In a surprising finding, the results of the latest study on the 2012 cars consumers like best – the 2012 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study from J.D. Power and Associates, show that consumers who downsize their vehicles are just as happy with them as owners of larger vehicles.

Another plus is that consumers who do move into a smaller size vehicle find that compact cars, for example, are no longer the econoboxes of yesteryear, and typically provide higher performance, more pleasing styling, more comfort and features and  better fuel economy. All of this adds up to today’s consumers getting more that they want from smaller vehicles – if they choose to downsize.

The study found that some 27 percent of consumers who replaced a vehicle moved into a smaller one, while only 13 percent upsized, or moved up a size classification. Sixty percent replaced their vehicle with one in the same segment as their previous one.

Commenting on the 2012 APEAL study, David Sargent, vice president of global communications for J.D. Power and Associates said, “New vehicle buyers who downsize are not making the sacrifice that they once were. Automakers are heavily focused on providing the U.S. market with appealing smaller models, and buyers may be surprised at just how good they are.”

Sargent ticked off some of the pleasant surprises: “For example, most compact vehicles are more substantial than in the past and perform much better on the road. They also have many of the features and appointments that were previously found only on larger models such as navigation system and various entertainment options.”

Bottom line, according to Sargent: “Vehicle owners who downsize are finding that they are actually upgrading when they buy a new model.”

What are the 2012 cars consumers like best? Here are the winners in each of the segments of the 2012 APEAL study.

Compact Car – 2012 Chevrolet Volt

Compact Crossover SUV – 2012 MINI Countryman

Compact Multi Purpose Vehicle – 2012 Kia Soul

Compact Premium Sporty Car – 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

Compact Sporty Car – 2012 MINI Coupe/Roadster

Entry Premium Car – 2012 BMW 3 Series

Entry Premium Crossover SUV – 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

Large Car – 2012 Dodge Charger

Large Crossover SUV – 2012 Ford Expedition

Large Pickup – 2012 Chevrolet Avalanche

Large Premium Car – 2012 Audi A8

Large Premium Crossover SUV – 2012 Infiniti QX56

Midsize Car – 2012 Kia Optima

Midsize Car – 2012 Volkswagen Passat

Midsize Crossover SUV – 2012 Ford Flex

Midsize Pickup – 2012 Nissan Frontier

Midsize Premium Car – 2012 Audi A6

Midsize Premium Crossover SUV – 2012 Porsche Cayenne

Midsize Sporty Car – 2012 Dodge Challenger

Midsize Van – 2012 Nissan Quest

Premium Sporty Car – 2012 Porsche 911

Subcompact Car – 2012 Chevrolet Sonic

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