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Honda was the biggest winner of the 2018 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards to be announced on Thursday. Six of the Japanese automaker’s models were recognized as the best values in their respective segments. Ford and Audi, a division of Volkswagen (VLKAY), each had two winners.
New technology allowed vehicles to stand out from the pack. The Ford Expedition leapfrogged the competition after its first makeover in a decade, thanks in part to the benefits of a 10-speed transmission and technology upgrades inside the cabin.
“Car buyers can be dazzled by the newness of [modern vehicles],” said Micah Muzio, Kelley Blue Book’s managing editor of video. “We tend to appreciate cars that can do the job of being a car” while still providing the latest technology, he added.
“In the modern era, most vehicles are pretty darn good. So manufacturers have to differentiate through design and technology. The question is, how is that technology going to make lives better? Which technology distracts, and which technology enhances? That separates the winners and the losers.”
Vehicles equipped with Apple (AAPL) CarPlay or Android Auto have a notable advantage, given that car shoppers are accustomed to using smartphone interfaces.
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“One of the things about the Accord, it can make technology very acceptable. Controls are half analog, half digital,” Muzio said. “And it drives really well.”
The experts at Kelley Blue Book evaluated the 300-plus 2018 models on the market, settling on recommendations in 12 categories such as midsize cars, pickup trucks and full-size SUVs. Kelley Blue Book selected its “best buys” using vehicle pricing, sales, five-year cost to own, consumer ratings and other data. The auto researcher also relied on its own tests of nearly every new vehicle available to consumers.
Honda, whose Civic earned the title of “Overall Best Buy” the last two years, continued its winning streak with the redesigned Accord. Kelley Blue Book said the Accord is the most appealing model among midsize sedans, a segment that offers a strong set of features at a lower price than the average new vehicle.
Automakers have struggled to move smaller cars off the lot this year amid growing demand for crossovers and SUVs. With sales falling, buyers can take advantage of steeper discounts on new sedans, potentially creating an even better value for shoppers who remain loyal to the segment.
“The Accord was already pretty good. But with the 2018 remodel, it’s above the competition,” Muzio said, adding that the Accord benefits from low ownership costs and Honda’s reputation for reliability.
Ford won accolades from Kelley Blue Book for the F-150 and the Expedition, the best buy among full-size SUVs. The F-150 has won the truck category four years running, beating top contenders like the Chevrolet Silverado and Fiat Chrysler's (FCAU) Ram. The 2018 version of the F-150, America’s best-selling truck, sports new styling and greater towing capacity, among other upgrades.
“The F-150 dominates right now, and it continues to innovate,” Muzio said.
The Honda Civic held onto its title as the best small car. Honda’s other winners were the CR-V (small SUVs), Pilot (midsize SUVs), Odyssey (minivans) and Clarity Plug-In Hybrid (electric/hybrid cars).
General Motors (GM) had a winner in the 2018 Chevrolet Impala, which took top honors in full-size cars for the fourth consecutive year.
Kelley Blue Book’s pick as the best luxury car for 2018 is the Audi A5 Sportback, and the Audi Q5 beat all other luxury SUVs. The Porsche 718 Boxster is Kelley Blue Book’s top performance car.
Overall Winner: 2018 Honda Accord
Small Car: 2018 Honda Civic
Mid-Size Car: 2018 Honda Accord
Full-Size Car: 2018 Chevrolet Impala
Luxury Car: 2018 Audi A5 Sportback
Performance Car: 2018 Porsche 718 Boxster
Electric/Hybrid Car: 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid
Small SUV/Crossover: 2018 Honda CR-V
Mid-Size SUV/Crossover: 2018 Honda Pilot
Full-Size SUV/Crossover: 2018 Ford Expedition
Luxury SUV/Crossover: 2018 Audi Q5
Truck: 2018 Ford F-150
Minivan: 2018 Honda Odyssey