– Wallace du Plessis. Above: The Mazda CX-5’s steering wheel.

A recent survey by Cars.co.za has given us some interesting insights into which cars the people out there think are worth recommending. The results will be surprising to many.

The most recommended car in South Africa is the Mazda CX-5. It ticks many boxes. It is an SUV, which is the fastest growing style of car in the world, never mind right here. It is a mid-sized car capable of carrying four adults and their weekend luggage. It looks stunning both inside and out. The brand has a good reputation locally. It is priced right. And its performance and handling are above par. What is there to complain about? Mazda offers the most beautiful red colour. It is a winner.

Since 2015, Cars.co.za, together with Lightstone, has surveyed the purchasing, servicing and overall ownership experiences of South African vehicle owners by asking vehicle owners to indicate (based on their overall ownership experience and using a 10-point rating scale) how likely they were to recommend the car that they’d bought new from a franchised dealer, to friends and family. With this scale, they regard responses of 9 or 10 as “very likely to recommend” and consider these owners as “promoters”.

Over the past 5 years, almost 30 000 car owners have completed the Cars.co.za survey; in excess of 10 000 of those did so in 2019, so the sample is very substantial.

“The Mazda CX-5 has consistently done well in our Ownership Satisfaction Survey through the years,” says Cars.co.za Consumer Experience Manager, Hannes Oosthuizen. “We’re also thrilled to see a strong correlation between vehicles’ performance in the survey and the results of our #CarsAwards programme. Ultimately, the people who know their cars best are the owners, so the correlation between the two projects means that we are awarding cars that are most likely to please or satisfy their owners.”

The other brand to do well is Mercedes-Benz, as it should, bearing in mind that their cars are not exactly cheap. Interestingly it’s their C-class family that shines, together with the baby Benz.

The Audi A4 is just the quintessential compact family sedan. The design has been refined to the point where it is the benchmark. Other brands may be sportier or more luxurious but the A4 hits the sweet spot and deserves its third place on the list, one of only two sedans in the top ten.

Hyundai has settled in to be a mainstream brand as is shown by having two models in the top ten.

Ranking Make and Model             NPS Score
1.            Mazda CX-5                        89.0%
2.            Mercedes-Benz C-Class   87.5%
3.            Audi A4                               84.9%
4.            Mercedes-Benz GLC         84.6%
5.            Mercedes-Benz A-Class  84.6%
6.            Volkswagen Tiguan          84.5%
7.            Hyundai Tucson                82.9%
8.            Hyundai Grand i10            82.7%
9.            BMW 1 Series                    82.6%
10           Toyota Fortuner                82.6%

The bakkie with the highest score is the three-time leisure double-cab category winner: the Volkswagen Amarok (with an industry-leading 93%), followed by the Isuzu D-Max (80.2%) and Toyota Hilux (77.4%).

The value of this research lies in the ownership experience. Only owners who are happy with their car will recommend it to family or a friend. If it’s on this list, the car delivers a quality experience and implies it is reliable and fairly economic to operate.

Word of mouth approval is by far the best way to “advertise” anything. Ask anyone.