Most mass-market brands and some luxury brands are included in our rating system, though ultra-luxury vehicles are omitted due to low sales volume, extreme pricing and a lack of safety data. The Car Connection accepts free travel and meals from automotive manufacturers to bring you this comprehensive, expert look at the new-car market.
We rate cars based on Style, Performance, Comfort and Quality, Safety, Features, and Green. Each category starts at a baseline score of 5, and goes up or down from there. Since the system weighs all categories equally, fuel economy (and electrification) presents itself strongly in the TCC Rating. Ratings are updated at least four times a year, as new data becomes available.
- Styling: Points can be earned or lost based on above- or below-average interior and exterior style; excellent or poor interior or exterior style; and exceptional (or very poor) style.
- Performance: Points can be earned or lost based on powertrain performance; ride and handling performance. Exceptionally quick (0-60 mph in less than 5 seconds) or exceptionally slow (0-60 mph in more than 10 seconds) can earn or lose an additional point. An additional point can be awarded (or lost) for exceptional circumstances, i.e. off-road prowess, or supercar credentials.
- Comfort and Quality: Points can be earned or lost based on comfort in the front seats, back seats, or third-row seats (where applicable); good or bad interior storage and cargo capacity; and good fit and finish.
- Safety: Cars with official crash data gain points for a five-star overall rating by the NHTSA, or Top Safety Pick/Top Safety Pick+ status by the IIHS. An additional point is awarded for cars that come standard with full-speed automatic emergency braking. We award points for excellent outward vision and for abundant safety features and options such as parking assistance, surround-view camera systems, or driver-assistance features. Cars with official crash data lose points for a four-star overall rating by NHTSA, any “Marginal” IIHS or three-star NHTSA ratings, for poor outward vision, and when they lack forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking. Cars without crash data aren’t given a rating at all. Cars with only partial ratings may be scored, generally when it improves their score.
- Features: Cars with excellent base equipment earn a point above average. Extra points can be added for exceptional available features, good value, good infotainment systems with screens larger than 7.0 inches, and good warranty or service programs. Cars may lose points for substandard or expensive features; bad feature packages; poor relative value; or bad warranty or service availability.
- Green (Fuel Economy): Cars are assigned a rating based on their EPA-estimated highway and combined mileage ratings. Plug-in and battery-electric vehicles start at 9. Electric-only cars with a range of more than 200 miles earn a score of 10. All other vehicles are sorted on a sliding scale based on EPA fuel economy.
And make sure to catch up with our overall picks each year as we choose our Best Car To Buy award winners.