Consumers view the Japanese Big Three auto makers more favorably than they did a year ago, a new study from automotive consulting firm AutoPacific Inc. reveals.

The “Image and Consideration Tracking Study” surveyed 1,254 panelists online and asked them whether their opinion of auto makers in the U.S. had changed over the last 12 months.

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. were rated more highly.

Toyota was lauded for durability/quality/reliability (DQR), value and hybrid-electric technology. But the auto maker also was criticized for bland styling and the “gas-guzzling” Tundra fullsize pickup.

Honda was given praise for its concern for the environment and earned high DQR marks.

Nissan also scored well in DQR, based on its leading-edge styling and innovative technologies. But the auto maker was panned over quality concerns for its large trucks.

The most improved was South Korean auto maker Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd., which was praised for its substantially improved styling, high DQR, strong value and a “great” warranty program.

Overall opinion of Volkswagen AG improved vs. year-ago, with the auto maker getting high marks in styling and technology. The positive feedback, however, was offset by a perception of poor quality and deteriorating value.

The German auto maker’s Audi AG subsidiary received positive comments, including being called “the new BMW.”

BMW AG, meanwhile, was credited for good styling and technology, and was named the “most pretentious” auto maker. However, all respondents disliked BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, the survey says.

The Detroit Big Three auto makers did not fare well, as opinions of General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group all were down compared with prior-year.

GM scored the best, receiving credit for improved products and better styling and interior design. The auto maker’s new 100,000-mile (160,900-km) warranty also drew positive responses.

Ford’s reputation deteriorated from year-ago, as respondents expressed concern over whether the auto maker is capable of developing high-quality vehicles given its current financial situation and restructuring woes.

However, Ford received high marks for the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ sedans and Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX cross/utility vehicles.

Chrysler’s rating declined the most, with the auto maker receiving negative comments due to its impending sale by parent DaimlerChrysler AG. The study says the prevailing sentiment among consumers seems to be, “Why would anyone want a Chrysler product if even Daimler doesn’t want it?”

Nevertheless, Chrysler was praised for “great styling” on the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum and Charger, even as the auto maker’s other products were criticized for having lackluster designs. Chrysler’s Hemi engine received high marks for its image and performance but also was castigated for being a gas-guzzler.