Best Car To Buy 2023: The Car Connection names 5 finalists

What is the Best Car To Buy 2023? At The Car Connection, our team of veteran editors tested dozens of new and redesigned cars for the 2023 model year to determine those cars, trucks, and SUVs that best combine the attributes new car shoppers prize in a vehicle. From the multitudes, we’ve culled a list of five Best Car To Buy 2023 contenders, and the winner of those five will be announced on Jan. 4, 2023. 

The idea behind our long-running and esteemed award system is to simplify the oftentimes complex process of car shopping. We’ll announce winners at the same time for our sister publications of Motor Authority and Green Car Reports. Our five editorial judges, who combined have nearly 100 years of experience covering the automotive industry, assess disparate vehicles on a level playing field, accounting for a spectrum of performance capabilities, design styles, safety and convenience features, and, above all, relative value. 

The last part represents a key change in how we evaluate finalists since our Best Car To Buy series launched in 2011. Value remains paramount, but instead of capping the vehicle price at $50,000 as we’ve done with our past winners, we’re raising the cap to mirror the trends happening in the real world. In August, the average transaction price (ATP) new car shoppers paid reached a record high exceeding $46,000, and shoppers took on record loan payments, according to J.D. Power. Some automotive research firms forecasted higher prices. In August of 2021, the ATP was $41,000. 

The old cap limited what cars we would’ve considered, and thus would have limited our Best Car To Buy award’s practical value to shoppers. This year, we still place a priority on cars priced below $50,000, but with more expensive EVs and more expensive trucks becoming more popular, we’ve raised our consideration threshold to $100,000. Anything above that will be considered negatively, but it still won’t disqualify it entirely. 

We’re a practical and pragmatic bunch, however, which is the main reason the Ford Maverick won our Best Car To Buy 2022 award. The small hybrid pickup truck with a $21,500 starting price won without argument or dissent. Of this year’s five contenders, all but one cost below $50,000, and those four are priced below the average transaction price. Here are the finalists.

2023 Acura Integra

After nearly two decades, the Acura Integra returns and restores some sporting character to Acura’s entry-level vehicle. The five-door sedan with a hatch shares a lot with the Honda Civic Si, but it also helps shoppers forget the underwhelming Acura ILX it replaces. There’s a lot of Honda in it, until the Type S that stretches the performance and price gap of the $32,000 base Integra. In any case, there’s a lot to like about its handling, character, value, and style.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning

The battery electric version of Ford’s bestselling pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning arrived too late to consider it for last year’s award, and its complex pricing structure made it one of the more contentious considerations. Originally priced at $41,669, including destination, Ford increased the price twice in the past few months, totaling more than $12,000 for the base 2023 Ford Lightning Pro models. Tesla, Rivian, Lucid and other automakers similarly hiked prices on their EVs, as Ford did on the Mustang Mach-E crossover. The F-150 Lightning Pro with the standard-range 98-kwh battery pack good for about 240 miles of range now costs about $54,000. To complicate matters, the Lightning Pro extended-range 131-kwh battery pack with a 320-mile range is sold only to fleets that purchase at least five electric pickups and are certified by Ford as a fleet. For norms like us, the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning with the extended range pack can’t be had until the XLT trim, at a cost of about $81,000. Despite the price hikes, it’s worthy of consideration. 

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

Honda expects the Hybrid to account for at least half of the sales of its redesigned 2023 CR-V compact crossover, and for good reason: everything about it has improved. Roomier inside, better equipped, and with an improved two-motor hybrid system paired with a 2.0-liter inline-4, the CR-V Hybrid is more responsive, more powerful, and more efficient, with a 37-mpg combined rating with all-wheel drive. It can also tow 1,000 pounds. It costs $34,000, while the top Sport Touring model nudges up to $40,000. 

2023 Kia Niro

The redesigned 2023 Kia Niro hatchback grows into its second generation with more crossover-like proportions from its hatchback past. It only comes with front-wheel drive, but with a range of hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric powertrains, the 2023 Niro offers shoppers a good choice across the entire spectrum of electrification. The Niro Hybrid achieves a Prius-like 49 mpg combined, while the plug-in hybrid version has an estimated electric range of 33 miles, and the battery electric Niro goes 253 miles on a charge. Pricing ranges from about $28,000 for the base Niro Hybrid, to $35,000 for the base Niro PHEV, to $41,000 for the base Niro EV. The 2023 Niro thus fits every budget, and its unconventional styling with a boomerang air blade over the rear pillar stands out in a crowded small crossover class.  

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

Much like the CR-V Hybrid, the redesigned Sportage grows larger in size and better in most measures, but it particularly excels in Hybrid form. Sharing a platform with the larger Sorento, the Sportage Hybrid seats five in much greater comfort and uses an efficient yet potent 1.6-liter turbo-4 gasoline engine and 6-speed automatic transmission in tandem with a single electric motor and 1.49-kwh battery pack. The system generates 227 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and in front-wheel drive the EPA estimates 43 mpg combined. Available all-wheel drive drops it to 38 mpg combined. The compelling value factor for the Sportage Hybrid is it costs only about $1,300 more than the similarly equipped gas-only model, starting at just under $29,000 and ranging to $38,000 in top SX Prestige models. 

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