EVs to forefront in 2021 awards

EVs to forefront in 2021 awards

The rise and rise of electric vehicles is confirmed in this year’s New Zealand Car of the Year award contenders, David Thomson writes.

A national shift to partly and fully electric motoring shines though in the finalist’s list for this year’s New Zealand Car of the Year award, which was released earlier this week. No fewer than five of the 10 contenders are available as pure electric vehicles, and all but one of the remaining five are available in hybrid guise.

Candidates to scoop this year’s New Zealand Car of the Year crown are, in alphabetical order: the Audi e-tron GT, Ford Escape, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia Sorento, Mazda MX-30, Mercedes-Benz EQA, Peugeot 208, Skoda Octavia, Toyota Highlander, and Toyota GR Yaris.

Of these models, the Audi e-tron GT, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Mercedes EQA are all pure electric vehicles. There are also pure electric variants of the Peugeot 208 (the e-208) and Mazda MX-30 (alongside a hybrid alternative), both of which were launched in New Zealand earlier this year.

Variants within the Ford Escape, Kia Sorento and Skoda Octavia ranges are plug-in hybrids that combine internal combustion power with battery-electric power, and each vehicle has the ability to cover about 50km on electric power alone on a single battery charge. The latest Toyota Highlander is offered here in non-plugged hybrid guise for the first time, and the Toyota Yaris GR is a highly-focused pure petrol performance machine.

While this year’s mix of finalists underscores the rapid addition of electric options to the country’s new car model lists, recognising the move to an increasingly electrified vehicle fleet is nothing new for Car of the Year, which is awarded annually by the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild. Pure-electric models — the Jaguar i-Pace and Mercedes EQC — have won the New Zealand Car of the Year in both 2019 and 2020. Previously, in 2015, guild members voted the BMW i3 as their first electric-powered Car of the Year.

“Obviously those previous pure electric title winners are vehicles from recognised luxury brands, and both of the most recent winners carry price tags well in excess of $100,000,” says New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild president Richard Edwards. ‘‘What is particularly significant in this year’s list of finalists is the presence of electric vehicles across a range of prices. Five of this year’s pure electric and plug in finalists are available at prices below the $80,000 threshold that allows them to qualify for the Government’s Clean Car Discount scheme”.

Now entering its 34th year, New Zealand Car of the Year is the country’s most prestigious motoring award, being a truly national prize without commercial ties. A key feature of the award is its genuinely national relevance, as it embodies the views of motoring writers from throughout the country, assessing vehicles across a range of conditions in their own regions.

Lower South Island perspectives are well represented, with me, Drivesouth motoring editor David Thomson, chairing the guild’s Car of the Year committee, and fellow Allied Press motoring contributor Bob Nettleton also a voting member.

Guild members assess the finalists on a specified range of criteria spanning how the vehicle performs its intended role; its styling, interior design and accommodation; fit, finish and quality; ride and refinement; performance; road-holding and handling; value for money; active and passive safety and environmental responsibility.

The winner of this year’s award will take over from the Mercedes EQC as current holder of the national Car of the Year crown. Other recent winners are the Jaguar i-Pace (2019), Subaru Forester (2018), Skoda Kodiaq (2017), Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2016), BMW i3 (2015), and Mazda3 (2014).

By manufacturer, Mazda has been the most successful marque in NZ Car of the Year history, winning the award no fewer than five times since its inception in 1988. BMW and Ford have enjoyed four titles apiece, and Honda and Mercedes-Benz three. Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen have all secured the trophy twice, while Citroen, Jaguar, Holden, Lexus, Peugeot, Porsche, Skoda and Subaru are each single-time winners.

Past winners

1988 BMW 5 Series
1989 Peugeot 405
1990 Mazda MX-5
1991 Lexus LS400
1992 Toyota Corona
1993 Citroen ZX
1994 Honda Accord
1995 Nissan Maxima
1996 BMW 5 Series
1997 Holden Commodore VT
1998 Volkswagen Passat
1999 Honda S2000
2000 Mercedes C-class
2001 Ford Mondeo
2002 Mazda 6
2003 Honda AccordEuro
2004 Nissan Maxima
2005 Mazda MX-5
2006 Porsche Cayman
2007 Mazda 2
2008 Ford Falcon FG
2009 Ford Fiesta
2010 BMW 5 Series
2011 Ford Focus
2012 Toyota 86
2013 Volkswagen Golf
2014 Mazda 3
2015 BMW i3
2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
2017 Skoda Kodiaq
2018 Subaru Forester
2019 Jaguar I-Pace
2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC