Are you afraid of suffering the fear of missing out when considering your new car purchase? Our Driving Today’s Best Car Buys of the Year 2020 is an effort to help you solve that. In this simple but very highly researched list, we give you the absolute best choices of all the new 2020 model-year vehicles.
How do we identify the best car buys of the year? There is no magic to it, but it is a rigorous process that started well before the 2020 model year officially began. Our in-depth research involves attendance at auto shows, vehicle introductions, and press briefings plus thousands of miles in hundreds of vehicles — all to get a sense of which vehicles stand at the top of their respective classes.
At the same time, we do an equally rigorous amount of secondary research on sales, consumer perceptions and owner experiences with vehicles. To steer you to the best buy, we don’t simply rely on our opinions; we actively research the opinions of others, very importantly owners. To provide you the straight, honest answers you need we have to determine how vehicles perform in the real world in the hands of typical consumers. Our staff boasts decades of experience in evaluating all types of cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs, and we pride ourselves on our abilities to put ourselves in the shoes of the average car buyer.
What do we examine as we do our overall evaluations of every vehicle available in the U.S. market? We look at factors that are most important to you — safety, reliability, quality, comfort, convenience, economy and cost-to-own. We also place emphasis on new and redesigned vehicles, because those vehicles typically offer the most advanced technology. Our goal is to provide you with a guide to the best car values in the important vehicle categories. We wholeheartedly believe each of them will provide satisfying service to their buyers year after year.
Family Car Best Car Buy of the Year
The gigantic family car segment might not be quite as gigantic it used to be, but millions of American families each year choose a brand-new family sedan. This year the Best Buy in the category is the all-new 2020 Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan. From both a design and engineering point of view, the 2020 Hyundai Sonata checks all the right boxes. It looks great inside and out. The controls are clear, easy-to-use and housed in a roomy, comfortable cabin. The chassis and suspension offer a quiet, supple and confident ride, and both engines offer impressive complementary performance to the package. While individually nothing about the Sonata is startling, as a total car it is startlingly good. Under the hood, drivers can choose between a 191-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 180-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine both equipped with 8-speed automatic transmission. The turbo engine’s “secret sauce” is its flat 195 lb-ft torque curve that means power is always available. Then there are the Sonata’s robust array of advanced driving aids that are powered by three radar sensors, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and five cameras. To add to all this, we need to highlight Hyundai’s stellar warranty and product quality record. It is easy to name the 2020 Hyundai Sonata the Driving Today Family Car Best Car Buy of the Year.
Small Car Best Car Buy of the Year
Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Naming the Toyota Corolla the Best Small Car Buy of the Year 2020 should come as no surprise. The Corolla is one of the most popular small cars of all time with more than 44 million —yes, 44 million — sold worldwide since the car was introduced. While every version of the 2020 Corolla available here in the United States is a good one and certainly worthy of your consideration, our best buy of Best Buys is the all-new Corolla hybrid version. Not only is the fuel economy far superior to the already-good fuel economy of the conventional Corolla, but the hybrid version of the vehicle also doesn’t make you pay for that with noise, harshness or discomfort. Instead, it rewards you with better drivability. The torque-on-demand ability of the hybrid system kicks in at just the right time to make everyday driving just a little bit. In hybrid form, the 5-passenger Corolla is fitted with a high-compression 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine integrated with a 71-horsepower permanent synchronous magnet motor. The electric motor is powered by a tried-and-true nickel-metal-hydride battery. Total system horsepower is just 121, but it is the abundance of on-demand torque that makes the difference. Fuel economy is 52 mpg combined. Of course, the Corolla Hybrid offers all the safety and driver assistance features of Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 including pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and full-speed-range radar cruise control. A lot of vehicles populate the small-car segment, but for 2020 the Toyota Corolla Hybrid has earned its Best Car Buy status.
Small SUV Best Car Buy of the Year
America loves the Toyota RAV4. It is the most-purchased non-pickup in the country and the reasons for that are many. Certainly, they are the same reasons we have named the 2020 Toyota RAV4 the Small SUV Best Car Buy of the Year 2020. One of the key reasons for the RAV4’s popularity is its rock-solid build quality. The reliable 5-passenger crossover has a muscular stance and strong lines, while inside the whole interior ambiance now shows a definite tendency toward luxury. On the road, it’s a comfortable cruiser with a solid mix of standard features. Key among those features are Toyota’s Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) package, which brings a pre-collision system, lane departure alerts, radar cruise control, and other useful driver aids that will make your driving safer and more convenient. The conventional 2020 RAV4 is powered by a 2.5-liter 203-horsepower naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine driving either the front or all wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. A hybrid version of the RAV4 is also offered, but we’ll tell you more about that later in this list. What we can tell you now is the 2020 Toyota RAV4 is the Driving Today Small SUV Best Car Buy of the Year 2020.
Family SUV Best Car Buy of the Year
The crossover SUV has become Americans’ family car of choice these days, and for the 2020 model year, we feel there is no better buy in the class than the all-new Hyundai Palisade midsize SUV. The 8-passenger 2020 Palisade rides on an all-new chassis that offers exceptional second- and third-row accessibility and space. With its high-luxe interior, good acceleration, varied safety features, and robust towing capacity, the Hyundai Palisade is a welcome new entrant into the crowded family SUV field. And after careful examination, its is obvious that Hyundai did its homework thoroughly. The Palisade is filled with useful technology, including a class-exclusive Blind View Monitor that offers body-side views in the dash whenever the turn signal is activated. It complements an array of other safety technology bundled as Hyundai SmartSense. Its Atkinson-cycle 3.8-liter V-6 engine produces an ample 291 horsepower, more standard horsepower than others in its competitive set and an unsurpassed level of torque. Both two-wheel and HTRAC four-wheel-drive configurations are offered. The top-level engineering is accompanied by intelligent, easy-to-use creature comforts like the fact two Bluetooth devices can be connected simultaneously, with one for a mobile phone connection and the other for audio streaming. In a segment in which comfort, convenience, and versatility are the kings, the Hyundai Palisade holds all the aces as the Driving Today Best Family SUV Best Car Buy of the Year 2020.
Pickup Truck Best Car Buy of the Year
We are aware that the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator midsize truck might not be everyone’s shot of Jack Daniels. Not everyone in America needs what could well be described as the most capable midsize off-road truck ever built. But in the context of identifying the Pickup Truck Best Car Buy of the Year, we were impressed by the Gladiator’s tangibles and its intangibles. First, it is a true Jeep with strong ties to the legendary Jeep Wrangler. Second, some aspects of its design bear a strong resemblance to our Pickup Truck Best Car Buy of the Year 2019, the RAM 1500. And then there are niceties like the new model’s expected high resale value. Certainly, the Gladiator makes a styling statement as a Jeep truck on steroids, but its actions speak as loudly as its style. It offers best-in-class towing and 4-wheel-drive payload: 7,650 pounds of towing capacity and 1,600 pounds of payload capacity. Able to ford up to 30 inches of water, the Gladiator is a 5-passenger crew cab with a 5-foot steel bed that offers a covered external power source and integrated tie-downs. It’s powered by FCA’s venerable 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine with engine stop-start, backed by an 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission. Both Command-Trac and Rock-Trac 4×4 systems are available. As rugged as it looks outside, the Gladiator’s interior is a very welcoming place with easy-to-use infotainment to help you on your way.
Full-size SUV Best Car Buy of the Year
It was all-new for the 2018 model year, and the Ford Expedition topped the full-size SUV segment this past model year as our Best Car Buy of the Year in the class. After examining a rich, carryover field this year, we saw no reason to change our minds. With equipment additions and tweaks that make it an even better value, the 2020 Ford Expedition provides families generous interior space, a heavy dose of connectivity and impressive new technology. For example, the rear-seat entertainment system can stream live cable or satellite television, and there are USB ports in every row. Flexible seating solutions include second-row tip-and-slide seats that offer easy access to the third row even when child seats are installed, and the Expedition has best-in-class second- and third-row legroom. The advanced and surprisingly economical powertrain is a 400-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission for fuel economy and towing capability. Towing is enhanced by Pro Trailer Backup Assist that makes it easier for drivers to back up a trailer. And for those who take their big families off the grid, a robust four-wheel-drive system similar to that in the F-150 pickup truck is on the options list. Should you seek comfort, convenience, safety, versatility and cargo-hauling ability in your SUV you can’t do better than the Full-size SUV Best Car Buy of the Year 2020 Ford Expedition.
Minivan Best Car Buy of the Year
Chrysler is very serious about its minivans, and it shows. Last year we named the Chrysler Pacifica the Best Car Buy of the Year in the minivan class, and we are doing it again this year because the Pacifica hits the right notes of comfort, convenience, quality, and economy. With a versatile interior that can accommodate up to seven, the Pacifica can be modestly equipped with a commensurate price tag that won’t force you to skip a mortgage payment or it can be equipped with the latest and greatest connectivity/interactivity technology. One of the nicest things about the Chrysler Pacifica is the variety of options lets you have it your way. Even if you don’t buy the top-of-the-line model you and your family get a lot of family-friendly stuff. The inexpensive models feature heated/power-operated mirrors, keyless entry, stow-away second-row seats, power-operated driver seat, and parking camera system. Chrysler’s infotainment interface is one of the best in the business, and if you want backseat entertainment, you can get it. Want some cool stuff to make your life easier and show off a little? Power-operated doors, power-operated liftgate and power-folding second- and third-row seats are available. Most versions feature a 287-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine backed by a sophisticated 9-speed automatic transmission. An alternative is the ground-breaking plug-in hybrid system, the first in a minivan. It’s not difficult to see why DT has again chosen the Chrysler Pacifica its Minivan Best Car Buy of the Year.
Hybrid Vehicle Best Car Buy of the Year
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Yes, on this list you have seen a very similar car. We named the conventional version of the Toyota RAV4 compact SUV DT’s Small SUV Best Car Buy of the Year. That seems to be a good reason to name a very similar vehicle that happens to offer more performance, horsepower and, of course, fuel economy the Hybrid Vehicle Best Car Buy of the Year. Toyota has vowed to become even more aggressive in marketing environmentally friendly hybrids going forward — they’re already the leader — and the RAV4 Hybrid is a strong statement. As we said, it delivers everything we already love about the RAV4 — elevated driving position, great visibility, perky handling, excellent versatility. Then it adds the goodness of an all-wheel-drive hybrid system that has electric motors to drive front and rear wheels. The hybrid powertrain uses an altered 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine delivering 176 horsepower in tandem with the electric motors supplied by a solidly reliable nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. It increases total torque to the rear wheels by 30 percent compared to the previous system with total system horsepower of 219. EPA-reported combined fuel economy is 39 miles per gallon. With a variety of trim levels and all the safety equipment that is also available on the conventional RAV4, we have to call the 2020 Toyota RAV4 HV Hybrid Vehicle Best Car Buy of the Year.
For Fun Best Car Buy of the Year
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
There was simply no denying this one. A mid-engine version of the legendary Chevrolet Corvette sports car has been rumored for more than half a century, so when the rumor finally came true — in this the 2020 model year — we could do nothing but bow to the inevitable and name the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray For Fun Best Car Buy of the Year. One should note that we need not waffle when we call the Corvette a “Best Buy” either. With a suggested list price that is amazingly under $60,000, one might call the 2020 Corvette one of the best sports car buys ever made. It certainly has the performance potential to back up that claim. Beyond its supercar-like mid-engine configuration, its next-generation 6.2-liter “small-block” V-8 engine produces 495 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of peak torque. Ultimate cornering performance will approach 1.0 g, and zero to 60 mph can be achieved in less than three seconds. But the Corvette’s best attribute might be the fact that though it can more than hold its own on the track against sports cars that cost three times as much, it can also perform a “daily driver.” Its interior is certainly stylized and driver-centric, but it is also a comfortable, rational place to spend quality time. It doesn’t make you pay for your kicks or for the fact that the big V-8 engine is immediately behind your right shoulder. It is Driving Today’s pleasurable duty to name the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette For Fun Best Car Buy of the Year.
One of these vehicles will be named Driving Today’s Beat Car Buy of the Year 2020. That announcement will be made right here on Driving Today on Tuesday, November 26. Join us here for that announcement.