AMI Insurance NZ Autocar Car of the Year 2017

Honda Civic Type R - the car of the year

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Friday 24 November 2017

The AMI Insurance NZ Autocar magazine 2017 Car of the Year has been announced and it’s the Honda Civic Type R. Honda’s ultimate hot hatch was also our pick in the Performance car class and then emerged as the overall winner after a day of final testing.

Each year, NZ Autocar magazine names six class winners (listed below) in its Car of the Year awards, and then pits them against each other in one final test to determine the overall champion. The cars are driven by a panel of six judges over the same drive loop, and each is scored out of 100 points covering criteria such as safety, design, driving dynamics, practicality and value. Helping even the playing field between the vastly different vehicles, each of the criteria is weighted towards the particular strengths of the individual categories.

It has taken Honda seemingly forever to relent and finally offer a Civic Type R here in New Zealand officially and it arrived to quite some fanfare, having wrested back the record for fastest front driver at the Nürburgring it achieved in 2014. And yet it’s also a practical five-door hatch with a Comfort mode drive setting for powertrain and adaptive suspension. It also features active cruise control allied to a six-speed manual, the only one we’re aware of.

On the score sheets, it proved the top car for three of the six judges, and second for two others. The Type R’s overall score of 493.5 points made it a clear winner on the day, edging the second-placed XC60 by almost 10 points. The worst aspect most mentioned, aside from the expected tyre roar? Exhaust noise needs to be louder!

Judges praised the Honda’s handling and ultimate grip levels, and that its performance was easy to extract. It’s various drive modes allowed each judge to find a setting that suited them, while the fact it is a five-door hatch with room for the family wasn’t overlooked. Nor was its high level of active safety technology.

The class winners

As we have done for the past few years, we’ve nominated vehicles from various areas of the market not based on size or vehicle type, but rather price categories. For the new car market has become more fragmented and manufacturers dream up new vehicle types that blur the once clearly defined classes. So, below are the vehicles we deemed most worthy of a class win from those we tested over the past 12 months.

0-$30k class winner - Suzuki Swift

Swift has been a Kiwi favourite for the past decade and Suzuki has taken the latest generation to a new level. An all-new lightweight platform and engine range help make Swift more economical, yet it remains as entertaining as ever to drive. It’s packed full of new convenience features and safety gear but the price remains low, making its bang for buck hard to match in this crowded segment where value is king.

$30K-$45K class winner - Subaru XV

Subaru’s XV excels in an increasingly popular segment by offering more substance than its competitors. Using Subaru’s latest platform technology, the XV offers a level of ride refinement and sure-footed handling that its rivals struggle to match. It’s also a safe option with a wide range of crash avoidance features and benefits from full-time AWD. Being practical and well specified, its pricing means there is sound value here too.

$45K - $60K class winner - Mazda CX-5

Mazda’s second-generation CX-5 picks up where the last one left off, adding extra refinement and quality to a popular SUV that remains great to drive. Added specification includes improved safety technology while enhanced on-road refinements don’t come at the expense of driver interaction. A strong model line-up with competitive pricing and leading after-sales care keep the CX-5 at the head of this popular market segment.

$60K - $100K class winner - Volvo XC60

Following the form of the XC90, the XC60 is a vehicle that manages to do everything well. Spacious, refined and capable, it mixes style, safety and substance perfectly. The design and quality of the cabin and infotainment system lead the rest. There’s a comprehensive model range which includes a plug-in hybrid version and if you rate safety highly this is the one to go for.

Luxury class winner - Land Rover Discovery

Probably the most versatile luxury vehicle ever, the new Land Rover Discovery retains its stupendous off-road ability but wraps it all up in a more desirable package. Its interior design and quality get a lift in this new generation, as do on-road refinement, yet its ability to haul seven adults in comfort and its class-leading tow rate remain unchallenged. Additional in-cabin technology and improved safety creds round off an impressive luxury package.

Performance car - Honda Civic Type R

Anyone who says Honda makes boring cars needs to drive the Civic Type R, a genuine return to form for the H brand. It was one of the most exciting cars we drove all year. The latest Type R delivers blistering performance and soulful driver interaction but then with a flick of button it’s a calm, family-friendly five-door hatchback with equal measures of practicality and safety. And priced under $60k, its thrilling performance doesn’t cost the earth.

Check back tomorrow for details on the AMI Insurance Safety Award winner, and the recipient of the inaugural EV award.

For the full results and details, see the January issue of NZ Autocar, on sale December 21.

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