2016 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards: Best New Cars

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Need help choosing a new vehicle? Kelley Blue Book can help.

Deciding on a new car can be mind boggling. There are so many types and styles to select from these days. Kelley Blue Book makes it a bit easier with their 2016 KBB Best Buy Awards. They review over 300 new cars each year, pick the cream of the crop, and break it down by category.

Last week I visited the KBB headquarters in sunny southern California to check out some of this year’s mid-size and luxury SUV finalists and learn how KBB selects them. Choosing the winners is a year-long process: nearly every new vehicle in America undergoes an expert evaluation and testing, along with analysis of a broad range of vehicle-related data, including sales, 5-year cost to own information, consumer reviews and ratings, and more.

How vehicles are evaluated

Jack Nerad, VP/Executive Editorial Director walked me through the evaluation process done on each vehicle by each editor. Before driving even begins they get in the car and check out everything. Jack usually starts by finding, testing and adjusting the various driver controls. Then he tries pairing up his smartphone with the car. I loved how important this was to him because it is really important to most of us buying new cars these days. Editors even take the time to sit in each and every seat, including those tough ones like the middle of the back seat. The cargo areas are also investigated for space, how easy it is to fold down seats, access storage areas, and power features. The exterior aesthetics are less important overall since beauty is in the eye of the beholder. They do look for fit and finish issues, but the goal is to not tell you which car is the prettiest. There is a set driving course that all the editors use to test drive the cars. The test area is around the KBB Headquarters in Irvine, CA, both on the city streets and the highway. Parking, braking, and safety features are all tested as well. With everyone using the same test route for all the vehicles the editors are very familiar with it and they can more easily compare cars this way.

All of the evaluations from the editors and the vehicle-related data is combined to select the winners of the KBB Best Buy Awards.

2016 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award Winners

  • Overall Winner: 2016 Honda Civic
  • Small car: 2016 Honda Civic
  • Mid-size car: 2016 Kia Optima
  • Full-size car: 2016 Chevrolet Impala
  • Luxury car: 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Sports/performance car: 2016 Chevrolet Corvette
  • Electric/hybrid: 2016 Chevrolet Volt
  • Small SUV/Crossover: 2016 Honda CR-V
  • Mid-size SUV/Crossover: 2016 Honda Pilot
  • Full-size SUV/Crossover: 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Luxury SUV/Crossover: 2016 Lexus RX
  • Truck: 2016 Ford F-150
  • Minivan: 2016 Honda Odyssey


2016 Volvo XC90 Luxury SUV

Kelley Blue Book

The 2016 Volvo XC90 was a KBB Best Buy Award luxury SUV finalist and among the most popular with our test group. Credit: Robyn Wright for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Out of the cars I drove during the event the 2016 Volvo XC90 was a favorite of mine and the others at the event. This is the SUV everyone wanted a chance to drive.

The car’s charm: The styling is gorgeous and the seating comfort was incredible. The heads-up display, along with the rest of the dash display and controls, help you be a safer driver. Three rows of seating provide plenty of space for a large family.

Kelley Blue Book

The style and ease of use of displays and controls in the 2016 Volvo XC90 promote safe driving. Credit: Robyn Wright for AGirlsGuidetoCars

What to consider: While the Volvo has enough power with the T8 twin engine, it did seem a little hesitant when trying to accelerate quickly.

Base price: $49,800

2016 Lincoln MKX

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Another favorite of the KBB Best Buy Awards luxury SUV finalists was the 2016 Lincoln MKX. Credit: Robyn Wright for AGirlsGuidetoCars

I was quite impressed with the Lincoln MKX SUV. The ride was smooth along the drive through the coast of southern California and handled the curvy roads beautifully.

The car’s charm: While many of the SUVs I tested had push button shifting, the Lincoln’s position on the upper console made the most sense out of all the models I tested. For smaller families, this SUV offered plenty of back seat space, perfect for growing tweens and teens.

What to consider: The console in the front of the Lincoln MKX is huge. It even seems a bit bulky because of the cut out underneath, which actually holds a purse nicely. The Revel sound system sounded great when playing the demo, but I was less than impressed with it playing the radio. Third row seating is not an option.

Base price: $38,260

Nicely loaded (as driven): $63,275

2016 Ford Explorer

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The 2016 Ford Explorer was a finalist for the 2016 KBB Best Buy Awards in the mid-size SUV category. Credit: Robyn Wright for AGirlsGuidetoCars

The car’s charm: Ford listened to its owners about the control interface and has updated the 2016 model with redesigned and upgraded technology. Third row seating is available in both bench style for 3-person seating or two bucket seats.

What to consider: The fuel economy isn’t terrible, but at 20 MPG combined, it is quite a bit lower than others in its class.

Base Price: $29,929

2016 Honda Pilot AWD Elite

Kelley Blue Book

The 2016 Honda Pilot is the winner of the KBB Best Buy Awards Mid-size SUV for 2016. Credit: KBB.com

Honda has invested quite a bit in the redesign of the Pilot’s interior, road-noise elimation and updated controls. If you love the Acura MDX but need a lower price point, the Honda Pilot is where to look first.

The car’s charm: New design which is much less boxy and room for eight makes this a great SUV for families. The V6 also gives it plenty of power to please all the drivers in the family.

What to consider: The engine can be a bit noisy when really pushing it. If you are immune to noise though, this is a non-issue.

Base price: $29,995

Nicely loaded (as driven): $47,300

As the editors of KBB.com told us, none of the cars offered for 2016 are duds. They all have amazing features to consider, but Kelley Blue Book is making it a little easier to narrow down our choices with their awards. If you are in the market for a new car, check out all of the winners and finalists from KBB to find the perfect car to fit your needs, your family, and your budget.

Watch my Periscope from the Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards event:


Disclosure: I was a guest of Kelly Blue Book, which provide my travel and accommodations. Opinions and impressions expressed here are all my own.

St. Louis-based Robyn Wright writes about family, food, pets, technology and all things St. Louis. Her interest in cars... More about Robyn Wright