Over the past few months, the 2015 model year vehicles have been slowly trickling into dealerships around the country, quietly replacing their predecessors. This means that it is about that time for the North American Car of the Year Awards, a juried survey of industry experts who choose what in their eyes is the perfect package for a given model year. The short list has just been announced.
In the running are all different kinds of cars, from the Ford Mustang to the Honda Fit — and everything between and beyond. A panel of 49 automotive journalists from North America will decide which of the cars will be bestowed with the honor, which is now in its 22nd year.
“The awards are designed to recognize the most outstanding new vehicles of the year. These vehicles are benchmarks in their segments based on factors including innovation, comfort, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar,” the organization said in a press release.
The winner for 2014 was the new Chevrolet Corvette. With that notch in its belt, General Motors didn’t even make the final cut for 2015. Read on after the jump to find out what did.
Gone will be the Acura TL and TSX, and in their place, the TLX. This is proving to be Acura’s best foot forward in the sedan market in a long time: It looks sharp, offers tight, crisp handling, and is quite elegant in Acura’s understated sort of way. The chrome beak — long a subject of derision in the past — has been toned down, thankfully, and overall, the TLX is arguably the best-looking Acura in years. Buyers can choose between a four-cylinder or V6, and have the option of all-wheel drive.
The previous generation of the Audi A3 was getting pretty long in the tooth, and from a business perspective, updating the car is arguably one of the brand’s better decisions. It’s the only Audi that starts at under $30,000 — albeit just barely, at $29,900 — and provides all the Audi prestige in a small package.
The TDI diesel version is on its way, but more important, the A3 “Sportback” will also be returning, adding a healthy dose of utility to a luxury compact segment that includes the Mercedes CLA and the BMW 2 Series. With its crisp handling dynamics and small stature, the A3 makes for an ideal luxury car for city dwellers.
Now under Fiat ownership, Chrysler turned its attention to its most desperate vehicle: the 200. Though it was meant to compete in the “soft luxury” category, akin to Buick, the former 200 was dreadfully boring, numb to drive, and completely unremarkable in just about every way.
Now, for 2015, the 200 is up for the North American Car of the Year Award: Comebacks rarely get sweeter than that. New, modern styling, a completely revised cockpit, and vastly improved driving dynamics make the 200 an entirely different car from the ground up.
This one kind of goes without saying — in its first full redesign since 2005, the Ford Mustang has been bred to become a global car, as it will be going on sale in numerous markets, many for the first time. In the past, Mustangs were generally oriented toward the drag strip, but the new model has been honed for the track to make it far more enjoyable as a drivers’ car.
Couple that with more technology, a base price at around $24,000, a minimum of 300 horsepower (and a ceiling of 435 horsepower so far, though that’s liable to change), and more than 30 miles per gallon in certain specs, and the latest generation of the famed pony car is destined to make a significant splash.
The Honda Fit (or Jazz, in some places) is one of the most popular compacts in the world, so there was a lot riding on the company’s newest variant. Fortunately, Honda delivered, and the Fit is now one of the most tech-laden options in the non-luxury compact class, and it remains one of the most capable and best-driving models in its segment.
Inside, the new Fit is far more premium than its predecessor, and is among the upper echelons of the sub-compact ranks as far as comfort and convenience are concerned. With a sticker price starting at about $15,000, it’s also one of the best deals on the road today and still boasts the confidence offered by the Honda badge.
Hyundai Genesis Sedan
With the new Genesis sedan, Hyundai steps firmly into luxury circles that the previous Genesis flirted with. Outside, it looks far more premium, with crisp, cut lines and premium-feeling LEDs, rims, and headlamps. Remove the badging and the Genesis could be confused for a high-end luxury sedan from any of the leading names.
It starts at just $38,000, too, though that can swell to over $50,000 as options are added. On paper, you’re getting one of the most premium packages on the market for the cost, and it’s backed by Hyundai’s industry-leading 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty. If you’ve been looking at Audis, Lexuses, or Infinitis, the Genesis is well worth your consideration.
The Sonata is the Korean brand’s answer to the likes of the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, or Toyota Camry, but with its redesign for 2015, the Sonata — like the Genesis — looks more premium and upscale than ever. The Sonata is more bold and aggressive than its counterparts in the midsize sedan class, which is consistent with the direction that the segment is heading in.
Despite its more upscale feel, the Sonata strikes a conservative tone in order to appeal more broadly to the market at large. Tasteful use of LEDs adorns the higher-trim models, and with a base price of well below $25,000, it’s arguably one of the better values for a mid-range sedan.
All eyes have been on Mercedes’ compact CLA sedan, but the C-Class is still among the brand’s most important models. To better combat the new BMW 3 Series, Mercedes has gone all-in for its new C-Class, which now looks like a small S-Class — and that’s a very good thing, considering the success that the S-Class has been enjoying.
The former angular accents around the car have been smoothed out and made more ovular (notably in the headlights), and overall, the car features a more timeless, modern look. It’s just been learned that the C63 AMG — the high-performance version — will sport about 500 horsepower, about 50 horsepower more than the current C63 AMG coupe.
Though it’s only been a couple of years since its last refresh, the Toyota Camry has once again gone under the knife and emerged bolder, more aggressive, and sportier than ever. Virtually the entire car has had a going-over; the roof is the only part of the car on the outside that carries over from the current generation. Reportedly, the Camry has managed to revive the magic possessed by earlier generations. Autoblog said that “this Toyota’s spot at the top of the charts seems as secure as ever” after taking it for a spin.
Though they are commonly lumped together, the Golf and GTI are two very different cars, at least in personality. However, for 2015, both have received a thorough redesign to make them more comfortable and technology laden than ever. It’s available in numerous trims, from the base gasoline version to the fuel-frugal TDI, and even an electric variant. The GTI, meanwhile, continues its legacy of being one of the greatest driver’s cars for under $30,000. Is it better than all the other 2015 models? We’ll soon have to see.