Another year has rolled around and now it’s 2023, which means it’s time to look back over the last year and reflect back on what we thought of the vehicles we reviewed.
In 2022, we tackled 58 feature-length car reviews across a wide spectrum of vehicle categories. Our team generally does our Car Of The Year awards for the previous year in January/February; this gives us the Christmas break to mull over choices, and throw brands and models at each other to (eventually) come to some sort of an agreement.
DriveLife is the only online car magazine in New Zealand that does independent, feature-length car reviews, so you know you are getting all the nitty-gritty details on the car you are looking at purchasing. We understand that whether you are spending $20K, $40K or even over $100K, you want to know what that car is really like. We clock up the miles on our test cars, so you can be sure we will deliver all the pros and cons for each car we review. For that reason, we know we can be sure the cars we give the following awards to are deserving. If you don’t agree or if you do, leave us a comment. We’re open to debating our choices.
Keep in mind we do have some criteria that must be adhered to, such as the car having been reviewed in New Zealand – so any tests by our man in Japan, Ken Saito, are out. The review has to have been published in the 2022 calendar year, and the car must have been supplied by a distributor or brand – not customers or a dealer.
Time to get into it, and see what awards the team at DriveLife handed out for 2022. We’ll start off first with a description of the award, and then move to a summary of the winner and runner-up by the person who reviewed the car.
2022 DriveLife Coolest Gadget of the Year
This award is for the coolest feature or technological advancement, the one that feels like it comes from Q’s lab waiting for James Bond to arrive.
If there’s one thing that will wow your passengers, it’s the iX’s ‘Panorama Glass Roof Sky Lounge’. Unlike other cars that have a full-length glass roof with no sunshade (and that’s most of them), the iX has a fantastic party trick up its digital sleeve. Sun too hot on your head? Tap a button, and the roof clouds over. Yes, the Porsche Taycan does the same, but we haven’t reviewed that car so at the moment, it’s this amazing feature from BMW that takes the prize out for 2022.
RUNNER UP – Mercedes-Benz EQS – Augmented Reality GPS
The EQS is what some are calling the future. It’s from the future alright, and it’s got the tech to back it up with its amazing Augmented Reality GPS – that takes navigation to the next level.
2022 DriveLife Best Value Car of the Year
The value for money award is a subjective thing but is sometimes overlooked. Regardless of cost, this award represents excellent value in technology, performance, safety – or just features – compared to their competitors.
WINNER – BYD Atto 3
After driving the MG ZS EV from Auckland to Wellington and seeing just how good it was, I wasn’t expecting the BYD Atto3 to be that much better. And let’s be honest, the two cars are very similar, but the Attos does pip the MG HS EV at the post for a better EV range for not much more money. The Atto3 has given buyers a second option over its MG rival, and people are flocking to it.
And it’s not only the bigger and better ‘blade’ battery it has – along with that longer range – it’s also its list of features and luxury interior that puts so many other more expensive cars to shame. The BYD Atto3 is a deserved winner of our Best Value Car Of The Year award.
RUNNER UP – Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross VRX
The Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross PHEV is probably one of the most sensible cars you can buy today.
It has Mitsubishi’s proven PHEV powertrain, which optimises both the petrol and electric motors better than its nearest competitors. It’s also well-equipped and reasonably priced. Sure, this mightn’t be a car for thrills, but as a one-car solution to those looking for something eco-conscious yet without sacrificing the practicalities of internal combustion, it’s difficult to do better.
2022 DriveLife Driver’s Car of the Year
This award goes beyond you grinning when you approach the car, eager to get behind the wheel. To be eligible for this award, the driver has to be grinning about the drive, without even seeing the car; that’s the sign of a true driver’s car.
WINNER – BMW M240i
The new M240i is a bit of a wolf without the sheep. You know it means business right from first sight, but it’s not loud enough for you to think it’s capable of what it is. It hits the goldilocks zone, where it’s not too sporty or slow, quiet or loud, flashy or subtle; everything is just right.
As a driver’s car, there are not many that come close for driving feel, comfort, spec and overall experience, without the cost of a top-spec M vehicle.
RUNNER UP – Audi RS3
I named the RS3 my personal car of the year, and of the cars I have driven, it still is. In day-to-day use it’s comfortable, quiet and practical, apart from an overly-large turning circle. But hit that RS button and the 5-cylinder engine starts to show its character and potential.
This is a car that is fun and engaging even at lower speeds but also has the power and pace to eat up large distances in record time. I would own one in a heartbeat if I could.
2022 DriveLife Eco Warrior Car Of The Year
This award is for the vehicle that just wanted to stick it to the oil companies of the world. It’s all about reducing running costs while doing your bit to save the planet.
WINNER – Kia EV6 GT Line
I still remember the EV6 as being the first EV I drove from Wellington to Hawera (a 300km trip to work on our project car) that made it in a single charge. Sure, it has a chunky 77.4kWh battery pack, but after 1,000km of testing the car returned 18.5kWh/100km for energy economy – that’s an excellent result for such a big, heavy (2.2t) car.
Built on a pure-EV chassis, Kia has made the most of that fact and the whole packaging of the car for occupant space and ease of use is obvious.
It’s such an easy car to live with too, it looks fantastic and is extremely comfortable. I dare say it is one EV that could win over some hard-core petrol-only buyers. It’s that good, and we can’t wait for the launch of the EV6 GT coming very soon. That model should be even better.
RUNNER UP – Mercedes-Benz C350e
It was a close one for the C350 E, almost taking the top spot if not for those pesky EVs. The C350E is a very efficient vehicle, which we saw during our road test. Our team achieved a combined fuel consumption rating of 3.0 litres per 100km over the course of a normal week.
2022 DriveLife 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-around vehicle for the family of today? Family on a long road trip? Seven seats? Space for everything? Can it take knocks from unruly kids, and the dog in the back?
WINNER – Mitsubishi Outlander VRX PHEV
Just look around you when driving anywhere – you will see an Outlander. Going on holiday? Look for the loaded-up Outlander. While the VRX model we tested is extremely luxurious, there are still hard plastics where they count so the car can take that rough-and-tumble of family life.
Then there’s the sheer driveability of the car; it’s brilliant. While I reviewed the Outlander, John got behind the wheel and was also impressed. This is a car that’s hard to fault.
Previous to 2022, you could only have 5 seats in your Outlander PHEV so it couldn’t win our Family Car Of The Year award, so Mitsubishi now offers a 7-seat version. This makes the Outlander PHEV even harder to beat as our Family Car Of The Year, and so be it – it wins, and by a good margin.
RUNNER UP – Toyota Highlander GXL Hybrid
There’s a reason why you see quite a few Highlanders around – they’re a great all-around big SUV. The ride is excellent, handling well for such a big beast and the hybrid version is great on fuel, especially compared to the V6-only older models.
We had some niggles with the technology, but overall it’s a great package.
2022 DriveLife Hottest Car of the Year
This award is all about looks. Which vehicle would create the best bedroom poster, desktop or phone background?
WINNER – Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
In many ways, the new Corvette Stingray is not a perfect car, but it is a stunning car. Many people said it looks too much like a Ferrari, which is like saying a woman looks too much like a supermodel – neither of which are bad things.
In this case, the Corvette came out on top as the Hottest car of 2022.
RUNNER UP – Hyundai i20N
Several decades of engineering, technology and safety developments, and stricter regulatory standards, has turned the modern-day automobile into the perfect… appliance.
It’s true, cars have lost a lot of their character in the pursuit of vehicular civility.
Fortunately, Hyundai’s Namyang division begged to differ. Just look at the lines, the lashings of red, and look at that wing! The i20N is a rowdy, charismatic, wee hot-hatch for the masses.
2022 DriveLife Luxury Car of the Year
The Luxury award represents the pinnacle of what manufacturers can offer in terms of comfort, quality, and style.
WINNER – BMW iX
While it wins our Best Gadget award for its fancy roof, the iX also wows with its levels of luxury. My wife and I took the iX to Haumoana over Easter in 2022, and in the end covered over 1,100km in this model. Luxury cars should be amazing on a long trip, and the iX excels in that situation.
Ignoring the 240kW of power and 630Nm of torque, the iX still impresses on the luxury front with amazingly comfortable and luxurious seats, two screens with outstanding definition, audio speakers hidden under fabric, and a flat floor with huge amounts of room for all passengers. Rear legroom and headroom is outstanding in this car.
Add in the massaging function of the front seats and a superb Harmon-Kardon sound system, and you have a car that’s our winner for Luxury Car Of The Year.
RUNNER UP – Hyundai Palisade Nappa
Every so often there is a particular car that stands out from the crowd of review vehicles, and for me the Palisade certainly was that. It’s a large, luxurious SUV, that has everything you need and more. We took it on a road trip to family camp, and made great use of its storage space, not to mention the supreme comfort and captain’s chairs. Though we had to be careful of its white leather interior when camping in a field.
Hyundai might not be the first brand that springs to mind when you think of a big luxury vehicle, but this could be the car to change that. It really does compare well to cars that cost significantly more.
2022 DriveLife 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?
WINNER – Toyota Landcruiser 300 GR Sport
When the going gets tough, the tough say “Land Cruiser”.
There’s no refuting that the Land Cruiser is one of the toughest names in the car world, owing to its reputation for reliability and off-road capability.
The new Toyota Land Cruiser 300 is no exception, building on the hardy reputation forged by its predecessors. Today, it’s better equipped and more refined than ever. The new twin-turbo V6 diesel delivers oodles of torque, and it no longer costs half your pay to brim the tank.
The Land Cruiser 300 GR Sport is the most purposeful Landie of the lot. Out of the box, it has adaptive suspension, Multi-Terrain Select, E-KDSS, low-range gearing, disconnecting sway bars, and three differentials – two of them lockers.
In short, designed to get you from here to over there, no matter the terrain. That’s why it’s our toughest car of the year.
RUNNER UP – Ford Ranger Sport V6
After the launch of the new Ford Ranger in 2022, I managed to grab one to drive back to Wellington from Haumoana, a good 600km drive. When a friend texted to say he was up Tukino Ski Field and did I want to pop up for a visit, I couldn’t think of a better vehicle to do it in.
Those who are familiar with that ‘road’ will understand what I mean. To add to this, snow was forecast and there was already plenty on the ground. As in my review of the V6 Ranger, we passed other 4WD utes parked up and putting chains on. I didn’t have any chains, but also didn’t have any problems with traction.
The V6 Ranger shot up that track in no time, and on the way back, it started to snow heavily. Not once did I feel I might not make it back to SH1. It was an absolute breeze, and I did it in comfort.
2022 DriveLife Unexpected Car of the Year
This award is for the vehicle that turned out to be a big surprise compared to our unjustified expectations.
WINNER – Mercedes-Benz C350e
The C350e seems just like any other Mercedes sedan, which is the core of its magic trick. It’s got everything that the others do, but it’s also a hybrid. A hybrid that is very user-friendly, allowing the driver a lot more control over when and where the different power systems are used. This means the C350E becomes a very efficient car indeed.
This allowed us to achieve a combined fuel consumption rating of 3.0 litres per 100km over the course of a normal week. Fred took the car for a week in 2023 and managed to achieve 0.2L/100km from the car in 700km of driving. More outside-the-box thinking like this would do the market a lot of good.
RUNNER UP – MG3 Core
I’ll admit to some apprehension when picking up the MG3 Core in Auckland; what on earth was I thinking, agreeing to drive the small, very cheap hatchback on a 600km journey back to Wellington? Hell, it’s got a FOUR-SPEED automatic transmission. No one does 4-speeds now. But, guess what? By the end of the trip, the little MG3 and I had a thing going. It would be fun to drive, and I’d enjoy driving it.
Yes, you have to wring it out to make it move but I still found it a capable little car. When you add in that the car has a 7-year warranty, 7 years of Roadside Assist AND 7 years of free WoFs, it’s a hard act to beat – and all that for $19,990? Colour me surprised. Forget looking at that 6-year-old used car with 60,000ks on the clock for the same money; do yourself a favour and check out the MG3.
2022 DriveLife Car of the Year
And so it comes to this – our Car of the Year for 2022. This award is for the best car of the year and is only open to those vehicles that we rated the highest in our reviews. We take many things into account to award our Car of the Year, so it’s not focused on just one aspect.
Please note this is not the Cheapest Car of the Year award. It isn’t about cost – it’s about being the best car overall that we have reviewed. Cost is taken into account, but so are all the other factors that come into what makes a car the best we have reviewed.
Winner – Kia EV6 GT Line
Every year, we argue about what car should win this award. In 2022, DriveLife reviewed 58 cars, and 27 of those scored over an 8.0 (none got a 9.0 or higher). So as a team, we sit there and thrash out who should win our DriveLife Car Of The Year award from those that score above 8.0. It’s never easy, and 2022’s selection was no picnic.
The Kia EV6 had some tough competition; The Kia Sportage is a superb SUV, the Ranger is a great all-round vehicle, and then there are cars like the BMW M240i, Hyundai i20N, Toyota Landcruiser, Chevrolet Corvette Stingray – these are all cars that the EV6 GT Line had to come up against, and beat.
But beat them it did. Here is an EV that has a great range, comes with stunning space-age looks, fantastic build quality, excellent performance, is spacious, very well equipped, and drives beautifully. While some people bemoan an EV’s range, the GT Line we tested has a range of around 480km. It’s a car I could absolutely live with, and enjoy driving every day of the week.
While we sat there discussing our Car Of The Year contenders on a spreadsheet, my eyes kept wandering back to the EV6 GT Line; I already knew it was the winner from the outset. Kia has good reason to be proud of the EV6 GT Line; it’s a stunning motorcar in all respects.
Runner up – Mitsubishi Outlander VRX PHEV
The Mitsubishi Outlander wins a DriveLife award almost every year. That’s likely because it’s an outstanding motor vehicle.
With “up to” 84kms of EV-only range, the 2022 model ups the ante for Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) and we got 4.5L/100kms out of it – but that included a long trip with no plug-in charging.
It’s not all the PHEV side of things that are so good; the luxury in the VRX model will make your passengers believe they are in a $100K car. It’s another outstanding feature of the VRX model. For the money, nothing comes close in features, luxury, fit and finish, or driveability.