America's Best-Loved Cars

Peter Valdes-Dapena

MORE AT CNNMONEY.COM

One of the benefits of a competitive market is that things should keep getting better. Well, it seems to be working for cars. According to J.D. Power and Associates' latest APEAL survey which stands for Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout new cars are more satisfying than ever.

The survey essentially boils down how much owners of new cars like the cars they bought. Every new model is scored on a 1,000 point scale and this year's average score of 781 is higher than any time since the survey was first done in 1996.

Here are the cars that ranked the highest in 13 different categories.


SUBCOMPACTS:

1st place: Ford Fiesta
2nd place: Mazda2
3rd place: Honda Fit

The new Ford Fiesta subcompact ranked highest in its category. The Mazda2 and Fit had the second- and third-highest scores. Differences in scores may not always be statistically significant, J.D. Power said.

COMPACTS:

1st place: Chevrolet Volt
2nd place: Volkswagen Golf
3rd place: Mitsubishi Lancer

It may not sell in huge numbers, but General Motors' plug-in Chevrolet Volt topped all compact cars, hybrid, electric or whatever, in owner appeal.















MIDSIZE:

1st place: Suzuki Kizashi
2nd place: Hyundai Sonata
3rd place: Kia Optima

The Kizashi is available with all-wheel-drive, something you won't find on most sedans its size and price.

LARGE:

1st place: Dodge Charger
2nd place: Ford Taurus
3rd place: Nissan Maxima

The Charger was completely redesigned for the 2011 model year. It's still available with 5.7-liter V-8 or a new V6 engine.


COMPACT SPORTY:


1st place: Volkswagen GTI
2nd place: Mini Cooper

The GTI is a sport-tuned version of the popular Golf hatchback. These two cars were the only ones to score above average in this category.

MIDSIZE SPORTY:

1st place: Dodge Challenger
2nd place: Chevrolet Camaro

Chrysler Group's Dodge brand tied BMW for the highest number category-winning models. Each had three. The Challenger and Camaro were the only two models to earn an above-average score in this category.


ENTRY PREMIUM:

1st place: Lexus IS
2nd place: BMW 3-series / Volkswagen CC

The 3-series and CC a highly styled VW sedan tied for second place behind Lexus's popular IS model.


MIDSIZE PREMIUM:


1st place: BMW 5-series

The 5-series was the only car to earn an above-average score in this category.





LARGE PREMIUM:






1st place: Hyundai Equus
2nd place: BMW 7-series
3rd place: Audi A8

The Equus is the costliest Hyundai model you can buy, with prices starting at nearly $60,000, but it boasts features typically found on far more expensive cars.

MIDSIZE SUV/CROSSOVER:

1st place: Dodge Durango
2nd place: Ford Flex
3rd place: Ford Explorer

The newly redesigned Durango shares most of its engineering with the new Jeep Grand Cherokee but the Durango is available with a third-row seat and has sportier driving dynamics.

LARGE SUV/CROSSOVER:


1st place: Nissan Armada
2nd place: Chevrolet Tahoe
3rd place: Ford Expedition

All three top-ranked vehicles in this category are SUVs with classic truck-based engineering, not car-based crossovers.

LARGE PICKUP:

1st place: Ford F-150
2nd place: Chevrolet Avalanche
3rd place: Ford F-250/350

Ford's F-series trucks are the best-selling vehicles in America and have been for decades.


MINIVAN:


1st place: Honda Odyssey

The Honda Odyssey was the only minivan to score above average.