It seems like each automotive publication has its own qualifications for what it believes the car of the year should be, and each tends to name a vehicle based on its own criteria — sometimes publications reach a consensus, sometimes they don’t. That’s just the nature of a very competitive industry.
However, it’s hard to argue with the authority of the North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards, an independent consortium of automotive journalists who come together and decide just what the best car of the year should be. “The awards — first given in 1994 — are unique in North America because — instead of being given by a single publication, web site, radio or television program — they are given by automotive journalists representing all of those outlets in two countries,” the consortium’s website says. The two countries are the United States and Canada.
Here are the 12 finalists for the cars category that made it through the first cut of 28 vehicles, arranged alphabetically. Unfortunately, little insight was offered into why each car was chosen.
1. BMW 4 Series
The BMW 4 Series is essentially the coupe variant of the 3 Series, as BMW split the line into two different nameplates for 2014. The 4 Series coupe starts at $40,500 and comes standard with a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine that’s good for 240 horsepower.
2. Cadillac CTS
The Cadillac (NYSE:GM) CTS has taken the automotive world by storm, and it represents where the brand should have been all this time. It starts at $45,100 and comes equipped with a 272-horsepower turbocharged four. It has already won one car of the year award, courtesy of Motor Trend.
3. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Like the Cadillac, the new Chevy Corvette has been showing the world that General Motors is back in gear and gaining traction after its wheels were left spinning for a while. With about 455 horsepower and a base price of $51,000, it might offer the best bang-for-your-buck ratio on the market today.
4. Chevrolet Impala
While the old Impalas were more nondescript fleet fillers than anything else, the 2014 Impala is anything but — which is good, because that was GM’s intent. The Impala starts at $26,860 and comes equipped with a 195-horsepower, 2.5-liter EcoTec engine.
5. Infiniti Q50
The $37,050 Infiniti (NSANY.PK) Q50 didn’t fare very well in Consumer Reports testing, but the aggressive-looking sedan still marks a significant design departure for Nissan’s luxury arm. At its heart is a 3.7-liter V6, capable of 328 horsepower.
6. Jaguar F-Type
Jaguar’s F-Type is an homage to the British brand’s legacy of fine roadsters like the E-Type. The new F-Type — which starts at $65,000 in coupe form — boasts 340 horsepower from its 3-liter supercharged V6 and is bred to be a driver’s car in its purest form. Plus, it looks damn good.
7. Kia Cadenza
Hyundai moved upscale with the release of the Equus, followed by the Genesis sedan. The Cadenza is Kia’s equivalent to the latter as the Korean sister brands continue their push into the entry-level luxury market. The Cadenza starts at a very approachable $35,100, and though it’s a bit expensive for the brand, it’s quite a value considering all the standard features that come included.
8. Lexus IS
Like the Infiniti, Lexus’ (NYSE:TM) new IS wasn’t met warmly by the Consumer Reports crowd. What the IS does symbolize, though, is that Lexus is quickly shedding its reputation as a cautious and sleepy brand in favor of an image that is more about taking risks and experimenting with new design language. The IS comes stock with a 204 horsepower for $35,950.
Mazda’s new lineup has been met with rave reviews — its new products seem to find a happy medium of style, fuel efficiency, comfort, and value. This includes the new Mazda3, which starts at $16,945 for the sedan and returns about 40 miles per gallon on the highway.
Like the Mazda3, the Mazda6 also boasts the company’s sleek and flowing new design language, though the 6 takes on a more mature vibe than its little sibling. However, the two share qualities like uncharacteristically good looks for their class and superior fuel economy. Starting at a reasonable $20,990, the Mazda6 can also hit 40 miles per gallon on the highway, and next year will see the introduction of a diesel model, which will only make the 6 better.
11. Mercedes-Benz CLA
Mercedes-Benz was aiming to spark sales with the new CLA, and it has done so. Though smaller than the rest of the Benz family, the CLA doesn’t convey “economy” in any way and gives the impression of a premium luxury car despite its sub-$30,000 price tag. The base engine is a 208 horsepower turbo four, which will return 38 miles per gallon on the highway and 26 in the city.
12. Toyota Corolla
The last contender is the Toyota Corolla, which has been credited with giving the economy segment a shot of needed attitude with its new, bolder look. The new design will cost about $16,800 at base with the 1.8-liter four cylinder and a six-speed manual. This will return 28 miles per gallon in the city and 37 on the highway.
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