AA DRIVEN COTY: Finalists announced for Car of the Year
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It’s AA DRIVEN New Zealand Car of the Year time again! As we announced last week, our annual awards for the best in the automotive world has defeated Covid-19 to make a comeback in 2021.
We’ll be awarding wins in 10 different categories, acknowledging the overwhelming preference for all things SUV but also with a renewed focus on eco-cars and technology: there are Small SUV, Medium SUV, Large SUV, Passenger, LCV, Clean & Green Hybrid/PHEV/BEV, Sports and Performance, Luxury and Safety categories, not to mention the outright AA DRIVEN NZ COTY.
The focus is on cars launched in the last 12 months, but in fact we have considered all cars on sale as long as they have a five-star crash rating. Because if you can buy it new, we reckon it should be in contention.
We’re kicking off this week by announcing the finalists in the three SUV categories, plus Passenger. More to come over the next few weeks, of course. Our AA/DRIVEN panel is scoring and debating these now, but don’t forget to have your say and vote in the People’s Choice Award.
Small SUVs are a big deal in NZ – the single biggest market segment year-to-date, accounting for 23 per cent of all new-vehicle sales so far in 2021.
It’s a varied bunch too, as evidenced by our finalists (presented in alphabetical order). The Kia Seltos continues to impress for its value for money, striking style and space efficiency. The avant garde Mazda MX-30 made a big impression as a dynamically finessed Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), with the new M-Hybrid rounding out the range nicely in a value package. And Toyota has done great work in developing its acclaimed small car into a spacious, good-to-drive and eco-aware SUV with the Yaris Cross Hybrid.
The mid-sized SUV is the default family car for NZ in 2021. We continue to enthuse about the Mazda CX-5, which offers high style and great range of petrol and diesel powertrains. A recent update for the Seat Ateca has kept it near the top of our wish list, especially when you factor in the impressive (and unique in this segment) high-performance Cupra version. Toyota also makes our top three with the ever-popular and very accomplished RAV4.
Kiwis still crave full-sized family vehicles and SUVs have stepped up to fill the market once occupied by sedans and station wagons.
The Kia Sorento gets the nod for its high technology and a broad powertrain range that includes everything from diesel to hybrid to PHEV. Subaru has evolved a groundbreaking concept over the years with Outback, and the latest version is the most spacious, dynamically rewarding and highly specified yet. We also love the way the Toyota Highlander combines a truly spacious and refined seven-seat cabin with the hybrid four-wheel drive technology so well proven in the RAV4.
Conventional passenger cars no longer dominate the new-car scene in NZ. But many models are still significant for their brands and keen drivers often prefer their low centre of gravity and sleek style. Those makers that still do sedans and hatches tend to do them really well. In fact, our 2019 overall winner was the Ford Focus hatch.
Our picks for 2021 are the Honda Jazz, which retains its clever Magic Seat cabin configuration but has upped its quality considerably and also now offers a unique hybrid setup in the e:HEV model. You cannot deny the importance of the Tesla Model 3 sedan, which has topped the passenger sales charts at times and brought BEV motoring to a whole new audience – at a mainstream price, with a little help from the Government’s Clean Car Discount. And Toyota makes it a clean sweep of these first four categories with the inclusion of the brilliant Yaris hatch, which offers both conventional petrol technology and an incredibly thrifty hybrid powertrain.