I can barely believe it’s once again that time of year when I sit down and look through everything we drove during the last 12 months to see what stood out. And what a 12 months they’ve been, with a number of highly anticipated new models, including quite a few new battery electric vehicles. In fact, more than half of my top 10 are BEVs, which says good things about ever-expanding consumer options. Read on to find out what impressed in 2021.
1. Hyundai Ioniq 5
OK, I boxed myself into this corner earlier this month when I wrote a headline proclaiming that the Hyundai Ioniq 5 was the best EV we drove all year. I haven’t changed that opinion in the last week, either. Hyundai’s days of unreliable, poorly made cars are long behind it, and its electric powertrains were already the best of the non-Tesla rest.
Now it has a brand-new 800 V platform for larger, more premium BEVs, and the Ioniq 5 is the first result. It has pin-sharp styling and TARDIS-like levels of interior space, and it rapid-charges in just 18 minutes. And the fully loaded AWD version is still under $55,000 before any tax credits or incentives. Watch this space for a more powerful, sportier Ioniq 5 N.
2. Porsche Taycan 4S
I resisted the urge to award the top spot to the Porsche Taycan, since the Ioniq 5 is undoubtedly a more relevant car to many more people. But were money no object (and my co-op finally letting us install chargers), there’d be a Porsche Taycan parked in my spot. And it wouldn’t even need to be one of the more expensive ones—a Taycan 4S is more than enough. I adore the way it looks on the outside, and it can still hit 60 mph from a standstill in well under four seconds.
From the driver’s seat, you feel as at home as you would in that of a 911, with a similar view over curved wheel arches and a plunging hood. I also prefer the Taycan’s interior to that of the 911 even though it’s over-reliant on touchscreens. I also like the fact that you can drive the car hard without the usual dose of climate guilt that comes with a powerful internal combustion engine. Porsche set out to ensure its first EV was a true Porsche, and it absolutely succeeded.
3. Ford Maverick
I’m not sure the Ford Maverick was even on my radar at the beginning of the year. But the huge and positive audience reaction to its reveal meant I was curious to see if it was worthy of the hype. Reader, it was. It’s a refreshing antidote to the ever-increasing size and cost of the average North American truck, with a sub-$20,000 base model and a healthy dose of “can-do, maker” attitude.
A front-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain comes as standard and should exceed 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km), but even the turbocharged AWD version can see 33.3 mpg (7 L/100 km). My pick would be the XLT since I’m a sucker for orange trim, but then I’d also need a 3D printer so I could print my own accessories.
4. Ford Mustang Mach-E GT
Ford and Volkswagen are sharing fourth place with a pair of very important electric crossovers—I’m letting Ford go first because F comes before V. I first drove a Mustang Mach-E in February, but that launch edition actually underwhelmed me a little. I don’t really want to reignite the “is it a Mustang?” debate [too late!], but I was disappointed that the driving dynamics shared so little with all the fine-handling Fords I loved in years past.
That was finally remedied in October when we sampled the Mustang Mach-E GT. You’ll want the performance pack, which transforms this BEV with the addition of much better tires and some magnetorheological dampers. I’m still curious to know just how much of the improvement is down to the tires alone—quite a bit, I’d guess—but, finally, here is a Mach-E that provides a driving experience worthy of the Mustang badge—worthier than plenty of Mustangs past, too.