Best of the Best: North American Car of Year…and its Rivals

North American Car of Year awards reveal three strong new-car contenders

If you are car-shopping and seeking to find the best new car of the year, an excellent place to start is the North American Car of the Year awards. Chosen by an elite panel of automotive experts from the United States and Canada, the cars, trucks and utilities recognized in the awards program are more than worthy of consideration. They are a the pinnacle of all the vehicles introduced this year.  (I’m proud to be a member of the North American Car of the Year jury, and I can attest to how diligently each member of the jury is in selecting the vehicles to bear the prestigious imprimatur.)

Genesis G70 – North American Car of the Year

2019 Genesis G70 sedan: North American Car of the Year

For 2019 the North American Car of the Year is the Genesis G70, a sports sedan from the still-young Genesis luxury brand. Designed to compete against the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4, the G70 brings a lot of firepower to the competition. At its heart are a pair of powerful and refined turbocharged engines: 252-horsepower 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder and 365-horsepower  3.3-liter V-6. When equipped with the latter, the G70 is capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, one of several reasons the enthusiast-oriented North American Car of the Year (NACOTY) panel named it their top choice.

The internationally stylish Genesis G70 is available in rear-drive and all-wheel-drive form. The sedan’s driver assistance features include forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, blind spot collision warning, lane-keeping assist and driver attention warning. Five available drive modes enable the driver to adjust powertrain response, steering weight, engine sound, all-wheel drive torque distribution and suspension firmness. With prices starting under $40,000, the Genesis G70 is a terrific choice among a stellar field.

Volvo S60 – North American Car of the Year Finalist

2019 Volvo S60 R-Design

Of course, the Genesis G70 isn’t for everyone. Interestingly, the list of three NACOTY Car of the Year finalists includes another stellar new entrant in the same class, the Volvo S60. The new Volvo S60 is being built in South Carolina, and it is the first Volvo car made in the United States. Along with its sister ship, the V60 station wagon, the S60 sedan uses the now-standard array of Volvo powertrains. All are based on a dual overhead cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder base engine, which use various types of forced induction to gain more horsepower. The base engine is the T5, which utilizes turbocharging to deliver 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The next level is the T6 model, which is both supercharged and turbocharged to produce 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of peak torque. The top-of-the-line powerplant is the turbocharged and supercharged T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid offering 400 combined horsepower, 313 horsepower from its gasoline engine and 87 from its rear electric motor. All powertrains use an eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Both front-drive and all-wheel-drive are offered, depending upon engine configuration.

With a base price is around $43,000, the S60 shares Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform with other models in the line. The similarities extend to safety technology and infotainment as well. The S60 features run-off road mitigation, oncoming lane mitigation and City Safety with Autobrake. Its Sensus Connect infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 4G. All of this is packaged in an attractive exterior that leaves no doubt the car is a Volvo.

Honda Insight – North American Car of the Year Finalist

2019 Honda Insight

The third sedan on the NACOTY Car of the Year finalist list competes in a different class and is more accessible to the typical new-car buyer. The Honda Insight is a hybrid, but it doesn’t look like a hybrid or act like a hybrid. To us, that is a big part of its charm.

Honda says it has positioned the Insight as a “premium” compact sedan between its compact Civic and midsize Accord. Power is produced by the latest-generation of Honda’s two-motor hybrid system, The 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine uses the Atkinson-cycle for added efficiency, and it works in concert with an electric drive motor for a combined system output of 151 horsepower and 197 lb-ft of torque. In most instances, the Insight operates as a series hybrid. That means the gasoline engine almost never powers the driving wheels directly. Instead, it connects to a generator-motor to produce electricity that either powers the electric propulsion motor, recharges the 60-cell lithium ion battery pack or does both.

From behind the wheel, the driving experience offers a direct and linear feel similar to that of an electric vehicle. Torque is substantial on initial acceleration and remains robust throughout. In addition, the Insight delivers an EPA-estimated 55 mpg city rating.

But there is much more to the Honda Insight than simply an eye-popping miles-per-gallon number. It is a very useful, fun-to-drive compact sedan filled with technology that includes standard Honda Sensing. The suite of safety and driver assist features includes forward collision warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assistance system, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and traffic sign recognition. All models also come with a multi-view rearview camera, and Insight EX and Touring trims come with Honda LaneWatch. In all, the Honda Insight offers special value at a base price of less than $23,000.

View Driving Today’s Best Car Buys of the Year 2019