MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. – Once a year the media members of the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) gather to choose the New England Winter Vehicle of the Year.

The day of evaluation and voting includes the ability to drive many of the vehicles under consideration, most of which have been part of the media-review fleet for several weeks or months.

The voting is now complete, but the winners will not be revealed until a program later in the year, but The BRAKE Report participated and was able to sample a few vehicles new to the fleet.

I concentrated on three electrified compact sport utility/crossover vehicles, an all-electric Kia EV6, a Ford Escape plug-in hybrid electric and a (repeat session in the) Hyundai Tucson hybrid electric. All are relatively new in the market; all had sticker prices hovering around $40,000; all were filled with the latest advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS), and all offered outstanding operating efficiency and economy.

The first Kia electric vehicle

Quick, quiet and filled with modern technological goodies, the Kia EV6 stands out as a serious competitor in the compact to mid-size electric EV market. The model we drove was fully equipped, very comfortable and a delight to drive.

The ADAS list is long with, Kia says 21, standard features including Blind Spot Avoidance Assist; Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FAC); FCA-Ped (pedestrian); FCA-LS (land-change side); FCA-LO (lane-change-oncoming); FCA-JC (junction crossing); FAC-JT (junction turning); High Beam Assist; Highway Driving Assist; Intelligent Speed Limit Assist; Navigation-Based Speed Cruise Control-Curve and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance.

One unique feature was the Augmented Reality (AR) Head-Up Display (HUD) system which projects graphics from the base of the windshield in a large three-dimensional image that appears to be over the hood of the car.

The HUD provides speed and ADAS alerts, vehicle information, lane guidance and turn-by-turn navigation instructions.

I love HUDs, finding they really allow me to keep my concentration and vision on the road and minimize my need and tendency to move my eyes to either the instrument cluster or the center display.

This HUD, with the holographic view, took some getting used to, but it still was helpful. It also worked with sunglasses, something of which many HUDs fail.

The EV6 was a dual motor, all-wheel-drive (AWD) version which does not have quite the range of the single-motor, rear-wheel drive version which can travel approximately 310 miles on a full charge of its 77.4kWh high-density lithium-ion battery.

On board is, what Kia calls, the world’s first 800-Volt multi-charging architecture enabling ultra-fast DC charging capability from 10-80 percent charge (up to 217 miles range) in under 18 minutes.

Escaping the gas pumps by plugging in

The 2022 Ford Escape Plug-in-Hybrid (PHEV) Titanium represents the most technologically advanced and efficient version of Ford’s venerable compact SUV. Carrying an as-reviewed price of $39,125, delivering 40 miles per gallon overall and chock full of amenities, features and safety equipment, the Escape PHEV is a very compelling crossover (and shares a platform and architecture, though possessing a different personality, with the Ford Bronco Sport and Lincoln Corsair).

Ford Escape Plug-in-Hybrid (red) lined up with other candidates for the NEMPA Winter Vehicle of the Year competition

The ADAS roster begins with Ford Co-Pilot360 technologies like auto high-beams; BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert; Lane-Keeping System (includes lane-keeping assist, lane-keeping alert and driver alert); Pre-Collision assist with Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) (includes pedestrian detection, forward collision warning and dynamic brake support); rearview camera; post-collision braking; auto hold and Hill Start Assist.

The Titanium variant added Active Park Assist 2.0 with reverse and front parking aid; Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Lane Centering and Speed Sign Recognition, and evasive steering assist.

The Escape PHEV’s 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor put 200 horsepower through the eight-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels, providing more than adequate power for everyday driving and highway activities.

Tucson hybrid still impresses

We drove the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid last September and I wrote, “The completely redesigned and reengineered 2022 Hyundai Tucson puts the Korean automaker into the top echelon of compact sport utility (SUV) producers.”

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

A short drive confirmed everything I had written about the compact SUV, reinforcing my belief Hyundai – and its Kia and Genesis siblings — just keeps getting better and better with everything it introduces.

Of course, like all modern Hyundai vehicles, the ADAS list with this top-of-the-line model is extensive: Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) w/ Ped and Cyclist Detection; Lane Keeping Assist (LKA); High Beam Assist (HBA); Driver Attention Warning (DAW); Rear Occupant Alert (ROA); Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA); Leading Vehicle Departure Alert (LDVA); Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA); Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA); Smart Cruise Control (SCC) with Stop & Go; Surround View Monitor; Blind-spot View Monitor; Parking Distance Warning – Forward and Reverse, and Parking Collision Avoidance Assist – Reverse (PCA-R).

Price under $40,000; able to achieve close to 40 miles per gallon; filled with modern technology, amenities – including power-adjusted heated and VENTILATED front seats, this crossover is a star.

All the vehicles on hand for the judging were competent machines, but some stood out like the three discussed above. The selections, which in addition to an overall Winter Vehicle of the Year, will be for top vehicles in categories including (for example) Compact SUV, pickup truck, premium people mover, minivan and sedan.

Just because a vehicle was not in one of the premium or luxury categories did not mean it lacked in ADAS, technology features or amenities. Electric and hybrid electric, as well as today’s engineering, mean performance and fuel efficiency come at any price, in any package.

Next week TBR Drives the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.