by Frank Aukofer
Detroit, Mich.—South Korea’s Hyundai swept the honors Monday (Jan. 14), winning both the North American Car of the Year and Utility of the Year trophies for the Genesis G70 and Hyundai Kona.
The announcement came at the opening of the annual North American International Automobile Show (NAIAS) here.
The Genesis G70, the newest model from Hyundai’s separate luxury brand, was voted Car of the Year by an independent panel of 54 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada.
Taking the prize for North American Utility of the Year was the Hyundai Kona, a subcompact crossover sport utility vehicle that is available with a gasoline engine, as a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid and as a pure electric with 248 miles of range.
A product of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Ram 1500 was voted Truck of the Year. It features a new system called eTorque that combines a belt-drive electric motor generator with a 48-volt battery, which provides short boosts of extra power for the gasoline engine. It also enables a sophisticated idle stop-start function for improved fuel economy.
The North American Car of the Year Organization (NACTOY) is composed of automotive journalists from print, online, television and broadcast organizations who pay annual dues and are required to drive and evaluate nominated new vehicles, culminating in the vote for the winners. They are independent of NAIAS and have no connections or relationships with any of the vehicle manufacturers.
The Genesis G70 fared better than its fraternal cousin, the Kia Stinger, which was a finalist for Car of the Year in 2018 but lost the honor to the Honda Accord.
Hyundai owns about 38% of Kia and the two cars share engines and drivetrains. Both the Stinger and the Genesis G70 are four-doors except that the midsize Stinger is a hatchback and the compact G70 is a conventional four-door sedan with a trunk. Prices range from the low $30,000 range to the low $50,000 range.
Both come with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with turbocharged four-cylinder or V6 engines and eight-speed automatic transmissions. One advantage for the G70 is that it also is available with a six-speed manual gearbox. The Stinger does not offer a manual transmission.
Hyundai’s Kona is a stylish subcompact crossover with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It comes with a four-cylinder gasoline engine, as a plug-in hybrid and, most recently as a dedicated electric. Prices range from slightly more than $20,000 for the base gasoline model to nearly $40,000 for the electric, which can be reduced to around $30,000 with tax and other incentives.
Kona models offer such modern safety installations as forward collision warning and braking, lane-keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot collision warning and driver attention warning, as well as torque vectoring braking, which selectively applies the inside brakes to ease cornering.
There were three finalists in each category. Besides the Genesis G70, Car of the Year nominees were the compact Honda Insight hybrid and the Volvo S60 sedan and V60 station wagon, both midsize.
The Kona’s competition finalists consisted of the all-new luxury compact crossover, the Acura RDX, and the Jaguar I-Pace, an all-electric midsize luxury crossover. In the truck category, the Ram’s competitors were the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra.
Chris Paukert, NACTOY’s vice-president, commented, “The Genesis G70 doesn’t just go toe-to-toe with segment mainstays like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class—it beats them all in driver engagement while positively slaying them on value for the dollar.” Paukert is executive editor of Roadshow by CNET.
“The Kona Electric is the first mass-market electric car that truly works for the mass market,” said NACTOY juror Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor at U.S. News & World Report Best Cars. “A livable EV range, affordable price and practical cabin combine with lively driving dynamics to make the Kona EV a true pleasure.”
“Ram continues to lead the way in making a big truck double as a big family pleaser with as much attention paid to interior conveniences and ride comfort as to cargo hauling and towing,” said John Davis, executive producer at Maryland public television’s MotorWeek.
NACTOY President Lauren Fix, owner of the online The Car Coach, thanked the vehicle manufacturers for ‘taking the time and effort to work with us throughout the year as our jurors rigorously tested, evaluated and debated the best new vehicles on the market. Now in our 25th year, we are proud that both automakers and consumers recognize the value our awards provide to new car buyers.”