Accolades for the 2016 Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle and the 2016 Honda Civic kicked off the Detroit Auto Show on Monday morning. The vehicles beat out the new Chevy Malibu, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Nissan Titan truck and Honda Pilot SUV to win the 2016 North American Car, Truck/Utility of the Year Award.

Every year, a panel of automotive journalists pick their favorite cars based on setting new benchmarks in design, safety and handling and driver satisfaction. And though the awards don’t carry the same weight as praise from a publication like Consumer Reports, they signal the direction the market for mass-produced vehicles are headed.

“It’s one of those awards that’s more important for the industry than for consumers. Something like the Motor Trend Car of the Year or the Car & Driver 10 Best list are more oriented to car buyers,” said Eric Lyman, vice president of automotive industry insights at TrueCar Inc. “But it’s a great accolade for an automaker to win the award.”

2016 Chevy Malibu The new Honda Civic beat out the widely praised new Chevrolet Malibu to win the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year Awards for 2016. Photo: Chevrolet

The Volvo XC90 is part of Volvo Cars’ $11-billion effort by its Chinese owner Geely to help the Swedish manufacturer regain its stature as an understated, safety first automaker. With its 2.0-liter turbocharged 316-horsepower engine, the seven-seat midsize luxury crossover SUV has won praise for its efficiency and interior space. Ford sold Volvo to the Chinese automaker in 2010 for much needed cash, and at the time industry watchers wondered how much Geely would tinker with Volvo’s future. It turns out that the Chinese have allowed Volvo to retain its Scandinavian sensibility.

“So here is the new, sweetly handsome, slightly eccentric, even subtly glamorous XC90 intended to return Volvo to the forefront of the progressive automotive consciousness,” said a Car & Driver review of the $50,000 2016 XC90.

2016 Honda Pilot The new Honda Pilot lost to the new Volvo XC90. Photo: Honda

The 2016 Honda Civic is the 10th generation of Honda’s popular fuel sipping compact that emerged amid the 1973 oil embargo that helped modestly raise American consciousness about fuel economy. The new Civic replaced one introduced in 2009 that was panned for its design, noise and performance. But with a new design, platform and a first turbo-engine car Honda has offered in the U.S., the Japanese automaker may have got its Civic groove back.

“Ride comfort is significantly improved with a compliance that’s unusual for the compact sedan class, while refined body control keeps the car steady and composed,” said a Consumer Reports review of Honda’s new key compact. “Road noise made previous Civics so loud; it is now much more muted. Combined with the comfortable ride, the newfound manners give the Civic a mature, substantial feel.”

2016 Mazda MX-5 The new Mazda MX-5 Miata lost to the new Honda Civic. Photo: Mazda

The 14-day 2016 North American International Auto Show kicked off Monday for the media to see what’s coming up for the 2017 model year. Ahead of the event on Sunday Buick, the entry level luxury brand from General Motors, unveiled the Avista concept coupe, a sporty twin-turbo rear-wheel drive V-6. No plans have been made to build the car, which garnered applause from reporters at the event Sunday night, but it shows the direction GM is taking the brand.

2016 Nissan Titan The 2016 Nissan Titan lost to the Volvo XC90. Photo: Nissan