Ford Focus wins AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year award
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The all-new Ford Focus has claimed the outright AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year award for 2019.
Announced as the winner earlier tonight at Shed 10, the Focus impressed the nine-strong panel of expert judges with its credible practicality and a vastly improved interior layout.
It was also widely praised for maintaining the nameplate's reputation for engaging and fun handling characteristics, despite having grown in stature. Unsurprisingly, it also secured the prize for small car of the year, too.
“What a fantastic result, especially considering the very high calibre of finalists,” said Ford New Zealand Managing Director Simon Rutherford [pictured above].
“This award is especially good recognition considering the judging panel and thorough testing regime all the vehicles are put through. We’ve already sent a big thank you to our engineers in Germany who designed and built the new Focus. They’ve managed to create a magic combination of style, technology and capability - all in an incredible value for money package.”
In winning the award, the Focus beat a star-studded list of rivals. These ranged from performance cars (Toyota GR Supra, Renault Megane R.S) and sedans (Peugeot 508, BMW 3 Series) to EVs (Tesla Model 3, Jaguar I-Pace), SUVs (Holden Acadia, Toyota RAV4) and the Focus' prime hatchback rival; the Mazda3.
Perhaps the most impressive element of the small Ford's win is that, priced starting at $31,990, it lined up as the cheapest of the 10 finalists. Regardless, it's a car that hides its price well considering its practicality, the latest generation SYNC infotainment system, and the inclusion of other 'large car' features like radar cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and more.
Testing between the 10 finalists was conducted at Pukekohe Park, with each car rigorously tested back-to-back on and off the track. 'Moose tests' and track laps helped with gauging handling and evasion abilities, while a varied road loop allowed judges to compare each car on everyday roads. The AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year award remains the only annual award that pitches finalists against a each other in back-to-back real-world conditions.
While the Tesla Model 3 didn't win the outright award, it did however claim the best-in-class award for EV and PHEVs. Other category award winners included the Mercedes-Benz CLA (Safest Car Award), the Mazda CX-8 (best large SUV), and the Ford Ranger (best ute).
The AA Driven People's Choice Award meanwhile, as voted on by the public, was earned by the Toyota RAV4. The latest model is one of the best-selling vehicles in the country, and is one of the most accessible hybrids in its class (with electrified variants sold out until well into 2020).
Along with crowning winners, this year's 2019 AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year also paid homage to AA New Zealand General Manager Stella Stocks and Driven Editor At Large Liz Dobson — both of whom are departing from their respective posts after lengthy periods in the New Zealand motoring industry.
2019 AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year category winners
Car of the Year: Ford Focus
People's Choice Car of the Year: Toyota RAV4 — READ MORE
Small SUV of the year: Volvo XC40 — READ MORE
Medium SUV of the year: Toyota RAV4 — READ MORE
Large SUV of the year: Mazda CX-8 — READ MORE
Luxury SUV of the year: Mercedes-Benz GLE — READ MORE
Safest car of the year: Mercedes-Benz CLA — READ MORE
Electric/plug-in hybrid of the year: Tesla Model 3 — READ MORE
Sports car/coupe of the year: Toyota GR Supra — READ MORE
Medium/large car of the year: Peugeot 508 — READ MORE
Luxury car of the year: Mercedes-Benz S-Class — READ MORE
Ute of the year: Ford Ranger — READ MORE
Micro/light car of the year: Suzuki Swift Sport — READ MORE
Small car of the year: Ford Focus