It has most definitely not been a typical year for product launches and vehicle arrival timing.
On Tuesday we took stock of this year’s 5 Green Car Reports’ Best Car To Buy finalists, and several models were conspicuously missing from the list due to later-than-anticipated delivery starts.
2021 Volkswagen ID.4
One of the finalists named—the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Polestar 2, Tesla Model Y, Toyota RAV4 Prime, and Volvo XC40 Recharge—will earn our annual distinction awarded each year to a completely new or substantially redesigned model.
GCR requires that finalists be able to offer tailpipe-emissions-free driving in a way that American daily drivers can use. Electric cars need to offer 125 miles of range or more and plug-in hybrids need to offer 32 miles or more of all-electric driving to be considered.
They also need to be available nationwide—which we’ll parse out as we cover each of our contenders individually—and deliveries need to be anticipated by the time we announce the winner on January 4, 2021. Furthermore, a majority of our five core editors of our broader Internet Brands Automotive group need to have substantial time with the vehicles.
The Volkswagen ID.4 was looking like one of the leading contenders this year, and its affordability and importance in targeting the mass-market makes it one we wish we could have included this year. But a delay—officially related to the pandemic, but also potentially related to ongoing infotainment issues—pushed first deliveries to the first quarter of 2021. Factor in the scarcity of early hand-built demonstrators, and we had to kick it ahead to next year’s awards.
The pandemic has also affected startup Rivian. Originally, it had been due to make first deliveries late this year, but they’ve now been shifted to summer 2021. In pricing and specs the R1T pickup and the R1S SUV are shaping up to be very close to what was promised when these trucks were concept vehicles—with some added surprises—and they’ll be in the running next year.
2021 Ford Escape
In addition to the Toyota Prius Prime, we expected the Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid to be a solid contender. That was especially the case when its EPA rating rolled in at 37 miles all-electric and 41 mpg combined in hybrid driving—not quite a high in range, but better in mpg. But a recall on some European plug-in hybrid models has prompted the delay of the Plug-In Hybrid to next year.
Not quite there in the numbers
We expected the Mini Cooper SE, with a range rating that had been anticipated at 125 miles earlier on, to be a tidy little city car that would make things interesting and challenge how we prioritize range versus value. But official ratings landed at 110 miles, soundly keeping it out of the running.
2020 Mini Cooper SE
And then there were many plug-in hybrids offering less than the requisite 32 miles of all-electric range. New entries from Audi, BMW, Lincoln, Porsche, Range Rover, and others might check some of the boxes, but with less than 20 miles of all-electric driving in many cases, they don’t have enough to handle the typical commute, especially without charging at work.
And then there were the models that didn’t show up for 2020 that we expected for 2021—both still no-shows. The Kia Soul EV, the perky better half of the Kona Electric that had already been EPA-rated for range and was ready for sale last year, was pulled from the plan. It didn’t arrive this year either, and Kia stopped confirming that it was still on the way.
2021 Kia Soul EV
That’s also the case with the Mercedes-Benz EQC, an electric crossover we drove—and really liked, with some hesitations about range—in spring 2019, shortly before it was expected to arrive. After several delays, Mercedes-Benz no longer responds to our queries about its timing.
Even if either of those finally show up next year, they might get a little lost in the crowd. From here on, it’s going to get very interesting.