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A Closer Look at the 2012 North American Car of the Year Awards

2012 North American Car of the Year

Earlier this week we wrote about the winners of the 2012 North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards. Today we thought it would be useful to take a closer look at these awards and the other contenders in the car of the year category.

To quickly recap:


Each of the 35 eligible models with 55 variants of cars were tested based on the following criteria (from Motor Trend Magazine):

Advancement in Design

Quality of execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.

Engineering Excellence

Integrity of total vehicle concept and execution, clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing and dynamics issues; use of cost-effective technologies that benefit the consumer.


Low energy consumption and carbon footprint, relative to the vehicle’s competitive set.


Primary safety - the vehicle’s ability to help the driver avoid a crash - as well as secondary safety measures that protect its occupants from harm during a crash.


Price and equipment levels measured against those of vehicles in the same market segment.

Intended Function

How well the vehicle does the job its designers and product planners intended.

Based on these criteria, there were 10 American models, 10 European models, and 15 Asian models (with five of these being Korean) who were evaluated and considered contenders. Through-out the judging process, it was clear to the judges from Motor Trend that Hyundai and Kia continue to be stronger year after year. As well, Buick who won the Car of the Year Award in 1979 is continuing to make gains and score points in all criteria categories. This year, Buick’s Verano made it to the finals with this premium compact.

Amongst the list of outstanding and impressive vehicles were the:

  • Ford Focus
  • Chevrolet Sonic - this is the first American built subcompact since the 1970s
  • Volkswagen Passat diesel
  • Lexus CT 200h
  • Toyota Prius V
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Mitsubishi i MiEV
  • Fisker Karma 
  • Toyota Camry
  • Honda Civic
  • Chrysler 300


As you can see there is a wide mix of vehicles that were in the running for the 2012 North American Car of the Year Award. With subcompacts, compacts, hybrids, and sedans. It is encouraging to see that Toyota, Honda, and Chrysler continue to make appearances in the list of finalists year-after-year. As well it will be interesting to see how the Fisker continues to catch attention and what its longevity will be like.

We have reviews of all of these featured cars in our extensive Research section. You can easily watch video reviews and read reviews of these 2012 North American Car of the Year Award finalists and contenders.