Car of the year finalists sorted

Contenders for the country’s top motoring prize been announced.

NINE brands are this year chasing the most coveted national motoring prize offered in this country.

The Five Series sedan and wagon, Astra sedan and hatch, Civic hatch, Ioniq hatch and four sports utilities - Discovery, CX-5, Kodiaq and XV - respectively represent BMW, Holden, Honda, Hyundai, Land Rover, Mazda, Skoda and Subaru. Two Suzuki hatches, the Ignis and Swift, round out the contenders.

The field is predominantly mainstream this year, with just one luxury brand, BMW, making the cut. Also, only one of the 10 presents in anything but orthodox drivetrain choice, the exception being the Ioniq: Globally unique in presenting in three battery-driven formats – hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric.

The winner of the past two years have come from those classifications. The Mercedes E-Class won in 2016, a year after the BMWi3 because the first ever electric vehicle to win the prize.

Inevitably, questions always arise about high-profile cars that do not make the cut.

Last year, it was the Fords Mustang – a huge surprise at the time given the impact it had made on the market, but perhaps fortuitous in hindsight since it was soon after walloped with an appalling NCAP test score.

Perhaps the most obvious of this year’s absentees are, in no particular order, the Toyota C-HR, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Volkswagon Arteon and Subaru Impreza. 

It is now up to members of the organisation that holds award rights, the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild, to determine an overall victor.

The best of the best will be announced in Auckland on December 12 at an event co-run with the New Zealand Automobile Association.

The cars are independently ranked on a number of elements including value, design and quality.

The award in its 29th year and is the long-standing and most coveted motoring prize offered in this country. The winner takes home the Peter Greenslade Trophy, a plinth-mounted steering wheel.

Guild President Robert Barry (left) suggests this year’s line-up offers something for virtually every market segment.

“Each of the top 10 selections is a worthy contender for the ultimate Car of the Year award. It’s going to be a difficult choice for the judges this year,” he suggests.

The finalists were chosen by a panel earlier this month. To be eligible, the car must have been released for sale in New Zealand between October 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017 and have also proven itself to wholly, or at least substantially, new to the market. Cars that have been judged in previous awards rarely carry over because, in most instances, even hefty mid-life facelifts are insufficient to warrant their inclusion.

Another requisite is that any contender has to have been driven by 75 percent of the organisation’s voting members; this year there are 21 of those.

The vote for the top car is decided by the Guild membership; judging criteria covers styling, economy, comfort, interior design, build quality and finish, practicality, value for money and the more ethereal X-factor. There is only one winner, though the AA has separate awards for categories.

Normally Guild members get to test candidate cars on their home turf, generally for a week the Guild generally expects tests to be of an absolute minimum of 72 hours’, so as to ensure members have had opportunity to properly understand the product’s strengths and weakness.

The COTY night also brings Best in Class awards. These are selected from any new car on sale now in each category. This means a make and model released in previous years could beat out a newer car in its class.

The Best in Class categories are: Micro/light car; small/compact car; medium/large car; luxury car; small SUV; medium SUV; large SUV; luxury SUV; utility; sports and electric vehicle/plug-in hybrid

The safest car for 2017 will also be announced at the event. This is based on Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) crash test results.

The New Zealand Car of the Year People’s Choice award will also be announced on December 12. From November 1, the public will have a chance to vote for one of the top 10 finalists on the AA’s website and earn a chance to win a 9-day Pacific islands cruise for two.

AA Motoring Services General Manager Stella Stocks says the top 10 represents a great cross section of new cars available to the market today.