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BuzzScore – Rating Methodology

Every week, our experienced editors provide objective and detailed analyses of the latest cars, trucks, and SUVs on the road. The aim is to enable our readers to make an informed decision when it comes to investing in a new set of wheels. While our comprehensive car reviews qualify the excellence of a car, our BuzzScore quantifies it.

Determined by our editorial staff who review hundreds of vehicles every year, each model is given a rating from 1 to 10 based on eight different metrics.

We evaluate the performance and interior features, use hard data like fuel economy and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) safety ratings, and assess subjective factors such as styling and comfort. Each category is given a score, with the BuzzScore representing a simple average rounded to the nearest tenth of a point.

Vehicles are rated relative to their direct competitors, helping readers to see where it sits in the segment.

What metrics are used in calculating the BuzzScore?

Exterior Design:

The exterior design and styling is the most subjective element of any vehicle. So we evaluate this component based on team discussions, opinions of onlookers we meet during our time with the vehicle, and the overall consensus of the automotive industry.

Performance:

A vehicle's performance rating is determined by a range of factors. These include engine performance, transmission, horsepower and torque outputs, ride and handling, acceleration, brakes and overall driving impressions in the city and on the highway. For mainstream cars, we also give points for road noise, comfort, passing power and driving fun. While for trucks, we award points for towing and offroad capabilities, as well as ride comfort.

Fuel Economy:

Fuel economy scores are determined by their EPA fuel economy estimates. For plug-in hybrids, we assign additional points for their electric driving ranges, while EVs automatically receive scores of 8 if their range is less than 200 miles, 9 for having a 200-300 mile range, or 10 if the boast a range of over 300 miles.

Interior & Cargo

How comfortable are the front and rear seats? How much legroom and headroom is there? Can three passengers sit comfortably in the back? These are the sorts of questions we ask when scoring the interior, while cargo includes trunk space based on official measurements as well as the number and size of the cubby holes. Other factors affecting the score include material quality, ergonomics, and design.

Infotainment & Features:

In assessing a vehicle's infotainment system we consider the screen size and resolution, its ease-of-use and intuitiveness, functions such as voice command, as well as Android Auto and Apple Car Play compatibility. Interior features under consideration include massage/heated seats and backup camera. We also look at what equipment comes as standard, marking vehicles down that require buyers to spend more on options.

Reliability:

In rating a vehicle's reliability we look at maintenance costs as determined by Consumer Reports, the number and severity of recalls, brand reputation based on studies by JD Power, issues we experienced with the car and the manufacturer's warranty.

Safety:

Points are awarded based on ratings from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In addition, we look at the vehicle's standard suite of safety features (pre-collision braking, blind spot monitoring, etc.), road visibility, and the number of airbags. Vehicles that have yet to be crash tested by the NHTSA or IIHS will have their score determined exclusively by safety features, airbags, and visibility.

Value For Money:

First, we look at the vehicle's base price in relation to its competitors with points awarded to the most affordable. Additional points are awarded to those that provide the most features as standard. We then determine the percentage difference between the base price and the price of the spec we'd recommend, and award or detract points accordingly. In short, value for money is an evaluation of how much car you get for your buck in any given class.

What do the BuzzScore numbers mean?

  • 0 - 3.0: Don't buy this car, look elsewhere
  • 3.1 - 5.0: Below average, something is seriously wrong with this car
  • 5.1 - 7.0: Average - nothing to complain about, nothing to love either.
  • 7.1 - 8.0: Above average, worth a look.
  • 8.1 - 9.0: Excellent vehicle, you won't be disappointed.
  • 9.1-10.0: The best car in its class.