BMW's i3 five-door compact electric car has been named 2015 New Zealand Car of the Year.
The BMW beat nine contenders to the award, announced today at an event hosted by the AA and the Motoring Writers' Guild.
Members of the guild and an AA motoring expert voted on the list of finalists, judging the models on their styling, performance, handling, economy, comfort, interior design, build quality and finish, practicality, value for money, and its X-factor.
For the guild, the i3 showed itself to be not only a revolutionary car in the emerging electric vehicle segment, but also proved a dynamic product to drive.
AA Motoring Services General Manager Stella Stocks says while electric vehicles form a tiny part of the New Zealand market, they are becoming a strong emerging sector.
“The BMW i3 is the epitome of what electric vehicles can offer Kiwi motorists which is a fresh and exciting alternative to their fossil-fuelled cousins,” Ms Stocks says.
“While EVs aren’t for everyone they are starting to make their mark, particularly in urban environments. Some manufacturers, like BMW, are investing heavily to develop technology ensuring that there will be an EV revolution in markets like New Zealand, around the world.”
Ms Stocks says with the support of both central and local governments alongside other organisations and companies to develop infrastructure including rapid charging stations, EVs will become more of a consideration to Kiwi motorists in the future.
The BMW i3 also took out the Best in Class Compact Car award, beating last year’s Car of the Year winner which remained a top contender in the category – the Mazda3.
Designed from scratch, the BMW i3 is lightweight at 1320kg with much of its body made up of carbon-fibre and recycled plastic panels. Its batteries provide a range of about 150km, which is effectively doubled with a petrol-powered range-extender on models sold in New Zealand.
Ms Stocks says the inclusion of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) in last year’s top 10 and the Holden Volt in 2013 demonstrates manufacturers are hitting the mark in the EV segment.
New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild President Liz Dobson says the BMW i3 originally made it into the top 10 of new vehicles launched between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015 due to its innovative design and performance.
“When BMW set out to create a standalone range of electric vehicles, the German company built it completely from the wheels up – and the resulting i3 shows the dedication and determination of the marque to make an impact on the electric vehicle segment,” said Ms Dobson.
“The i3 won over the guild members, who cover all regions of New Zealand – from the Far North to Dunedin. It stands out due to its pioneering design, its individual interior but more importantly its performance on our roads.”
Ms Stocks says though the BMW i3 has taken the 2015 crown, consumers should not overlook the quality represented by the rest of the top 10 finalists.
“Kiwis want multifunctional vehicles, this is why SUV sales are so strong compared with other classes. Manufacturers recognise this and are listening to consumers when designing their cars around how we want to be able to use them.”
Separate to the selection of the 2015 New Zealand Car of the Year, judges voted on 10 vehicle categories to produce the Best in Class results. While the Car of the Year must be selected from new vehicles to market in the 12 months to 30 September 2015, the best in class can be any new car for sale in New Zealand today.
Also separate to the judging is the naming of the safest car for 2015. This award is provided to the vehicle that receives the best Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) rating for both crash test performance and pedestrian safety combined released between 1 October 2014 and 30 September 2015.
ANCAP is on a pathway towards alignment with Euro NCAP protocols in 2018. In the interim, Euro NCAP results are now being published directly by ANCAP alongside results from its own protocols, which made selection this year challenging.
Two manufacturers stood out producing vehicles that went far beyond the minimum requirements for a 5 star safety rating. As result, this year two different cars will receive equal top billing as the safest cars.
Hyundai Genesis – produced a near perfect crash test performance, the best ever recorded by ANCAP. It also boasts a large suite of safety assist technologies as standard to assist drivers with avoiding crashes.
Volvo XC90 – an equally good crash test performance and an impressive array of safety assist technologies on board. The Volvo XC90 proves the brand is a market leader in developing safer cars.
The top 10 finalists for the New Zealand Car of the Year were: