These were the most researched cars of 2016

December 27, 2016

Shopping for cars has never been more intimidating for buyers.

Along with hundreds of models from which to choose, there are countless trims, packages, and options awaiting further scrutiny from car shoppers once they've landed on a model—assuming they've even made it that far.

Before crumpling into an exhausted heap on the dealer's lot, we're here to help.

Along with hundreds of reviews and ratings for nearly every new car (there may be a Zamboni or a combine harvester we haven't yet driven), we've also gone into the deep end on packages, accessories, and options to help make carbuying only slightly less difficult than the SATs.

Each year we take a look back at what cars piqued your interest, as measured by your fingertips.

The top cars that you searched for yesterday are the ones that we scrutinize today and tomorrow.

Your list of the most researched cars offers a few surprises:

  • The world's largest automaker's Swiss Army soft-roader is all things to all people again;
  • Trucks are big, but the top draw is a surprise;
  • And, gas prices are clearly at an historic low—only two out of the top 10 are sedans.

Can't wait any longer? Neither can we. Here are the top 25 models, dictated by you:

No. 1: 2016 Toyota RAV4

The RAV4's mission is broad, and it only grew in 2016. A new hybrid model joined the lineup, and Toyota added standard active safety features to place it ahead of the competition in many respects. As one of the best-selling cars in the U.S., the RAV4 manages to be popular with many buyers thanks to its versatility and Toyota's attention to detail. One detail we like? Base LE models are a steal with a low price and many of the same features as top-trim models. 

2016 Honda Civic Coupe

2016 Honda Civic Coupe

No. 2: 2016 Honda Civic

Reports of the Civic's demise were greatly exaggerated, it seems. The popular sedan made waves when the latest generation righted some of the last generation's perceived wrongs thanks to a stiff body, good interior space, and a healthy heaping of new technology. For 2016, Honda added a coupe that we liked so much we called it our Best Coupe to Buy 2017. Prefer four doors instead? No problem. We say the mid-grade EX-T is a stone-cold deal; top Touring models could easily wear a luxury badge, too.

2016 Hyundai Tucson

2016 Hyundai Tucson

No. 3: 2016 Hyundai Tucson

The Hyundai Tucson vaulted from No. 35 in 2015 all the way up to a podium finish this year. The cute 'ute from Hyundai benefited from an interior re-think that added space and versatility. We're still not blown away by the powertrain options—especially the 1.6-liter turbo-4 in top trims. We preferred the base 2.4-liter inline-4 on base SE models, but found that the small crossover had value across the board.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

No. 4: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Think minivans are a one-way ticket to Dullsville? Hundreds of thousands of people wholeheartedly disagree. We finally set foot in Chrysler's newest van this year and liked it—a lot. It was our Best Car to Buy 2017 and we're only getting started. In extensive drives, we found that the Pacifica was a fresh take on the minivan principal even before we tried the groundbreaking plug-in hybrid model. The good looks on the outside were only part of the story; its interior is bright and airy with plenty of functional features for families. It's an exciting new direction for minivans, and we're along for the ride.

2016 Nissan Murano

2016 Nissan Murano

No. 5: 2016 Nissan Murano

The Nissan Murano rounded out your top 5 and made a longer jump up from 2015 than the Hyundai Tucson. (The Murano was No. 43 in 2015.) The Murano's daring looks are only half of the story—inside Nissan gave the mid-size crossover great seats and good technology. The mission of the Murano is comfort and convenience, and it delivers on both. In multiple drives we found that empty-nesters could find much to like in the funky crossover, except for the big 20-inch wheels—leave those at the dealer and get bigger rubber for a better ride.

2016 Ford Edge

2016 Ford Edge

No. 6: 2016 Ford Edge

Next to Kim K. and Taylor Swift's beef in 2016, the battle between the 2016 Ford Edge and 2016 Nissan Murano had our staffers swearing allegiances and throwing coffee. The Murano has love-it-or-leave-it looks; the Edge has a better (but not necessarily more efficient) powertrain. Among the writers, the Murano-Edge fight couldn't have been more intense if they were called the Nissan McCoy and the Ford Hatfield, but you weighed in by narrowly picking the Murano more often than the Edge. We say either one is a good pick—unless you're looking for a third row. Wannafightaboutit?

2016 Toyota Corolla

2016 Toyota Corolla

No. 7: 2016 Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla tumbled off the podium in 2015 down to No. 7 for 2016, even though the compact car didn't change much. This year was the 50th anniversary for one of the best-selling nameplates in automotive history, and its easy to see how it made it so far. The Corolla is a space-efficient, straightforward, and trouble-free car that has dutifully served its many owners for decades. During the Corolla's victory lap this year, we were treated to a 50th anniversary edition, but more importantly, newly standard safety equipment for 2017.

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee

No. 8: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep's family utility vehicle wasn't consumed by the expanding lineup and new additions whatsoever. The Jeep Grand Cherokee made your top 10 thanks to a wide feature set, four available powertrains, and the ability to haul a typical American family up a mountain—the hard way. Not much changed on the Grand Cherokee this year, aside from a 75th Anniversary model, but we don't mind. The big Jeep has consistently improved every year since it was all-new in 2011.

2017 Toyota Highlander

2017 Toyota Highlander

No. 9: 2017 Toyota Highlander

Nearly falling out of the top 10 after a medal-winning performance in 2015, the 2017 Toyota Highlander found favor with buyers looking for a third row, but who couldn't stomach a minivan. This year a sportier SE trim joined the lineup, but the Highlander makes no bones about its goals: get you and your family through the day safely. For that, Toyota added a raft of advanced safety features to the Highlander (and other Toyota models, too) and an 8-speed automatic that improved fuel economy to 23 mpg combined.

2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

No. 10: 2017 Honda Ridgeline

We'll stop short of proclaiming that the Ford-GM fued is now a Ford-GM-Honda Mexican standoff, but we can confidently say that more people were interested in the Honda mid-sizer than any of the full-size big guys. We get the interest. The Honda combines a smooth ride with plenty of thoughtful features that help the Ridgeline be 90 percent of the pickup we need, 99 percent of the time. We liked it so much that we named it our Best Pickup to Buy 2017 and heaped praise on the Sport model that offered plenty of creature comforts and value.

Those were the best, here are the rest:

No. 11: 2016 Ford F-150
No. 12: 2016 Mazda3
No. 13: 2016 Honda CR-V
No. 14: 2016 Mazda CX-5
No. 15: 2016 Kia Optima
No. 16: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class
No. 17: 2016 Kia Sorento
No. 18: 2017 Toyota Corolla
No. 19: 2016 Honda HR-V
No. 20: 2016 Nissan Rogue
No. 21: 2016 Honda Pilot
No. 22: 2016 Lexus RX350
No. 23: 2016 Nissan Pathfinder
No. 24: 2016 Jeep Wrangler
No. 25: 2016 Jeep Renegade

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