Sedans the size of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, and Subaru Impreza still sell in huge numbers in America. The Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, in particular, are among the top ten vehicles sold in the country.
We have tested every model on this list over the past few years and one thing we can say with surety is there is not a bad one in the bunch. A few stole our hearts. But do they steal the hearts of owners who report their opinions to Consumer Reports in owner surveys? Consumer Reports is a nonprofit, consumer-advocacy publication that is offered in print or via subscription. We dug deep to see which of these popular vehicles owners love most, which least, and which fill the middle ground. Here's what owners think of these sedans. Because brand new cars are not yet included in owner satisfaction reports, and because it takes time to form an opinion on vehicles, we looked at data for model years 2013 through 2018.
Sedan Owners Love Least - Nissan Sentra
We didn't have to look hard to determine which of these popular sedans owners report loving least. The Nissan Sentra is rated 1/5, the lowest possible score, for every year from 2013 through 2018. Consumer Reports offered no positive owner comments. This one was offered, "I have owned 7 Nissan's and this 2015 Nissan Sentra has many problems that even under warranty the dealership would not fix the problems. The transmission slips, the engine loses power, the car has many electrical issues, lights not working, radio stops playing, so many problems to list. The dealership would not fix under warranty."
Tie: Sedan Owners Dislike Least - Toyota Corolla & Mazda3
We planned to call the top-scoring small sedan the one owners love most, but is a 3/5 owner satisfaction score a report about love? To its credit, the Corolla and Mazda3 do have the highest owner satisfaction scores. 3/5 every year from 2013 to 2018. Notably, the Corolla has a perfect 5/5 in reliability score all of those years. Owners do report good fuel economy, roominess, and features for the money. However the Honda's CVT automatic transmission (common in this segment) is not very popular and handling is not exactly in the Porsche realm. Mazda does not use any CVTs and both of these models are available with a manual transmission.
Honda Civic - Top Seller Earns Ho-hum Owner Ratings
The Civic is called by Honda the top-selling car in this segment. Maybe, but owners are not exactly raving about it in Consumer Reports surveys. It earns a combination of 2/5 and 3/5 owner satisfaction scores from 2013 through 2018. Unlike the Corolla, reliability is not perfect.
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Subaru Impreza Ratings
If there was a surprise in our research it was the scores owners give to their Impreza. One for five in two years, 2/5 in three years and 3/5 in 2018. There are some questionable reliability scores on Impreza's report including a 1/5 year in 2013. We honestly thought it would do better.
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Hyundai Elantra - Choose Wisely
The Elantra gets a score from owners on satisfaction of 3/5 in years in years '17 and '18, but prior to that, it was a long run of 1/5 scores.
The Opinion of the Writer
This research surprised me. When we test cars like the Civic, Corolla, Mazda3, and Elantra, we always come away with smiles. The Mazda3 punches way above its weight class in terms of driving enjoyment. The all-wheel drive Impreza impressed us in a test during winter conditions. The recent Elantra we tested stole our hearts. Perhaps a week with a new vehicle is not enough to really form an owner's opinion.
You can pick up a hard copy of Consumer Reports annual autos survey issue at newsstands (do they still actually exist?) Or you can subscribe by starting at Consumer Reports' landing page. If you'd like to research a different model in this segment it takes just a few moments.
In addition to covering green vehicle topics, John Goreham covers safety, technology, and new vehicle news at Torque News. You can follow John on Twitter at @johngoreham.