As 2015 drew to an end we started to talk about the cars we’ve reviewed over the last twelve months and whether we each had one that stood out in our minds. Here are our team picks for our favourite cars of the year.
Fred: Skoda Fabia
When I heard we were to write a piece on our favourite car of the year, I thought “great! I get to drive a Skoda Fabia again!” So I duly contacted Gazley in Wellington to see if they had one I could borrow for, uh, getting some better photos. That’s what I told them anyway. Really I just wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered. You know what? It was. Yet again I did not want to hand it back.
Sure it’s last year’s VW Polo chassis – is that a bad thing? Here you are then: Fantastic chassis, a sweet 1.2L turbo engine with 160Nm of torque, lovely 5-speed manual gearbox, loads of space, good looks and fantastic build quality. The cruncher? It’s less than $20,000 BRAND NEW.
You may recall that the Fabia is the only car so far I have given a 5-Chevron rating to. Even my car-hating, driving-hating wife loved it – and it was a manual, which she hates even more.
In the market for any new car? Do yourself a favour and go test drive a Fabia manual; heck, even the auto is the awesome DSG unit. You can thank me later.
John: Skoda Fabia
To put this in perspective, my daily driver is a V10 Twin Turbo Audi RS6, so practicality, economy and value for money are not concepts that really flow through my brain when looking at cars. Our $20k challenge has been a great exercise, uncovering some surprising results. As expected there are some cars you can get for that money which you may not want or get a lot from, but there has been a handful of cars that you did not really believe that cost less than $20k. The undisputed king of this, for me anyway, has to be the Skoda Fabia. I would not at all be surprised if someone told us that we got the price figures wrong, it would make much more sense. What you get for pretty much $20k is, for want of better words, mind boggling. Entry level into a Euro car, with mid range euro tech, styling and quality. How do they even make money on this car?
Ken: Mazda MX-5
I’m not even going to hesitate with my answer; it’d have to be the new Mazda MX-5. It’s not the most powerful car I’ve driven this year, far from it actually. Nor was it the most luxurious, the most technologically advanced, or even the best sounding. But it was the car that made me feel most like a driver. It made me feel involved in the process of driving, it felt like it needed me there. The MX-5 was a reminder that you don’t need 400kW to have fun in a car. Weighing around 1000kg, the MX-5 is all about getting the most from less. From the communicative steering feel to the sublime gear changes (operated by a pedal and lever!), the MX-5 was in, every sense, a proper driver’s car. It’s the kind of car people who enjoy driving will be able to truly appreciate. Within seconds of first driving it my face was consumed with a grin. It was made even better with the convertible roof. There’s something very special about being able to drive with the top down. The MX-5 is a car that if you drove it everyday, it’d put a smile on your face no matter what.
Rob: BMW 330i
There have been several cars that have really impressed me this year, and a couple of surprises. The Toyota 86 was great fun to drive but the hard ride and lack of space would rule it out for me. I loved the Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Santa Fe and BMW X1 as great, practical family cars but they’re not really my style. The Mini Cooper 5 door was fun. The Toyota Corolla Levin ZR was great, and better than I expected. And of course our $20k challenge winner, the Skoda Fabia, was excellent.
For me the car that stood out above the others was the new BMW 3 Series, specifically the 330i. Sure it costs almost $90k but the spec you get for that is impressive to say the least. The safety systems, build quality, technology, and driving dynamics are all excellent. It’s my only five star review so far and for good reason. The interior is a lovely place to be, performance from the 2.0l turbo is impressive, but fuel economy is surprisingly good too, and the way it handles is sublime. I’ve only driven one of its competitors so far but the BMW was a step above that car in every way.