Electric vehicles charge into the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year top 10
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JUDGES: Liz Dobson, Dean Evans, Colin Smith, Cade Wilson, Jacqui Madelin, Matthew Hansen, Paul Owen, Alastair Sloane, Tony Verdon.
The shift has arrived and, for the first time in New Zealand, almost one-third of the 10 finalists in the AA and NZME’s Driven Car of the Year awards are electric or hybrid.
As the most exhaustively tested and thoroughly evaluated car of the year programme, this year’s AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year Awards will pinpoint NZ’s standout best, plus a range of Best in Class models.
The awards also invite the public to have their say, with the popular, publicly voted People’s Choice Award powered by Driven.
All the winners will be announced in the December 14 issue of Driven.
A panel of judges drawn from the country’s best motoring journalists and the AA selected the top 10 vehicles, which this year feature an eclectic mix of sports cars, sedans, hatches, GTs and SUVs, spanning a range of classes and prices including two pure electric vehicles (Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model 3), and the
petrol/electric hybrid Toyota RAV4, the most popular variant in the range.
In alphabetical order, the 10 finalists for the 2019 AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year are:
● BMW 3 Series
● Ford Focus
● Holden Acadia
● Jaguar I-Pace
● Peugeot 508
● Renault Megane RS
● Tesla Model 3
● Toyota RAV4
● Toyota Supra
Chief judge and Driven editor at large Liz Dobson said the judging panel was impressed with the variety of vehicles that stood out this year. “From everyday-use family vehicles to luxury, sports performance and hot hatches, and prices from $31,990 [Ford Focus] to $144,900 [Jaguar I-Pace], there’s a great mix of vehicles in this year’s top 10,” she said.
AA Motoring Services general manager Stella Stocks said the finalists had been evaluated on open and closed roads. Each was put through the same set of exercises that saw judges scoring across key parameters.
“To top it off, Kiwis can see the testing process with video content from the trials, including judges’ commentary,” Stocks said.
“We are confident that the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year Awards are the country’s most comprehensive motoring awards, and that motorists will be provided definitive answers on the top vehicles in the market today.”
BMW 3 Series
BMW owes much of its reputation for producing reliable premium sporty sedans to the 3 Series.
The new BMW 3 Series arrived at the start of this year and honoured the reputation — in spades. It delivers a sporty comfort drive, in petrol and diesel models. Handling is firm and assured, and the new model seats the driver and passengers low, delivering the exhilaration that no SUV can hope to.
Those who want a swift, rear-wheel drive four-door sedan that sits flat no matter how hard it’s pushed should consider driving the new BMW 3 Series.
- Tony Verdon
The new Ford Focus honours the model’s fine history of providing a spirited and enjoyable driving experience in a practical five-door hatchback package. It also brings some of the best driver-assist technology to the driving experience, with an adaptive cruise control system operating as effectively as many vehicles costing twice as much as the Focus.
It is fun to drive, has enough kit to satisfy the safety-conscience, while providing excellent value. The chassis is great, and every model is fun to drive.
- Tony Verdon
It’s big, bold, brash and unashamedly American, and the Holden Acadia is one of those vehicles that performs better than initial perception.
It may have swapped its Buick badge for a Holden lion, but the Tennessee-built seven-seater ticks all the boxes that make it an effective multi-people mover for NZ.
With 231kW from its 3.6L V6 through a nine-speed gearbox and 0-100km/h in a tested 7s, it’s never short of speed.
Couple this with competitive pricing between $50k and $60k and it’s all rather enticing.
- Dean Evans
When we first drove it at the global launch in Portugal, we knew the Jaguar I-Pace would stand out, not just for its exterior design but also as a leader in the EV crossover segment. The unique aluminium architecture, working with the aerodynamics, gives it a coupe-style SUV stance while the interior has all the features you’d expect of a premium SUV.
The battery pack has 90kWh of lithium ion batteries with 432 battery pouch cells using nickel manganese cobalt. They produce 294kW of power and 696Nm of torque — that’s V8 supercar levels.
- Liz Dobson
The popular Mazda3 reached fourth-generation status in 2019 and made a significant move upmarket with pricing to reflect the new position. Hatch and sedan body styles are eye-catching and the Mazda3 delivers modern safety equipment across all grades.
Confident driving dynamics are a strong suit on more challenging roads. The car shines brightest on longer journeys with the front seats’ comfortable support being a highlight along with road noise-reducing measures.
The interior has a tidy control layout with high quality materials defining where mainstream meets premium in 2019’s market.
- Colin Smith
Peugeot 508 GT
With its strong design, frisky-yet-frugal powertrain, and premium level of fit and finish, the 508 GT could refute the decline of the spacious four-door sedan. Still want that SUV?
Except the 508 GT isn’t a sedan. The two body styles available are a swoopy five-door Fastback that looks like it escaped from Le Mans ($55,990), and a wagon ($57,990) that increases rear seat headroom, and expands luggage space by a further 50 litres, with little collateral damage to the sporty visuals.
Both are powered by a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four that pumps 167kW of power and 300Nm of force into a new eight-speed auto.
- Paul Owen
Renault Megane RS
A hooligan hot hatch now with five doors, the Megane RS features enough set-up adjustability to double as an everyday runabout without too many compromises.
With five seats, a reasonable boot and a double-clutch auto, it includes enough fancy new safety and convenience tech to hold its own during daily running. Yet it handles superbly, is more supple on rough back roads than anticipated and, as a bonus, the 1.8-litre turbo that’s so innocuous while tooling about around town, sounds fantastic in sport mode, with a feral bark as gears shift.
The end result adds up to more than expected at the price.
- Jacqui Madelin
Tesla Model 3
As the only New Zealand motoring writer to have driven the Tesla Model 3 in left- and right-hand-drive, I’ve continued to be impressed with the brand’s latest model.
It may be the smallest Tesla but it packs a big punch when it comes to being an everyday car. I loved the interior simplicity but also the practicality. There’s the rear-wheel drive option, as tested over two days of judging for AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year 2019. Or you could go dual motor all-wheel-drive performance models.
Whatever the choice, there is the single screen that operates so many functions of the car — making it uncomplicated driving with zero emissions.
- Liz Dobson
Built new from the ground up, a striking new look has changed the face of the RAV4 to reflect a keen off-road rugged nature. Loads of space inside and an exceptionally wide boot loading area make storage easy. The spacious cabin is refined and comfortable.
With 2.5-litre hybrid models included in the lineup, the RAV4 ticks even more boxes and offers outstanding levels of fuel economy. An urban-oriented front-drive 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre AWD and a rugged Adventure model are also included in this year’s lineup.
Comprehensive levels of safety technology as standard fitment make this SUV a great choice.
- Cade Wilson
Toyota GR Supra
No new car has been as discussed over the past 12 months as the Toyota GR Supra.
Yes, peel away the skin and there’s a BMW skeleton. But, consider that the Supra is quicker and more than $30,000 cheaper than its BMW Z4 twin. Among its two-door peers its core strengths include bang for buck, convincingly athletic road-holding abilities, and a strong 250kW/500Nm inline six capable of 0-100km/h in 4.1 seconds. But, perhaps most impressive of all is how relaxed it is most of the time.
Identity crisis or not, Toyota’s coupe is comprehensive — and is perhaps the best car to wear the Supra badge.
- Matthew Hansen