DriveLife

This year’s DriveLife’s – Car of the Year awards has a great list of 60 vehicles to choose from. They’re divided across 11 award categories, each with their own criteria which we will cover as we move through each one.

The system of eligibility is simple; vehicles can only considered if they have been fully reviewed by at least one member of the DriveLife team. The vehicle must also be driven between January 1st and December 31st of that awards year.

Each category had to reflect how DriveLife’s team felt about the cars and their segments. We all agreed that rating vehicles based on class would not work for us, as we take in-depth reviews on each vehicle we drive. We also felt that many cross the boundaries of their market segments when it comes to nominations.

Since we wanted awards that embodied what the DriveLife team was all about, we created the following categories:

  • Driver’s Car of the Year
  • Best Value Car of the Year
  • Hottest Car of the Year
  • Luxury Car of the Year
  • Toughest Car of the Year
  • Coolest Gadget of the Year
  • Family Car of the Year
  • Unexpected Car of the Year
  • Best Sounding Car of the Year
  • Eco Warrior Car of the Year;

and the top award of

  • The Car of the Year

So let’s get into it and run through each category, list the candidates and what we were looking for, followed by the winner and an honourable mention for the runner-up.

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2018 DriveLife’s Driver’s Car of the Year

This Driver’s award is about how the vehicle performs and makes you feel when driving it. Does its balance of performance and handling leave you feeling like you have become one with the car and the road?

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER – 2018 DriveLife’s Driver’s Car of the Year – 2018 BMW M2 Coupe

This was the first car reviewed in 2018 and it was amazing, nothing came close to matching the sheer driver-focused feel and design of this car. It felt great to drive, sounded great to be in and would bring a smile to your face even just going to the dairy. It’s hands down the clear winner for being one of the most exciting cars to drive in 2018.

RUNNER UP – 2018 VW Polo GTI

I described the Polo GTI as the true hot hatch, and it really is! It’s such a great fun little car which made me grin every time I drove it. The way the exhaust made rude little pops on upshifts, the way it scrabbled for grip sometimes, the ride and handling. Just so much fun. It looks great too, and has all the equipment you might need.

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2018 DriveLife’s Best Value Car of the Year

The value for money award is a subjective thing, but sometimes overlooked. Regardless of cost, this award represents excellent value in technology, performance, safety – or just features – compared to their competitors.

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER – 2018 DriveLife’s Best Value Car of the Year – 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport

I simply couldn’t believe the Suzuki Swift Sport manual cost so little. Time and again get people asking me about buying some used car for say $25,000, and yet my answer is always, “why don’t you just buy a new car? I think there are still people out there that don’t get that there are cars under $30,000 brand new which are excellent – and the Swift Sport is a prime example of that.

It’s not only great value, it’s a joy to drive as well. That BoosterJet motor with a 6-speed manual for $28,500? Can’t go wrong.

The award of Best Value Car of the Year going to the Swift Sport was a no-brainer.

RUNNER UP – 2018 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design

The XC40 isn’t the cheapest car in its class, but it really is fantastic value. The sheer amount of pioneering research that has gone into the parts you can’t even see is staggering. There’s so much technology and safety equipment, and the things you can see are just as good, and just as well thought out.

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2018 DriveLife’s Eco Warriors Car of the Year

This award is for the vehicle that just wanted to stick it to the oil companies (bar the Holden COmmodore diesel, which is simply so frugal) of the world. It’s all about reducing the running costs while doing your bit to save the planet.

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s Eco Warriors Car of the Year – 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV VRX

The Outlander PHEV as a package is a hard one to beat; large SUV, good equipment levels, mind-blowing efficiency as a daily runabout and all for $56k for the top-spec VRX model (current special offer).

There is nothing else on the market that even comes close to offering the same in value.

RUNNER UP – 2018 Hyundai Kona EV Elite

Not many people can argue that the Kona isn’t a game changer. With almost Tesla-like range in an EV, wrapped up in a small family SUV body, it has the potential to be the biggest selling EV in New Zealand. Some will shudder at the price – it’s double the cost of the equivalent petrol model.  But the Kona EV proved itself on our test run from Wellington to Auckland and back.

At last, an EV with a decent range, and under $100K

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2018 DriveLife’s Luxury Car of the Year

The Luxury award represents the pinnacle of what manufacturers can offer in terms of comfort, quality and style.

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s Luxury Car of the Year – 2018 Mercedes-Benz 560 S-Class Coupe

The S-Class took us on a first class trip like no other car could. How Mercedes-Benz look at luxury when designing the S-Class is not like other cars. When you don’t want to get out when you get home, thanks to Energising Comfort system you can see how they have set a whole new level of luxury comfort.

RUNNER UP – 2018 BMW M5

The M5 still stuck out over the rest of the competition with its new BMW Motorsport seats and trim levels, all brought together into a great luxury-performance package.

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2018 DriveLife’s Hottest Car of the Year

This award is all about looks. Which vehicle would create the best bedroom poster, desktop or phone background?

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s Hottest Car of the Year – 2018 Kia Stinger GT Sport

It was a unanimous decision, everyone said that the new Kia Stinger was the one car that stood out this year. It’s eye-catching from almost every angle, and you want to know more about it every time you see it in the wild.

RUNNER UP – 2018 Jaguar F-Type P300

Small, sleek and fast coupes are still sexy, even more so when they come in crazy colours like the bright blue F-Type P300 we tested. A very sexy car indeed.

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2018 DriveLife’s Toughest Car of the Year

This award is about the rough and tough. Which vehicle would take you over the toughest terrain while trying to survive a zombie apocalypse?

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s Toughest Car of the Year – 2018 VW Amarok V6 Aventura TDI 580Nm

The new 580Nm V6 Amarok is a beast, there won’t be much it can do, and whatever it is, you will be doing it in style and comfort. The mighty Amarok was the clear winner for being a tough ute that’s really more like a car to live with.

RUNNER UP – 2018 Ford Ranger FX4

There’s a reason why the Ranger has been New Zealand’s best selling vehicle for many years. It’s comfortable and modern inside, but has that rough, tough go-anywhere feel. It looks great too, with a real road presence.

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2018 DriveLife’s Family Car of the Year

This award is all about practicality, and if you could only have one car, then which would be the best all-round vehicle for the family of today. Long family on a road trip? Space for everything? Can it take knocks from unruly kids? And the dog in the back?

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s Family Car of the Year – 2018 Mazda CX-8

Before it was available, if asked if there was a need for the CX-8, I would have said no. We have the CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9, what more do we need? Well I would have been wrong, because the CX-8 is the goldilocks model. The right amount of everything you would need, all in one vehicle. Great specs, family sized with 7 seats, an amazing diesel engine and a great price – it’s a clear winner.

RUNNER UP – 2018 Subaru Forester 2.5 Premium

The Forester really surprised me as I wasn’t expecting it to stand out as much as it did. It’s excellent value, has some impressive technology and plenty of space for the whole family. The chassis is very good indeed and it has levels of refinement that most of its competition can’t match. Then there’s that clever face recognition tech, which is a stand-out feature not yet found in anything else short of a luxury European car.

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2018 DriveLife’s Unexpected Car of the Year

This award is for the vehicle that turned out to be a big surprise compared to our unjustified expectations.

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s Unexpected Car of the Year – 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross VXR

I wouldn’t say I wasn’t looking forward to reviewing the Eclipse Cross VXR, but it didn’t get my motor running.That view didn’t last long. It was one of those cars that we review that drove very well, performed even better, was comfortable and overall everything just worked.

I’ve told more than a few SUV buyers I know to add the Eclipse Cross to their list of cars to test drive, and all came away impressed – with some buying this car instead of one they thought they would buy.

While I only rated the car at 3.5 chevrons, it still the one that stuck out of rme as a surprise. Was the Eclipse Cross an unexpectedly good car? Totally.

RUNNER UP – 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

We knew the Outlander was loved by many, but honestly there was an expectation that this was just price based. The Outlander is as modest as they come, and as plenty to brag about if it wanted too. Large family SUV, super fuel-efficient and well built, all for a great price.

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2018 DriveLife’s Coolest Gadget of the Year

This award is for the coolest feature or technology advancement, the one that feels like it comes from Q’s lab waiting for James Bond to arrive.

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s Coolest Gadget of the Year – 2018 Mercedes-Benz 560 S-Class Coupe – Magic Body Control and Curve Control

Mercedes-Benz Magic Body Control, and Curve Control systems take driving to another level. It covers the most extreme levels of comfort as it scans the road ahead to adjust the suspension and can allow dynamic driving in Curve mode creating an almost perfect driving experience

RUNNER UP – 2018 VW Touareg TDI V6S – Innovision Cockpit

VW are one of the first to drastically rethink the interior dash and central console as they all move to LCD screens. The enveloping experience of the Innovision Cockpit was amazing, so easy to use and well designed. If you are thinking of getting a new Touareg, you must try it.

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2018 DriveLife’s Best Sounding Car of the Year

This award is all about sound, amazing glorious sound. It’s all about that feeling it gives you when you hear it, and what can sometimes lift an average car into an amazing car. All those things that make a petrolhead grin every time the throttle is pressed.

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s Best Sounding Car of the Year 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 AMG S

If you drove a DTM full-spec touring car or the pace car for the F1 series you would expect mind blowing thunderous sound. When you put your foot down, when you change up and down. But it’s not a factory race car we are talking about – it’s the GLC 63 AMG S SUV. To date it’s probably one of the best sounding cars I have ever driven.

RUNNER UP – 2018 Kia Stinger GT Sport

In a class full of super expensive vehicles the Kia Stinger was like a unexpected slap to the face. Why have Kia waited so long to make a car like this, and how have they been able to make it sound so good and cost so little? The sound from that 3.3-litre twin turbo V6 was just amazing, the kind of sound that makes you want to keep driving and driving. Our hats a tipped to you Kia, we are looking forward to what’s down the road.

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2018 DriveLife’s Best Audio Car of the Year

A new award for 2018 as we felt that some cars really rolled out all the stops when it came to audio systems. It’s not just about cost, it’s also about quality, clarity and range of the system you get from the vehicle purchased.

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s Best Audio Car of the Year – 2018 Volvo S90 R-Design Twin Engine Polestar

The standard stereo you get in most cars has significantly improved over the last few years, but sometimes you are blown away by what you get. The S90 had one of those stand-out car stereos. The clarity of sound, and the separation was fantastic, with plenty of bass, and no distortion at levels loud enough to annoy people in the next lane.

RUNNER UP – 2018 Mercedes-Benz 560 S-Class Coupe

Mercedes-Benz flagship coupe has all the bells and whistles, and a top shelf audio system. But so it should as it costs as much as a deposit on an Auckland house. If it was not for the sheer cost of the S-Class, it may have taken the first place slot.

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2018 DriveLife’s The Car of the Year

This award is for the best car of the year. This category is only open to those vehicles that we gave a Five Chevron rating to in our reviews. This year gave us a surprisingly long list of vehicles which we considered to be excellent in every way.

Final Candidates for 2018

 

WINNER –  2018 DriveLife’s The Car of the Year – 2018 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design

Have you ever sat in a car for the first time, and it just felt right? That’s how the XC40 made me feel. It’s comfortable, well-designed, and has some of the best safety features on the market. It’s good to drive, surprisingly quick, and has pretty much all of the space and creature comforts you’re likely to need. Then when you start to read up on the safety and technology features and realise how much there is under the skin, it looks like better and better value.

Volvo are still going from strength to strength, and the XC40 continues this trend and is well deserving of our 2018 Car of the Year award.

RUNNER UP – 2018 Kia Stinger GT Sport

As Kia’s first step into the performance sedan market, the Stinger is a mind blowing bit of kit. Its performance, driving experience, sound and feel are all wrapped up in a price that’s less than half of what any European performance car costs.

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