Another North American International Auto Show has passed. A car has set itself on fire on the show stand. An increasingly irrelevant automaker tried to prove that it is still relevant while other’s lived in the white noise press flutter during Detroit’s big day in January.

The true concept cars of NAIAS this year were at a level of mediocrity reserved for the US Lawn Bowling Championship and the Canadian Football League. It was the production ready cars that really shined.

Trying to sort out all the choices from the mix is a hard task. However, that has not deterred us from trying to pick the Best and the Worst of the 2012 edition of the Detroit Auto Show.

Best: 2013 Dodge Dart

When images of the 2013 Dodge Dart started hitting the Interwebs, I couldn’t help but get excited. The Chrysler group of brands is experiencing a renaissance of sorts after bankruptcy. Fiat is injecting some much needed technology in the company while also taking some platforms to round out its own European portfolios.

Underneath the very handsome and aggressive crossbar sheet metal exists an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, another small car that means a lot on the global scene. Propelling the new compact hotness is a trio of engines: a base 2.0L ‘Tigershark’ four cylinder (160 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque), 2.4L ‘Tigershark’ four pot (184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque), and the top of the range 1.4L MultiAir turbocharged four-banger (160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque). One of these engines is expected to garner the coveted 40MPG (US) banner, before EPA adjustment, giving Dodge a proper contender in the compact car segment.

And this is all before any SRT version is mentioned. Expect that late in the year, if it happens.

Worst: Everything that GM brought to the party (save the Chevy Sonic RS)

If the Chevrolet Code 130R and Tru 140S are the best examples of what ‘new’ GM is capable of, we should have euthanized the company during bankruptcy. Even the names of the cars are atrocious, if very indicative of the lack of emotion these concepts conveyed in the motoring press (and the public at large, for the most part). They are the definition of ‘Homer’ cars; developed by the public via focus groups, designed by committee.

The Chevrolet Code 130R “features heritage performance-inspired styling and rear-wheel drive” says GM’s press release. That’s PR spin for saying “we grafted an awkward Camaro rear-end on a small car that looks fast but isn’t.” Everything about this little coupe is absolutely weird, right down to the color scheme, which appears to have been picked by a former Subaru designer suffering from color blindness.

At the other end of the small car spectrum was the Chevrolet Tru 140S concept (what do these names mean?) that is actually quite a looker. But, the design is very derivative of other vehicles on, or euthanized from, the market (HELLO, MITSUBISHI ECLIPSE!).

When the general public is referring to the design of a vehicle as ‘being a mix of X car, Y car, and Z car’, you’re in trouble.

Last but not least, developed by the “Misplaced Effort Department” at GM, is the Buick Encore. And as far as I know, there was nobody in the press gallery holding up their lighters during this unveil.

The Encore, continuing the design language first introduced by the larger Enclave, isn’t ugly. It probably isn’t even a bad vehicle. When Buick starts building it (and they will, unlike the above two concepts) I am sure the reviews for it will be great, just like all the other Buick product that has been developed in the last couple of years.

The problem with the Encore is it is too small to be a Buick in my eyes. It is smaller than any other sport utility in the GM product portfolio. If I were in the market for a small ute, I wouldn’t be looking for a front-drive, 1.4L turbo powered, semi-luxury Buick. Chevrolet should have received this one.

[You can find the original post on shift+drive.]