The Kia Amanti was the highest ranked mid-size car in a customer satisfaction survey released Wednesday by J.D. Power and Associates, marking the first time an entry from Korean automaker Kia Motor Co. made it to the top of the list.
Porsche, Land Rover, Lexus, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti were the highest ranked nameplates in the study, which measures owners' delight at the design, content, layout and performance of their new vehicles. All six brands received more than 900 points based on a 1,000-point scale.
Hyundai, Jeep, Subaru, Suzuki and Saturn were ranked lowest.
Consumers continue to care most about what their vehicle looks like on the outside, the study found. But the importance of the interior's details — such as seats and comfort — have gained ground over the last five years.
This year's study included more brand new or totally redesigned models — 50, up from 43 in the 2004 survey.
Automakers are finding it increasingly difficult to make their new models stand out from the pack as more and more designs hit the market, said Chance Parker, executive director of product and research analysis at J.D. Power and Associates.
Car buyers are becoming more attracted to vehicles with amenities such as innovative storage space, he said.
The study also found that models with high ratings from buyers generally stay on dealers' lots for less time before being sold. For example, the Honda Ridgeline, which took top honors in the compact pickup category, has stayed on dealers' lots an average of 24 days, compared to an average of 77 days for all vehicles in the category.
The study was based on responses J.D. Power received from more than 115,000 new-vehicle owners who were surveyed during the first 90 days of ownership.