Awards Season

World Car of the Year award winners announced, U.S.-made vehicle wins top honors

The Porsche Taycan has won two awards this year.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

A jury of automotive journalists from across the globe have tested a bevy of new vehicles and given an American-made model top honors. The 2020 World Car of the Year awards consist of four category winners and one top dog.

Scroll down to see the winners.

2020 World Car of the Year - Kia Telluride

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Kia Telluride is a new three-row SUV offering from the mass market automaker. It's constructed in West Point, Georgia. The model has won numerous awards this season including the coveted North American Utility Vehicle of the Year honor.

2020 World Luxury Car of the Year - Porsche Taycan

Porsche Taycan

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

Residents of Utah and Nevada are the Americans most excited about the Porsche Taycan. And, according to the World Car of the Year jury, they should be. The all-electric performance car delivers on athleticism and handling, two top priorities for Porsche buyers.

2020 World Urban Car of the Year - Kia Soul

2020 Kia SoulPhoto courtesy of Kia Motors

The Kia Soul was completely redesigned for the 2020 model year. It has a sleek new front end but maintains its characteristic boxiness. It's easy handling and small size make it ideal for urban environments.

2020 World Performance Car of the Year: Porsche Taycan

Porsche Taycan

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The Taycan double dipped, which shows its strength in a market that is growing increasingly comfortable with all-electric cars. This despite the fact that a recent Ford survey found that over one-third of respondents globally had no interest in owning one.

2020 World Car Design of the Year - Mazda Mazda3

2020 Mazda Mazda3Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The 2020 Mazda Mazda3 is a top-to-bottom redesign of popular model. It's a freshly sleek and stylish take on the car that is known for its athletic handling and well-appointed interior.

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Safety and technology awards

Four Hyundai cars earn top marks for teen drivers

Best SUV for Teens $35 to $40k: 2021 Santa Fe Hybrid

Hyundai
Each year, U.S. News & World Report ranks vehicles in several categories. One relates to teen drivers and how well a vehicle performs in areas such as safety and available technology features. The 2021 rankings for Best New Cars for Teens were just released and one automaker hit it big. Four vehicles from Hyundai's 2021 lineup took top spots in various categories. They include:
  • Best Car for Teens $20k to $25k: 2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid
  • Best SUV for Teens $20k to $25k: 2021 Hyundai Kona
  • Best Car for Teens $25k to $30k: 2021 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
  • Best SUV for Teens $35k to $40k: 2021 Santa Fe Hybrid


2021 Hyundai Elantra Hybrid Best Car for Teens $20k to $25k: 2021 Hyundai Elantra HybridHyundai


All vehicles that earned awards in the 2021 survey are available with safety features that include forward collision warnings, forward automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, and lane keep assist. The vehicles also carry safety features and controls that allow parents to monitor their teen's behavior. Through the available smartphone app, parents can receive alerts when the vehicle goes over a set speed or if the teen leaves a set geographic area. The idea is that the functionality allows parents to coach their young drivers on their driving habits.


2021 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Best Car for Teens $25k to $30k 2021 Hyundai Ioniq HybridHyundai


To earn a spot on the U.S. News Best Cars for Teens rankings, a vehicle has to score well in several categories that include crash test scores and available advanced driver assistance features. The vehicle must also have scored well in the publication's rankings for its segment and price level.


2021 Hyundai Kona Best SUV for Teens $20k to $25k: 2021 Hyundai KonaHyundai

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The CX-5's styling is sharp and clean.

Mazda

Crossovers have clearly become the family vehicle of choice. Minivans and large sedans are far less common than they used to be as buyers opt for the relative plushness and more generous space offered by utility vehicles. That's not a bad thing, but many people will find the increasing levels of sameness in the crossover market to be off-putting.

Thankfully, Mazda is here to help keep things interesting. Its CX-5 takes a different approach than its rivals. Where vehicles like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V focus on comfort and efficiency over almost everything else, Mazda managed to jam in loads of vehicle feedback and engagement. Behind the wheel, the crossover feels and sounds much more alive and responsive than its competition. Jumping out of a larger vehicle and into the CX-5 felt like a shock at first, as the Mazda's steering wheel delivers real, actual feedback and transmits a picture of what's going on underneath the vehicle, which is something not often seen outside of expensive performance vehicles.


2021 Mazda CX-5 The CX-5's cabin is more upscale than its rivals. Mazda


Engaging Powertrains

The CX-5's base four-cylinder engine is fine, but the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is where things start to get interesting. It bumps the standard mill's 187 horsepower to 250 and gives off a pleasing turbo whine under heavy throttle. It pairs almost perfectly with the six-speed automatic transmission and delivers surprising power and torque. My test vehicle's all-wheel drive gave the CX-5 a surefooted feel, and from experience I can say that it's worth the added cost if you live anywhere with legitimate winter weather.

There are a few tradeoffs that come along with the CX-5's level of driver engagement, largely related to interior space and noise levels. While the Mazda's cabin is comfortable and is in no way low-rent, a great deal of wind, road, and drivetrain noise make their way into the vehicle at all times. You could argue that this is just another expression of the CX-5's connection with its driver, and you'd be right in some cases. At many times, however, such as when taking the kids to school or just running to the grocery store, it gets tiresome. Your five-year-old won't care about how good the steering feel is when they have to keep asking you to crank up the volume on their podcast story. The noise level is most noticeable around town with the constant stop and go of traffic.

The other main drawback with the CX-5, at least for families (like mine) that don't travel lightly, is interior space. Thanks to its curves and beautifully sloped roof, the Mazda's cargo hold is not as spacious as some of its rivals, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Honda CR-V, or Toyota RAV4. That dramatic shape also makes the rear seat feel tighter than it reads on paper, but thanks to a friendly ride height and large rear door openings, parents will have no issues with loading kids in car seats.


2021 Mazda CX-5 A sloping roofline can make rear-seat headroom challenging for taller people.Mazda


Great Tech and Safety

Mazda bumped the CX-5's infotainment screen size from 7.0 to 10.3 inches across the board for 2021, but there's no touchscreen here. Instead, the system is controlled using a rotary dial and volume know that are mounted behind the gear shifter in the center console. It's a responsive and fairly straightforward process to use and control the system, but scrolling through long menus or trying to wade through several options using the rotary controller becomes tiresome and distracting at times.

The 2021 Mazda CX-5 was named a Top Safety Pick + by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That award is due in part to the crossover's excellent performance in crash tests, but also comes thanks to its long list of standard advanced driver aids. All models get a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, lane departure warnings with lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, a smart brake support system, and high beam control. My top trim tester also got a driver attention alert system, front and rear parking sensors, and a 360-degree monitor.

It's hard to ignore the quality, value, and fun that the CX-5 brings to the table, even considering how good its competitors have gotten. With a price tag that maxes out under $40,000, the Mazda's driving experience and plush interior should put it at the top of shoppers' lists. Its few drawbacks don't spoil the overall package, and only really present a problem for families of four or more – like mine. Those people, myself included, should be shopping for a slightly larger vehicle, anyway, and for them, there's the Mazda CX-9.


2021 Mazda CX-5 The CX-5 is one of the most fun-to-drive crossovers on sale today.Mazda

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