Best Cars to Buy: Canadian Car of the Year Award Winners for 2020
Known as TestFest, the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada, or AJAC, holds an annual event to evaluate the newest models in the Canadian market. The goal of this elite group is to identify the best new vehicles and new technologies according to real-world testing. Over 1,200 ballots were submitted by some of the nation’s most experienced automotive writers.
And while it must be exciting to participate in TestFest, the judging is rigorous. Each vehicle is rated on a scale of 0 to 10 with 19 different scoring criteria including steering, handling, safety, fuel economy, interior/exterior styling, and even off-road capability if applicable.
2020 AJAC Canadian Car of the Year Winners List
While the Canadian Car of the Year and Utility Vehicle of the Year have not been announced yet, the finalists were selected from this prestigious shortlist of highest-rated vehicles:
- Best Small Car: Mazda MAZDA3
- Best Large Car: Subaru Legacy
- Best Small Premium Car: Mercedes-Benz A-Class
- Best Sports Performance Car: Toyota Supra
- Best Premium Sports Performance Car: Porsche 911 Carrera
- Best Midsize Utility Vehicle: Subaru Outback
- Best Large Utility Vehicle: Kia Telluride
- Best Small Premium Utility Vehicle: Volvo XC40
- Best Midsize Premium Utility Vehicle: Porsche Cayenne
- Best Pickup: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
- Best EV: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
- Best Premium EV: Jaguar I-PACE
Here are the 2020 winners of each of the 12 categories. You’ll notice there are a couple of repeat winners from 2019.
Best Small Car – Mazda MAZDA3
Notable Scores (out of 10): Exterior Styling (8.5), Interior styling (8.5), Quality (8.4), Handling (8.3), Steering (8.2)
The stylish MAZDA3 sedan was rated the best small car in a rather congested segment. It handily outperformed popular models like the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. The MAZDA3 commanded high ratings in styling as well as performance and took the highest marks in every aspect of Vehicle Dynamics.
Best Large Car – Subaru Legacy
Notable Scores (out of 10): Safety (8.6), Ride Comfort (8.3), Quality (8.3), Interior Styling (8.4), Visibility (8.2), Passenger Environment (8.2)
The Subaru Legacy narrowly dethroned the Kia Stinger in the Best Large Car segment. Its perceived quality, interior environment, safety, and comfort carried the Legacy to the win. While it has unique visual styling cues that may not appeal to everyone, the Subaru Legacy’s standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and sporty BOXER engine make it a highly sought after and extremely capable vehicle.
Best Small Premium Car – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Notable Scores (out of 10): Interior Styling (8.6), Safety (8.3), Handling (8.2), Engine Smoothness/Refinement (8.1), Quality (8.2), Exterior Styling (8.1)
Compared to second and third place, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class pulled the highest marks in all but 5 of 19 categories, leading the Small Premium Car segment by a wide margin. Rated an 8.2 in quality, 8.3 in safety, and 8.6 in interior styling and appearance, the A-Class dominated its competition.
Best Sports Performance Car – Toyota Supra
Notable Scores (out of 10): Throttle Response (8.7), Engine Smoothness/Refinement (8.9), Steering (8.7), Handling (8.9), Braking Feel & Effectiveness (8.7)
Move over, Mazda MX-5, there’s a new sheriff in town for 2020. The Toyota Supra blazed onto the market mid-2019 and could barely be kept on the lot across Canada. Notably better than the competition for interior quality, performance, and driving dynamics, the Supra does suffer slightly in fuel economy with a 7.3 rating. But with a sports car like the Supra, is fuel efficiency even a big selling point?
Best Premium Sports Performance Car – Porsche 911 Carrera
Notable Scores (out of 10): Steering (9.0), Handling (9.2), Braking Feel & Effectiveness (9.1), Throttle Response (9.0), Engine Smoothness/Refinement (9.0), Transmission/Drivetrain (9.0)
One of the highest-rated models overall for 2020 Canadian Car of the Year is the Porsche 911 Carrera. Of course, much of that has to do with its 370-hp engine and 0 to 100km/h time in as little as 4.2 seconds, not to mention the incredibly responsive driving dynamics courtesy of German engineering. It’s also above average for driver’s comfort and overall quality but suffers in available cargo space with a 6.0 rating.
Best Midsize Utility Vehicle – Subaru Outback
Notable Scores (out of 10): Safety (8.5), Quality (8.1), Cargo (8.1), Off-Road Capability (8.3), Visibility (8.3)
Last year’s midsize SUV winner, the Mazda CX-5, took a very close second place to the new champ—the Subaru Outback. Obviously competent with standard full-time AWD, it was dominant in driving dynamics and off-road capability. Overall comfort, quality, and entertainment also contributed to the Subaru Outback’s win over models like the Toyota RAV4, Honda Passport, Ford Escape, and the also newly re-released Chevrolet Blazer.
Best Large Utility Vehicle – Kia Telluride
Notable Scores (out of 10): Cargo (8.5), Visibility (8.5), Convenience/Entertainment Features (8.4), Exterior Styling (8.4), Interior Styling (8.4)
An eight-seater full-size SUV with top-rated tech features like available Lane Follow Assist and Blind View Monitor, the Kia Telluride is the 2020 Canadian Large Utility Vehicle of the Year. It excels in areas that matter most like visibility, convenience features, and cargo space. With a total of 800 points, the Kia Telluride squeaked out the trophy position over the Mazda CX-9 (798 points) and its sister model, the Hyundai Palisade (795 points).
Best Small Premium Utility Vehicle – Volvo XC40
Notable Scores (out of 10): Safety (8.3), Ride Comfort (8.1), Quality (8.2), Driver Position & Ergonomics (8.2), Interior Styling (8.2)
In the small premium utility segment, the Volvo XC40’s strengths shined through. As is always the case for Volvo, the XC40 scored high in quality and driving position and ergonomics. Compared with models like the Range Rover Evoque, Lexus UX, and Jaguar E-PACE, the Volvo easily snatched the top spot for its spirited-yet-elegant powertrain. And as you’d expect, the Volvo XC40 was voted best in class for safety.
Best Midsize Premium Utility Vehicle – Porsche Cayenne
Notable Scores (out of 10): Quality (8.8), Throttle Response (8.7), Engine Smoothness/Refinement (8.8), Transmission/Drivetrain (8.7), Driver Position & Ergonomics (8.6)
Running away with the top marks in almost all categories, the Porsche Cayenne surpassed last year’s winner, the Infiniti QX50, by 40 points. The Cayenne scored high in every segment of vehicle dynamics like steering, handling, and braking, not to mention exceeding the competition in performance by a wide margin. The trade-off is evident in fuel economy with a 5.1 rating, but it’s a small price to pay for such a dominant premium SUV.
Best Pickup – Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
Notable Scores (out of 10): Noise/Vibration/Harshness (8.4), Cargo (8.5), Passenger Environment (8.6), Convenience/Entertainment Features (8.6), Engine Smoothness/Refinement (8.3)
Of the three models evaluated for pickups, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel captured 17 of 19 category wins. Journalists testing the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel noted that it was a comfortable cabin with excellent visibility and high-tech features, not to mention spacious and quiet. The Ram outperformed both the Jeep Gladiator and Ford Ranger pickups in all but 2 categories (exterior styling & off-road capability).
Best EV – Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Notable Scores (out of 10): Fuel Economy (9.0), Safety (8.4), Cargo (9.0), Convenience/Entertainment Features (8.6), Passenger Environment (8.9)
A repeat winner, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid once again claims victory in the EV segment. It wins by a single point over the Hyundai Kona Electric and has three models close on its heels – the Hyundai NEXO, Kia Niro EV, and the Nissan LEAF PLUS. Still, the Pacifica is regarded highly for cargo space, its premium in-cabin environment, and superior safety systems.
Best Premium EV – Jaguar I-PACE
Notable Scores (out of 10): Fuel Economy (9.6), Throttle Response (9.1), Engine Smoothness/Refinement (9.0), Transmission/Drivetrain (8.8), Interior Styling (8.8)
The Jaguar I-PACE also returns as a winner in the 2020 Canadian Premium EV of the Year. Going against the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid and the Volvo V60 Polestar Engineered, the I-PACE claims its spot with a massive 858 points. Of course, Jaguar styling is second to none, and the I-PACE’s 394hp all-electric powertrain is incredibly fun to drive.
Canadian Car of the Year (finalists)
- Mazda3 (Best Small Car)
- Mercedes-Benz A-Class (Best Small Premium Car)
- Porsche 911 Carrera (Best Premium Sports Performance Car)
Stay Tuned! The winner will be announced February 13th 2020.
Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year (finalists)
- Jaguar I-PACE (Best Premium EV)
- Kia Telluride (Best Large Utility Vehicle)
- Ram 1500 EcoDiesel (Best Pickup)