Honda Civic, Volvo XC90 named car, truck of the year

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

The Honda Civic and Volvo XC90 kicked off the Detroit auto show by winning Car and Truck of the Year honors, respectively.

American Honda Executive VP John Mendel poses with the Car of The Year Award for the Honda Civic.

The Civic beat out the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata sports car and the Chevrolet Malibu for the award.

Volvo beat out a truck/SUV field that included the Honda Pilot and Nissan Titan pickup.

“It’s kind of how I thought it would turn out,” said juror and original NACTOY committee member John McElroy of Autoline/WJR-950 AM Radio. “It was so close this year and so tough to decide. You have to really nit-pick this stuff right now.”

Foreign automakers, led by Honda, dominated the nominees. For only the second time in the award’s 23-year history the Detroit’s Big Three automakers were shut out of the truck category.

Jurors raved about the Civic’s nimble handling, interior room, backseat legroom and fuel economy, among other things.

“The last generation of Civic kind of fell on their face; it wasn’t as good as prior generations,” McElroy said. “This new one really sets a benchmark for quietness, smoothness in the compact car class.”

Volvo Car USA President and CEO Lex Kerssemakers talks to the media about the Volvo XC90, winner of Truck of The Year.

The Volvo win was important for the company, he said.

“Volvo hasn’t had a new vehicle in eight years, or something like that,” McElroy said. “It’s really their coming-out party in a way as the new Volvo, no longer part of the Ford Motor Co.”

Both awards are intended to recognize a car and truck that set new benchmarks in the classes in which they compete. A jury of 57 journalists from the U.S. and Canada evaluate dozens of vehicles on factors including value for the dollar, innovation, handling, performance, safety and driver satisfaction.

To be eligible for the awards, a vehicle must have been “substantially changed from the previous model and must go on sale shortly after the announcement of the award.”

Ford’s F-150 and Volkswagen’s Golf/GTI won the 2015 awards. Chevrolet swept the 2014 awards for General Motors Co. with the Corvette and Silverado.

Detroit automakers have swept both awards eight times — 1995, 1996, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 — since the awards started more than 20 years ago at the North American International Auto Show.

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