Every year at Alex on Autos we take a look at the vehicles we’ve reviewed and choose our top picks. We’re not like most places, though. Instead of choosing the vehicles by segment, we do it by price bracket–five of them to be exact. Among the vehicles we drive, there are always some that stand out more than others and many of them end up becoming some of our highlights for the year.
This year, we’ve had a wealth of vehicles to consider for our 2021 top picks. The best part is that they all stand out for a variety of reasons, meaning consumers have a lot to choose from when considering their next purchase. without further ado, here are this year’s.
2021 Under $20,000
Hyundai Elantra, Under $20,000 Pick for 2021
The latest Hyundai Elantra doubles down on value by giving you way more car for the money than you expect. With a starting price of $19,650, the Elantra is a lot of bang for the buck. The fact that it’s also pleasant to drive, efficient (up to 37 mpg combined according to the EPA), roomy, and has a long warranty adds to its appeal.
Nissan Kicks, Under $20,000 Pick for 2021
The Nissan Kicks is one of the few subcompact crossovers that start under $20,000 and it’s also nicely executed. Roomy, efficient (up to 33 mpg combined), and sporting a long list of standard equipment, the Kicks make for a great commuter.
2021 Under $30,000
Kia K5, Under $30,000 Pick for 2021
Kia’s K5 effectively became the one to beat when it first arrived last year and for good reason. Its ride and handling balance is phenomenal, it’s available with the latest tech features, and its price hasn’t gone through the roof. Add to that the availability of a sporty GT version and you have a family of overachieving midsize sedans.
Nissan Rogue, Under $30,000 Pick for 2021
One of the biggest surprises this year, the Nissan Rogue suddenly rose from mid-pack to one of the most compelling new entries. The latest version expertly blends a comfortable ride with space, technology, and practicality to give you a family-friendly crossover, that’s safe and easy to live with. Top-end Platinum models also sport an interior that borders luxury territory with diamond-quilted semi-aniline leather upholstery.
Ford F-150, Under $30,000 Pick for 2021
There’s a good reason the Ford F-150 is America’s best-selling vehicle because there’s virtually a version for everyone. From work car to luxury truck, the F-150 brings a lot to the table. Regardless of which variant you get, the F-150 blends capability with a comfortable ride even when empty and the latest tech features.
2021 Under $40,000
Volkswagen ID.4, Under $40,000 Pick for 2021
Although the Volkswagen ID.4 isn’t the most advanced battery-electric vehicle on the market, it’s the best value. For under $40,000 you get generous standard equipment, a comfortable ride, and up to 260 miles per charge. A 295-hp AWD version joins the lineup later this year with a range of 240 to 249 miles depending on the trim.
Kia Carnival, Under $40,000 Pick for 2021
The Kia Carnival is the most spacious and luxurious minivan on sale available. You get a wide range of options from a family-friendly eight-seater to the luxurious SX Prestige models with partially-powered second-row captain’s chairs with heating and ventilation. The Carnival drives well, too, offering a comfortable ride, secure handling, and respectable power from its V6 engine.
Honda Ridgeline, Under $40,000 Pick for 2021
Honda’s midsize truck, the Ridgeline, remains the pickup for people who need additional versatility. Thanks to its unibody construction, the Ridgeline rides and drives like a crossover with a bed. A recent refresh gave the truck a new mug and an available HPD package for those looking for a more rugged look.
2021 Under $50,000
Ford Mustang Mach-E, Under $50,000 Pick for 2021
If you’re looking for one of the best EVs, the Ford Mustang Mach-E should be on your list. Offering a wealth of options including standard range, long-range, and performance-oriented GT models, the Mach-E has something for everyone. Ignore the fact that it wears a Mustang badge; at the end of the day, this is one of the most compelling EVs on the market that isn’t wearing a Tesla badge.
Ram 1500, Under $50,000 Pick for 2021
The Ram 1500 offers a wide range of options from a work truck to a pickup that can pull double duty. Its optional 48-volt, mild-hybrid eTorque powertrains give it smooth power while the bonkers TRX model is an incredible high-speed off-roader. To put it simply, the Ram 1500 has it all, capability, performance, smoothness, and flexibility. Best of all, many variants start under $50,000 and give you a lot of truck for your buck.
Genesis G80, Under $50,000 Pick for 2021
The Genesis G80 may be one of the newer entries in the midsize luxury sedan segment but it’s also one of the strongest. For less money than the competition, you get impeccable build quality, potent engines, and distinctive styling. Regardless of which version you get, you’re not getting shortchanged because every G80 is well equipped and packed with the latest tech features. Oh, and did we mention it also has a long warranty and drives well too? Yeah, this sedan has nearly everything.
2021 Top Picks: Luxury
Acura MDX, Top Luxury Pick for 2021
Value and luxury don’t usually go hand in hand but the new Acura MDX bucks that trend. Not only is it packed with a generous standard equipment list, but it also drives well, rides comfortably, and has nifty touches like the removable center seat on the second row. The addition of a 355-hp Type S variant should further sweeten the MDX’s proposition with more power and better handling.
Cadillac Escalade, Top Luxury Pick for 2021
The Cadillac Escalade marks the start of a new era for the brand, offering semi-autonomous driving capability and V8 power all wrapped in a package that’s finally properly luxurious. For the first time, the Escalade is now available with a diesel engine too for those that want to tow and get respectable efficiency. From its new looks to the cool new tech features like the digital dash with layer upon layer of screens, the Escalade is now a proper flagship, one deserving of your attention, especially if you’re looking for something that commands attention.