Picking 2023 Winners Tough: North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year Named

The unique thing about NACTOY judges is all 50 use their own criteria to pick the best of the best.

Drew Winter, Contributing Editor

January 11, 2023

4 Min Read
Kia EV6
Kia EV6 won SUV category with sultry good looks and exciting performance.Kia

When you start with a list of 47 eligible cars, trucks and utility vehicles, whittle it down to 26 semifinalists and then pick three winners from nine finalists, you get three terrific vehicles emerging from a very diverse field.

Ultimately the Acura Integra sedan, won out over the Genesis G80 battery-electric sedan and Nissan Z sports car for North American Car of the Year; the Ford F-150 Lightning BEV triumphed over the muscular Chevy Silverado ZR2 pickup and the Lordstown Endurance BEV pickup for North American Truck of the Year honors. And, in an all-electric showdown, the sleek Kia EV6 was chosen over the luxurious Cadillac Lyriq and Genesis GV60 BEVs for North American Utility of the Year.

All nine finalists are standouts in the factors judges take into consideration: segment leadership, innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.  

In addition to being a NACTOY juror, I also am a judge for the Wards 10 Best Propulsion Systems, Wards 10 Best Interiors and Wards 10 Best UX. And I’ve also spent the past two years writing about what future vehicle cockpits will look like.

In the Wards judging, I don’t knock off a lot of points for high-priced vehicles with spectacular cockpit designs or innovative propulsion systems. The Wards trophies are industry awards, and they recognize industry achievements in design and innovation. My philosophy for the Wards 10 Best is new industry benchmarks deserve recognition because they eventually trickle down to more affordable models. Vehicle pricing is not critical in this context.

But the NACTOY awards are consumer-facing and my judging criteria skews to more practical and affordable models. With the median U.S. household income hovering around $62,000 and average new-vehicle transaction prices hitting $48,000, it’s harder for me to vote for vehicles costing twice that amount or more for NACTOY honors, even if I know the vehicles are worth it compared with others in its segment.

But when I put my cockpit-design expert hat on, my head wants to explode when I look at the nine finalists. From the top of the price range to the bottom, every single cockpit is a stunning achievement in its own way.

In my view, the Acura Integra (pictured, below) won over its very worthy competitors because it was a very rewarding experience for a driving enthusiast, but with a base price starting at $31,000, it’s also a practical and affordable car. The new Nissan Z is a true sports car with 400 hp and great performance. It gets lots of appreciative looks, but it starts at about $40,000 and is not real practical. The Genesis G80 is a luxurious fullsize battery-electric sedan. It’s gorgeous and fun to drive but starts at $80,000.

2023 Acura Integra

2023 Acura Integra_1

The F-150 Lightning BEV (pictured, bottom) pickup was the easiest choice for me. It is a true game-charger in the mainstream truck market. The Chevy Silverado ZR2 is an off-roading beast of a vehicle, an immensely entertaining niche vehicle, but it is not going to change the world, and it starts at about $70,000. The Lordstown Endurance BEV is an excellent newcomer but focused almost exclusively on the commercial market rather than consumers.

The SUV category was the toughest for me to pick a winner. All the finalists are spectacular – and pricey – but all worth it. The Cadillac Lyriq is beautiful inside and out with impressive visual effects and a great user experience inside. The one thing that held it back is that its performance is less thrilling than the sportier Kia and Genesis.

I loved testing every one of these finalists. The sleek Kia pushes the limits in exterior and interior design, maybe a bit too much for a mainstream vehicle. One criticism I have is its innovative virtual controls for climate control and infotainment are too small and confusing.

The Genesis GV60 pushes the envelope in design and innovation as well, but in a more user-friendly manner. That’s why I scored it best in this category, but a majority of my peers disagreed.

It’s been a tough couple of years, but 2023 is going to be great year for new cars, trucks, and utility vehicles of all kinds.

F-150 Lightning

F-150 Lightning_3

About the Author(s)

Drew Winter

Contributing Editor, WardsAuto

Drew Winter is a former longtime editor and analyst for Wards. He writes about a wide range of topics including emerging cockpit technology, new materials and supply chain business strategies. He also serves as a judge in both the Wards 10 Best Engines and Propulsion Systems awards and the Wards 10 Best Interiors & UX awards and as a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year awards.

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