David Thomson and Richard Bosselman conclude their review of cars that made a real impression last year by picking their SUV and sports-car favourites, as well as an overall winner.
SUV/MPV: AUDI SQ5 - Read the Audi SQ5 road test here
Whatever your price point, the mid-sized SUV segment is chock-a-block with talented contenders. Among these, Audi's SQ5 stands out as a bold and successful bid to deploy diesel power in the cause of producing a sporting SUV flagship. The SQ5 looks good, handles like a hot hatch, goes like stink, and even sounds great.
Light commercial: Toyota Landcruiser 70 VX - Read the Toyota Landcruiser road test here
Devoid of flash but not without its charms, the Landcruiser 70 VX holds an enduring appeal based on rugged back-to-basics engineering. Numerous farmers in Otago and Southland will attest to this being not just a virtue, but an absolute necessity for driving survival when the going gets tough in the most challenging of off-road situations.
Sport: BMW M135i - Read the BMW M135i road test here
The virtues of balance over brute force were aptly demonstrated at Highlands Park when Drivesouth sampled the 235kW/450Nm BMW M135i alongside the 412kW/680Nm BMW M6; while the M6 was the unsurprising drag-race king, it was the smaller, more nimble M135i that shone through the twists and turns of Otago's first purpose-built race track.
Overall: Subaru BRZ - Read the Subaru BRZ review here
Awarding the Subaru BRZ the maximum five-star road test rating was an easy call, and judging it my favourite car of 2013 took only a little longer: last year, the Toyota equivalent of the BRZ (its near-identical twin, the 86) was my sports-car pick of 2012, based solely on time behind the wheel of the automatic version.
The BRZ collects my top accolade for the past year by virtue of being test-driven in six-speed manual guise, and minus the aerodynamic extras that were a feature of the Toyota 86 I sampled.
Thus specified, this dynamically sublime and visually exciting two-door coupe delivers an experience as close to driving perfection as any sub-$100K car on the market today.
SUV/MPV: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - Read the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV road test here
It has more positives than any other battery-led car I've driven, the Holden Volt included. It performs to the same level as a regular Outlander _ including soft-roading _ and applies equal functionality, save that it seats five, not seven. It also acts as the best entry point to a range-extender, electric-first driving experience yet.
Light commercial: Holden Colorado 2013 update - Read the holden Colorado review here
The only negativity about this early refresh will come from owners of the pre-facelift model and they've every right to feel downcast. The huge lift in technology and performance have transformed this truck. It's a pity Holden didn't further fine-tune the suspension but, even so, this ute is now worthy of comparison with the class leaders.
Sport: Jaguar F-Type
Maybe it was the day taking this car to meet a Series 1 E-Type and a Supermarine Spitfire (the link being more than just a gathering of great icons; the Spit also came from Castle Bromwich, the F-Type's birthplace). Maybe - actually definitely - it was the V8's fantastic exhaust note, and the styling. This car captured my soul.
Overall: VW Golf
Look beyond the derivative and touch too straight-laced styling. This is a car that changes the rules in its segment; Germany made clear this would be a smartie - calling it the most sophisticated hatchback in its category - and they weren't kidding. There's every kind of tech, and even the base car is anything but basic: the equipment level is still good and the cabin still has an air of high quality. The knockout blow is the pricing; only the GTi is expensive.
Everything less is keenly priced. The result is the Golf is now a much greater threat to, well, you name it: Pre-discounting, the Ford Focus, Holden Cruze, Kia Cerato, Hyundai i30 and Toyota Corolla are all squarely in its sights.
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