What’s eligible: Any 2020 model vehicle regardless of when it was introduced or last updated.
Criteria: Rather than an accolade limited to the most powerful sports cars, our award is open to any model of any type that’s defined by how fun it is to drive, be that on a racetrack or not.
Winner: 2020 Hyundai Veloster N
Our past three Most Fun-to-Drive awards have gone to cars known for an appealing mix of affordability and driving pleasure: the Mazda Miata (twice) and the Volkswagen Golf GTI. (What can we say? We’re thrifty, and accessibility matters to us.) This year, we’re happy to give the award to a newcomer that seems to have perfected that formula: the 2020 Hyundai Veloster N.
This might surprise given that Hyundai isn’t widely recognized for performance, and the previous-generation Veloster was known for being more funky than fun. But the redesigned three-door hatchback delivers a responsive, pleasing driving experience even in its lower trim levels. As for the Veloster N, nothing else we tested this year inspired the same amount of sheer joy; it’s a car that feels absolutely dialed in from the first corner. The quick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox is a delight, and the steering comes with an immediacy that grabs you by the neck and yanks you into the corner along with the car. The responsive and torquey turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes the Veloster N a capable performer that punches well above its weight (and price) class.
The optional Performance Package boosts power from 250 to 275 horsepower and adds larger brakes, an electronically controlled limited-slip differential and a variable exhaust system. The mechanical trickery keeps the front-wheel-drive Veloster N from feeling unruly. It simply grips and rips over any curvy road you can find.
All of this (even with the Performance Package) costs just more than $30,000. The cars we consider direct competitors of the Veloster N in performance terms — the Honda Civic Type R and Volkswagen Golf R — cost much more. Cost aside, it’s not lost on us that the Veloster’s only transmission is a manual, which makes it less accessible in another way. But we had to give it a pass — the car is just that good. At a time when performance vehicles are becoming more technically proficient with better specs and further and further limits, we typically bemoan their lack of feel, including in cars costing two, three or more times as much as this little hatch. With all of their technology, modern cars somehow fail to give us the visceral experience of decades ago; we even lost it in BMWs. But we found it again in the Veloster N. It’s the most fun we had behind the wheel this year, and it sets the bar for cheap speed even higher.
2020 Ford Mustang
The Ford Mustang’s transformation from muscle car to sports car has been complete for a few years now. No longer just fast in a straight line, it’s legitimately fun to steer, as well. What sets the Mustang apart, however, is the depth of its lineup — no matter what kind of fun you want to have on the road, there’s a Mustang for that.
Looking for something affordable with decent fuel economy? The Mustang EcoBoost and its turbocharged four-cylinder engine have you covered. Want a slice of Americana with big-time power under the hood? Check out the big V-8 in GT models. For track duty, there’s a pair of Shelby models that snarl and chase down exotics for fun. And for 2020, the family has grown: On the low end, there’s a new High Performance Pack variant featuring a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine lifted from the Focus RS. At the very top of the lineup, the reborn Shelby GT500 with a supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 that makes 760 horsepower and scoots the car from 0-60 mph in just 3.3 seconds.
There is no other sports car right now that can offer this type of versatility. The Mustang is at or near the top of each category it competes in. It’s not a few of the Mustang versions that are enjoyable — they all are.
2020 Jeep Wrangler
We’ve long held that fun behind the wheel is not limited to dedicated sports cars — or even paved roads — and it’s reflected almost every year in our Most Fun-to-Drive award. A returning nominee, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler remains untouched for off-road hijinks. No other vehicle comes off the dealer lot as ready to tackle a rock-crawling expedition or a jaunt through the mud as the Wrangler, especially in its Rubicon trim level.
This is the second consecutive year that the Wrangler has been nominated for this award, after the introduction of the JL generation as a late 2018 model. The changes made the Wrangler much easier to live with in day-to-day life without compromising its off-road ability. And it’s easier than ever to ditch the doors and roof for a unique experience that’s as fun as it looks.
The V-6 and mild-hybrid-enhanced four-cylinder powertrains are joined by a new diesel engine for 2020, offering slightly better fuel economy and lots of torque. This adds a new dimension to the Wrangler’s portfolio, yet controlling all of that torque while off the beaten path remains easy thanks to near-perfect throttle tuning for the diesel. Whether you’re looking for off-road fun with two-, four- or no doors, the Wrangler remains the answer.