To judge contenders for the award, MOTOR TREND's editorial staff conducted an exhaustive three-phase testing process. Phase one includes a full tech check and weigh-in, then full track testing to establish baseline data for acceleration, braking, and handling. Phase two involves three days of road loops offering a range of road surfaces and traffic conditions to evaluate ride and handling, engine and transmission smoothness and responsiveness, wind and road noise, and ergonomics. A dirt-track section tests traction, stability, and braking control systems. In the third phase the judges debate and deliberate.
The judging criteria includes the following categories:
Design Advancement - well-executed exterior and interior styling; innovative vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.
Engineering Excellence - total vehicle concept and execution; clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing and dynamics issues; cost-effective tech that benefits the consumer.
Performance of Intended Function - how well the vehicle does the job its planners, designers, and engineers intended it to do.
Efficiency - low fuel consumption and carbon footprint, relative to the vehicle's competitive set.
Safety - a vehicle's ability to help the driver avoid a crash, as well as the secondary safety measures that protect its occupants from harm during a crash.
Value - competitive price and equipment levels, measured against those of vehicles in the same market segment.