivity and safety features, including adaptive cruise control and forward emergency braking.
Mid-Size SUV — Toyota 4Runner
After 35 years 4Runner is one of the few truck-based SUVs left on the market. This highly capable midsize SUV contender remains popular, and according to AutoPacific it continues to shine as one of the most satisfying new cars. The 4Runner continues to be powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine that produces 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque — enough grunt to tow up to 5,000 pounds. For true off-roaders, Toyota offers the 4Runner TRD Pro, which sports all-terrain tires, 2.5-inch Fox shocks front and rear, a larger front sway bar and TRD-tuned front springs that provide an additional one inch of front lift.
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV — Tesla Model X
The only fully electric vehicle on this list, the Model X dominates the VSA’s Premium Luxury Crossover SUV category with top scores in 22 of the 27 attributes. Model X was the first production electric SUV on the U.S. market, and this sleek vehicle offers more than simply impressive fuel economy. According to Tesla, the Model X has a range as high as 351 miles on a full charge while still offering seating for up to seven occupants and impressive acceleration. The Model X stands out when the rear Falcon Wing doors swing open, offering easy access to rear seats even in tight parking spaces. Thanks to its lack of an internal combustion engine, the Model X also offers a large front trunk (occasionally referred to as a frunk) in addition to the rear cargo area.
Executive Luxury Crossover SUV — BMW X6
With the highest satisfaction scores of any of the vehicles on this list, the BMW X6 also tops the Executive Luxury Crossover SUV segment. With sporty styling and a luxurious interior, the German automaker’s X6 is available with multiple levels of performance, ranging from the 335-horsepower rear-wheel-drive sDrive40i to the extreme X6M Competition boasting a 617-horsepower TwinPower Turbo V8 engine sending power to a high-performance all-wheel-drive system.
Standard Luxury Crossover SUV — Alfa Romeo Stelvio (tie)
Named after Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps — considered by many to be one of the greatest driving roads in the world — the Stelvio arrived in the U.S. for the 2018 model year. The third vehicle in the Alfa Romeo lineup, Stelvio quickly became the best-selling model of the brand. The front-end appearance of the Stelvio takes design cues from the Giulia sport sedan, and the overall shape of this 5-occupant SUV is quite sleek. With standard full-time all-wheel drive, Stelvio is available with two powerful engines, including a 2.9-liter V6 producing 505 horsepower in the top-level Quadrifoglio.
Standard Luxury Crossover SUV — Cadillac XT5 (tie)
A replacement for the SRX crossover and an all-new vehicle for Cadillac in 2017, the XT5 quickly became the brand’s most popular model. In fact the XT5 makes up almost one-third of Cadillac’s annual sales. For the 2020 model year, Cadillac revamps this luxury crossover with fresh styling, updated features and a 237-horspower turbocharged engine that is standard equipment on Luxury and Premium Luxury trims. Inside, the updated XT5 has the latest Cadillac user interface with one-touch phone pairing, 15-watt wireless charging for mobile devices, and a new rear-pedestrian alert system.
Compact Luxury Crossover SUV — Audi Q3
Crossovers remain popular within European luxury brands, and Audi is no exception. The least expensive model in the German automaker’s SUV lineup, the Q3 was updated last year with fresh exterior styling, an upgraded powertrain and a completely new interior that is much more befitting of an Audi. AutoPacific said this new luxurious, high-tech interior is one of the reasons this Audi bested all VSA competitors in 2020.
Large Crossover SUV — Kia Telluride (tie)
The largest SUV ever offered by Kia — with seating for up to eight occupants — the Telluride was created specifically for the U.S. market, penned at the Kia Design Center in Irvine, California. The Telluride’s intent is to be big, bold and boxy to convey power and capability — which it does in spades. Telluride is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 engine producing 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and an available active on-demand all-wheel-drive system. Telluride’s high-end features such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel; optional heated and ventilated seats for the first and second rows; available double-stitched, quilted leather-trim seats; simulated brushed metal and matte finish wood; and reclining third-row seats all add to the big SUV’s appeal.
Large Crossover SUV — Hyundai Palisade (tie)
It’s appropriate that the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade end up in a tie within the Large Crossover SUV category of AutoPacific’s VSA study, since both get built on a shared Hyundai platform. With bold styling, an elegant interior and room for up to eight occupants, the Palisade takes its rightful place as the flagship of the Hyundai SUV lineup. Whereas Telluride seems ready for adventure, the Palisade features a wide, cascading grille flanked by separated composite headlights and signature LED daytime running lights for a more upscale style. The Palisade matches those premium exterior looks inside with available Nappa leather trim, heated and ventilated front seats, a 10.25-inch display screen and a 630-watt Harmon Kardon premium audio system.
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV — Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai introduced an all-new Santa Fe for the 2019 model year with updated styling and a range of new features that have resonated with respondents to the AutoPacific Satisfaction survey. The Santa Fe replaced the Santa Fe Sport as the Korean brand’s 5-ocupant offering, while a new Santa Fe XL offers three rows of seats. This fourth-generation Hyundai SUV comes with the latest high-tech safety features as standard equipment, including automatic emergency braking and blind-spot collision warning as well as lane-keeping assist and rear cross-traffic alert. Also standard is safe exit assist, which locks the rear doors to prevent rear-seat occupants from opening them into traffic when vehicles are approaching from behind.
Mid-Size Crossover SUV — Nissan Rogue (tie)
Small crossovers are clearly among the most popular vehicles with American shoppers, and Nissan has capitalized on this with the versatile Rogue. This small SUV is the best-selling model in the Nissan lineup. Rogue has a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with an advanced Xtronic transmission with Eco mode, boasting an EPA fuel-economy rating as high as 33 mpg. Rogue also is available as a hybrid and as a smaller model called Rogue Sport. All Rogues are now available with ProPILOT Assist — Nissan’s first step toward building autonomous vehicles. Look for an all-new Rogue to arrive in showrooms later this year.
Mid-Size Crossover SUV — Subaru Forester (tie)
Subaru introduced an all-new Forester last year as the roomiest version ever offered, thanks to a 1.2-inch-longer wheelbase, more rear-seat legroom and more cargo capacity, as well as improvements in crash protection, comfort, quietness and driving dynamics. EyeSight driver-assist technology is standard, and Forester Touring debuted DriverFocus safety technology that can alert the driver to fatigue or potential distraction. In keeping with almost every other model in the Subaru lineup, the Forester comes with all-wheel drive as standard equipment.
Compact Crossover SUV — Kia Sportage
The Sportage is all new for the 2020 model year, featuring updated exterior styling, a sporty S trim level and new available driver-assistance features. A more aggressive exterior design includes new headlights, redesigned projector-beam fog lights, available LED headlights, as well as a new grille, front bumper and wheel designs. The Sportage is available in three trim levels with two 4-cylinder engine choices: a 2.4 liter that produces 181 horsepower, or a 2.0-liter turbo GDI that produces 240 horsepower. Available driver-assistance features include driver attention warning, lane-keeping assist, smart cruise control with stop and go, forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, and high-beam headlight assist.
Subcompact Crossover SUV — Hyundai Kona
In a market of cookie-cutter crossovers, the Hyundai Kona features styling that stands out from the crowd. Kona is one of the lowest priced all-wheel-drive vehicles available in America, and it was also the recipient of the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year award in 2019. Offering a roomy interior with plenty of utility, even Kona’s basic trims come well equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a rearview camera and LED headlights.
Minivan — Kia Sedona
Contrary to popular belief, the minivan hasn’t been completely replaced by the SUV, and the Kia Sedona is one of the reasons why. With styling in keeping with the rest of the Kia lineup, Sedona received a refresh last year including a bolder appearance as well as a more refined interior. Sedona is available with the latest advanced safety technologies including forward collision avoidance and blind-spot collision warning. Sedona can also be equipped with a new rear-seat entertainment system that adds 10.1-inch dual touchscreens located on the backs of the front seatbacks. Adding to the available luxury features are second-row “First Class” reclining lounge seats with retractable footrests.