Dozens of car models have been launched or completely redesigned in the past year, bringing many new choices to dealer lots. Some of the models have excited us with fresh style, functionality, and imaginative touches. Other cars have inspired nothing but frowns and yawns. Here is our list of the top models and those that fell short of expectations. 

Audi Q7

Best and Worst Cars of 2016: Audi Q7

Overall MPG: 20
Price Range: $54,800-$64,300

The slick, pampering Q7 proves that you can have it all—if you can afford it. Despite its big footprint, the three-row Q7’s handling is athletic, bettering certain smaller SUVs in our avoidance maneuver. Its supercharged V6 provides plenty of power and a respectable 20 mpg overall. Inside is a plush, inviting interior that shields occupants from the chaos outside. The optional air suspension delivers a cushy ride, eliminating the firmness of the standard setup. Standard forward-collision warning and automatic braking, and a comprehensive infotainment system finish this impressive SUV.

Read the complete Audi Q7 road test.

BMW 7 Series

Overall MPG: 21
Price Range: $81,300-$97,400

Let’s face it—a $100,000 car should be excellent. And this flagship sedan truly is, excelling in almost every facet of the driving experience. Performance is handled gracefully, with power delivered in an elegant rush. The standard air suspension provides a regal, steady ride, and the cabin seals out intrusive road and wind noise. A ride in the 7 Series is often a chauffeur-driven affair, so it may not matter that it doesn’t quite drive like a sportier BMW. Instead, the focus is on the ample rear-seat space, available infotainment controls, and massage and recline features.

Read the complete BMW 7 Series road test.

Honda Civic

Honda Civic

Overall MPG: 31-32
Price Range: $18,640-$26,500

Stumble once in a race and the competition catches you. Stumble twice and you’re left in the dust. With huge pressure to rebound from the previous-generation Civic’s shortcomings, Honda’s compact has regained its place among the top cars. The interior is roomy, well-thought-out, and crafted of high-quality materials—a huge improvement. On the road the Honda rekindles memories of Civics past, with refined ride and handling characteristics that keep it composed and steady. The base engine is sufficiently powerful and returns 32 mpg overall. Opting for the stronger turbo brings a penalty of just 1 mpg.

Read the complete Honda Civic road test.

Kia Optima

Kia Optima

Overall MPG: 28
Price Range: $22,140-$36,040

In the cookie-cutter world of midsized sedans, the Optima represents something more ambitious than a basic family vehicle. The Optima not only benefits from a striking design but also offers levels of equipment that exude a premium feel without breaking your budget. Amenities such as heated leather seats cost thousands less than the competition’s. Its taut suspension delivers responsive, secure handling, but the ride is a touch firm. The base engine’s 28 mpg overall is commendable, and power is delivered without drama. Unfortunately Kia makes advanced safety features available only on the top-trim SX; that’s the Optima’s biggest demerit.

Read the complete Kia Optima road test.

Lincoln MKX

Lincoln MKX

Overall MPG: 18
Price Range: $38,260-$57,810

The MKX is based on the solid but more pedestrian Ford Edge. Lincoln’s midsized SUV challenges its German rivals in terms of ride, handling, and quietness. On twisty roads the MKX instills confidence and puts a smile on your face. Yet there is no trade-off in ride quality: Bumps, ruts, and pavement imperfections are muted, and the cabin remains tranquil. The 2.7-liter turbo V6 we tested delivers strong, effortless performance, but it returns just 18 mpg overall. The interior is luxurious, with supremely comfortable seats, and the new Sync 3 infotainment system is one of the better interfaces on the market. Do yourself a favor and test-drive the Lincoln MKX.

Read the complete Lincoln MKX road test.

Toyota Prius

Toyota Prius

Overall MPG: 52
Price Range: $24,200-$30,000

From a company that prides itself on steady, incremental improvement, Toyota shocked us by boosting the fuel economy of its hybrid icon from 44 to 52 mpg overall in our tests—an impressive 18 percent. The redesigned Prius demonstrates how a collection of small changes can pay big dividends. Other improvements include higher-quality materials and more soft-touch surfaces than its predecessor had. Handling is clearly sharper, feeling more athletic than past versions. Its leisurely acceleration and flat seats don’t make it a sports car, but that isn’t the point. Smart, reliable, fuel-efficient transportation is what makes the Prius a standout.

Read the complete Toyota Prius road test.

Disappointments of the Year

Tough competition has weeded out almost all of the truly bad cars. But mediocrity still abounds, as evidenced by our tests. Here we highlight four 2016 redesigns that should have been better than what their manufacturers churned out, ranked in ascending order based on Overall Score.

Smart ForTwo

Despite its brand name, there’s nothing particularly smart about the redesigned Smart ForTwo city car. Even at urban speeds the suspension sends stiff jolts through the body of this tiny pod in response to any roadway imperfection. Combine that with ever-present engine thrum and any drive becomes quickly tiring. Even with the improved transmission and more responsive engine, the idle vibration and lag before takeoff makes for dodgy merges into traffic. Look past the Smart’s pint-sized whimsy; far better choices are available.

Read the complete Smart ForTwo road test.

Chevrolet Spark

Chevy pitches the Spark as an affordable, fuel-efficient option for style-conscious city dwellers. In reality, there is no argument in favor of the Spark. Its 33 mpg overall trails the Toyota Yaris iA (née Scion iA) and is matched by larger, more substantial cars like the Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3. Its base price is enticingly low at $14,635, but just adding power windows erases any savings over the better Honda Fit or Kia Rio. The Spark is slow, with a narrow cockpit and a thin, unsubstantial seat. For drivers in tight urban environs, choose a more substantial new or used car instead.

Read the complete Chevrolet Spark road test.

Nissan Sentra

It’s not that the Sentra is truly awful, it just pales in comparison to class leaders from Honda, Mazda, and Toyota. Its cheap-feeling cabin and unsupportive front seats stand out in a category with plenty of more refined models. Every trip is a joyless affair. The engine and transmission deliver lazy pick-up and a strained, unpleasant drone, and the suspension is mushy and vague. It is fuel efficient, has a roomy rear seat, and offers a number of features for a low price, but those dashes of color don’t overcome the Sentra’s drab grayness of a driving experience.

Read the complete Nissan Sentra road test.

Toyota Tacoma

The old Tacoma was a clunky, utilitarian truck with unimpressive fuel economy that drove like an agrarian-era relic. As for the redesigned Tacoma—well, the gas mileage is much better. The rest still carries over. Throughout its history, this truck has developed a fan base, but you’d have to be a Tacoma devotee to endure the ponderous handling, tooth-shattering ride, and loud cabin. Once you awkwardly duck into the low seat, you’re greeted with a rudimentary interior. Reliability has been very good, but after waiting 13 years for a redesign, buyers deserve better.

Read the complete Toyota Tacoma road test.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the October 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.