Car Reviews & Ratings

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In this great brown land of ours, driving a car is pretty much a way of life. Compare car makers to which are rated highest by Aussie motorists.

* Overall satisfaction is an individual rating and not a combined total of all ratings. Brands with equal overall satisfaction ratings are listed in alphabetical order.
Canstar Blue research finalised in October 2016, published in December 2016.

See our Ratings Methodology.

2017 award for cars

Most Satisfied Customers | BMW, Mazda

For the second year in a row, BMW has been rated five stars by Aussie motorists. This time, however, it’s joined at the top of the standings by Mazda.

BMW and Mazda rated five stars for new car satisfaction

Buying a new car is about more than just picking something that gets you from A to B. Cars are also there to be enjoyed – after all, many of us spend more than two hours a day in one! Plus, purchasing a new car is a big investment – second only to buying a home for most people – so it pays to buy wisely. This means it’s not just about buying the cheapest car out there, but rather the one that’s best for your specific tastes and needs.

However, when you find the perfect model, be sure to drive a hard bargain with the dealer. They often have a bad reputation, but the truth is that buying a new car can be fun, and our research suggests Aussies are securing some great deals.

Our survey of motorists who have bought a new car from a dealership in the last three years found that almost nine out of ten (88%) were left satisfied that they got a good deal. In addition, the majority who asked for a discount on the list price were successful in getting money off. In fact, six out of ten (60%) of those who asked got exactly what they asked for, so make sure you’re prepared to haggle over price.

So, which car brands are worthy of your attention? Our latest survey of more than 2,500 motorists has seen BMW retain its place at the top of the ratings table, recording five-star reviews with regards to service and overall customer satisfaction. However, this year BMW has been joined by Mazda, which earned top marks for reliability, in addition to overall satisfaction. Other car makers also impressed, most notably Hyundai in terms of value for money, while Audi was deemed to provide the most enjoyable driving experience.

You may also be interested in our specific ratings for:

What is the best time to buy a new car?

Like with any large purchase, there are a few times of the year that are better than others to purchase a car. One of the biggest and best times is the end of financial year, when dealers are desperate to run out their stock. Then again, a lot of people think the same thing, so the likelihood that the dealer is struggling to sell cars at this time is slim. It could work out best to go for more low-key periods instead, such as the end of the calendar year when new car models are just weeks away from becoming a year older, meaning dealers are keen to make way for next year’s new motors.

Another thing to be aware of is that dealers often have to sell a number of cars to meet their financial targets. Sales figures are often reviewed at the end of the month or quarter, so it could pay to pay a visit to your dealership around then and find a dealer that’s motivated to sell.

The real cost of buying a new car

So, you’ve nailed down the new car you want and you’ve got the funds. Except, there are a lot more costs associated with buying a car than just the sticker price. When you buy a car, be it brand new or otherwise, you will also have to pay for the associated on-road costs that come with it. It will pay in the long run to have a think about ongoing costs beforehand because that $30,000 car isn’t exactly going to cost you $30,000! You’ll have to consider things like:

  • Stamp duty

This is the percentage of the purchase price of any new or used vehicle that must be paid to the relevant state or territory government. Stamp duty is determined by where you live and it can vary significantly. Read through the information provided on your local government’s website for more details.

However, many dealers include this cost in the sticker price – so look for terms like ‘drive away’ or ‘no more to pay’.

  • Compulsory Third Party Insurance

Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Insurance is required by law to cover people who may be injured through the fault of the driver of your vehicle. It’s an offence to drive your car or leave it parked on a road without insurance, and will result in penalties of up to $10,000. CTP varies from state to state, but often it is built in to the overall cost of your registration, detailed below.

  • New car costs

If you’re buying a brand new car, you may also be required to pay for things like number plates, registration and delivery charges – unless you have been quoted a total ‘drive away’ price. Often, dealerships – especially high-end ones – will include things like one year’s registration and other perks to ease the burden of your first year on-road. It pays to look into this, so ask as many questions as you can think of about any additional costs before agreeing to buy.

  • Ongoing costs

It’s a good idea to think about the ongoing costs of buying a particular type of vehicle. This could include factors such as fuel-efficiency, the cost of car servicing, and how much new tyres will be. Many people nowadays look at fuel efficiency as the biggest ongoing cost. While it is annoying having to fill up and see your money go to some black liquid, assessing other costs such as servicing and tyres will give a much better picture as to the overall ongoing costs of the car. For example, it’s no use picking a fuel-efficient car, only to have it cost double at servicing intervals and have huge wheels that require expensive, performance tyres! If your aim is saving a few bucks, there’s more to a car than fuel efficiency.

Now that we’ve covered the costs involved with buying a new car, let’s go back to the fun stuff and take a closer look at the brands in this year’s ratings:

BMW

One of the biggest automotive companies in Germany, and indeed the world, BMW has enjoyed a great 2016. Not only has BMW released its M2 and M4 models recently, but it’s also invested heavily in the electric and hybrid vehicle markets. Its leading model in the EV/hybrid world is the i3, which has been improved in 2016. It features an electric engine with a range of 340km, which is great for such a small car, and its petrol engine uses 0.6L per 100km. BMW is definitely one of the more exciting manufacturers around, and our customer satisfaction ratings prove that customers are indeed keen to jump into a BMW.

Mazda

Mazda has been the front-running Japanese marque for quite some time now. It has enjoyed immense success with its 3 and 6 series cars, as well as its popular SUV range – CX3 and so on. The CX5 is one of the most popular ‘soft roader’ SUVs in the market and in 2016, it received a facelift to further cement its strong identity on our roads. Aussies seem to love the ‘do-anything’ attitude of soft roaders, and Mazda certainly provides the goods with its CX range.

Audi

Audi enjoyed immense popularity in 2016, with its reputation for being one of the more reliable and ‘value for money’ European marques out there. From its entry-level A4 and A5 model cars, all the way up to its super-exotic R8, Audi enjoys popularity across a wide cross-section of markets. Its SUV range is also immensely popular, with the Q3 and Q5 models boasting impressive torque and fuel economy figures. As the only brand to receive a five-star rating in terms of driving experience, if it’s sheer on-road enjoyment you want, then Audi looks like a good bet.

Honda

The old ‘Red V’ has been a staple for reliability over the past 20 years on Aussie roads, and earned four stars in every category in our ratings – a solid performer. While the brand somewhat dipped off the radar in recent years, in 2016 it came back with a few exciting offerings. The year featured a facelifted Jazz – an ever-popular option for the small hatchback segment. And of course, there are the tried and true Civic and Accord models which seem to offer great sedan value for most families’ needs. With Honda, you know what you’re getting – reliable and proven motoring.

Hyundai

The Korean car giant has exploded in popularity in recent years. Hyundai offers a range of value-oriented cars to suit a lot of Aussie motorists. It was the only brand to achieve five stars on value for money, so you know your money is going further with Hyundai. From the i20 and i30 hatchbacks, to the fantastic soft roader ix35, Hyundai has proven it has done its studies on Australian motoring trends. It also released the Genesis luxury model, which in 2016 has challenged the traditional custodians of the 6-cylinder, luxury car world. Hyundai has transformed its image, and in 2016 it proved to be a sure bet.

Mercedes-Benz

The other German luxury marque, Mercedes-Benz has also had a pretty successful 2016, earning four stars in most categories. Benz is no longer seen as the ‘out of touch’ or ‘too expensive’ manufacturer. It has a range of cars to suit a range of budgets, from its small hatchbacks at around $45,000, all the way up to its fully-loaded luxury SUVs for well over $150,000. Mercedes has a range sure to interest many different motorists, but it’s most exciting model is arguably the C Class, which now boasts a hybrid option – the C350 E. It uses a combined 2.4 litres of fuel per 100km, achieved in part by its hybrid motor. Hybrid technology is coming a long way in aiding fuel economy without sacrificing power, and Mercedes is ahead of the curve here.

Mitsubishi

The ‘ol’ faithful’ Japanese manufacturer has had an interesting 2016. Following its announcement to stop making its lauded Evolution model, Mitsubishi’s range is now rather more concise, but still seems to offer good value and reliability. From its ultra-budget Mirage hatchback, to the everlasting Lancer series, Mitsubishi has you covered in the city streets. The Lancer is at the end of its model cycle, so chances are you can grab a bargain. Mitsubishi also has you covered off-road, with its Outlander, Triton and Pajero models. Mitsubishi has traditionally enjoyed a reputation for simple, effective motoring, and 2016 is no different. To stay modern, Mitsubishi has also released the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV with the Outlander PHEV. Mitsubishi is treading the line between ‘tried and true’ and forward-thinking motoring.

Nissan

Nissan has bounced back in recent years with its facelifts of popular models. In 2016, Nissan’s line-up is fronted by the Patrol SUV, Micra hatchback, Pathfinder soft roader and Pulsar small family sedan. For the worksite, Nissan also has you covered with the Navara Ute. The brand earned four stars in every category this year, making it a solid contender. It follows the other Japanese makes by offering something for everyone.

Renault

As the only French make in the ratings, Renault has a range of quirky and interesting cars to satisfy the everyday needs of Aussies with an artistic twist. The most popular models in 2016 are the Koleos soft roader, Megane hot hatches and Clio small hatchback. With other names in the line-up such as ‘Fluence’, ‘Laguna’, ‘Kangoo’ and ‘Scenic’, Renault is decidedly French. It offers something for everyone but with quirky names, designs and features that make you go ‘Classic Renault!’ Renault was one of a handful to earn five stars in reliability so if you’re looking for something a bit left-field while maintaining reliable motoring, Renault may be a good bet.

Suzuki

Suzuki’s slogan is ‘Way of life’ and indeed, Suzuki is a way of life for many Australians, or at least a way of transportation. Its models are situated towards the budget end of the spectrum, and in 2016, Suzuki saw a continuation of its popular Swift hatchback models, as well as the Vitara soft roader. Also in the Suzuki line-up is the tiny 3-cylinder, 1.0L Celerio, providing cheap and cheerful motoring. This year also saw the re-introduction of the Baleno budget sedan model with a 1.4L petrol engine. Suzuki earned five stars for reliability, so if you’re after budget motoring that could stay on the road for longer, Suzuki could fit the bill.

Toyota

Toyota is perhaps the marque by which all others are measured. After all, it’s the largest automotive manufacturer in the world. We all have a good idea about what Toyota offers and chances are, we’ve owned or driven one at some point in our lives. You’ve probably heard the story of your neighbour Bill who owned a Corolla for 30 years and only did three oil chances, and all those folklore-type stories. Toyota is known for making cars that just ‘go and go’, however our 2016 ratings had Toyota placed decidedly in the middle of the pack with four stars for reliability. However, it did achieve five stars for both point of sales and after-sales service, which shouldn’t be underestimated.

Volkswagen

It’s safe to say Volkswagen experienced a rocky year in 2016 with its diesel emissions scandal shocking the motoring world. However, while VW effectively deceived customers with its emissions testing, its cars are still reasonably popular in Australia. Indeed, Volkswagen was the highest-rated German manufacturer for both reliability and value for money, meaning your dollar likely goes further with one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Its range features the ever-popular Passat family sedan, the Touareg luxury SUV, the worksite-dependable Amarok Ute, and the lauded Golf and Polo hatchbacks. While the other German marques are decidedly less ‘everyday’, Volkswagen treads the lines of luxury, accessibility and utility very well.

Ford

2016 was a bit of a sombre year for Ford – the Australian branch anyway. It saw the last Falcon rolled out of the production line, and Ford will cease manufacturing in Australia thereafter. It will likely still exist in an engineering, design and consulting capacity, but its plants will be closed down. Ford has been an immensely popular brand in Australia over the last 60-odd years and the Falcon is seen as one of the icons of Australiana. Ford is pretty solid value across the range, from its Falcon family sedan, Territory SUVs, to the Focus and Fiesta warm and ‘hot’ hatches. Ford earned four stars for its driving experience, which makes it a solid contender for pure on-road experience.

Holden

Ford’s Aussie stable mate Holden sat right alongside it in the ratings. Holden experienced a relatively quiet 2016 compared to most other makes. Its flagship Commodore continued success with its VFII series, and the Cruze and Malibu models pottered along in the smaller sedan segment. The Colorado also continued to be a popular worksite Ute. The most notable movements in 2016 were the power increases in its Commodore/Caprice/Calais V8 ranges, along with the HSV arm of Holden. The Caprice model also axed its LPG V6 engine. For enthusiasts, Holden had an exciting year, and for everyday drivers, Holden was ‘business as usual’ in 2016.

Jeep

As one of the most pervasive brands of Americana, Jeep has soared in popularity in Australia in recent years and 2016 was no different. Its focus on rugged, outdoor SUVs makes it a popular choice for the active family and the general shift towards SUVs as a whole. Jeep earned three stars across the board – including reliability – except for driving experience where it earned four stars. Its range starts with the budget oriented Compass Sport soft roader models, to the Grand Cherokee SUVs, all the way up to the iconic Wrangler models that have barely changed in design in its rich 70+ year history. Jeep is a popular choice for the off-road enthusiast and indeed for the everyday soccer mum.

Kia

Kia – like its Korean cousin Hyundai – has totally transformed and 2016 was perhaps its most noteworthy year in a long time. Although it only achieved three stars for overall satisfaction, Kia had a couple of exciting announcements in 2016. The small family sedan, the Cerato, received a facelift this year, and the Optima has also enjoyed rave reviews for its budget performance and luxury characteristics. The Optima somewhat transformed Kia from a ‘cheap and cheerful’ brand into one to be taken seriously, challenging the stalwarts of the luxury/performance sedan market.

Subaru

As the last place Japanese marque, Subaru – the brand with the six stars – still offers noteworthy models with solid reliability and driving experience. While Subaru in recent years has moved to be a more ‘family friendly’ brand, it still makes the exciting and iconic WRX and is always increasing its performance characteristics. Most noteworthy, however, was the introduction of the Levorg performance wagon. It’ll get you to that campsite or soccer practice really quick, while still being appropriate enough to drive to the in-laws’ place on a long weekend. 2016 also saw the soft roader SUV, the Forester, receive a facelift. Subaru had a few low-key happenings in 2016, and its range treads the line of performance, utility and family-friendliness pretty well.

Buying a car is no mean-feat. Besides the sticker price, you have to consider its running costs and you’ll have to wade through the art of negotiating at the dealership. However, before this, you’ll of course have to find out which car you like and want! Our customer ratings are a good starting point in your new car hunt.

Frequently asked questions

Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 9,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have bought a new car from a dealership in the last three years – in this case, 2,534 people.

Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.

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