Each year we spend thousands of miles in the year's crop of new cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans. Some are brilliant pieces of engineering or marketing or styling--some all of the above. And some fall shy of the mark.
Part of the task of choosing our Best Car To Buy is figuring out which vehicles don't make the cut. We start by only looking at vehicles new or significantly updated each year, which narrows the field to the vehicles you should consider, or reconsider, against established benchmarks.
Then we make the tougher cuts. Some all-new models, like the Mercedes-AMG GT, Cadillac CTS-V, and BMW 7-Series are among the top-rated vehicles here at The Car Connection. But with base prices far above our limit of $50,000, they're in the class of vehicles we believe should guarantee excellence by pricetag alone.
Then we eliminate vehicles unavailable for road tests by our editors prior to December 1, 2015, and unavailable for purchase by April 30, 2016. That led to a few vehicles being left off the list this year: the Chevy Spark, Chevy Cruze, and Buick Cascada are all set to be introduced as 2016 models but have yet to become available for review. There's also the Tesla Model X, which falls in the same category, and also has a base price well in excess of our limit.
Another group of vehicles have fallen out of the running because of their TCC Rating. With a few safety scores still not yet reported, these models have earned scores that would not exceed the top performers, even with a perfect safety result. That drops them into a category we'd sum up as good, in most cases, but not great. With some notes, those vehicles are as follows:
2016 Acura ILX --while Acura remedied some of the shortcomings of the compact ILX, its rise in the rankings was only moderate.
2016 Audi TT--the newest sports coupe and convertible to wear the TT badge have some nifty technology, but the recipe's still mostly the same
2016 Chevrolet Volt--the extended-range electric car is better than ever, though still a pricey proposition for most compact-car buyers
2016 Fiat 500X--like the cousin Jeep Renegade, the 500X is a spunky city vehicle, though it lacks the Jeep's harder-core off-road gear
2016 Honda HR-V--Space and Magic Seat are great, but the HR-V feels sluggish
2016 Hyundai Tucson--the Tucson's been brought nicely up to date, though the Eco edition's performance isn't up to par
2016 Kia Sorento--the new Sorento is closer than ever to the crossover-SUV ideal
2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport--the Discovery Sport's few compromises come in its price tag, its tiny third-row seat, and its turbo four noises
2016 Mazda CX-3--very good handling isn't something you find in most crossover SUVs, but most of them have more interior room than this Mazda, too
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata--the new Miata has excellent road manners and a light and lively feel
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander--the Outlander doesn't mature enough to approach the excellent execution of something like the Sorento
2016 Nissan Maxima--the sporty Maxima SR is indeed a big step up from its Altima kin, but base versions aren't quite the revelation
2016 Nissan Titan--the XD is nearly a heavy-duty truck, and performs and feels like one, but the rest of the lineup is yet to be seen
2016 Scion iA--the new Scion sedan betrays its Mazda roots with smart dynamics, but it's a tight squeeze inside
2016 Scion iM--the iM is all but a Matrix replacement, minus the spark
2016 Toyota Prius--the new Prius is the nicest, most user-friendly Prius ever, but it's still of somewhat limited appeal in a $2-a-gallon gas era
2016 Toyota Tacoma --the new Tacoma is perhaps the least new vehicle on our driving list this year, and it shows
We'll release our list of Best Car To Buy 2016 nominees next week. And on January 4, you'll find out the winners of our Best Car To Buy awards for The Car Connection as well as Motor Authority and Green Car Reports--and the winners of our Driver's Choice awards, too.