AutoGuide’s Most Popular Car Reviews of 2020

These are the reviews (and comparisons) you read the most this year. Go you!

The week between Christmas and New Years is a time for reflection. You’re not quite sure what day it is, and subsisting on a steady intake of holiday chocolate and leftovers. It’s great. With that in mind, we’re looking at the big hits of the last 12 months here at AutoGuide.

COVID may have ravaged every part of the globe, but thanks to the careful, ceaseless work of the people in charge of press fleets, we still drove plenty of the most important new cars of the year. Auto manufacturers stepped up, bringing in thorough cleaning and disinfecting processes, spacing out bookings, and modifying event launches to minimize person-to-person contact. Big props to them.

We also thank you, dear reader. We couldn’t do this job without you. (And you. And you!) We always aim for a thorough, everyday approach to how we conduct our reviews, reflecting what you’re looking for come time to head to the dealership. In 2020 your favorite reviews skewed towards crossovers—no surprise there—but sedans are seemingly making a comeback. And you can’t resist a good pair of affordable sports cars, either…

To spice things up this year, we’ve included real-world comparisons alongside single-car reviews. Read on then, for AutoGuide’s most popular car reviews of 2020.

10. 2021 Subaru Crosstrek First Drive Review

What we said:

“The Crosstrek was already high up on our list of sub-compact crossovers, and the 2.5-liter makes it an even more attractive option now.”

Read the full review here!

The 2021 Subaru Crosstrek gained a much-needed, more powerful engine option in higher trims. Thanks to its clear car roots, it’s as friendly and easy-to-use as can be, yet the higher ride height allows it to conquer more than the local muddy parking lot. We’re big fans of this little sub-compact crossover: look forward to it facing off against the competition in the new year!

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09. 2020 Ford Escape AWD 1.5 Review

What we said:

“The new Escape is well positioned to move back up the sales charts.”

Read the full review here!

By the end of the year, I drove three variations of Ford’s Escape, redone entirely for the 2020 model year. While the fuel sipping of the Hybrid was very appealing, this lower-rung trim, with the base engine, is the one that made the strongest impression. It’s affordable, spacious, and pretty darn fuel efficient without the added heft and complication of batteries. And now, with the Bronco Sport revealed, the Escape’s more overt car-ification makes sense.

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08. 2020 Subaru Ascent Review

What we said:

“Overall, the Ascent is a big win for Subaru, and its success is further evidence that America’s appetite for SUVs remains as ravenous as ever.”

Read the full review here!

We love it when automakers throw a base model onto their fleets. Evidently so do you: this entry-level Subaru Ascent was our best-performing review for the Pleiades brand this year. It’s easy to see why too: for barely over $30,000, the Ascent offers three-row space, the great EyeSight suite of driver assists, and Subaru’s legendary AWD system. No wonder it keeps selling so well.

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07. 2020 BMW 330i xDrive Review

What we said:

“Yes, BMW has brought the 3 Series back to its roots of being a driver’s car, but it’s no longer the only choice for that in its class.”

Read the full review here!

The BMW 3 Series has been the sport sedan measuring stick since the dawn of time. The last generation let the crown slip though, and the competition capitalized on it, including the newcomer Genesis G70. For this, the G20-generation model, BMW has evidently rediscovered its groove, according to contributor Justin Pritchard. On the subject of steering, Justin said “it almost feels like a hydraulic unit and returns much better feedback as well. This results in predictable steering in the corners and all that’s left after that is target fixation and following the corner through with a massive grin.”

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06. 2021 Lexus IS 350 First Drive Review

What we said:

“There’s a maturity to the ride here that allows you to not just trust the IS as you fling it from apex to apex, but relish the act.”

Read the full review here!

There were groans in front of screens all around the globe when Lexus revealed that the 2021 IS would still use the same platform it did for most of the last decade. How could it really take the fight to the sport sedan segment that way, including the 3 Series you just read about?

But this is more than a facelift: Lexus’ engineers went to town underneath the skin too. The IS is now a fun, indulgent drive on your favorite bit of twisty tarmac. In fact, it’s so accomplished that the carryover engines now feel in desperate need of an upgrade to match. The price of progress we suppose. This is another hint that rumors of the sedan’s death in general may be exaggerated…

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05. Smiles Per Hour: 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata vs Toyota 86 Comparison

What we said:

“A softly sprung sports car is such a relief and it makes sense in a roadster. Top down, sun out, you can glide effortlessly across town, with your sunglasses on and your spine unbroken.”

Read the full review here!

Think a fun car costs serious coin? Take a gander at these two machines then: both can be had for less than the median new-car selling price these days. Both offer serious fun and genuine driver interaction, but do so in very different ways. We gave the newer MX-5 the nod in this one (spoiler alert), but as we said in the full article, while we prefer it in this case, we’d rather live in a world with both cars existing. There are no real wrong answers with this duo.

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04. 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid vs 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

What we said:

“If you want to be more honest about what the modern crossover is, it’s a giant hatchback on stilts. That sums up the new Escape pretty effectively.”

Read the full review here!

The RAV4 Hybrid has wait lists months long. It’s a popular version of the most popular crossover on the market, so Ford building a genuine competitor for it is a big deal. We pitted these two family crossovers against one another in the summer, to figure out which is the right choice. The Ford has the better real-world fuel economy, a more adjustable second-row, and the tech advantage. In the blue corner, the RAV4 brings a more pliant suspension, added space for both passengers and their stuff, and chunkier looks. It was a tough bout, but in the end the Toyota held onto its crown.

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03. 2020 Ford Super Duty First Drive Review

What we said:

“For the 2020 Super Duty, Ford’s primary focus was clearly on upgrading the powertrain and towing capability above all else. And I have to say that it has worked.”

Read the full review here!

Look, this is America after all: of course a truck was going to end up somewhere on this list. That honor falls to Ford’s revised Super Duty lineup. For 2020 a new, huge 7.3-liter V8 joined the lineup, but the headline figure here was the Power Stroke diesel. Capable of punishing the pavement to the tune of 1,000 lb-ft, it’s the easy hauler’s choice.

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02. 2021 Kia K5 GT-Line AWD Review: A Covetable Mainstream Sedan?

What we said:

“The K5’s camera-friendly looks might even draw eyeballs away from the current heavyweight crossovers, with a style none of ’em can hope to match.”

Read the full review here!

For our final piece of evidence that sedans are mounting a comeback, we present the Kia K5. This was one of our last reviews of the year, and yet it came this close to taking the number-one spot from a review that came out ten months earlier. That’s a heck of a move.

Then again, this is a heck of a sedan. Super stylish inside and out, the K5 is spacious, practical, and full of clever tech. It’s reasonably priced too, and offers AWD as an option, something its platform-mate the Hyundai Sonata does without. We wouldn’t mind a bit more power—something the K5 GT should definitely address, thanks to a 290-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo engine.

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01. 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Review

What we said:

“The TRD Off-Road might add some of that same rough-and-tumble character to the RAV4, but it does it to the detriment of the package.”

Read the full review here!

Well this is awkward. The RAV4 is the best-selling non-truck in both Canada and the US, so it topping the list isn’t exactly surprising. But this particular version doing so is. We drove the RAV4 a few times this year—in TRD Off-Road, the afore-mentioned Hybrid, and plug-in hybrid Prime forms—and this one was the least impressive. The rough engine gave it a decidedly old-school SUV flavor. But hey, given the demand for the upcoming Ford Bronco, maybe that’s just what people are looking for?

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