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2021 Mazda3 TurboBrendan McAleer/The Globe and Mail

The Mazda3 has won the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s (AJAC) 2021 Canadian Car of the Year award for the second year in a row. It’s the second back-to-back win in the car category in the nearly four-decade history of the awards.

“We’re not surprised at all, but very honoured and humbled,” said David Klan, President and CEO of Mazda Canada Inc. “The Car of the Year evaluations and awards help Canadian consumers in their car-buying process, so we’re excited that the Mazda3 was recognized with AJAC’s highest honour with this back-to-back win.”

The Mazda3 beat two other finalists – the Genesis G80 sedan and the Kia K5, which replaces the outgoing Kia Optima. For 2021, the Mazda3 adds a new, more powerful engine: a 2.5-litre turbocharged inline-4, which delivers 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque using premium 93 octane fuel.

The addition of the engine increased the value proposition of the vehicle and gave it an edge over the other two entrants, according to Stephanie Wallcraft, president of the AJAC. The turbo engine is available on the Mazda3 sedan and sport (hatchback) models, but only on the GT trim with all-wheel-drive. The 2021 Mazda3 starts at $20,500.

The Genesis GV80 was also crowned the 2021 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year, beating out the Kia Telluride and the Nissan Rogue to take the top prize.

2021 Genesis GV80Courtesy of manufacturer

“We are pleased that the first-ever Genesis SUV, GV80, has received this prestigious award,” said Richard Trevisan, brand director of Genesis Motors Canada in a press release. “We believe that being a leading consumer brand means developing an exciting product lineup that is paired with unparalleled customer experience,” he added

Wallcraft says jurors picked the GV80 for its value for money. “It seems to be lower in cost than most vehicles in its segment and there’s a lot included like five years of scheduled maintenance and ‘At Home’ service as well as 2- and 3-row seat configurations, multiple engine options and additional technologies. The 2021 Genesis GV80 starts at $64,500.

The winners were selected from more than 250 eligible vehicles that are newly designed, recently refreshed, or carried over from last year. More than 100 automotive journalists from across Canada tested and voted on the vehicles anonymously, evaluating based on factors such as performance, technology, design, fuel consumption and value for the money.

Besides the Canadian Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards, three innovations won the 2021 Automotive Innovation Awards by AJAC. Honda’s Next Generation Front Passenger Airbag won the 2021 Best Safety Innovation. This new front passenger airbag activates in a unique “V” shape unlike traditional designs. A smaller centre airbag connects to two larger “wings” that project outward towards the sides of the passenger. A cloth panel connects the two wings to catch the passenger’s head and upper torso to ease the impact and further reduce injuries. Developed at Honda’s research centre in Ohio, it first rolled out on the 2021 Acura TLX.

Ford’s F-150 PowerBoost Full Hybrid Powertrain won the 2021 Best Green Innovation. Available in two- and four-wheel drive configurations, the 3.5 litre V6 engine and electric motor produce 430 horsepower and 570 lb.-ft. of torque. They can run on electric power full- or part-time and are very fuel efficient. According to Natural Resources Canada, the estimated average fuel consumption is 9.8L/100 km for the 4x4 models – that’s 2.2L/100 km better than a conventional gas-powered F-150. The hybrid also reduces CO2 emissions by 19 percent while maintaining a maximum towing capacity of 5772 kg.

Ford’s ProPower On Board won the 2021 Best Technical Innovation. The system is more convenient, quieter, and produces lower-emission than a conventional generator. The ProPower On Board comes in 3 models: 2.0 kW, 2.4 kW and 7.2 kW, with outlets in the side of the truck box and in the cab, which allows the use of 120 volt accessories or power tools. The 7.2 kW system comes with a 30 amp, 240 volt outlet to power heavy-duty power tools.

The Canadian Car of the Year and Utility Vehicle of the Year winners are usually presented during the opening ceremonies of the Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) in Toronto in February, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was cancelled.