A weekly motoring magazine features an annual reader survey which rates the top 150 cars owned by the 50,000+ respondents. 

The cars are rated on reliability, build quality, running costs, performance, road handling, ride quality, ease of driving, seat comfort, practicality and in-car tech. But is this a credible survey and is it of any value?

The first thing to say is that the survey numbers are not very robust. 150 cars covered by 50,000 respondents means that each car had on average 333.3 owners. Even if that was true, a sample of 333.3 when nearly 2 million new cars are sold each year does not seem very representative.

The second thing that concerns me is the scoring. Not the way it was conducted but the results themselves. Last year the overall scores ranged from the 150th placed Vauxhall Antara at 82.88% to the Skoda Yeti in first place at 92.78%. Now a range of just under 10% covering 150 different cars, with the worst at a tad under 83% suggests that there are no bad cars in this survey, just degrees of very good. 

A bit like an assessment in schools in the US of A where everyone gets rewarded for just turning up!  

So we have a small sample and a scoring system that seems to suggest the respondents are justifying their decision to buy a particular car. So far so good.

I can understand that an owner is probably better qualified than a motoring journalist to comment on reliability, build quality and running costs as in most cases a magazine has the use of a test car for just a week and journalists on motoring magazines have the use of a car on long-term test for no more than 12 months. Suspect reliability and build quality doesn’t usually become evident until several months or years into the ownership journey – sorry, experience.

However I cannot accept that an owner is qualified to critique a car’s road handling, ride quality, ease of driving or even seat comfort unless he/she has experienced other comparable cars. Motoring journalists do that week in week out but members of the public do not and a twenty minute test drive on an inner ring road doesn’t count. By the way, what is road handling?

So are these surveys of any value? Probably yes as they can provide another source of data to help with the car buying process. But they are only valid if they focus on reliability, build quality and running costs, anything beyond that probably doesn’t bear close scrutiny. Captain Pugwash

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