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7 May 2024

Pump the brakes: Consumer reveals the best and worst cars rated by New Zealanders

We surveyed over 8,000 New Zealanders to find out which cars have the most satisfied owners. Of the 72 different models reported on, we found 11 well-known brands to swerve.

“While our People’s Choice winners like Honda, Tesla and BYD stood out for the right reasons, our survey of New Zealand's best and worst cars found others like Hyundai and Mitsubishi stood out for the wrong ones,” says James le Page, product test manager at Consumer.

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Car brands that scored poorly for reliability and owner satisfaction included Ford, Volkswagen, Holden, Chrysler Jeep, Ssangyong, Mitsubishi and Mercedes-Benz.

“Obviously, satisfaction is dependent on the owner’s needs and expectations. One person might be interested in a comfy ride and a good stereo. Another may value driving performance above all else.”

But le Page says factors that have financial impacts, such as fuel efficiency and perceived reliability, often influence someone’s choice to buy a car.

“Let's not forget, for many people a car is a really big investment and long-term financial commitment."

The car models to steer clear of

The Mazda6 received one of the lowest scores for satisfaction and reliability in our survey.

“Only 30% of respondents reported that their Mazda6 was fault-free. Mazda6 owners also rated their car poorly for comfort, fuel economy and driving performance,” says le Page.

Hyundai Sante Fe owners were also among the least satisfied with their ownership experience, with survey respondents telling us the Hyundai Sante Fe is an SUV to avoid.

“Owners felt their vehicle provided poor value for money, due to the costs required to maintain and repair it.”

“Mitsubishi Outlander owners found their cars’ fuel economy and driving performance was poorer than expected, leaving them feeling dissatisfied.”

Positively charged about EVs

We found that among those who currently drive a petrol or diesel car, only 13% say they’d be likely to buy an EV in the future.

However, compared to owners of petrol, diesel and PHEV models, owners of EV and hybrid cars were the most satisfied overall.

“Non-EV owners are generally reluctant to embrace an EV, but once they do, it’s hard to go back to driving a petrol or diesel car again,” says le Page.

Le Page points to the price and “range anxiety” as the main barriers to drivers committing to purchasing a fully electric vehicle as their next whip.

“While the price and lack of range are the obvious barriers, environmental factors, such as how we recycle or dispose of EV batteries, have crept higher up the list of concerns.

Plugging in to what’s important to you

Owners of the Nissan Leaf don’t rate its battery life or real-world range, yet they're among the most satisfied of all drivers.

"Clearly, the overall ownership experience makes up for the Nissan Leaf’s shortcomings, and it highlights the importance of seemingly superficial attributes - like a spacious boot, or comfortable seats,” says le Page.

"Buying a car is a big financial decision that you don’t want to regret. On top of the initial cost, cars cost money to maintain in the long term, too.

“We think people should be armed with as much information as possible, so they buy a car that meets their needs, as well as their short and long-term budgets.

We've reviewed 72 cars on practicality, safety and performance. It compared 20 brands and scored them for predicted reliability and overall satisfaction.

“Our car buying guide is full of tips and advice for people in the market for their next car, whether it’s second-hand or new,” says le Page.

“Members or those who purchase a 7-day digital pass can access our complete survey and test results for the most comprehensive car comparison and information.”

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