AutoPacific recently announced the winners of its 20th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs), and there were some surprises. For several years, American automakers have claimed the top spot for most satisfying popular, non-luxury brand, but Korean manufacturer Kia has earned that position this year.

About Kia's win, AutoPacific president George Peterson has stated:

"Kia has been coming on strong for years and has won many individual vehicle awards. But this year they dominated among popular, non-luxury brands, with a total brand score that is 16 points higher than the nearest competitor, GMC."

And Kia's dominance wasn't the only VSAs shake up for 2016.

Vehicle Satisfaction Awards: Winners and Losers

AutoPacific's annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards identify the most satisfying new vehicles on the market. This customer satisfaction is gauged by survey responses from over 65,000 owners of new model year cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans. This survey contains questions that have been designed to objectively measure owner satisfaction with 50 separate attributes. The features that are measured range from interior comfort and styling to fuel economy and performance.

Peterson had this to say about the real purpose of the VSAs:

"This year marks the 20th anniversary of AutoPacific recognizing the most satisfying vehicles and providing consumers a way to streamline their search for the perfect vehicle. VSAs look at the big picture, which includes owners' experiences with their vehicle's quality and safety, but also goes deeper into the heart of the ownership experience."

In addition to this being the first time for Kia to take the top spot in the awards, this is also the first year that neither Ford Motor Company nor Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has had a winning vehicle. Addressing the absence of these companies at the VSAs, Peterson has offered a few words:

"Over the years, Ford has consistently had high-scoring trucks and SUVs while Lincoln has had several luxury car winners. Historically, FCA has not been as strong; however, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was on a 5 year winning streak and had that taken away by the Toyota 4Runner."

The Vehicle Satisfaction Awards announcement may not have held good news for Ford and FCA, but there is some great news here for budget-conscious car buyers. Several vehicles that have received the highest customer satisfaction ratings in their respective categories are also fairly affordable.

Affordable Vehicle Satisfaction Award Winners

It is entirely possible to buy a new car that you will enjoy owning and driving without completely destroying your budget. Of course, if you really want to save money, a used option may be best, but if you have your heart set on a brand new car, these are great vehicles to consider.

Here are the 2016 Vehicle Satisfaction Award winners with prices that start at around $30,000 or less.


The Honda Fit (Subcompact):
Starting at $15,890, the Honda Fit is ranked number one by U.S. News and World Reports in the subcompact category. With "excellent" EPA-estimated fuel economy, an upscale cabin and a surprisingly spacious and versatile cargo area, the Fit offers a lot of value for the price.


The Kia Soul (Compact):
All of those singing hamsters are clearly onto something. The Soul offers up ample cargo and passenger space, a premium cabin, a long list of available features and an incredibly long powertrain warranty. The price for a 2016 base model starts at around $15,900.


The Kia Optima (Mid-Size):
With a starting price of approximately $22,140, the Optima comes with a spacious interior and very good safety ratings, making it an excellent choice for a family car. And if you don't want to fuss with your tech features, you will love its user-friendly infotainment system.


The Hyundai Tucson (Compact Crossover SUV):
Compact crossover SUVs are popular right now, and the Tucson holds its own among its competitors. With a fairly low starting price of $22,700, it offers "exceptional" safety scores, a very quiet cabin and a generous list of standard and optional features.


The Nissan Frontier (Compact Pickup):
If you want the fun of driving a pickup truck, but you don't need a great deal of towing capacity, the Frontier may be perfect for you. It is modestly priced from around $18,290 and comes with a high-tech infotainment system with a smartphone-style interface.


The Kia Sedona (Minivan):
If you have a large family and know that a minivan would make life easier, the Sedona is a fine choice. It seats up to eight and features a quiet, luxurious interior to ensure a comfortable ride. And because the Sedona is priced from around $26,400, it may not destroy your budget.

*Be sure to check with your local dealerships for actual pricing in your area.

Financing Satisfaction

Whether you are looking to buy a new or used car, truck, van or SUV, financing options are likely to be among your top priorities. This is especially true if you have bad credit and are worried that it will be difficult to get an auto loan approval.

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