Small, medium, large and luxury cars of the year

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 | Latest News
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Range Rover Velar. Photos: supplied

David Thomson and Richard Bosselman ease into 2018 by looking back at the cars from the year just past that left a real impression. They start in this issue with small, medium, large, and luxury cars.


  • Small: Suzuki Swift 
  • Medium: Kia Soul 
  • Large: Audi SQ7 
  • Luxury: Volvo XC60 
  • Environmental: Hyundai Ionic EV  

Small Car: Suzuki Swift 
The hugely popular gen-two Swift was a hard act to follow, but Suzuki is right on the money with its replacement. Ticking all the key boxes for ride, handling, looks, space and specification, the best variants in the current range are fitted with Suzuki's zesty, characterful 82kW/160Nm 998cc turbocharged 3-cylinder engine.

Medium Car: Kia Soul Turbo 
A left-field choice for sure, but Kia's funky Soul made me smile on each of the five days of the test. Cheerful but definitely not cheap in a negative way, this cutely upright South Korean crossover has as much attitude as pop star Psy and, as tested in turbo form, as much kick as an authentic kimchi.

Large: Audi SQ7 
The question was never whether or not Audi's mighty monster machine would make this top picks list, but which category in which to place it. This stonking 320kW/900Nm bi-turbo-diesel behemoth is impressive as a large, luxury, sports or sports utility vehicle. It makes my large-car category because it is both physically imposing, and larger than life in so many other ways.

Luxury: Volvo XC60 R-Design 
Volvo has impressed me this year with the latest S90 sedan and wagon, and new XC60 crossover. The latter is especially well attuned to changing tastes at the premium end of the vehicle market, and took centre stage in one of my most enjoyable motoring weekends of 2017. To find our more, keep an eye on Drivesouth over the coming weeks.

Environmental: Hyundai Ionic EV 
In today's new-car market only Tesla takes you closer to a fully electric motoring future than the Hyundai Ionic EV. A nominal range of 200km brings Gore, Alexandra or Timaru within potential non-stop EV reach of Dunedin. Break just once for a quick recharge, and you'll reach Christchurch, Invercargill, Wanaka or Queenstown. Take that, internal combustion.



  • Small: Subaru Impreza 
  • Medium: Mazda CX-5 
  • Large: BMW 5-series 
  • Luxury: Range Rover Velar
  •  Environmental: Hyundai Ionic EV 

Small: Subaru Impreza 
Trademark permanent all-wheel-drive is a good start, but now there's so much more - alluring styling, the cabin's spaciousness and layout, and a fresh platform delivering more improved integrity and dynamics. Yet what truly elevates the Impreza to No 1 is its specification. Luxury car-level crash-prevention tech in a model that occupies the budget zone is incredible.

Medium: Mazda CX-5 
The previous generation achieved rock-star status. A replacement with an all-new body and interior, more cargo space, refinement and technology should also top the charts. That the engine, six-speed automatic gearbox and around half of its componentry are carried forward isn't so much Mazda's reluctance to change; more a case of not wanting to hex a good thing.

Large: BMW 5-Series 
The smartest car Munich makes is a swish highway-eater so stacked with Munich's latest, best and most brilliant safety and comfort assists that it is on the verge of achieving fully autonomous driving. Best pick to my mind isn't the sedan but the xDrive Touring, which when tested in diesel form seemed a much better ‘SUV' buy than the X5.

Luxury: Range Rover Velar 
The name is an original Range Rover development title; everything else looks forward. Gerry McGovern's design team has had a great run, but this medium five-seater is something else again, not least in respect to an interior that's a classy homage to modernist minimalism. Driving-wise, it's more sports car than SUV, though in saying that the off-road cred is there.

Environmental: Hyundai Ioniq EV 
Electric vehicles are still in that ‘‘could do better'' phase. You could argue an update to 300km-plus range would make a huge difference to Hyundai's first production battery model. Also a bigger boot. Regardless, it is still by far and away the best and most sensible new electric car choice here.