NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. -- Following intensive real-world testing, more than 80 automotive journalists from across Canada offered their picks for the best new vehicles in 11 categories last week at AJAC's annual Canadian Car of the Year contest.
The journalists invited to the event, known in the industry as TestFest, completed nearly 2,000 individual road tests. Vehicles were evaluated back-to-back on the same roads under the same conditions.
"Once again, a wide array of Canada's most experienced and respected automotive journalists have wrung out the full slate of new vehicles offered to Canadian consumers," said Richard Russell, chairman of the 2013 Canadian Car of the Year Awards, in a news release last Friday.
"The week-long process results in unbiased and accurate information that equips Canadian consumers with readily accessible objective data than can be used as a reliable resource when shopping for a new vehicle.
The 11 category winners now go on to compete for the honour of being named 2013 Canadian Car of the Year or 2013 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. These two overall winners will be announced on February 14 at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto. Awards for Best New Design and Best New Technology will also be announced at that time.
Here's a list of all the category winners and my impressions of each:
Ford Focus EV
A pure electric car that looks and drives like a real car. This is the future wrapped up in a plug-in package that promises epic savings. My prediction for Best New Technology winner.
BEST NEW SMALL CAR (under $21k)
Mazda3 Skyactiv Sedan
It's a small car that punches and prices above its weight class, the new Mazda3 is at the top of a growing list of excellent small family cars. It's a gasoline-powered, naturally aspirated fuel sipper that zooms.
BEST NEW FAMILY CAR (under $30K)
Honda Accord Sedan
Honda is back with a sporty sedan that is a bit smaller than its predecessor. The doors close with a satisfying thud and everything is laid out sensibly.
BEST NEW SMALL CAR (over $21K)
Hyundai has offered us an affordable pocket rocket that combines practicality with personality and performance. As an added bonus, it's easy on the eyes.
BEST NEW FAMILY CAR (over $30K)
Ford Fusion Hybrid
The looker in the bunch, the new Fusion Hybrid beat out the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, the new Malibu and the new Mercedes-Benz B250. This smooth ride will get the looks and save money at the pump. My prediction for Best New Design winner.
BEST NEW LUXURY CAR
Cadillac has the BMW 3 Series in its sights with this new compact luxury sedan. With sharp body lines, powerful engine options and crisp handling, the Cadillac ATS is a driver's dream. My prediction for 2013 Canadian Car of the Year.
BEST NEW PRESTIGE AND PERFORMANCE CAR (over $75K)
Porsche 911 Carrera S
The sharpest knife in the drawer, this Porsche may not look much different from the former model, but it is the pinnacle of motordom from every angle.
BEST NEW SPORTS/PERFORMANCE CAR (under $50K)
Ford Focus ST
This hot-hatch is both fast and furious. It beat out myriad other potent performers and is destined to be a hit with the tuner crowd.
BEST NEW SPORTS/PERFORMANCE CAR (over $50K)
Top-down in the sun with more than enough power to provide some serious fun, this Porsche has all the DNA of a pure sporting car without the crazy price tag.
BEST NEW SUV/CUV (under $35K)
Ford Escape 1.6 L EcoBoost
Okay, so it looks good, is great on fuel and goes like heck? Sign me up; the new EcoBoost engines Ford is making are both powerful and practical.
BEST NEW SUV/CUV ($35k-$60k)
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T
Loaded with creature comforts that include a massive panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel and heated seats front and back, this quality Korean offering defines bang for your buck. My prediction for 2013 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.