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Best Car of 2023

By Cars.com Editors
February 7, 2023

Winner: 2023 Kia Niro

  • Price range: $27,915-$36,215 (all prices include destination charge)
  • Estimated combined fuel economy range: 49-53 mpg

A raft of groundbreaking new pure-electric vehicles have debuted in the past few years, along with an expanding roster of hybrid and plug-in-hybrid vehicles. However, there’s only one vehicle in the U.S. market that currently offers the choice of all three of those efficient powertrain options, and it’s been redesigned this year: the 2023 Kia Niro.

The redesigned second-generation Niro sticks to the basic script of its predecessor as a five-seat compact hatchback that sports some SUV-like design touches but comes only with front-wheel drive. Powertrains are carried over with no major changes, but efficiency has been improved across the board. The hybrid variant’s standard 53/54/53 mpg city/highway/combined ratings come from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder paired with a 32-kilowatt electric motor for a total output of 139 horsepower. The PHEV gets the same 1.6-liter but pairs it with a 62-kW electric motor for a total output of 180 hp and an EPA-estimated all-electric driving range of 33 miles on a full charge. The EV is powered by a 150-kW electric motor rated at 201 hp and has an EPA-estimated driving range of 253 miles.

The first-gen Niro didn’t offer much in the way of styling personality, but there’s no such issue with the new one. Fun design touches inside and out, such as sharply angled LED running lights, functional “Aero Blade” accent panels on the rear quarters (offered in different colors) and a dynamic dashboard design liven up the sensible-shoes demeanor. The Niro demonstrates that an affordable, efficiency-focused vehicle needn’t be boring to look at or sit in. Interior quality has been enhanced, as well, with eco-friendly recycled materials that combine with padded surfaces and satin-finish accents to create a respectably classy ambiance for a mainstream-brand compact in the higher-end trim levels.

We’re officially giving the Niro’s hybrid version the crown since it’s the best value of the three and offers the broadest range of trim levels, but we’re tipping our hats to the PHEV and EV versions, too. The innovation here is that Kia was able to substantially improve the look and feel of the Niro without resorting to a completely clean sheet of paper. There are no game-changing specs or headline-grabbing features here as the Niro simply coheres into an exceptionally likable and affordable overall package. That’s why we’ve named it Cars.com’s Best Car of 2023.

ford f 150 lightning lariat exterior front angle oem scaled jpg 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning | Manufacturer image

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning: Finalist

  • Price range: $57,869-$98,769
  • Estimated electric driving range: 240-320 miles
  • Estimated combined efficiency: 66-70 mpg-e

We’ve seen some audacious all-electric trucks in the last few years, from the GMC Hummer EV extreme off-roader to the yet-to-hit-production Tesla Cybertruck. The all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning is nothing like those trucks; it could easily be mistaken for its gas-powered sibling, with styling similar to a regular F-150. That said, the way it brings EV virtues like quickness, quietness and comparative efficiency to the full-size truck class is a remarkable achievement, all while retaining significant hauling and towing capabilities.

What’s more, innovations available in the regular F-150 have been made even better in the F-150 Lightning. An available high-output version of Ford’s Pro Power Onboard generator can supply up to 9.6 kW of power, with extra power outlets in the Lightning’s front trunk that’s underneath the power-opening hood. And the F-150 Lightning can serve as a backup home generator, too, with a properly configured home using Ford’s available 80-amp home charger.

The F-150 Lightning’s Achilles’ heel is its limited towing range and modest DC fast-charging performance, but these may be manageable shortcomings if most of your driving starts and ends in the same place each day and you have the ability to charge there. If you separate the F-150 Lightning’s refueling experience from its driving experience, the latter of which offers all the comfort, refinement and performance of the regular F-150 (and then some), it’s impressive indeed.

3185 GENESISREVEALS2023G90U S PRICING jpg 2023 Genesis G90 | Manufacturer image

2023 Genesis G90: Finalist

  • Price range: $90,100-$100,400
  • Estimated combined fuel economy range: 20-21 mpg

When the Genesis G90 first debuted, it represented a more affordable alternative to the flagship full-size luxury sedans from German brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz while delivering much of the luxury experience those brands offer. Genesis has made its big sedan even more luxurious for the 2023 model year, making the redesigned G90 a credible alternative to models from the aforementioned luxury brands.

It does this by matching the comfort, technology and interior luxury that its competitors offer. The interior is trimmed in beautiful materials, and fit and finish is impeccable. The driving experience is serene — the G90 seems to float down the road — and even though it has that substantial, solid feel common to full-size luxury sedans, it doesn’t feel overly heavy like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The G90 is also packed with tech features, but there’s not a steep learning curve to use them. Rear passengers enjoy first-class accommodations with available reclining and massaging seats and plenty of room to stretch your legs.

The 2023 G90’s starting price is considerably higher than its predecessor’s, now at nearly $90,000. This price hike brings the new G90’s starting price up to the Audi A8’s and BMW 740i’s, though it’s still considerably less expensive than an S-Class. Brand prestige is another more nebulous consideration, and while some may say the still-young Genesis brand doesn’t have it yet, what Genesis has created in the G90 should go a long way toward changing those perceptions. It’s that good.

honda crv 2023 01 exterior front angle scaled jpg 2023 Honda CR-V hybrid | Cars.com photo by Jonathan Earley

2023 Honda CR-V: Finalist

  • Price range: $32,905-$40,395
  • Estimated combined fuel economy range: 29-40 mpg

The compact SUV class is one of the most competitive in the automotive industry. While sales of Honda’s popular CR-V are consistently strong, the CR-V’s performance in Cars.com’s comparison tests has been less so in recent years, culminating in a last-place finish in our most recent test. For 2023, the CR-V is redesigned and better equipped to take on its challengers.

Starting with the interior, the CR-V gets an upgrade familiar to those who recall the Civic’s glow-up for 2022. The interior design is sleek and classy — and most importantly, it brings back a full set of physical audio controls. Like the Civic, the CR-V also has excellent forward visibility due in part to new, thinner A-pillars that are closer to the driver. Materials quality was always a CR-V strong suit, and that continues with this new one; it may not push into luxury territory, but it’s at or near the top among mainstream brands.

Honda didn’t turn the new CR-V into a performance car, but the new model’s revised hybrid powertrain is sportier than its predecessor with more horsepower and torque, which combines with pleasant on-road manners for an enjoyable experience in the city, on the highway and even on twistier mountain roads.

With such fierce competition, we can’t wait to pit the 2023 Honda CR-V against the rest of its class — but it’s also doubtlessly one of the best new cars of 2023.

land rover range rover exterior profile oem scaled jpg 2023 Land Rover Range Rover | Manufacturer image

2023 Land Rover Range Rover: Finalist

  • Price range: $105,975-$219,775
  • Estimated combined fuel economy range: 18-21 mpg

Luxury vehicles increasingly provide shoppers a choice of two routes: super-high-tech to the point of frustration or old-school-style with rich materials and excellent build quality but lackluster onboard technology. It’s rare we find a combination of usable, high-functioning technology and an opulent interior, but that’s just what Land Rover has accomplished with the new Range Rover.

Restyled inside and out, it looks absolutely stunning with its sleek, futuristic lines. But it also still impresses mightily with a gorgeous interior decked out in traditional wood and leather. The crowning touch is the big revision to the Range Rover’s multimedia system that brings speed, ease of use, simplicity and plenty of features to the brand’s flagship SUV.

The Range Rover allows you to tailor the driving experience to your needs with two wheelbases for varying interior accommodations; tons of trim levels and options to personalize its appearance; and a variety of powertrains that include a mild hybrid, a PHEV with all-electric range and a powerful gas V-8. And that driving experience is nothing short of decadent — ultra-smooth, beautifully quiet and isolated, yet still with plenty of feedback and control to prevent you from wafting off to sleep. Highway driving is effortless, and around-town driving is an absolute delight.

Combine that performance with the Range Rover’s ability to turn heads, and it’s clear that the new 2023 Range Rover ups Land Rover’s ultimate luxury SUV game to a new level and makes it worthy of consideration for Best of the Year 2023.

nissan ariya 2023 05 exterior front angle scaled jpg 2023 Nissan Ariya | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

2023 Nissan Ariya: Finalist

  • Price range: $44,485-$61,485
  • Estimated electric driving range: 205-304 miles
  • Estimated combined efficiency: 98-103 mpg-equivalent

Good things come to those who wait, as the saying goes, and in the case of Nissan’s new all-electric compact SUV, it fits. The 2023 Ariya joins the lineup as Nissan’s second EV after the Leaf (which debuted 12 model years ago), and after delays from pandemic-related supply chain issues, we’re glad it’s finally here.

The 2023 Ariya stands out for its comfortable ride, low-key-but-stylish interior, high-tech driver assistance features and generous space. One of the signs of a successful EV is that it doesn’t feel weird, and the Ariya has little to none of the typical oddities of poor ride quality and difficult-to-use controls.

On the controls front, the Ariya is refreshingly normal, with a pair of big screens — a digital instrument panel in front of the driver and center dashboard touchscreen for the infotainment system — that are both customizable and logically set up. Normalized doesn’t mean unoriginal, however, because the Ariya’s innovative interior includes a power-sliding center console for storing larger items up front, as well as a small storage bin and tray that extend from the dashboard to be used as a small workstation.

The Ariya comes in a dizzying array of configurations, including front- or all-wheel drive and two batteries: a standard-range battery good for 216 miles of range with FWD or 205 miles with AWD, or a long-range battery with 304 miles of range for FWD or 270 miles with AWD.

Although the Ariya may be late to the EV party, it’s a solid contender in the class and finalist for Cars.com’s Best of the Year 2023 award.