The proliferation of high-level safety and convenience technologies in mainstream cars has helped to close the gap in desirability to premium models to the lowest level in a decade, according to the results of a new study.


The 2015 JD Power US Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study shows the average APEAL score of mainstream models increased five points to 790 this year compared with just a one-point average increase for premium vehicles (up to 841).

JD Power US automotive quality vice president Renee Stephens said the positive impact of adding high-end features to mainstream vehicles was pronounced.

“Over the past several years, we have seen non-premium brands increasingly offer the types of in-vehicle technologies that used to be available only to premium buyers,” Stephens said.

“In fact, owners of non-premium vehicles that include the latest technology register higher APEAL scores by 50 points, compared with just a 29-point increase among owners of premium vehicles with the same technologies.”


The study revealed that advanced safety features had the greatest impact on vehicles’ APEAL scores. For example, the overall score of vehicles with blind-spot monitoring and warning systems was 38 points higher than those without them.

Sixty-nine per cent of owners surveyed who have blind-spot warning systems and 62 per cent with park assist systems said they use them every time they drive.

“Unlike other technologies, such as voice recognition, that can be challenging to operate, most safety features provide information in a more intuitive way, giving owners a greater sense of security.

“Not only are models increasingly offering systems that improve safety and visibility, but owners are also using them on a regular basis. This can go a long way toward generating positive feelings about their vehicle overall.”


The improvement of mainstream models couldn’t stop premium brands filling the overall 2015 APEAL top 10, however.


Mini (825 points) was the highest-ranked mainstream brand, placing ahead of premium brands Volvo and Acura, and easily accounting for second- and third-placed mainstream marques Hyundai and Volkswagen.


GMC, Ram, Buick, Ford and Kia all ranked on or above the industry average (798 points), while those just beneath it included Chevrolet, Mazda, Scion and Dodge.

Smart (683 points) claimed the wooden spoon, a long way adrift of other lowly ranked brands Fiat, Mitsubishi and Jeep.

Japanese brands Subaru, Honda, Nissan and Toyota also ranked in the bottom half of the APEAL study.

Chevrolet, Ford and Porsche each had three winners in the segment breakdown, while Audi, BMW, Dodge, Mazda and Mini had two.


Click the Photos tab for the full 2015 JD Power US APEAL brand rating tally.


2015 JD Power US APEAL Study

Top passenger cars

City car: Fiat 500

Small car: Chevrolet Sonic, Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta

Small premium car: Audi A3, BMW 2 Series, Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

Compact car: Volkswagen Golf, Subaru WRX, Volkswagen Beetle

Compact sporty car: Mini Cooper

Compact premium car: BMW 4 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus RC

Compact premium sporty car: Porsche Cayman, Porsche Boxster

Midsize car: Mazda 6, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima

Midsize sporty car: Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang

Midsize premium car: BMW 6 Series, Audi A7, Infiniti Q70

Midsize premium sporty car: Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911

Large car: Dodge Charger, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, Toyota Avalon

Large Premium car: Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Top SUVs, MPVs, vans and pick-ups

Small SUV: Mini Countryman, Volkswagen Tiguan, Buick Encore

Small premium SUV: Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

Compact SUV: Mazda CX-5, GMC Terrain, Subaru Forester

Compact premium SUV: Porsche Macan, BMW X4, Audi Q5

Compact MPV: Ford C-Max, Kia Soul

Midsize SUV: Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander, Buick Enclave

Midsize premium SUV: Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Audi Q7, BMW X6

Midsize pick-up: Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon

Minivan: Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna

Large SUV: Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon

Large premium SUV: Infiniti QX80, Range Rover, Lincoln Navigator

Large light-duty pick-up: Ford F-150, Ram 1500, GMC Sierra

Large heavy-duty pick-up: GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford Super Duty