The First XI
This year’s line-up is a dream team of pace machines, heavy-hitters and all-rounders
FINALS fever has arrived at Carsguide. Over the past 12 months, we’ve sampled hundreds of new cars and whittled them down to 11 contenders for our annual Car of the Year title.
Why the odd number? To tie in with cricket season? Not quite. At the last minute, we got the chance to include a worthy contender that won’t feature in any of our competitors’ end of year awards.
So, after a hastily organised drive, we gave a start to the Mercedes-Benz GLC, an SUV that shares its underpinnings with the 2014 Car of the Year, the C-Class.
The GLC is unlikely to get the rails run the C-Class did last year — to be frank, 2014 wasn’t a stellar year for new arrivals.
Competition this year has been much tougher, with some cars that looked like contenders at the halfway mark not making the final cut.
The Subaru Liberty was just shaded by Volkswagen’s new Passat, Audi’s TT coupe and BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer missed out, as did other big arrivals such as the Hyundai Tucson, Ford Mondeo, Chrysler 300C and Toyota HiLux.
This year’s field ranges from the all-conquering Mazda CX-3 small SUV to Volvo’s groundbreaking luxury XC90 seven-seater. In between there’s the magical Mazda MX-5 — a sentimental favourite — and Kia’s accomplished family allrounder, the Sorento. There’s muscle in the form of Audi’s RS3 and Holden’s brutish SS-V Commodore Redline and, with the Passat, mid-size class. Pocket rocket doesn’t do this little firecracker justice. Audi has shoehorned half a Lamborghini V10 into the engine bay of a small hatchback. The fivecylinder engine puts out more power than some V8 Commodores and matches that output with a bark as big as its bite. It dispatches the 0-100km/ h dash in 4.3 seconds, matching cars twice its price. It puts that power to the ground with allwheel-drive through a slick-shifting sevenspeed dual-clutch auto.
The original X1 was one of the best handling SUVs on the market, with cornering ability that matched lower-riding hatchbacks. Unfortunately the boot-space matched that of some small hatches too. The new X1 is a much better allrounder, with enough space behind the rear seats for a decent amount of family gear. It loses little of its driving edge in the switch from rear-drive to front-drive — there is on-demand all-wheel drive on some models. We’ve picked the xDrive20d AWD version, which has one of the sweetest diesel engines available.
Ford’s popular workhorse saw off a big field of challengers, including the
The contenders: Mazda MX-5, main; (clockwise from left) Volvo XC90, Audi RS3, Kia Sorento, BMW X1, Mazda CX-3, VW Passat, Jaguar XE, Holden Commodore and Ford Ranger