Keeping with tradition, we’re thrilled to release our third annual review of the North Carolina International Auto Expo, presented by the Wake County New Dealer’s Association!
Usually, we put together a list of vehicles we consider to be hits and misses of the show, but we’re changing it up for the new decade. For 2020, we’re going over our favorite, show-stopping brands, and the more forgettable displays.
Before we talk about the best and worst in show exhibits, let’s go over some honorable mentions.
The Korean brands came in strong this year, with Kia introducing its all-new, small crossover: the Seltos. Taking design ques an a “go anywhere” attitude from its big brother, the Telluride, the Seltos offers the perfect mix of crossover practicality and SUV capability. High-quality finishes, soft-touch materials, and an available all-wheel drive with a center locking differential set the Seltos far apart from the likes of the latest Ford Escape and EcoSport, Toyota CH-R, and Honda HR-V.
Though it already received praise from us last year, the Lincoln Aviator is genuinely a phenomenal luxury SUV. The quality of nearly every material appears on par with Mercedes Benz and Land Rover, and the experience of merely being inside of an Aviator is unrivaled by anything under $100,000 in this segment.
Less than impressive...
Sadly, not every automaker brought their best this year. Volkswagen brought the all-new Passat, which offers such new features as… well… there weren’t any. The Passat’s newness comes in the form of some redesigned body panels, but that’s where it stops. The interior and powertrain remain almost unchanged for this model year. VW also showcased the new Atlas Cross-Sport. The Cross-Sport is basically a VW Atlas, but without the practicality of an Atlas. It offers less seating, a shorter wheelbase, and a lower rear roofline. We prefer the less expensive Tiguan or even the standard Atlas. Perhaps VW is focusing its efforts on their new EV offerings at the expense of their current lineup.
Best in Show
We weren’t joking when we said the Koreans brought their best this year. In fact, Hyundai stole the show. The all-new Sonata is one of the best looking mid-size sedans to be offered in North America in years. LED daytime running lights seamlessly integrate with the body lines that exaggerate the sloping roof, and when had in the SEL, SEL+, and Limited trims, you get an interior that rivals the likes of Audi. Speaking of the German brands, take a test drive in a Sonata, and you’ll feel like you’re piloting a new BMW 3-series through every curve.
The Sonata wasn’t all that won our hearts at the Hyundai display. The all-new and affordable Venue set the standard for entry-level, compact CUVs. The Venue makes the most of its limited space with high-quality materials, ample leg and cargo space, and a price tag of under $24,000 as optioned.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the all-new Palisade as well. Unlike the Venue, the space is virtually unlimited in this massive SUV. Even in the SEL trim on display, the Palisade felt a class higher than a similarly equipped Ford Explorer for thousands of dollars less.
Following this show, it’s clear that the American automakers no longer need to fear the Japanese imports from Honda and Toyota, but rather the creations the Korean brands are using to kick off this new decade.