When you go shopping for a new car, you naturally want to know which ones are the best. There are many ways to determine this, but at J.D. Power, we listen to the Voice of the Consumer. That way, our list of the best cars of 2021 is based on what people like you have to say about their new vehicles after they’ve owned them for at least 90 days.

2021 New Car Ratings

Every year, J.D. Power surveys tens of thousands of people who purchased a new vehicle to find out what they like and don’t like, and what has gone right and wrong during the first few months of ownership. We’re talking about verified owners of new cars based on registration data, a process that adds confidence to the data we collect, analyze, summarize, and publish in our two benchmark annual studies.

The Initial Quality Study (IQS) and Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study are excellent research resources when you’re looking for new car ratings. The IQS establishes which models rank highest in quality, while the APEAL Study determines which ones rank highest in overall appeal. In rare instances, a model may rank highest in its segment in both studies. When that happens, you can rest assured the people who own them believe they are the best car to buy.

What is the best car to buy in 2021?

Based on the results of the J.D. Power 2021 IQS and APEAL studies, these four models are the best cars of 2021:

  • Cadillac CT5Top-ranked in its segment in both quality and overall appeal
  • Chevrolet CorvetteTop-ranked in its segment in both quality and overall appeal
  • Genesis G80Top-ranked in its segment in both quality and overall appeal
  • Nissan MaximaTop-ranked in its segment in both quality and overall appeal

Looking for a different kind of vehicle? Be sure to check out the best SUVs of 2021 and the best trucks of 2021.

All the Best Cars of 2021 for Overall Quality

According to the J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study results, ten car and minivan models receive awards based on what the people who actually own them think of their overall quality. You will find them listed below in alphabetical order by make and model.

2021 BMW 2 Series

2020 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe M235i White Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The highest-quality small premium car is the BMW 2 Series. In 2021, the 2 Series came in 2-door coupe and 2-door convertible body styles with rear-wheel (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). A 4-door Gran Coupe (actually a sedan) is also available, based on an entirely different front-drive platform with available AWD. For the 2022 model year, the 2-door coupe gets a complete redesign, the 2-door convertible is shelved, and the Gran Coupe continues without much change. The performance-tuned M2 Coupe is on hiatus until further notice.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury Cars in Quality

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Coupes and Convertibles in Quality

2021 Cadillac CT5

2020 Cadillac CT5 front view

Photo: Ron Sessions

The highest-quality midsize premium car is the Cadillac CT5. This 4-door sedan offers a choice between turbocharged 4-cylinder and twin-turbocharged V6 engines, each powering the car’s rear wheels unless you choose the optional AWD system. The lineup includes Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport, and V-Series trims. For the 2022 model year, a high-powered CT5-V Blackwing equipped with a supercharged V8 and a manual or automatic transmission offers serious performance.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury Cars in Quality

2021 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 3LT Z51 Coupe Orange Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The highest-quality premium sporty car is the Chevrolet Corvette. In its second year following a radical redesign and switch to a mid-engine powertrain configuration, the Corvette changed little, continuing in coupe and convertible body styles in Stingray specification. Its 6.2-liter V8 whips up as much as 490 horsepower and accelerates the Corvette to 60 mph in less than three seconds, according to Chevrolet.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Coupes and Convertibles in Quality

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80 Blue Green Front Side View

The highest-quality upper midsize premium car is the Genesis G80. Completely redesigned for 2021, the G80 adopts the company’s latest styling themes, resulting in a distinctive design both inside and out. You’ll choose between a turbocharged 4-cylinder and a twin-turbocharged V6, each powering either the rear wheels or all four through an available AWD system. Option packages add plenty of opulence and technology.

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2021 Hyundai Accent

2021 Hyundai Accent Red Front Quarter View

The highest-quality small car is the Hyundai Accent. Available only in a 4-door sedan body style and in SE, SEL, or Limited trim, the Accent uses a 120-hp 4-cylinder engine. A standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) powers the car’s front wheels, and it gets 36 mpg in combined driving. Further savings come in the form of complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first three years of ownership, plus one of the longest warranty plans for any new car.

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2021 Kia Forte

2021 Kia Forte GT Sport Blue Front Quarter View

The highest-quality compact car is the Kia Forte. This 4-door sedan is available in a wide range of trim levels, from the affordable and efficient Forte FE to the zippy and sporty Forte GT. Most Fortes have a 147-hp 4-cylinder and a CVT, but the GT equips the car with a turbocharged 4-cylinder cranking out 201 horses. A manual transmission is offered exclusively on the cheapest Forte FE and the sportiest Forte GT. For 2022, Kia gives the Forte a styling refresh and new tech.

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2021 Kia Sedona

2021 Kia Sedona Front Quarter View

The highest-quality minivan is the Kia Sedona. The 2021 model year represents the final run for the Sedona, which came in LX, EX, and SX trim levels, each featuring a 3.3-liter V6 making 276 hp. Among minivans, the Sedona had style, with subtle crossover SUV design cues inside and out. For 2022, Kia replaces the Sedona with the artistically rendered Carnival. It’s still a minivan, but Kia markets it as a multi-purpose vehicle.

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2021 Lexus RC

2020 Lexus RC F

The highest-quality compact premium car is the Lexus RC. A 2-door coupe built on a platform mash-up of Lexus GS and IS sedan components, the RC offers a choice between a turbocharged 4-cylinder, a V6, and a V8 engine. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with a couple of AWD variants available for people who live where it snows. Two new special editions made news for the 2021 model year.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Coupes and Convertibles in Quality

2021 Nissan Altima

2020 Nissan Altima Platinum VC-Turbo Red Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The highest-quality midsize car is the Nissan Altima. Available in several trim levels ranging from basic to plush, the Altima primarily uses a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and a CVT to power the front or all four wheels. Exclusive to the sporty SR trim, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine (VC-Turbo) boasts more than just 236 hp. It has variable-compression technology unlike anything you’ll find in a competitor, which Nissan says can optimize both performance and efficiency.

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2021 Nissan Maxima

2020 NIssan Maxima Platinum Reserve black front view

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The highest-quality large car is the Nissan Maxima. In 2021, Nissan celebrated the nameplate’s 40th anniversary with a special-edition model based on the top Platinum trim. More affordable versions of the car include standard SV and sporty SR trim. They all have a 300-hp V6 engine, a CVT, and front-wheel drive (FWD), and the Maxima emphasizes performance and style over practicality and efficiency.

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All the Best Cars of 2021 for Overall Appeal

In the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout Study, ten car and minivan models receive an award for their overall appeal, based on what the people who actually own them think of them. They are listed below in alphabetical order by make and model.

2021 BMW 4 Series

2021 BMW M440i Convertible San Remo Green Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The most appealing compact premium car is the BMW 4 Series. BMW redesigned the 4 Series for 2021, adding a controversially large grille that appears to satisfy owners of the car. Available in 2-door coupe and 2-door convertible body styles, the 4 Series lineup offers turbocharged 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder engines with an automatic transmission and RWD or AWD. The performance-tuned M4 also returns, and the lineup grows in 2022 with the return of the Gran Coupe 5-door sportback model.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Coupes and Convertibles in Appeal

2021 Cadillac CT5

2020 Cadillac CT5 photo

The most appealing midsize premium car is the Cadillac CT5. Not only do CT5 owners find the car to be high in quality (see above), they’re also quite satisfied with the performance, design, interior layout, and overall appeal of the car. If you’ve ever driven one, you can understand the car’s rankings in the 2021 J.D. Power studies. And for 2022, the Cadillac CT5 gets better.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Luxury Cars in Appeal

2021 Chevrolet Corvette

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Red Front

The most appealing premium sporty car is the Chevrolet Corvette. Though some fans of America’s sports car weren’t happy with the switch to a mid-engine layout, Corvette owners appear to be satisfied with the fundamental change in the car’s engineering philosophy. The unexpectedly low price might contribute to this, as well as the Cadillac-quality interior materials in the 3LT trim level. In any case, it is easy to like the latest Corvette.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Coupes and Convertibles in Appeal

2021 Genesis G80

2021 Genesis G80 Rear Quarter View

The most appealing upper midsize premium car is the Genesis G80. Not only did Genesis get the quality part of the G80’s redesign right, the people who bought the car rate its performance, design, layout, and overall appeal higher than any other model in the segment. If you’re shopping for this type of luxury sedan, you owe it to yourself to consider the value-laden Genesis G80.

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2021 Kia K5

2021 Kia K5 GT-Line AWD front view

The most appealing midsize car is the Kia K5. Redesigned for 2021, the K5 is the renamed replacement for the previous Optima sedan. It has dramatic new styling coupled with the latest infotainment and driving-assistance technologies. Turbocharged 4-cylinder engines making up to 290 hp power the K5, which comes in five different trim levels. They’re all FWD except for a couple of AWD variants.

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2021 Nissan Maxima

2020 Nissan Maxima Platinum Reserve black front view

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The most appealing large car is the Nissan Maxima. People who own this self-proclaimed 4-Door Sports Car (4DSC) really like them in terms of quality and overall appeal. Plus, the standard 3.5-liter V6 engine is a descendant of the vaunted VQ-series V6 engines that Nissan once installed in many of its vehicles. The Maxima makes its owners happy with robust power, athletic handling, and expressive design.

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2021 Nissan Sentra

2020 Nissan Sentra SR Monarch Orange Front Quarter

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The most appealing compact car is the Nissan Sentra. Offered in S, SV, and SR trim, every Sentra has a 149-hp 4-cylinder engine and a CVT. It might be a simple car, but the Sentra’s simplicity appeals to the people who buy one. Nissan redesigned the Sentra for 2020, adding significant style and bringing desirable infotainment and driving-assistance technologies to the small sedan. It remains basically the same for 2021.

Learn more about the top-rated 2021 Small Cars in Appeal

2021 Nissan Versa

2020 Nissan Versa SR Blue Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The most appealing small car is the Nissan Versa. Like the Sentra, the Versa was redesigned for the 2020 model year. And, like the Sentra, the effect was dramatic. With a newfound sense of style, the Versa remains a basic form of transportation but offers roomy seating for four adults and a remarkably big trunk. A 122-hp 4-cylinder engine powers the front wheels through a manual transmission or a CVT, and the Versa returns up to 35 mpg in combined driving.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA

2020 Mercedes CLA 35 front view

Photo: Ron Sessions

The most appealing small premium car is the Mercedes-Benz CLA. Mercedes calls it a coupe, but the CLA is actually a 4-door sedan based on the same platform as the A-Class sedan and GLA crossover. It features a more rakish and upscale look than its siblings and features a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine developing between 221 and 382 hp, depending on the model. You choose between CLA 250, AMG CLA 35, and AMG CLA 45 model series, each with 4Matic AWD except for the base car, which is a front-driver.

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2021 Toyota Sienna

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE Silver Front View

Photo: Ron Sessions

The most appealing minivan is the Toyota Sienna. Redesigned for 2021, the Sienna comes only with a hybrid powertrain and FWD or AWD. It uses the same gas-electric drivetrain that Toyota uses in the Highlander Hybrid, and it makes 245 hp while getting an incredible EPA-rated 36 mpg in combined driving. Like other minivans, the Sienna seats up to eight passengers and carries as much cargo as a Chevy Suburban. You can choose from five trim levels, including the sporty XSE and the luxurious Platinum.

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