(Motor Authority) – As the move to electrification continues, some automakers are leaping toward the future while others are looking to the past for one last final hurrah. These trends are clearly evident in this year’s crop of finalists for Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2023.
Last year marked a first for our award. A clean-sheet-design electric pickup truck from a startup automaker came out on top as the Rivian R1T earned Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2022 honors. The Lucid Air, also an electric vehicle and also from a startup, was the runner-up.
After driving nearly 30 new or significantly updated luxury and performance cars, trucks, and SUVs, we whittled down the list of 2023 nominees to just seven contenders. We fought to get there, and fought more to determine the winner.
We’ll announce the winner on Jan. 4, 2023, along with the winners from our sister sites, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports.
Until then, these are the seven finalists for Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2023.
2023 Acura Integra
The Acura Integra proudly returned in 2022. Previewed a year ahead of the hatch’s return in prototype form, the compact hatch delivered on its promise of recapturing the magic of the glory days. Based on the Civic Si’s bones, the Integra takes things a step further with the availability of adaptive dampers, a better sound system, and of course, a hatchback body style. It’s a shame the manual transmission is quarantined to the top-spec model.
2022 Audi RS 3
The Audi RS 3 returned with turbo-5 power and track capability. The RS 3’s mission is to delight the driver and stir the soul, and it feels right at home on a racetrack. The all-wheel-drive system has become more sophisticated and essentially offers a drift mode thanks to a trick rear differential with torque vectoring capability. The tires are staggered, oddly with the larger rubber up front. It’s legitimately quick, too, with a 0-60 mph sprint of 3.6 seconds. Sure, there’s a bit of turbo lag, but it’s part of the car’s character. But at more than $60,000 in most configurations, it’s expensive in a timeline of fast and fun cars for less money.
2023 Cadillac Lyriq
The Cadillac Lyriq aligns the automaker with its battery-powered future. It could also mark the turning point that proves GM’s luxury division is finally ready to chart its own path. Rather than chasing the Germans, the Lyriq sets out on it own with jaw-dropping style, a parts-bin free interior that’s Cadillac-specific, and exemplary ride and handling. While the initial price of $62,990 has come and gone—it’ll cost more than $70,000 if ordered now—it still feels like a value. This is the first mass-market application of the Ultium platform, and it bodes well for future GM EVs.
2022 Ford Bronco Raptor
The Ford Bronco Raptor made it to the final round because it’s one of the most outrageous and outrageously fun vehicles money can buy. It’s a street-legal Tonka truck with crazy specs, including 418 hp, 13.0 inches of ground clearance, 13.0 inches of front and 14.0 inches of rear suspension travel, and 37-inch all-terrain tires. It also costs less than the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392, though that beast has two more cylinders and 57 more hp.
2023 Honda Civic Type R at Sonoma Raceway
Could we have a repeat winner on our hands? The Honda Civic Type R was named Motor Authority Best Car To Buy 2018 when the last-generation model arrived. Now the new Type R is here, and it grows up but remains fun. The latest iteration of the legendary hot hatch checks in with 315 hp, better cooling, and a revised gearbox. Sure, it still has the big wing, but it’s larger, smarter, and faster than before. It’s already set a front-wheel-drive lap record at Suzuka. Priced at $43,990, it’s not the bargain it once was and our final two contenders cost less.
2022 Hyundai Kona N
The Hyundai Veloster N is dead and we mourn its loss after it almost won our Best Car To Buy award in 2020, but now we get the $35,995 Hyundai Kona N. The slightly lifted hot hatch bursts onto the scene with the the same rowdy turbo-4 and front-wheel-drive layout but a bit more practicality. The Kona N goes beyond hot hatch to wild child with its loud pops and crackles and sharp dynamics. But its higher seating position is a detriment to track and canyon driving, and the ride is harsh.
2023 Toyota GR Corolla Morizo Edition
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Who thought we’d ever see the day when Toyota returned the Corolla to its 1980s hot hatch heyday? The GR Corolla does that, and way more. Toyota’s Gazoo Racing department installed a 300-hp turbo-3, a 6-speed manual, and a trick all-wheel-drive system to make the Corolla fun. The feisty hot hatch starts at $36,995, but the version enthusiasts want runs just over $40,000 thanks to optional front and rear limited-slip differentials. That’s an expensive Corolla, and it’s still budget-grade inside, but it has the willpower to back up its attitude and price.