If Americans are to be believed, which usually they’re not, they’ll tell you that compact cars are somewhere between the Ebola virus and a Communist plot to ensure that we do in fact keep up with the Joneses, or the Kardashians. But in this groundbreaking study by JD Power and Associates, it turns out that we’re slowly coming around on compact cars—and like automotive Stockholm Syndrome, we’re even starting to like them.
Turns out, the compact cars buyers feel forced to trudge into dealerships for with the same enthusiasm as being sent to the salt mines, “are often just as appealing as the larger vehicles they previously owned,” according to the study. Because of such concerns as gas prices, 27 percent of new car buyers cited in JD Power’s APEAL (Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout) study bought a smaller car—60 percent stayed in the same segment, and 13 percent were bold enough to finally seize that Chevy Suburban they’ve always wanted but could never get good credit.
APEAL measures how satisfied consumers are with the cars they’re buying, in a point value on a 1,000-point scale. This year, the score increased across the board: compact and subcompact vehicles saw a value of 765 points, which was the same number that midsize cars saw 4 years ago. And midsize car scores went up to 844 points, or where large cars were back in 2008 as well.
For these 27 percent, they’ve realized that automakers are imbuing their small cars with a level of unprecedented goodness. Big cars are still king in the Land Of The 5-Lane Freeway, as “they typically provide higher performance, have more pleasing styling, are more comfortable and include more features,” said David Sargent, the vice president of JD Power. But small cars have “many of the features and appointments that were previously found only on larger models,” they’re more comfortable and stable, and get better gas mileage. Said Sargent, “vehicle owners who downsize are often finding that they are actually upgrading when they buy a new vehicle.”
The report cited the Chevrolet Sonic, Fiat 500, and Ford Fiesta as stellar examples in the subcompact class. For those owners, this study will presumably be followed by one that claims the color level of the atmosphere and the inherent goodness in breathing through lungs. But for the subset of citizens who can’t get over the idea of anything smaller than a Ram Long Hauler, JD Power’s authoritative, reassuring voice will tell you that no, there’s no shame in driving a Chevy Sonic. It’s OK. It’s a brave new world we live in, and even the Joneses are doing it.