Americans are often said to have a love affair with cars, but sometimes it can be more like a love-hate relationship.
Car-buyer satisfaction is on the rebound after a dip last year, when consumers were hit with a record number of recalls and rising prices, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, an independent benchmark of consumer experiences of products and services sold in the U.S. Still, while satisfaction is up overall, a few automakers suffered from lower customer ratings in the ACSI's 2016 report.
Domestic cars are catching up with foreign-made vehicles, while mass-market cars -- the affordable and midprice cars that are produced by the likes of GM (GM) and Honda (HMC) -- are catching up with luxury cars. Consumers may be more impressed these days with midprice cars because of technological innovations that are adding to their appeal, such as built-in Wi-Fi, apps that allow you to unlock cars from mobile phones and safety gear like blind-spot alerts.
"Consumers are choosing technology over what we think of as traditional luxury, like the stick shift covered in leather," said David VanAmburg, the director of the ACSI. "The anticrash features, the GPS-type systems and higher technology systems that are available in mass-market vehicles are what is really appealing, rather than the interior materials."
Luxury cars have also differentiated themselves from mass-market models through their enhanced handling and performance, but many mass-market cars are now built on the same chassis as luxury models, VanAmburg noted.
Of course, prestige remains an important element in why some consumers choose to purchase a luxury car over a mass-market vehicle.
Read on to learn about the 5 highest and lowest scoring cars, according to the latest ACSI survey.
Top: 5, GMC
This General Motors brand, known for its roomy SUVs and trucks, climbed up in the rankings in 2016. Owners of GMC vehicles, such as the Acadia crossover SUV, pushed the brand to a score of 84 from 78 a year ago.
The GMC Yukon Denali was recently reviewed by Autoweek as "the king of the road trip," with the publication praising its "refined exterior design" and comfortable ride.
Top: 4, Toyota
The Japanese automaker has won over Americans with its Prius hybrid and its reputation for quality midprice cars. Nevertheless, Toyota (TM) has taken a bit of a hit with a number of recalls since 2009, including one involving a sticking accelerator pedal. The company has focused on quality and safety reforms to win back consumer confidence.
That may be paying off. Drivers gave Toyota a score of 85, up from 82 a year earlier, according to the ACSI.
The newest Prius earned praise from The New York Times for its design, which it described as making "the leap from cyborg armadillo to bionic koi."
Top: 3, BMW
The German luxury brand is riding high with consumers, who gave the automaker a score of 85 this year, up from 82 a year earlier, according to the ACSI.
Some of its newer models are turning heads. IBTimes UK said the BMW M2 may be its "favorite car of 2016 so far." The review praised its handling and "muscular body."
Top: 2, Honda
Honda receives the second-highest satisfaction rating for 2016, earning a score of 86 compared with 80 a year earlier.
The Japanese automaker's CEO has said he wants to prioritize developing innovative technology and products, rather than trying to meet aggressive sales targets. Its redesigned Ridgeline pickup truck has earned positive reviews. The Wall Street Journal said Honda is listening to customers and providing the details that they want.
Top: 1, Lincoln
America's No. 1 car for customer satisfaction is an iconic brand that had such a small presence only a few years ago that ACSI's VanAmburg said the survey didn't even track it.
The Ford (F) brand's comeback has been called "the biggest surprise in the auto industry" by Business Insider. Rather than abandoning the 99-year-old brand, Ford invested in the luxury line and revived the Continental nameplate, earning kudos for performance and design. A much-talked-about 2014 ad campaign with actor Matthew McConaughey helped draw new attention to Lincoln.
It scored an 87 in this year's report, putting it at the top of all tracked automakers. Last year, Lincoln earned an 83.
"They are putting out a product people are attracted to," VanAmburg said.
Bottom: 5, Mitsubishi
Not all Japanese automakers are scoring at the top. Witness Mitsubishi, which earned a score of 79 in this year's report. That was slightly better than its 77 in 2015 but still places it near the bottom of customer satisfaction ratings.
One of its models, the iMiEV, was recently singled out by Autoweek as "the worst-selling car in America." It added, "Yet there it sits, forever on the lots, forlorn, poorly reviewed, gathering lot dirt like a static-clinging cardust cloth, unwanted, unloved and alone." (The reviewer said he actually likes the car.)
Mitsubishi was recently dinged by Consumer Reports, which said the Mirage is its lowest-rated subcompact.
Bottom: 4, Dodge
This Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) brand received a score of 78 this year, up slightly from 76 in 2015. Like Mitsubishi, some Dodge vehicles have been poorly reviewed. Consumer Reports recently called the Dodge Journey the lowest-rated family SUV, citing its "confining interior" and poor fuel economy.
Bottom: 3, Jeep
This Fiat Chrysler brand also ended up near the bottom of the bunch with a score of 78. Still, that was slightly better than its 75 a year earlier.
The Jeep Wrangler is the brand that ranking companies "love to hate," Forbes noted earlier this year. In February, Consumer Reports rated Jeep vehicles as the second worst among all automobiles, only ahead of Fiat, because of reliability issues.
Bottom: 2, Volkswagen
It's not surprising that Volkswagen (VLKAY) ended up near the bottom in 2016, given a year that has been bruising for VW owners. The German carmaker was caught in an emissions fraud last year, leading to a record $15 billion settlement for owners of cars that were falsely billed as running on "clean diesel."
VW's score declined to 78 this year from 80 a year earlier.
Bottom: 1, Acura
Honda's Acura brand rated at the very bottom, earning a score of just 76, down from 83 a year earlier. The brand doesn't score well with Consumer Reports either, which say that Acuras' predicted reliability is worse than average.
The problem may reside in the fact that consumers are paying entry prices of as much as $48,000 for an Acura, which would suggest they wouldn't be too happy with less-than-average reliability. A recent review of its new MDX model said the car "still looks cheap" with an interior that "looks like Volvo's, only not quite as nice."