For this year’s Yahoo Autos car-judging competition, Editor-in-Chief Sharon Carty said she and her editors had one goal:

 

“We challenged ourselves to come up with a new definition of a car award, one that reflects more accurately the kinds of vehicles that most people actually want to buy as opposed to the vehicles that only car enthusiasts fall in love with, but that make very little practical sense for the average consumer,” she said.


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The editors’ defining decision came last week when Yahoo Autos named the Volvo XC90 as its 2016 Ride of the Year.

WATCH: Yahoo editors pick their winners

The totally redesigned SUV joins past winners the Tesla Model S in 2013, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray in 2014 and last year’s winner, the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Before making the final decision on the 2016 Ride of the Year, Yahoo Autos’ editors narrowed the field to 22 vehicles, judging whether each car could be considered “best in class.”

They then ran them through a number of road tests in Pinckney, Mich., keeping in mind five categories that were the determinants for ride of the year — performance, efficiency, value, design and engineering. In the end, the impressive Volvo XC90 stood out because it was the one vehicle that pushed the envelope on every category.

Yahoo Autos handed out accolades in new categories this year, including best technology with Yahoo Tech’s David Pogue; the XC90 took that category as well.

Other categories included: Epic Ride, which prioritizes power over fuel economy; Fresh Ride, which features a car that “will always put a smile on your face;” Savviest Ride for the “smart car shoppers out there;” and Bold Ride, for having “a set of qualities that were the boldest of the bold in each respective segment.”

The list of winners includes:

■ 2016 Yahoo Autos Ride Of The Year: Volvo XC90

■ 2016 Yahoo Autos Technology Ride of the Year: Volvo XC90

■ 2016 Yahoo Autos Epic Ride of the Year: Shelby Mustang GT350

■ 2016 Yahoo Autos Fresh Ride of the Year: Mazda Miata

■ 2016 Yahoo Autos Savvy Ride of the Year: Mazda CX-3

■ 2015 Bold Ride of the Year: Ariel Nomad

For the overall Ride of the Year category, Coty said, “Our formula involved weighing broad consumer appeal, technological advances that add to the driver experience rather than detract from it, cutting-edge safety technology, style and overall value.”

The Ride of the Year award is the second major accolade won by the XC90. It was named 2016 Motor Trend SUV of the Year last week.

A ‘savvy’ CX-3’

For the Savvy Ride of the Year, Yahoo Autos Managing Editor Justin Hyde said, “its formula essentially boils down to ‘value plus common sense.’ The average new vehicle now costs $32,000, money most people don’t have when they walk into a dealership to make the second-biggest purchase of their lives. The average commuter will spend 100 hours every year in their vehicle, and while there’s lots of pressure to overpay, it’s also easy to economize yourself into a rolling detention hall that’s your second home for the next several years.

“Our Savvy pick would recognize the best new vehicle in the sweet spot between those extremes; a vehicle that deserves your hard-earned cash,” Hyde said. “As we hunted for more value among our field [of 22 vehicles], we soon coalesced around a smaller pick: the Mazda CX-3.”

At $27,000, the small SUV had every major tech feature — auto braking, lane departure warning, automatic cruise — of the SUVs that cost $10,000 more.

“Unlike the slightly cheaper Honda HR-V, the interior of the CX-3 didn’t feel like an economy-class downgrade — from the stylish dash to the comfortable seats to the nice touch of a hidden phone storage slot in the driver’s armrest,” Hyde said.

“It looks, and drives, like a more expensive car than it is. And, yes, size will matter to many,” Hyde said. “If you are parents with more than one child, the compact CX-3 will not really serve you well, But I would tell any young couple looking for an all-wheel-drive city ride to start here, and I wouldn’t worry if there was another passenger on the way.”

A ‘Fresh’ Miata

Here’s how Yahoo Autos Associated Editor Aki Sugawara describes the traits of the Fresh Ride of the Year winner:

“The car that brings a smile to your face; the one that’s different from everything else on your block, and can turn heads even when it’s sitting still.

“There are cars where numbers tell the whole story — like the 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which won our Enthusiast Car of the Year title last year,” Sugawara said. “Then there are cars that can’t be quantified by mere statistics, whose specs betray just how fun they are to drive. And while several models tugged at our hearts, the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata stood out as our 2016 Fresh Ride of the Year.”

As for its redesign, Sugawara said the 2016 Miata “no longer competes with the Volkswagen Eos or the Cozy Coupe for bubbly bodywork. Simple curved fenders have been swapped for muscular flares, and the graphite-hued interior feels more like entry-level luxury than a minimalist sports car.”

An ‘Epic’ Mustang

Here’s how Yahoo Autos Editior-at-Large Alex Lloyd describes this year’s Epic Ride of the Year winner:

“The car that brings the neighborhood kids running; the machine you brag about to your friends. The one that replaces caffeine in shaking that morning coma — the car that makes you feel alive.

“The word ‘epic’ is often thrown around loosely. But the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang truly defines the term,” Lloyd said. “It’s a car that ensures every fiber in your body tingles before you’ve even turned it on. And when you do, grown adults giggle like pre-pubescent youths, its 526 horsepower, 5.2-liter flat-plane crank V-8 gurgling and popping like a tectonic shift capable of demolishing an entire continent.”

‘Bold’ British car

Yahoo Autos readers, with assistance from the panel of judges, gave the Ariel Nomad the nod as Bold Ride of the Year for 2015.

And here’s why. This isn’t some econobox or even high-end sports car. The British designers at Ariel decided to pave their own path when designing the Nomad — and they took that mantra quite literally.

It’s a vehicle unlike any other, in creativity alone it deserves some type of award. What’s essentially a street-legal dune buggy has turned into the subject of attention for many in 2015.

Information from Yahoo.com was used in compiling this report.

For more information on the 2016 Yahoo Autos Ride of the Year and other category winners, visit yahoo.com/autos and autos.jacksonville.com.