From sports cars and family SUVs to hybrids and pickup trucks, 2020 is a big year for automobiles. The new decade is starting off with a bang with lots of competitive new cars in just about every segment. To help you with your car shopping, we’ve carefully compiled a list of the 12 best new cars for 2020 with enough variety to please just about everyone.
Before we dive in on which cars made our list, a word on our criteria. Every member of our team had to unanimously agree on a car’s excellence to make it onto this list. A car needs to satisfy a range of personal tastes to be considered the best of the best and every car, truck and SUV on this list checks that box.
A car also has to be an all-new model or a recent redesign of an existing model to make it into our top 12. Every vehicle on this list comes with some unexpected benefit or set of features that change the way you’d think of that car or the brand that it comes from. Each car on our list must have a base price of less than $75,000, although most are well under. Also, each car on our list has to score an overall 3.9 or higher on our 5-point evaluation sheet.
Speaking of brands, we think it’s worth noting that out of the 12 best cars of the year, only one of them comes from a luxury brand. That tells you just how good cars from volume brands have gotten in their top trims when it comes to comfort, technology and design. If you’re in the market for a new luxury car, you may want to consider a car from a more mainstream brand that could be every bit as nice as a more expensive luxury car, just without the brand panache.
Another notable aspect of this year’s list is that there are three midsize 3-row SUVs from volume brands on the list. While we like to have as much variety as possible in our top 12, all three SUVs in question are simply so good that we felt they all truly deserved a spot on this list. If you’re shopping for an SUV in this particular segment, we really recommend test-driving all three if possible to see which one best suits your tastes and your needs.
One more fact to call out: Four of the 12 cars on our list are available as a hybrid, one of which is a plug-in hybrid, meaning you can drive some distance on electricity only before it reverts to a gasoline/electric hybrid.
Without further ado, here are Autotrader’s 12 best new cars for 2020 with commentary from our staff. Commentary is from executive editor Brian Moody, managing editor Tara Trompeter, automotive data manager Ben Cheney, data specialists Dwight Cunningham and Tommy Flanagan and editors Rob Nestora and Doug DeMuro.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette
The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette C8 is a huge milestone for the legendary nameplate. The basic formula of the Corvette has been unchanged for decades as a two-seater sports car with a V8 in the front powering the rear wheels. However, the formula has changed in a big way with the 2020 redesign, with the engine finally moving behind the driver in a mid-engine configuration that’s been rumored for almost all of Corvette history.
“Overall, I found the car to be tremendously well-executed,” Doug said of the C8. He expressed that he thought the C7 was a bit overrated but the C8 lives up to the hype. “The C8 drives well, it’s nice inside, it’s roomy, it’s fast, it’s fun and most important, it’s cheap. You will never find one for $60K (base car doesn’t have nav, wireless charging, heated seats, cargo netting), but even at $85K, my test car felt like a bargain compared to a lot of the exotic cars I drive,” Doug said.
Brian Moody said, “The idea of a mid-engine Corvette may seem foreign to many purists, but that set-up was actually part of the Corvette plan dating as far back as the 1950s. On the other hand, if your main complaint with previous Corvettes was the interior quality, the C8 fixes that and then some.”
Available as a coupe or a convertible, the new Corvette continues the nameplate’s legacy as one of the best sports car values on the market.
2020 Ford Expedition
The 2020 Ford Expedition is the only car on this list that is not an all-new model or a full redesign for 2020. That’s because we wanted to put a full-size SUV on this list and there just aren’t any all-new ones for 2020 since this segment only has a handful of players. The Ford F, -4.21% Expedition got a big redesign for 2018 and it’s been aging tremendously well ever since as a roomy and capable family hauler.
Ben thought that the Expedition ”was overshadowed by its pricier Lincoln Navigator sibling but indeed deserves a look itself.” Indeed, the 2018 Navigator got a lot of well-deserved attention when it was new, but its more affordable Ford cousin has just as much to offer, just in a less luxurious package.
“Big SUVs are hard to get just right, they can feel overwhelming and very trucklike,” Brian said. “The Expedition is different. Yes, it is big, but it feels manageable from behind the wheel. With a starting price of just over $50,000, you won’t find a better full-size SUV for 2020.”
We can’t wait to see how the upcoming all-new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban compete with the excellent Expedition.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid
For the first time, a hybrid version of Honda’s HMC, -2.46% popular compact crossover is available in the U.S. in the form of the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. This compact crossover goes toe-to-toe with the excellent Toyota TM, -0.85% RAV4 Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid and does an admirable job checking all of the boxes for shoppers looking for an efficient small SUV. It’s super-efficient, has plenty of interior space and it’s reasonably priced. The gasoline-only CR-V gets a light update for 2020. Yes, the CR-V is a good small SUV no matter which one you get, but the hybrid version really stands out.
Brian believes that Honda went above and beyond when it comes to refinement in the CR-V Hybrid. “On the road, the CR-V Hybrid feels like it’s engineered to a higher standard when compared to other compact SUVs. Same goes for the interior, it’s just pleasant — spending time inside the CR-V is something to look forward to. Your friends will think it looks and feels like the small SUV you really wanted, not just the one you can afford,” Brian said of this hybrid Honda.
Moody also said the CR-V deserves praise for its performance and capability. “Acceleration is another high point — it feels quick but the engine sound isn’t harsh or overwhelming. We also had a chance to sample the all-wheel-drive capabilities. The CR-V uses a mechanical system versus an electric drive for the rear wheels. The result is that CR-V feels like it can tackle slightly more serious weather or off-road trails versus the RAV4.”
2020 Hyundai Palisade
It can be tricky to strike a balance between an affordable volume car and a premium luxury car, but the 2020 Hyundai Palisade is a very good midsize 3-row SUV that gets that formula just right. It’s a roomy family SUV with levels of refinement you might be shocked to find in a Hyundai. Well, you’ll only be shocked if you haven’t driven a Hyundai HYMTF, -7.00% lately.
The Hyundai Palisade Hyundai
Brian thinks that the Palisade makes a powerful statement about Hyundai as a brand. “Even if you don’t buy or even like the Palisade, it’s indicative of what Hyundai is doing overall. My advice to shoppers is to look at what Hyundai is doing with the Palisade, inside and out, and see if it doesn’t move you to check out other Hyundai vehicles,” Brian said.
Our editor Tara is also enthusiastic about where Hyundai is in 2020 and where the brand is headed in the new decade. “Hyundai is killing it at the moment! The Palisade is a great-looking, feature-rich 3-row SUV option for families needing a bit more space for their kids and cargo. Between the Palisade and the new Sonata, Hyundai has stepped up its game big-time, emerging as a modern automaker that really gets how to deliver style, features and value, all in one attractive package,” Tara said.
For some drivers, Hyundai may still carry a reputation of being a bargain brand that you go with if you can’t afford a nicer Japanese car, but Tommy thinks the Palisade puts that reputation to rest. He described the Palisade as “a worthy competitor to the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.”
2020 Hyundai Sonata
You may not have expected to see two Hyundai models on this list, but the 2020 Hyundai Sonata makes a strong case as a class leader in the competitive midsize sedan segment. Its redesign brought with it a stunning new look, a roomy, premium interior and a generous list of standard features, plus some interesting available tech when you get into the higher trims like remote parking assist that helps with tight parking spaces. That’s a feature you’d normally expect to see in a much more expensive luxury car. The 2020 Hyundai Sonata is offered as a hybrid as well.
The Hyundai Sonata hybrid Hyundai
“The new Sonata is an excellent sedan — it’s the pinnacle of all Hyundai has been working toward since the company first landed in the U.S. 34 years ago,” Brian said of the redesigned Sonata. “This is a very good-looking midsize sedan. The rear-end treatment, the chrome strips/lighting feature and wheel choices are excellent. There’s also a good deal of cool tech: Smart park assist and digital key are just two examples. The turbo engine is also a blast and has a brilliant combination of power and refinement.”
Also see: New car review: The Hyundai Venue
You may default to the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord when thinking of a midsize sedan, and we wouldn’t blame you. But this Hyundai is a serious challenger to the longtime class leaders.
2020 Jeep Gladiator
The idea is simple: Put a pickup truck bed on the back of a Jeep Wrangler and you’ll automatically have the most fun midsize pickup in the world. Technically, though, the Gladiator really isn’t just a Wrangler with a pickup bed on the back. It’s a dedicated midsize truck. Think of it like a modern version of the Jeep Scrambler. Regardless of how the 2020 Jeep Gladiator was designed, we couldn’t be happier with the result. The Gladiator is the first Jeep pickup truck since the 1992 Comanche and the brand has returned to this segment with a bang.
Not surprisingly, there was a lot of enthusiasm from our staff about the Gladiator. “This was one of my favorite vehicles of the year,” Dwight said of this off-roader. “For all the obvious reasons Wrangler is beloved, and now with a truck bed in the back. We all win!” Ben had a similar sentiment about the Gladiator. “It’s a pickup that’s also a convertible, what’s not to love? All of the coolness of a Wrangler with the functionality of a pickup bed.”
Jeep models with exceptional off-road capabilities have historically not been the best for on-road use, but like the Wrangler JL, the Gladiator is an off-roader without compromise. It delivers a surprisingly smooth and comfortable ride quality on the street while displaying all of the off-road chops you’d expect when the pavement ends. The Gladiator is simply a blast to drive on any terrain.
2020 Kia Telluride
The 2020 Kia Telluride is a midsize 3-row crossover that is mechanically similar to the new Hyundai Palisade, but there’s enough setting the two apart to both warrant their own respective spot on this list. Also, they’re both really that good.
Brian could not say enough good things about this surprising new Kia. “The Telluride is an excellent SUV — a home run for Kia. Everything about it is terrific: the look, the ride, the features, the space. Excellent. Just a well-executed midsize SUV that somehow manages to be simple, authentic and luxurious all at the same time.”
Tara says the Telluride is a top choice for growing families looking for an SUV. “A lot of my mommy friends ask for my advice when shopping for a new car for their growing families, and without hesitation, I tell them not to buy a single thing without first test-driving the Kia Telluride. It’s the most surprising — not to mention best-looking — three-row SUV on the market right now from a mainstream brand. There’s a reason Kia can’t keep up with the demand for them! Offering family-friendly features galore, a supremely luxurious interior and styling that’ll constantly turn heads, the Telluride is an absolute winner.”
The fact is, these things are flying off dealer lots. “It seems customers have all noticed that this vehicle provides a great amount of value and style for the price. I don’t think it drives quite as well as some of the competitors but everything else is top-notch,” Ben said of the Kia.
We talked earlier about cars from volume brands being competitive with pricey luxury vehicles in 2020 and the Telluride is an excellent example of that. “I loved the bold rugged design and refined driving dynamic,” Dwight said of this Kia. “They provide an SUV that is near-luxury, without the luxury price tag.” Tommy says the Telluride is “hard to beat on price.” He went on to praise the “ride quality, quietness and comfort” of this SUV. F
2020 Lincoln Aviator
And now for the one luxury vehicle that made it on our top 12 list; the 2020 Lincoln Aviator. The midsize Aviator came on the scene to a lot of fanfare following the launch of the outstanding new Navigator in 2018 and the Aviator is a very good luxury SUV and lives up to the expectations that were set by its big brother. In fact, many of our editors like the Aviator better because of it’s interior layout and more urban-friendly size.
Our staff likes the Aviator so much that some have boldly declared it the best luxury midsize SUV, period. Previously, Lincoln was kind of in its own segment of American luxury which was affordable but couldn’t quite compete with the fancier German luxury brands. That disparity is now gone and Lincoln is back on top of the luxury game for the first time in decades.
“The Aviator is the most stylish, luxurious midsize SUV on the market today, bar none. From the pillowy leather seats to the bevy of tech features to the gorgeously styled front fascia, Lincoln knocked it out of the park on this one. Skip the Caddys. Skip the Benzes. Go directly to Lincoln,” Rob said of the Aviator.
The Aviator is great for families, too. “When my kids stepped into the Lincoln Aviator for the first time, my 8-year-old daughter gushed, ‘Mommy! This is so FANCY!’ And she’s right — the Aviator oozes luxury, inside and out,” said Tara, who used the Lincoln for family duty. “It drives like a dream and there’s not a feature it doesn’t offer. If you have the budget for it (which might be the sticking point for many) and you’re looking for a three-row SUV for your family or cargo, the 2020 Aviator is the best midsize luxury SUV choice available today.” When even your 8-year-old notices how luxurious your SUV is, you know you have something special.
Tommy echoed the high praise of the Aviator’s interior. “What most impressed me about the Aviator is the interior. The seats were extremely comfy and I like that there were quite a bit of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin.”
Brian went a step further and said the Lincoln Aviator just might be the perfect daily driver. “This is what Lincoln has become: a true luxury brand with amazing interior details, compelling tech and a plug-in hybrid option that will get you to rethink hybrids. This is the perfect car for every day luxury. Looking for a high-end SUV? Compare the Aviator to the best. Porsche, Mercedes, BMW — it is that good!”
Also see: The most affordable 3-row SUVs
In case we were unclear, you should absolutely test drive a Lincoln Aviator if you’re in the market for a midsize luxury SUV.
2020 Mazda CX-30
Filling in the space between a subcompact crossover and a compact crossover is the all-new 2020 Mazda CX-30. Mazda’s CX-30 is good small SUV. Mazda MZDAY, -3.16% has built a reputation for building athletic SUVs in segments where performance and handling are normally missing. You won’t get bored behind the wheel of any new Mazda model, including the CX-30. “If you are in the market for a small crossover but still want particularly good handling, this could be the vehicle for you,” Ben said of the new Mazda.
Another thing Mazda has become known for is incredible value. “Price is one of the first things that surprised me about the CX-30,” Tommy said of the CX-30, noting its base MSRP of $21,900. “That gets you an 8.8-in center display, rain-sensing wipers and loads of standard safety equipment. As spacious as it is up front, rear-seat legroom suffers quite a bit.” If you’re planning on having back seat passengers often, consider upgrading to the bigger CX-5.
Even on the high end, the pricing of the top Premium trim with all-wheel drive still starts under the $30k mark. That includes leather seating, a power moonroof, a head-up display, Bose premium audio, adaptive headlights and much more. The CX-30 might have the highest bang-for-the-buck factor of any car on this list.
“The Mazda CX-30 is just Mazda doing what Mazda does,” Brian said. “Clean lines inside and out, good acceleration and an overall vibe that makes you do a double-take on the price. If sporty handling and a premium interior are important to you in a small SUV, get the CX-30.”
2020 Nissan Sentra
There weren’t a lot of nice things we could say about the 2019 Sentra since it was getting pretty stale. However, that has been remedied by an all-new 2020 Nissan Sentra, which gets our unofficial “most improved” award compared to the previous model year. The 2020 Nissan Sentra is a very good compact sedan for buyers looking for comfort and value.
Don’t miss:The new world of car-buying: Remote negotiation, home delivery and no-touch test drives
A premium interior isn’t normally a characteristic you might associate with compact sedans, but Nissan has been making big strides in interior quality and design in recent years. “Again, the interior is what won me over on the new Sentra. The quilted leather from the Premium Package felt really upscale and was something I wouldn’t normally expect to find in a Nissan,” NSANY, -2.98% Tommy said of the thoroughly redesigned Sentra. “Exterior styling is also much better for 2020. From a distance, you might mistake it for an Altima. Another plus is all Sentras now come with standard safety equipment such as forward and reverse automatic braking, blind spot warning, lane departure and automatic high beams.” That’s safety tech that we love to see as standard equipment, especially in such an affordable car.
Brian noted that the Sentra is a symbol of the idea that an affordable economy car doesn’t need to be a bummer. “Value — that’s the selling point here. Getting an affordable car doesn’t have to mean sacrifice. The color choices and interior appointments are enough to make your co-workers think you got a much more expensive car. A quiet ride is also a big selling point. Not every small sedan is a good choice for summer road trips — the Sentra is.”
Ben echoed the praise for the interior quality. “Where this car stood out was with its interior materials and value. Also, the back seat seemed particularly roomy for this segment,” Ben said noting that the Sentra can work as a small family car.
“This is finally a Sentra that I would actually want to drive,” Dwight said. “They have upgraded the Sentra in every way. The interior is a big standout and the exterior is well-executed. Stepping up to SL trim provides very nice appointments.”
2020 Subaru Outback
You might not notice by a first glance at the exterior, but the 2020 Subaru Outback is all-new. The new Outback is a very good family car. Subaru intentionally didn’t mess with the look too much because Subaru people like the Subaru look. However, when you step inside, the redesign becomes much more apparent. Naturally, AWD is standard on every trim which, combined with generous ground clearance and Subaru’s X-Mode, gives the Outback some serious off-road chops while still being a pleasure to drive on the road.
The Subaru Outback Subaru
“The Outback is indeed an all-new vehicle even though it closely resembles the outgoing model,” Ben said of the familiar-looking new Outback. “I found that it was surprisingly quiet and composed on the highway. The interior, especially that of the large center screen, is nicer than expected.”
Whether the Outback is a wagon or an SUV depends on who you ask, but Brian thinks the Outback is a good, unconventional alternative to a more cookie-cutter crossover. He said this Subaru is “the perfect SUV alternative for those who want a rugged family car without the bulky size of a more trucklike vehicle.”
Another thing we love about the new Outback is the return of a turbocharged engine option which delivers better performance and better fuel economy than the 6-cylinder engine in the outgoing model. The turbo engine is a win-win if your budget allows it.
2020 Toyota Highlander
The third midsize 3-row crossover from a volume brand on our list this year is the all-new 2020 Toyota Highlander. The Highlander is a good SUV and has been a leader in this segment since it was first introduced almost 20 years ago and its dominance continues with the freshly redesigned fourth generation. The new Highlander has more interior space, more standard tech and it finally has a standard V6, having ditched the pokey base 4-cylinder in the previous model. We know what you’re thinking: the Toyota is the expected choice. Maybe, but the driving dynamics and handling with this new Highlander are anything but expected. Plus, the 2020 Toyota Highlander is available as a hybrid, too.
The Toyota Highlander Toyota
Brian was impressed with every aspect of the new Highlander. “The main thing to keep in mind about the new Highlander is the driving experience,” Brian said. “Toyota engineers must have worked overtime getting the ride and handling just right. There’s none of that imprecise or sloppy feel you sometimes get in midsize SUVs. It all feels like every screw, nut and bolt was tightened just a little extra. The 12.3-in touch screen on the higher trim levels is also great — not what we expected from Toyota. We really appreciate that Toyota still has a V6 engine — 295 hp is more than enough.”
Also see: These 3 EVs are the lowest cost to own over 5 years
Tommy also liked the interior and agreed that Toyota has caught up with the competition in terms of infotainment tech. “The interior is really what shines on the new Highlander,” Tommy said. “For starters, it finally gets Apple AAPL, -3.09% CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon AMZN, -2.73% Alexa capability. Higher trims can get a 12.3-in touchscreen. An interesting feature of the dash is all the extra storage space.”
But an even bigger deal than the nice new infotainment tech is the abundant safety technology that now comes standard on every trim of the Highlander. Every 2020 Highlander comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes a pre-collision system with low-light pedestrian detection, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with steering assist, lane-tracing assist, automatic high beams and road sign assist. What more could you ask for in a family vehicle?