happy motorist index

The Happy Motorist Index

Zutobi
by Zutobi · Updated Oct 19, 2021

Which car makes and models score the highest with real drivers?

We’ve all seen the lists and awards from publications such as WhatCar? and TV shows like Top Gear naming the best cars on the market, but what about the people who really matter, those who are driving these cars day in and day out?

Reviews from actual owners are a great way to see just how reliably a car performs in the real world, so we’ve collated owner reviews from three major sites: Parkers, HonestJohn.co.uk and AutoTrader, to see how the UK’s most popular vehicles and brands stack up, and which are the best-rated cars for those who are learning to drive?

The cars with the highest owner ratings

1. BMW 5 Series Saloon

  • Average rating: 4.67/5
  • Parkers average rating: 4.7
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating: 4.8
  • AutoTrader average rating: 4.5

Taking the top spot amongst real-world drivers is the BMW 5 Series Saloon, with an average rating of 4.67 across the three publications.

The 5 Series is BMW’s second-best-selling model and one of the go-to mid-sized executive cars on the market, achieving scores of 4.7 and 4.5 with Parkers and AutoTrader respectively, and 4.8 out of 5 with HonestJohn.

2. Range Rover

  • Average rating: 4.63/5
  • Parkers average rating: 4.9
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating: 4.5
  • AutoTrader average rating: 4.5

The iconic Range Rover takes second place, offering unrivalled luxury for an SUV, matched with 4×4 off-road pedigree.

A mainstay on British roads since 1970, it seems that drivers still love the original Range Rover as much as ever before.

3. Honda Jazz

  • Average rating: 4.5/5
  • Parkers average rating – 4.0
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 4.8
  • AutoTrader average rating – 4.7

In third place, two cars were tied with an average score of 4.5, the first of which is the Honda Jazz.

The supermini receives praise for being an efficient (and therefore cheaper) car to run, with newer models only available with hybrid engines.

3. SEAT Leon

Average rating: 4.5/5
Parkers average rating – 4.5
HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 4.5
AutoTrader average rating – 4.5

The SEAT Leon scored 4.5 out of 5 on all three of the sites we studied, placing it in joint third place.

The Leon is built on the same Volkswagen Group platform as the VW Golf but crucially comes in at a more affordable price than its competitor.

The cars with the lowest owner ratings

1. Citroën C3

  • Average rating: 3.6/5
  • Parkers average rating – 3.5
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 3.1
  • AutoTrader average rating – 4.2

At the other end of the scale, the car with the lowest rating across all three sites was the Citroën C3, with an average rating of 3.6 out of 5, which is still fairly respectable!

The supermini is an efficient enough runaround but according to owners, it seems to lack behind competitors such as the Honda Jazz, Škoda Fabia and Toyota Yaris.

2. Volkswagen Polo

  • Average rating: 3.63/5
  • Parkers average rating – 3.0
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 3.4
  • AutoTrader average rating – 4.5

Another supermini had the second-lowest average rating on our list, the Volkswagen Polo. The Polo has been around since 1975, so is clearly a popular choice amongst drivers, but it would appear that its owners aren’t as keen on it as other cars in this segment.

3. Vauxhall Corsa

  • Average rating: 3.67/5
  • Parkers average rating – 3.6
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 3.2
  • AutoTrader average rating – 4.2

Yet another supermini rounds out the top three worst-rated cars by owners, with the Vauxhall Corsa scoring 3.67 on average.

In the late 90s, the Corsa was the best-selling car in the world and continues to prove popular, although there are many other similar cars available at a cheaper price.

The car brands with the highest owner ratings

1. BMW

  • Average rating: 4.48/5
  • Parkers average rating – 4.53
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 4.3
  • AutoTrader average rating – 4.47

Looking at each of the 50 most popular vehicles in the UK, the brand which received the highest owner rating on average is BMW, with an average score of 4.47.

BMW are known for their luxurious sporty saloons but have all kinds of great vehicles to check out including SUVs, MPVs, and convertibles, with fully electric models too.

2. Hyundai

  • Average rating: 4.4/5
  • Parkers average rating – 4.1
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 4.5
  • AutoTrader average rating – 4.6

In second place with an average score of 4.4 is Hyundai, although just one Hyundai vehicle made the top 50 most common cars, the i10.

Hyundai’s presence has grown in the last couple of decades and the brand is now a real rival to the big boys of Ford, VW and co. and drivers benefit from an impressive five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.

3. Honda

  • Average rating: 4.37/5
  • Parkers average rating – 4.23
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 4.2
  • AutoTrader average rating – 4.67

3. Škoda

  • Average rating: 4.37/5
  • Parkers average rating – 4.3
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 4.3
  • AutoTrader average rating – 4.5

Two brands were tied in third place, both with average scores of 4.37 out of 5, Honda and Škoda. Honda’s best-reviewed model is the Jazz, one of the best superminis available, while Škoda’s standout model is the competing Fabia hatchback.

The car classes with the highest owner ratings

1. Executive car

  • Average rating: 4.28/5
  • Parkers average rating – 4.2
  • HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 4.3
  • AutoTrader average rating – 4.35

Executive cars sit at the top end of the price scale, so you would expect them to rate highly with drivers, and according to owners’ reviews, they are!

These cars are comfortable and luxurious, with the BMW 5 Series being the highest-rated example in the country’s top 50 favourite cars, with an average owner rating of 4.67 out of 5.

2. City car

Average rating: 4.25/5
Parkers average rating – 4.06
HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 4.14
AutoTrader average rating – 4.56

The type of car that achieved the second-highest average rating with drivers was the city car, with a score of 4.25 out of 5.

These small and practical cars are easy to drive, making them popular with those learning to drive and some of the highest-rated city cars include the Hyundai i10 (4.4), Fiat 500 (4.3) and Kia Picanto (4.23).

3. Small family car

Average rating: 4.24/5
Parkers average rating – 4.13
HonestJohn.co.uk average rating – 4.12
AutoTrader average rating – 4.46

Small family cars are another common choice for those buying their first car, offering a stylish and well-equipped car but with performance options for all kinds of drivers.

The likes of the SEAT Leon (4.50), BMW 1 Series (4.4), Honda Civic and Renault Mégane (both 4.37) all scored highly here.

Methodology

We looked at the top 50 most commonly registered car models in the UK as of Q4 2020 according to the Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s licensed vehicles data.

For each vehicle, we sourced the average owner rating out of five according to three sites: Parkers, HonestJohn.co.uk, and AutoTrader.

If there were multiple variations of the same model, we took the type with the highest number of reviews.

For some models, especially newer ones, there were only a very small number of reviews, so for vehicles with fewer than ten reviews for the most recent model, we looked at reviews for the previous model.

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