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Best Cars to Buy: Canadian Car of the Year 2021

The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) has announced the 2021 winners of its Canadian Car of the Year awards, which are presented annually to the vehicles that AJAC members deem to be the best overall value for Canadian drivers.

AJAC is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2021 and exists today for the same reason it was founded: to provide unbiased expert opinions and information on today’s cars, SUVs, and trucks to Canadians. The association has more than 100 professional automotive journalist members across the country, who test drive vehicles on the same roads and in the same conditions experienced by Canadian drivers every day.

For the 2021 awards program, more than 250 vehicles were eligible, from those that are entirely new or recently refreshed to others that have been on the market unchanged for several years. Although most of the typical vehicle evaluation programs were cancelled due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, AJAC members completed hundreds of test drives from their homes throughout 2020 to come up with the list of category and overall winners below.

Shopping pre-owned? Check out the winners from previous years. Go to the 2019 AJAC Winners or the 2020 AJAC Winners.

Here are the vehicles selected by AJAC members as being the best choices for Canadian buyers in 2021.

Best Mid-Size Car: Mazda3


Canadian Car of the Year Winner for 2021

With its victory as 2021 Canadian Car of the Year, the Mazda3 becomes the first car ever to win this award back-to-back in the nearly 40-year history of the program. On top of that, it’s also a two-time winner in its category. AJAC members continue to see the Mazda3 as being exceptional for its premium-level finishes at a mainstream price and gave it high ratings for its exterior and interior styling, quiet cabin, drivetrain performance, and overall value. A new 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine newly introduced for 2021 gives buyers a higher-output powertrain option, improving the value proposition even further.

Best Mid-Size Premium Utility Vehicle: Genesis GV80

Genesis GV80

Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year Winner for 2021

The Genesis GV80 is an entirely new first SUV offering from Genesis, Hyundai Motor Group’s luxury brand, and has claimed victory in both its category and as 2021 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year in its first year on the market. The GV80 is offered as a two- or three-row mid-size SUV depending on whether the buyer chooses to equip it with a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6. It includes innovative features such as cruise control with machine learning and a 3D-effect digital instrument cluster. AJAC jurors scored it highest for its interior design, convenience and entertainment features, cabin quietness, build quality, safety features, and overall value.

Best Large Car in Canada for 2021: Kia K5

Kia K5

The Kia K5 was the winner in its category and one of the three finalists for 2021 Canadian Car of the Year. It replaces the Optima four-door sedan in Kia’s line-up and arrives with a new design highlighted by a dramatically updated front end treatment, available tech features such as a 10.3" touchscreen infotainment system and 12.3" digital instrument cluster, and available heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. AJAC members selected the K5 as the winner in its category by scoring it highest in ride comfort, exterior styling, safety features, and cargo usability.

Best Mid-Size Premium Car for 2021: Genesis G80

Genesis G80

The third finalist for 2021 Canadian Car of the Year is the Genesis G80, which is also the winner in its category. With engine offerings and features that match the Genesis GV80 with which it shares a platform, the G80 enters its third generation for 2021 entirely redesigned. It now integrates the brand’s signature lighting treatment, which starts at the quad-lamp headlights and continues around the exterior with two lines that conclude at the taillamps. In this category, AJAC jurors chose the G80 as the winner by rating it above average in almost every facet examined on the ballot and scoring it especially high for its design, safety features, and tranquil occupant environment.

Best Small Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021: Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru Crosstrek

The winner in this increasingly popular small SUV segment, the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, received a mid-cycle refresh for this model year. It introduces a new 2.5-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, which presents a 30 hp upgrade in power output versus the existing 2.0-litre engine. A new Canada-exclusive Outdoor grade combines that engine with an updated version of the EyeSight suite of safety technologies, which now includes lane centring, plus exclusive interior finishes while being priced at less than $30,000. AJAC members selected it as the winner in its category with consistently high marks across the board, particularly for its visibility, pleasant occupant environment, usable cargo space, and safety features.

Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021: Nissan Rogue

Nissan Rogue

The third-generation Nissan Rogue was selected as one of three finalists for Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year on top of being the winner in its category. The Rogue is completely redesigned for the 2021 model year with a new design, new direct-injected 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, new platform and chassis for an improved ride, and updated list of available features. AJAC jurors chose the Rogue as Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021 by scoring it consistently high across most attributes given consideration on the ballot, most notably by placing it highest in its category for overall value.

Best Large Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021: Kia Telluride

Kia Telluride

The Kia Telluride is not only a two-time winner of Best Large Utility Vehicle in Canada, meaning that it has not yet relinquished the crown since coming to the Canadian market, but it was also selected as a finalist for Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year for the second year in a row. The Telluride is repeatedly recognized for providing exceptional feature value at lower-than-average prices such as ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, on top of having a roomy interior and solid drive dynamics. AJAC jurors scored it highest in its category for exterior design, build quality, ergonomics, and overall value.

Best Full-size Pick-up Truck in Canada for 2021: Ram 1500

Dodge RAM

The Ram 1500 is also a two-time winner in its category. In 2020, it was selected primarily due to the introduction of its EcoDiesel engine; for 2021, AJAC members were introduced to the TRX model, which includes the famed Stellantis Hellcat engine, a 6.2-litre supercharged HEMI V8 producing 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque to go with the TRX’s off-road-oriented packaging. Though the TRX made up the majority of 2020 test drives, AJAC members considered all Ram 1500 models in selecting it as the winner in its category, giving it the highest marks in interior and exterior design, ergonomics, visibility, convenience and entertainment features, and overall value.

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