2021 Ford Bronco Sport

2021 Overall Best Cars & Trucks

There's a lot of great choices for the 2021 model year, but these are our top picks

Best Cars & Trucks
The Best Overall Cars & Trucks For The 2021 Consumer!

Let’s face it, cars and trucks are now part of our everyday lives. Either commuting, shopping, moving, transporting, inter-city day trips… you name it, we use the faithful four-wheeled steed of the common man for pretty much everything!

It’s also become quite apparent to many manufacturers big and small that the crossover and SUV segments of the market are starting to grow in North America. From small people movers to luxurious sports SUVs, the big car and truck is here to stay.

On the flip side, many still prefer the small or medium-sized family car, as it is a practical, fuel-efficient, and comfortable way to go about your business. With investment heavily into this segment from the Asian manufacturers, there are plenty of great options for the discerning driver.

Being honest, this list could have had any number of cars, trucks, CUVs, and SUVs in pretty much any place. To keep it narrowed down, we’ve put the limitation in place that this list will be about actually affordable cars and trucks, and nothing that is seen as overly luxury oriented or superlative. We have other lists for those!

2021 Ford Bronco Sport

1. 2021 Ford Bronco Sport

Important Info

  • Base Price: $26,660 – $38,160
  • Updates: New vehicle
  • 0-60 mph: 7.0 – 8.5 sec
  • Fuel Economy: Not officially revealed
  • Basic Warranty: 3 years / 36,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 9.0/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: A rethink of the compact SUV, it is a perfect new vehicle that can handle both the Baja desert and the school run

Pros: Comfortable seating for 5 adults, excellent interior and exterior design, standard AWD, and multiple traction modes

Cons: Not as “extreme off-road” oriented as its bigger brother, some stigma attached to being a four-cylinder engine only model

Ford has somehow tapped into that bottomless well of ingenuity and nostalgia that they seem to have, and have brought out not one, but two versions of the new 2021 Bronco. The mainstream, removable-roof-and-doors Bronco model that taps into the history of the Bronco’s 1990’s desert running image, and the smaller, but no less capable Bronco Sport.

But why choose the crossover over the much-hyped and talked about Bronco? It’s quite simple, really. The Bronco Sport retains the looks and the raw machismo of the Bronco but does it with a much more sublime touch. It’s the CUV that lets you go about your business in comfort and safety without shouting about having large shoulders or big off-road tires. In other words, it’s civilized and unassuming, and that’s what makes it excellent.

The new 2021 Bronco Sport will have two options for engines, both of which are from Ford’s now-legendary EcoBoost turbocharged line. All of the models will come with a baseline 1.5-liter inline-3 that pushes out a respectable 181 HP and 190 lbs-ft of torque, but we think the 2.0-liter inline-4 with 245 HP and a grunty 275 lbs-ft of torque from as low as 3,000 RPM will be the big seller.

The Bronco Sport is also towing capable if you go for the Big Bend or Outer Banks models with 2,000 lbs capacity, or the higher end Badlands or First Edition models with 2,200 lbs capacity. No matter what you choose, however, you’ll have a well design, superbly engineered crossover that is at home both on the dirt and the pavement.

2020 Honda Civic Sedan

2. 2021 Honda Civic Model Range

Important Info

  • Base Price: $23,600-$37,495
  • Updates: Unchanged
  • 0-60 mph: 5.0-7.8 sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 22-32 mpg / Hwy 28-42 mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 3 years / 36,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.3/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: Not the top or the bottom of the Honda range, the Civic continues to be the best-selling subcompact car in the US and Canada

Pros: Wide range of engines available, multiple body styles available, has a lap-record setter in the Type R

Cons: Hatchback trims have some blind spots, interior materials on lower price models do feel a bit bargain bin

The ultimate standard in what a good coupe, sedan, or hatchback should be, Honda’s best-selling compact cars can be seen at almost every parking lot, stop light, or highway. They are that good, and they consistently win all the awards that people pay attention to, such as JD Power and Car & Driver.

The Honda Civic has even come through 2020 relatively unscathed despite the world grinding to a halt for a few months. Despite that, it only dipped under 20,000 cars sold per month twice, in March and April of 2020. If that doesn’t say “staying power,” we don’t know what does.

On the lower end of the model range, you have the unassuming sedan and coupe models with a 2.0-liter inline-four putting out 158 HP. For a couple thousand more, you can get the 5 door hatchback model. Where it starts to get interesting, however, is in the mid-$20k range.

There, you come across the Civic Si coupe, a 205 HP turbocharged Friday grocery-getter that can also plaster a grin on your face as your Saturday fun-run car. At the top of the pecking order comes the Civic Type R, a 306 HP turbocharged street shredder. In fact, the new 2021 model has just recently set a record around Japan’s Formula 1 hosting Suzuka Circuit for front-wheel drive production cars, and yet it gets 25 miles to the gallon!

As well, every single Civic model for 2021 will come with Honda’s lane sensors and anti-collision system known as Honda Sensing as standard. This is a huge step towards the industry as a whole implementing these technologies as standard, and as usual, Honda leads the way.

2021 Dodge RAM 1500

3. 2021 Dodge Ram 1500

Important Info

  • Base Price: $32,145 – $53,915
  • Updates: Minor engine upgrades
  • 0-60 mph: 4.5 – 8.0 secs
  • Fuel Economy: City 15-24 mpg / Hwy 21-29 mpg depnding on engine
  • Basic Warranty: 3 years / 36,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.0/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: The RAM 1500 steals the crown from Ford for 2021, with several minor engine upgrades that affect more than just power

Pros: A nearly endless list of features and options, even on the base Tradesman model. Variety of engines to make your truck suit your needs

Cons: Front grille is a bit gaudy, rear legroom, even in the crew models, somewhat tight, largest bed available is only 6’4″ long

The 2021 RAM 1500 steals the pickup crown from Ford and the F-150 for the first time in many years, due to a consistent and constant series of minor upgrades throughout the years. These small refinements have added up to make a solid, workhorse pickup truck that is dependable and rock solid.

New for 2021 is the RAM 1500 TRX, which is not exactly what we would call the preferred model, as it shoves a 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V-8 under the hood, and chucks out 702 HP and 650 lbs-ft of torque. While that torque figure is impressive, it’s hard to see the TRX towing anything as its only stated purpose is to be a muscle truck that can keep up with some supercars.

What has earned the RAM the top step this time is refinement. The interior is rugged and utilitarian in the Tradesman, through to making Jaguar owners envious in the top of the range Limted and Longhorn models. As well, for 2021, all RAM 1500 trucks will have bluetooth handsfree audio, and all trims will have some form of touchscreen capable infotainment, up to the massive 12 inch vertical center display in the Limited.

The standard lineup of RAM 1500’s, however, are where the meat is. Introduced in 2020 and carried over to 2021, the newly reworked 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with eTorque brings the mild-hybrid adds nearly 1,100 lbs towing capacity to the already impressive 11,600 lbs of the regular Hemi V-8 with 295 HP and 410 lbs-ft of torque.

The real gem is the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, which is an available option in all trims except the TRX. It may only have 260 HP, but it develops a grunty 480 lbs-ft of torque at just 1,250 RPM, and can haul 12,560 lbs without draining your wallet from gas bills. A 3.6-liter gas V-6 with eTorque is available in all trims, and is standard in the Tradesman trim, with 305 HP and 269 lbs-ft of torque, with a towing capacity of 7,730 lbs.

 

2021 Kia K5 GT

4. 2021 Kia K5

Important Info

  • Base Price: $23,490 – $30,490
  • Updates: New vehicle
  • 0-60 mph: 5.5+ sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 32+ mpg / Hwy38+ mpg depending on engine
  • Basic Warranty: 5 years / 60,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 8.0/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: The replacement for the excellent Optima comes with more tech, more options, and the sharp styling modern Kia’s are known for

Pros: Excellent value for a mid-sized 4 door sportback sedan, optional AWD, 5-star NHTSA safety rating

Cons: Driver’s seat quite high, not the most communicative steering, somewhat anemic low-end power before turbo kicks in

Kia has been riding on a wave of great cars since the major overhaul that they underwent across the range in the late 2000’s. New build quality standards, new production facilities, and heavy investment into more efficient engines and some hybrid options have moved them from a bargain brand into a competitive and well-regarded mainstream brand.

One of the paragons of their success was the Kia Optima, a mid-sized family sedan that was superbly equipped for the mid-$20k price you paid for it. Now, however, the Optima is being quietly discontinued so that Kia’s new mid-sized sedan, the K5, can move in.

The K5 is available with either a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four making 180 HP and 195 lbs-ft of torque across the majority of the range, or, in the GT spec, a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four with 290 HP and 311 lbs-ft of torque. All specs come with an 8 speed automatic transmission, with the GT’s automatic being a Dual Clutch Transmission with paddle shifters on the steering column.

While Kia’s are not widely known for their power, what they are known for is just how much you get for your hard-earned cash. Even the base LX model comes with 16 inch alloys, LED lighting all around, an 8 inch touchscreen infotainment system, dual-zone climate control, remote keyless entry, driver lane and departure assist… we could go on. With Kia, what are options or part of optional packages are standard and included in the base price.

Even more exciting is the upcoming AWD option in early 2021 on the EX and GT models. If you live in the North of the country, or up in Canada, you’ll know how valuable all-wheel-drive can be when the going gets slippery and steep.

2021 Hyundai Tuscon

5. 2021 Hyundai Tuscon

Important Info

  • Base Price: $23,700 – $32,050
  • Updates: Unchanged
  • 0-60 mph: 7.6 – 8.6 sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 23-26 mpg / Hwy 26-29 mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 5 years / 60,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 7.5/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: A compact urban SUV that thrives in the city, but can also do the long distance road trip with similar ease

Pros: Upscale and roomy interior, a keep-it-simple interior layout that is easy to navigate, sharp urban looks

Cons: Not the most spacious in the segment, warranty (in the US) is non-transferrable, somewhat lethargic power in the smaller sized engine

The 2021 Hyundai Tuscon is one of those urban-oriented SUVs that often gets overlooked by those shopping around. It doesn’t have the latest and greatest in leather and composite interiors, nor does it win any races with the most powerful engine being a 2.4-liter inline-four that puts out 181 HP.

What it does have, however, against most of its competition, is value and poise. With standard features on the SE base model that are options or locked away to higher sub-models on the competition, the Tuscon is well appointed for a $23,700 compact SUV. It does flounder a bit because of it’s 2.0-liter inline four with only 161 HP, but it will still get you where you need to go efficiently and in stylish comfort.

The best value is the SEL model, which gains the aforementioned 2.4-liter engine, as well as dual zone climate control, USB charging ports for the second row to keep the kids’ iPads charged up, and handsome 18 inch alloys that look way more premium than a value segment urban SUV should have.

Add to that a warranty that lasts 2 more years and 14,000 miles longer than most competitors, and you have a winner.

2021 Mazda CX-9

6. 2021 Mazda CX-9

Important Info

  • Base Price: $33,960 – $46,605
  • Updates: Unchanged
  • 0-60 mph: 7.0 sec
  • Fuel Economy: City 20-24 mpg / Hwy 25-28 mpg
  • Basic Warranty: 3 years / 36,000 miles
  • Our Rating: 7.5/10

Our Thoughts: Pros & Cons

Summary: The Mazda CX-9 offers the best of both worlds for the family adult: fun to drive, and can carry almost anything

Pros: Mazda’s curvaceous styling implies a luxury SUV price tag, comfortable and modern interior, fun to drive

Cons: Can’t carry as much as many full-size SUV competitors, third row passengers are going to be tightly packed in

While we would all love to have a MazdaSpeed 3 or an MX-5 as a daily driver, the reality of modern family life means that you need to factor in kids, groceries, the dog, birthday parties, and the odd weekend camping trip into things. This is where the Mazda CX-9 performs brilliantly.

One of the most often complained about features in a full sized SUV these days is the fact they most feel like a big box on wheels and utterly disconnected from the joy of driving. Mazda, through a company philosophy known as “Kodo,” makes sure that every vehicle they make has a human-centric design. Whatever you touch and feel in the CX-9 feels premium, and most importantly, the driving experience is translated into the steering wheel. It is that feeling of “come on, let’s go for a drive” that brings the typical family man or woman back to their younger years.

Adding to the fun is the peppy variable-rate turbocharged 2.5-liter inline four under the hood that puts down 250 HP and some serious torque at 320 lbs-ft. Carrying a spouse and the standard 1.8 children per household, that’s enough to put a smile even on the most stressed out, grumpy, needs-more-coffee parent.

The modern interior is also well appointed, with the higher end models even carrying luxurious leather seating and a variety of toys for the inner child to poke at. However, even the base model Sport has parking sensors, emergency rear braking, lane departure and lane keeping assist, and a 10.3 inch infotainment system with optional navigation.

However, what wins with the CX-9 is that it allows one to be a responsible adult, and still have a great drive that is fun instead of draining. It’s amazing what letting a little road feel come through the steering column does to a driver!