best buys

The Car Guide’s Methodology

Every year, the Car Guide’s category winners are the subject of heated debate, both in our offices and among the public. It’s not always easy to navigate all the categories, especially since they’ve increased in number in recent years.

The increase makes sense when you consider that automakers are purposefully building cars that straddle two or even three categories. These crossover vehicles are usually part car, part wagon and part 4x4—and yet they don’t really qualify as one or the other. We end up with a mix-and-match category instead. So this year we decided to scrap that category altogether and place crossovers in their corresponding SUV categories.

Think that’s a big change? It’s just the tip of the iceberg! After years of toying with the idea of quantifying each vehicle’s category ranking, we’ve decided to go ahead with it, meaning we had to revise our scoring method.

Each vehicle is rated on six criteria

Fuel economy, reliability, safety, infotainment, driving experience and overall. The first five are purely objective. Models are assessed against the others in their category.

  1. Fuel economy

    This score accounts for 10% of the final score. We used data from Natural Resources Canada to figure out the average fuel consumption for each model’s line-up. When a vehicle’s fuel consumption is a flat zero (such as electric vehicles), it gets a perfect score of 10.

    1.0 to 6.0 l/100 km (average)9 points
    6.1 to 7.0 l/100 km (average)8 points
    7.1 to 8.0 l/100 km (average)7 points
    8.1 to 10.0 l/100 km (average)6 points
    10.1 to 12.0 l/100 km (average)5 points
    12.1 to 14.0 l/100 km (average)4 points
    14.1 to 16.0 l/100 km (average)3 points
    16.1 to 19.0 l/100 km (average)2 points
    19.1 to 21.0 l/100 km (average)1 point
    over 21.1 l/100 km0 points
  2. Reliability

    This score accounts for 10% of the final score. It’s calculated using data that comes primarily from Consumer Reports and Protégez-vous (APA). The information from these two sources makes up 70% of the final rating, with the remaining 30% consisting of recall and consumer complaint histories.

  3. Safety

    This score accounts for 10% of the final score. Half of this score is based on active safety technology (ABS brakes, traction control, etc.) and passive security indexes (airbags, automatic emergency assistance calls, etc.). Another 30% of this score is based on how the wheels are powered (RWD = 10%, FWD = 20%, 4x4 or AWD = 30%). And the remaining 20% is for visibility. Some vehicles with really poor visibility got 0%.

  4. Infotainment

    This score accounts for 10% of the final score. It’s determined by all Car Guide journalists who were asked to give each car’s system a score of 1 to 10 (with 1 being very bad and 10 being exceptionally good). Some of the things we took into consideration were: user-friendliness, straightforwardness, quality of graphics, display speed, ergonomics of the controls, sound system quality, etc. This score could have been lumped in with safety, when you consider that some systems require all your attention while you’re supposed to be driving. Obviously, these ones were generally awarded the worst scores.

  5. Driving experience

    This score accounts for 30% of the final score. This aspect may seem hard to quantify, but we think we found the right way to figure it out. We asked our team to disregard the vehicle’s price, fuel consumption, reliability, safety and infotainment system, and simply rate the driving experience on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being very bad and 10 being exceptionally good).

  6. Overall

    This score accounts for 30% of the final score. Whereas a Ferrari might be one of the most fun vehicles to drive, caring for one on a daily basis is another story. Encompassing all of the previously mentioned aspects, this score was determined in a group meeting at the Car Guide’s office. And the funny thing is that the meeting didn’t devolve into tirades or head-butting. Or barely. Whenever we couldn’t agree, we held a civilized vote and the majority won. The overall rating is the only score that is subjective. But since it’s the average opinion of automobile experts, it’s not totally random.

These six scores add up to a total percentage for each vehicle, and that’s how the category winners are determined, including the best new car of the year and the best new SUV.