Why Skoda is the consumer champion

Skoda_2196711c Nearly 29,000 motorists have declared that Skoda’s Yeti, Superb and Octavia are the first, second and fourth best mainstream cars on sale in Britain, a result announced last week. This week, the Czech firm has been named by the same consumers as the best volume vehicle manufacturer.

According to readers of Auto Express, whose annual Driver Power survey allows real-world motorists to rate manufacturers and the cars they produce, the next best maker of new cars is Jaguar, with Lexus in third place. Also rated highly were Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes, Porsche and Volvo, in that order.

These are the makers that are going to the greatest lengths to keep customers happy, according to the survey – Britain’s most revealing consumer-based study that accurately reflects the views of car owners.

“We combined the ratings that 29,000 readers gave the manufacturers’ cars with the scores they awarded for the level of service received to get an overall ranking,” explained the magazine.

It’s a fact that in order to claim the title of undisputed champion, Skoda had to beat countless rivals that are supposed to possess considerably more experience, cachet and sheer talent. Another, almost as remarkable, truth is that Toyota jumped 11 places in the last 12 months to claim fifth place overall. On paper at least, no other company has made such an improvement so quickly.

The second tier of the most satisfying cars by manufacturer is led by Subaru, just ahead of Kia, followed by Vauxhall, BMW, Audi, Saab, Mazda, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi and Land Rover. Vauxhall provides the big shock here because it’s now a candidate for promotion to the top tier after being perilously close to the bottom of the third tier this time last year. It’s a sobering thought that if the Luton-based firm continues to improve at the same rate it will be well placed to steal Skoda’s crown in a year.

I’m surprised and disappointed that Mini is languishing in the third tier, albeit at the top of the table, followed closely by Citroën then Alfa Romeo. Seat has plummeted 10 places, a record drop for a company in 2012 versus 2011.

But at least Seat sits in the top half of this lowest division, above the likes of Ford, Suzuki and Renault.

“Ford’s huge network of 700-plus UK dealers was rated as below par. This should be a wake-up call for the company,” warns Auto Express. The magazine acknowledges that there are “signs of improvement from Suzuki”, which is offering “impressive service provided by its dealer network”.

As for Renault: “Its cars picked up the worst score of any manufacturer in the build quality and reliability, technology and ease of driving categories,” according to the magazine.

Peugeot drivers are clearly disappointed by their models’ build quality and reliability, braking, handling, practicality and more. No wonder the French firm has been trodden into 28th place out of 30. Only slightly better is Smart, which has problems in several areas including quality and technology.

Rooted to the bottom is Fiat. It scored the fewest marks overall in the performance, handling and comfort categories, and came second last for reliability and build quality.

“But what really confirmed Fiat’s position at the bottom was its dealer service – owners who took part in our survey rated this as poor across the board,” Auto Express concluded.

* Renault has stuck to its promise of putting the two-seater Twizy electric “car” in showrooms by last weekend. It’s one of the cheapest new cars – although technically it’s a quadricycle – at £6,690, plus £45 a month battery hire.

“A lower-powered (5hp, 28mph) and cheaper Twizy 45 could come to the UK in January 2013, for drivers aged 16 and over, without the need for full driving licence,” Renault advises.

Parents who fear their offspring riding motorised two-wheelers might consider the prospect of a low-powered, semi-enclosed, four-wheeled Twizy for kids aged 16 and up a safer alternative – and possibly a cheaper long-term option than public transport.

* The best – perhaps only – way to discover what you should be paying for a new Ford is to look at what its dealers are doing rather than reading the optimistic official price list the manufacturer is publishing.

With this in mind, pay no more than about £7,725 for a Ka Studio that’s listed at £8,725, and pay less than £9,000 for a Fiesta Studio which is, officially, nearer £10,000. Don’t touch the £16,200 Focus Edge unless you can get a couple of grand off. And a realistic price for an S-Max Zetec 1.6 TDCi is a shade over £19,000, not the RRP of £23,400.

Even if the condition is that a Ford loan must be taken out to qualify for the Focus and S-Max at those slashed prices, such a finance deal could be good – as long as the interest rate is below 5 per cent APR. Inquire about free fuel for six months, too.

* Volvo is the latest in a long line of firms to tempt potential customers with the promise of lower fuel bills, thanks to the 78mpg capability of its new V40 hatchback (on the official EU Combined consumption cycle), production of which begins next month.

Then it spoils it by slapping a £19,745 starting price on its new car, before you even look at the options list. Paying this sort of money in order to reduce the annual fuel bill by a few hundred pounds a year is a false economy.

The Telegraph