NACTOY

Ford, Hyundai win big as 2021 North American Car, Truck, SUV of the Year announced

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E came up with a trophy at the annual NACTOY awards.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

While it's an honor just to be nominated as a finalist, three vehicles stood out to the jurors of the North American Car, Truck, and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) awards. All NACTOY nominees are vehicles that have either been introduced for the 2021 model year or undergone a significant redesign.

Ford and Hyundai earned top honors with the Ford F-150 earning the North American Truck of the Year award, Ford Mustang Mach-E taking the North American SUV of the Year trophy, and the Hyundai Elantra getting the North American Car of the Year nod.

2021 North American Car of the Year: Hyundai Elantra

2021 Hyundai Elantra

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai has redesigned the Hyundai Elantra for the 2021 model year taking it from a passive daily driver to an engaging small car with a lot of zip, especially in the Elantra N model where it gets a standard manual transmission and tuning to make it a sleeper. It also has a boatload of high-tech features that make it punch far above its price tag, which starts under $20,000.

2021 North American Truck of the Year: Ford F-150

2021 Ford F-150 Tremor Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford didn't just redesign its F-150, it listened to its customers and made it better for them. Sure, that seems simple enough but while they may get accused of not going far enough, NACTOY jurors appear to have recognized how innovative the redesign is for the average F-150 customer. On-board generator? Check. Collapsable shifter? Check. Fold out work station for the driver? Check. Clamp zones in the tailgate? Check.

Ford recently made news saying that the F-150 will be the latest model that is available with the Tremor off-roading package.

2021 North American SUV of the Year: Ford Mustang Mach-E

2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Ford Mustang Mach-E is the first all-electric crossover the company has offered and Ford is aiming to do it 100 percent right the first time. Like other electric SUVs, the Mustang Mach-E comes in a variety of battery range levels. Ford is pairing those with options for all-wheel drive and premium appointments, treating the Mustang Mach-E more as a traditional vehicle than an electric outlier.

Ford recently announced a new Mustang Mach-E GT Performance Edition will be added for the 2022 model year.

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New performance SUV

Hyundai announces pricing for 2022 Kona N

The Kona N is price right at $35,425.

Hyundai

Hyundai is hard at work developing new electric vehicles, and has released some truly interesting electric concepts in recent months. However, the automaker’s efforts in the electric world haven’t stopped it from rolling out fun-to-drive and affordable performance vehicles under its N brand. Today, Hyundai announced pricing for the latest vehicle in the series. The Kona N will go on sale soon with a reasonable starting price of $35,425, which includes a $1,225 destination charge.

2022 Hyundai Kona N One well-equipped model will be available.Hyundai

The Kona N joins Hyundai’s high-performance stable that also includes the Veloster N and Elantra N, though the latter hasn’t yet hit the streets. The hot crossover gets the same output numbers from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder as the Elantra N: 276 horsepower and 289 pound-feet of torque. The Veloster gets 275 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. That rowdy four-banger is paired with an eight-speed wet dual-clutch transmission.

Hyundai’s full-on N cars get plenty of other go-fast bits to keep them planted in corners and stable at higher speeds. The Kona N gets an electronic limited-slip differential, an active sport exhaust system, electronically controlled suspension, and 19-inch wheels with Pirelli P-Zero performance tires.

2022 Hyundai Kona N Aggressive wheels and tires help keep the Kona N planted in corners.Hyundai

Hyundai generally knocks it out of the park with value, and the Kona N is no exception. Its modest price tag buys a generous helping of advanced driver aids in addition to its exciting specs. Standard features include forward collision warnings, lane keep assist, lane following assist, driver attention warnings, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and a safe exit warning system.

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New compact pickup truck

2022 Ford Maverick: A small truck with big ability

The Maverick can tow up to 4,000 pounds when properly equipped.

Ford

Pickup trucks are big. And, over the past two decades as sales have skyrocketed in this segment of the automotive market, mid-sized, full-sized and Super Duty-sized trucks have grown more popular and larger in nearly every dimension. Bigger was better. However, for Ford and many buyers now, the option of a pickup with tidy dimensions is . The 2022 Ford Maverick is the revitalization of the compact truck and this all-new model is filled with a host of surprises and appealing features. Among the surprises are clever design and storage solutions, with the built-in opportunity for DIY customization, as well as a long list of available accessories.

2022 Ford Maverick The Maverick's bed can swallow 4x8 sheets of plywood.Ford

The Maverick starts at $19,995 and comes standard with a hybrid powertrain. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine is available. Ford says over 100,000 customers have already ordered the entry-level pickup that comes with a 4.5-foot bed and a crew cab body style only. Both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions are available, although AWD can be optioned with the gasoline engine. The mini-truck comes in XL, XLT and Lariat trims, with an available FX4 package that adds toughness and technology for off-the-road terrain. The package adds different suspension tuning, underbody protection, all-terrain tires, and backcountry drive modes, like Mud/Ruts and Sand, as well as Hill Descent Control. A First Edition Package offered for the first model year only comes on the Lariat trim and brings unique graphics, trims, and wheels. Sized like Ford's Ranger and other compact trucks of the past, Maverick is the solo offering in this reborn segment, although some might cross-shop it with the all-new Hyundai Santa Cruz that has a truck bed, but is pitched as a sports activity vehicle.

The Maverick is built on the same unibody platform and high-strength steel subframe as the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport. In the right light, it even looks a bit like the "baby Bronco" from the front with an upright body style, an eye-attracting front face and Ford's drop-down side windows. Standard LED headlights flank the grille while bed rail caps are vertical and extend from the bed to the top of the back window. One of the most appealing features of the truck is Flexbed that offers many different ways to organize and stow cargo within the bed's box 54.4-inch back end that can accommodate 4 x 8 sheets of plywood and has low sides for easy access along with a multi-position tailgate. Of note, Maverick has standard built-in 12-volt electrical power prewired on both sides of the bed at the rear to help with DIY electrical projects, plus two available 110-volt 400-watt outlets (one in the bed and one in the cabin) to power phones, laptops, small TVs and small corded tools. Fun features are under-the-bed stowage and a tailgate cleat that serves as a bottle opener.

2022 Ford Maverick An eight-inch touchscreen is standard. Ford

The base powertrain's hybrid is motivated by a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder that is shifted through Ford's PowerSplit CVT transmission; the internal combustion engine joins with an electric motor to improve fuel economy and bring a power boost. This Maverick version has 191 combined horsepower sent to the front wheels and 155 lb.-ft of torque while the 2.0-liter EcoBoost directs 250 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft of torque to either the front wheels or all (for the AWD) and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Drive modes include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul. The hybrid has a payload of 1,500 pounds that can accommodate an ATV in back and a tow rating of 2,000 pounds, which will allow the truck to tow a pair of personal watercraft or small camper. The EcoBoost-powered truck equipped with the optional 4,000-pound Tow Package can tug a 21-foot boat.

We sampled a few different trucks and performed some towing and hauling exercises on roadways in the Nashville, TN environs. Top of our "likes" list is the hybrid powertrain that garnered great fuel economy and moves quickly when motivated by the throttle, as a result of good torque-on-tap. We were impressed by the backcountry prowess of the FX4 model that we motored on a dirt tow track that included a modest uphill climb and a section with a small rock ledge. The truck performed well with no slippage or drama. Of note, the AWD set-up has a more sophisticated rear suspension, a multi-link configuration in place of the front-driver's torsion-beam design.

2022 Ford Maverick Two powertrains are offered, including an incredibly efficient hybrid.Ford

The Maverick interior is somewhat simple and utilitarian, with materials and surfaces that favor function over form. The doors have large pockets that can hold a one-liter water bottle, and there are cupholders to hold up to 18 beverages, plus store a tablet or notebook. Base trucks are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-ready with a 8.0-inch touch screen for infotainment and ride on painted 17-inch steel wheels. Uplevel trucks get a few extra goodies, with wheel options that include 18-inchers. The five-passenger, four-door truck has a clever and deep stowage well under the rear seat that can even hold a fully-inflated basketball. The compact truck is projected to get better fuel economy than a Honda Civic; Ford says the hybrid can achieve up to 40 mpg city and has a 500-mile-long range on a single tank of gas. During our day-long drive exercises, we actually had a slightly higher rating.

There are a number of standard safety features onboard with Ford Co-Pilot 360, such as Pre-Collision Assist with Emergency Braking and Automatic High Beams Headlights and a list of optional safety technologies that includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Blind Spot Information with Cross Traffic Alert and more.

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