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There Have Been Some Bright Spots In This Dismal Year


A look at my "Best Of The Year" vehicles

By Bruce Hotchkiss*
Special Correspondent
West Coast Bureau

Yes it’s been a pretty lousy year, catastrophic for many. But from my auto reviewer’s prospective it has been okay.

The number of cars I’ve driven is down from 2019, which is to be expected. The Tracy Press dropped my column in 2019, and some auto makers decided I no longer merited press vehicles (understandable but disappointing). Then COVID-19 struck and I took a hiatus for a few months.

Every year I grapple with whether to do my end of year “best of” based on the calendar or model year. Last year I did calendar year; this year I’m doing model year.

I tested twenty-two 2020 vehicles. One, the Kia Telluride, is not in the running this year because I named it “Best” last year. (My blog, my rules.)

There wasn’t a clunker on the list. Alphabetically they are Acura MDX AWD A-Spec, Buick Encore GX Essence, Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier, Chevrolet Silverado RST diesel, Ford Escape, Ford Expedition King Ranch, Ford Explorer Hybrid, Honda Pilot, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Cadenza, Kia Forte GT, Kia Niro, Kia Soul, Kia Telluride, Lexus NX 300h, Lexus LC 500h, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Ram Longhorn diesel, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Highlander, and Toyota Tacoma.

The "Luminati"

Trying to decide which one was the best is a losing game. People often ask me “What car did you like the best?” My usual answer is “The one I’m driving now” (except when it’s my Lumina).

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So instead of listing my "Best" let me tell you the vehicles I’d buy if I had the money.. This isn’t based on any reliability rating (there isn’t a vehicle here that won’t easily last a couple hundred thousand miles with normal maintenance), it is based simply on what I liked.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt

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If I was in the market for an EV right now I’d go for the Chevrolet Bolt. The Bolt has a decent range and it’s a good size for a commuter. The only downside for me would be the price. The 2021 model starts at $36,500.

2020 Kia Forte GT

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For a compact, sporty sedan I’ll go with the Kia Forte GT. And I used to work for Honda (that should tell you all you need to know).

2020 Kia Cadenza

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In the big sedan segment I only reviewed one vehicle but that doesn’t diminish how good the Kia Cadenza is. The Cadenza is definitely equal to its competitors.

2020 Lexus NX 300h

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There were many SUVs and I’m not really an SUV type of guy. For a small(ish) SUV I liked the Lexus NX 300h. Yeah it’s expensive but it sure was nice.

2020 Ram Longhorn

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I drove some really nice pickup trucks in 2020. My top choice has to be the Ram Longhorn Diesel. I like the looks and the fuel economy was outstanding.

2020 Ford Ranger

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I have to give the Ford Ranger an honorable mention. Even though it's called mid-size for me it's right-size. Now if Ford would just make a 2WD Ranger Lightning version.

But as I said there wasn’t a clunker in the mix. You can read my full reviews right here at or

Hopefully 2021 will be a better year for all of us.

*Author's Note: I have been writing car reviews since 1984. I am a Certified Automotive Technician although I no longer ply that trade. I worked for twenty years for the California Department of Consumer Affairs & Bureau of Automotive Repair. I sat on three legislative advisory committees. I wrote an automotive column for the Tracy Press, and before that the Pacifica Tribune. I was a member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada and am a member of the Western Automotive Journalists.