South Korea's car brands have figured out how to make infotainment and active safety tech that drivers actually want to use, according to the results of this year's J.D. Power Tech Experience Index (TXI) study.
Three models from the Hyundai, Genesis, and Kia lineups earned top spots in their respective vehicle categories, and four more placed in the top three.
In the TXI study, J.D. Power polled drivers who had taken delivery of a new vehicle (redesigned or brand-new within the last three years) in the previous 90 days to find out what tech features made the best and worst impressions.
J.D. Power looked at specifically at features designed for entertainment/connectivity, crash avoidance, comfort/convenience, driving assistance, smartphone integration, and navigation. As the individual technologies go, crash avoidance features (such as collision warning and automatic emergency braking) and smartphone integration systems (like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) scored highest among survey respondents.
Fewer drivers liked driving assists like lane-keeping and lane-centering systems. Nearly a quarter of respondents found their interventions annoying, and of that number, two-thirds preferred to drive with the systems turned off. What J.D. Power found was that the more obvious it was that a safety assist was at work, the less a driver tended to appreciate it.
Many car owners are also falling out of love with built-in apps and prefer to use applications on their smartphones through integration platforms like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Smartphone mirroring is threatening to obviate in-car navigation systems, as those integration systems make it easy to pull navigation instructions from a smartphone into the car's infotainment system.
Here are the vehicles that ranked highest in J.D. Power's survey of car owners, and the tech features available in each of them.
Best Subcompact Vehicles: Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR (tie)
This category saw a first-place tie between the Hyundai Kona and Toyota C-HR.
The Kona small crossover comes standard ($21,199) with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a 7.0-inch touchscreen display in all trims. Blind spot warning, lane-change assist, and rear cross traffic warning are included in 2.0L Preferred trim ($22,949), and lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision avoidance and driver attention warning are standard in 2.0L Luxury ($27,899) and 1.6T Ultimate ($32,199) models.
Kona 2.0L models get 147 hp and 132 lb-ft of torque and a six-speed automatic transmission. 1.6T variants boast 175 hp/195 lb-ft and a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox. Front-wheel drive is standard, and AWD is included in certain trims.
In the C-HR (another small crossover), the entry-level LE trim ($23,765) comes with Apple CarPlay, an 8.0-inch display, collision warning with automatic braking, lane-departure alert with steering assist, and adaptive cruise control. Lane-change assist, blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert are optional in XLE Premium ($27,325) and Limited ($28,775) trims.
The C-HR has a 2.0L engine (144 hp/139 lb-ft), front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission.
The runner-up in this class was the Hyundai Accent.
Best Compact Vehicle: Kia Forte
Kia's Forte earned top ranking for compact vehicles. This small sedan ($17,195) comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in an 8.0-inch touchscreen across the line. An entry-level LX with the optional automatic transmission ($18,995) adds lane-keeping assist, driver attention alert, and forward collision avoidance. EX trim ($20,995) adds rear cross-traffic alert and blind spot detection, and EX Premium ($25,065) adds advanced forward collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control.
The Forte starts with a 2.0L engine (147 hp/132 lb-ft) and a six-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable automatic is the option.
The other favourites among compact cars were the Volkswagen Jetta and Hyundai Elantra.
Best Mid-Size Vehicle: Chevrolet Blazer
Chevrolet's latest crossover model, the Blazer, earned the top spot among mid-size vehicles. RS AWD and Premier AWD trims ($46,300 and $48,700, respectively) come with built-in navigation, lane-change alert with blind spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. Forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and GM's vibrating safety alert seat are part of an optional package in both trim levels.
Blazer comes standard with a four-cylinder engine, but to get this crossover's more advanced features you have to move up to a 3.6L V6 (308 hp/270 lb-ft).
Runners up in the mid-size category were the Chevrolet Traverse and Hyundai Santa Fe.
Best Large Vehicle: Ford Expedition
The Ford Expedition was the favourite among full-size vehicles, where it beat out the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500. Expedition's top Platinum trim ($72,552) comes with lane-keeping aid, adaptive cruise control and built-in navigation. An optional driver assistance package adds forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist with driver alert, and pre-collision assist.
Expedition uses a 3.5L turbocharged V6 engine with 375 hp/470 lb-ft, or 400 hp/480 lb-ft in Platinum trim.
Best Compact Luxury Vehicle: Kia Stinger
Kia has another winner in its Stinger sport sedan, which J.D. Power also calls out for offering the top-ranked technology of any vehicle in this year's TXI study. At its starting price of $39,995, the Stinger comes with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, blind spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. GT Limited trim ($49,995) adds navigation, an 8.0-inch display, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, driver attention alert, and forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking.
The Stinger comes with a choice of turbo four-cylinder and V6 engines, with power ranging from 255 hp/260 lb-ft to 365 hp/376 lb-ft.
The Genesis G70 and Cadillac XT4 were the runners-up in this category.
Best Mid-Size Luxury Vehicle: Porsche Cayenne
The Porsche Cayenne SUV was tops in this class. In typical Porsche fashion, most of the features J.D. Power queried owners on are optional here, such as lane-change assist, active lane-keeping, and adaptive cruise control. The Porsche Connect suite supports Apple CarPlay and offers built-in navigation in a 12.3-inch screen.
Cayenne and Cayenne S use a turbo V6 (340 hp/331 lb-ft and 440 hp/406 lb-ft), and the Cayenne Turbo gets a V8 with 550 hp/568 lb-ft. There's also a plug-in hybrid with 455 hp.
Runners-up in the mid-size luxury class were another pair of German SUVs: the BMW X5 and Audi Q8.