In a year of extreme challenges, pandemic social distancing and office closures, some things haven’t changed at all.
When we announced the 2020 Wards 10 Best Interiors last month, seven of the 10 honorees were SUVs or CUVs, the first time so many utility vehicles have dominated.
Over the past two weeks, we have named the 2020 Wards 10 Best UX winners and, once again, seven of the 10 recipients are SUVs or CUVs. The results of the two competitions reinforce the soaring popularity of people haulers of all sizes, at all price points.
This is the fifth year of the competition, which focuses on the user experience, which means assessing the user-friendliness of technology such as touchscreens, smartphone pairing, voice-control navigation, head-up displays and the effectiveness of driver-assistance technologies such as adaptive cruise control and blindspot monitoring.
The 2020 winners in alphabetical order (prices listed as tested):
- Audi Q7 ($75,290)
- BMW X7 ($113,845)
- Chevrolet Trailblazer ($32,350)
- Ford Escape ($44,220)
- Hyundai Sonata ($34,365)
- Kia Seltos ($29,485)
- Mercedes-Benz CLA ($48,295)
- Subaru Legacy ($36,795)
- Toyota Highlander ($51,112)
- Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport ($51,050)
“This is a great list of new vehicles that span a wide swath of the U.S. market, from mainstream to luxury,” says Dave Zoia, executive director-Content for Wards. “The fact that so many of this year’s winners are crossovers tells you exactly where automakers are targeting their investments in the latest vehicle technologies.”
Eight Wards judges based in Metro Detroit selected the winners after evaluating 18 eligible vehicles with all-new or significantly upgraded UX features. Because of COVID-19, the 10 Best Interiors competition normally held in winter was pushed back to spring and consolidated to some extent with 10 Best UX.
The two competitions overlap slightly in judging criteria, so our time with the 32 nominees for 10 Best Interiors helped us hone our nominee pool for 10 Best UX. The Toyota Highlander was the only vehicle to land on both winners’ lists.
Because of a shortened timeframe for our UX testing, we asked automakers to pick their one newest vehicle with the most advanced features to evaluate, and the OEMs gladly obliged.
It resulted in a smaller nominee pool of 18 vehicles, but we were able to spend more time focused on the attributes of each one.
As UX testing began, analyst Christie Schweinsberg acquired a wearable rig (pictured below) for holding her smartphone against her forehead, for safely shooting UX video while driving.
“This has been a year like no other, but we managed to run both 10 Best Interiors and 10 Best UX back to back for the first time ever,” Zoia says. “And we’re extremely pleased that we could adapt our evaluation process to use videoconferencing so editors working from home could experience vehicles, while respecting social-distancing guidelines.”
Most of the 10 Best Interiors evaluations in April and May were conducted with videoconferencing. But as Michigan’s COVID-19 caseload was declining in June, editors became more comfortable swapping test vehicles, meaning more of them had valuable seat time in picking this year’s 10 Best UX winners.
The 2020 Wards 10 Best UX recipients (as well as 2020 Wards 10 Best Interiors winners) will be honored in a virtual ceremony during the Informa Tech Automotive Group’s Super Event featuring the WardsAuto Interiors Conference, WardsAuto User Experience Conference, TU-Detroit and ADAS & Autonomous Vehicles, to be held Aug. 18-20.