The automotive industry is filled with accolades and honors that add prestige to models, give automakers bragging rights and brand recognition, and engineer confidence in drivers choosing an award-winning model over a rival. As drivers, we like the idea of investing in a car, truck, or SUV that’s earned high praise because we know it’s been vetted beyond the automaker’s factory floor. In a sense, these awards often validate our passion for a brand or model.
The North American Car, Truck, and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) Awards are among the industry’s top honors that give us that validation. When the NACTOY jurors announce the annual winners, everyone takes notice. This year was no different, with the Kia EV6 earning its place in the spotlight as the 2023 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year. The award marks Kia’s first win for an electric vehicle, a fitting honor since the EV6 introduces Kia’s vision for an electric future. But why is the NACTOY award so prestigious, and what about the EV6 garnered such an honor?
NACTOY: What Is It?
The North American Car, Truck, and Utility Vehicle of the Year Awards began in 1994 when automotive journalist Christopher Jensen set out to objectively determine the best vehicle of the year outside of traditional methods. Until then, every automotive accolade was associated with a publication, television station, radio station, or another form of media. Jensen took a different approach by selecting a diverse group of jurors to evaluate the top contenders, establishing a new level of objectivity. Today, the NACTOY Awards celebrate that objectivity as the longest-running automotive awards not associated with any publication or media outlet.
NACTOY: How Does It Work?
The NACTOY Awards rely on a diverse group of jurors that must meet specific professional criteria. As expected, the 50 jurors should know what they’re evaluating, so they must have industry-related experience as professional automotive journalists in North America. The jurors are staff members or contributors to independent publications and media outlets, like newspapers, websites, television stations, and magazines.
Every year, the jurors start the selection process with a comprehensive list of eligible models, which includes new vehicles and existing models with substantial updates. Then, the NACTOY jurors test and evaluate the models throughout the year as they consider the vehicle’s design, performance, safety, and technology. They also assess the models’ innovation, user experience, driver satisfaction, and overall value.
As the jurors test drive the eligible models, they begin narrowing down the list of top contenders, with the first of three votes occurring in September. This leads to another round of evaluations before a second vote in October, including a comparison event where the jurors test drive the semi-finalist models back to back. Jurors then vote for the three finalists in each category in November, with the ultimate winners being chosen and announced in January of the following year.
NACTOY and Kia: What’s the Deal With the EV6?
Over the years, Kia has garnered acclaim for its widespread ingenuity in fun models like the Soul, award-winning SUVs like the Telluride, and even in the automaker’s industry-leading warranty coverage. This tidal wave of success has put Kia in the spotlight year after year, with the automaker earning dozens of awards, including its first NACTOY award in 2020. In 2023, Kia did it again when the NACTOY jurors named the EV6 the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year.
The EV6 is impressive, and the fact that the NACTOY jurors agree is significant. It’s not just Kia telling us the EV6 will change our experience behind the wheel. It’s a group of non-biased jurors verifying the claim because they’ve been in the driver’s seat and experienced it firsthand. It’s a group of trained professionals who have no investment in the EV6 but know what to look for in an SUV regarding design, performance, safety, innovation, and technology. Their only interest is in choosing the model that offers the best value and user experience mile after mile.
Meeting and Exceeding the NACTOY Benchmarks
With its 2022 debut, Kia promised the EV6 would set new standards in the segment as the first all-electric SUV in the Kia lineup. The EV6’s North American Utility Vehicle of the Year Award proves Kia fulfilled its promise and that the EV not only meets the NACTOY benchmarks but exceeds them.
The EV6 was designed to inspire creativity and make a lasting first impression. It’s safe to say that Kia succeeded. This futuristic EV achieves that goal with its bold stance, clean lines, distinct details, and iconic Tiger Nose grille. The interior complements the EV’s futuristic design but doesn’t compromise comfort. Instead, it offers a spacious cabin, exclusively designed seating for optimal safety, and accessible technology to keep you and your copilot connected and informed.
Kia is renowned for building models that are engaging and fun to drive, and the EV6 is no exception. The base model is well-equipped and ready for the road, with its 77.4 kWh battery promising a 310-mile driving range and its 225 hp electric motor producing 258 lb-ft of instantaneous torque. Opting for an all-wheel drive model transforms the EV6 into a speed demon capable of launching from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds as the two motors churn out 320 hp and 446 lb-ft of torque.
The top-tier GT trim with Kia’s e-AWD system is the quintessential performer that defies everything you ever thought you knew about an all-electric SUV. Its electric motors produce 576 hp and 545 lb-ft of torque, shaving its launch from 0 to 60 mph to just 3.2 seconds. High-performance tires and neon green brake calipers round out the package and complement performance-inspired components like the electronic rear limited-slip differential and electronically controlled suspension, making the GT the ultimate road warrior in the EV6 fleet.
Innovation, Safety, and Technology
The EV6 exudes ingenuity everywhere you look. Its revolutionary E-GMP platform utilizes high-strength steel that’s lightweight yet incredibly strong. This all-electric SUV also entices drivers to adopt an electric lifestyle by making recharging as easy as plugging in a smartphone. We see this in the model’s 800-volt DC fast charging system, which can add 217 miles to the EV6’s range in less than 20 minutes. This charging technology complements an expansive suite of connectivity, safety, and driver-assist features, further showcasing how Kia prioritizes the user experience and driver satisfaction. It’s just as apparent in the augmented reality head-up display as in the Kia Drive Wise suite of advanced driver-assist tools.
Taking the Spotlight: The EV6 Settles in for the Long Haul
The EV6 is one of Kia’s newest additions to its lineup and its first all-electric SUV, but don’t let its youthfulness mislead you. It’s determined to shake up the segment, and by the looks of it, it’s already off to a great start. This SUV’s many honors prove that all eyes are on the electric powerhouse. These honors extend beyond the 2023 North American Utility Vehicle of the Year Award to include a Hispanic Motor Press Award, a WardsAuto’s 10 Best Interiors & UX Award, a European Car of the Year Award, and a Best Electric Vehicle Award from US News.
These honors speak volumes about the EV6 and Kia’s ingenuity. This all-electric SUV has introduced us to a new chapter in Kia’s history, a chapter defined by innovation, sophistication, and high-value packaging without compromise. It’s a winning combination that’s led Kia to settle in for the long haul as the EV6 rightly takes its place in the spotlight.