Time for the Car of the Year award – the 2016 gong, not 2017. I figured back in December that I would put off naming the 2016 winner until January. January sort of came and went. So did February and March.
Now it’s April. So to honour the international procrastinators’ motto – ‘Never put off till tomorrow what can be done the day after tomorrow just as well’ – I’ll fall into step with Douglas Adams, who said: “I love deadlines – I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”
Adams wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, about aliens destroying Earth to make way for a galactic highway.
The book was a turning point in Elon Musk’s teenage education, when an American magazine said Musk began to see man’s fate in the galaxy as his personal obligation. At age 17, he emigrated from South Africa to Canada, on his own.
Musk is of course the man behind space travel ventures and Tesla electric cars. He slipped at least one reference to the Hitchhiker’s book into the computer software of the Tesla Model S sedan, which launched in New Zealand last month.
Anyway, enough of Musk. My Car of the Year for 2016 is the Skoda Superb. More on it down the page.
That’s it – there are no more awards. The trend in the motoring media to name winners in all sorts of categories is so yesterday, certainly in a NZ market where 40 per cent of new vehicle sales have the same moniker: SUV.
Nevertheless, other vehicles deserve mention. These are opinions, that’s all. Like Dirty Harry, aka Clint Eastwood, said, “Everybody’s got one.” Of course he wasn’t just talking about opinions.
The Mazda CX-9 was clearly the standout SUV of the year, for all sorts of reasons. The Holden Spark shone as a small car, agile with an excellent ride.
The Honda Civic and its clever interior design starred as a medium sedan; the Subaru Levog as a dynamic, all-wheel-drive station wagon.
The green car that made much sense was the Toyota Corolla Hybrid, a practical and timely iteration of the world’s best-selling vehicle.
At the top end was the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, offering a hands-on indication of an autonomous world.
Can’t go past the Mazda MX-5 and its 2.0-litre engine as the two-seater with moxy. A pure driving experience, where you are at one with the car, doesn’t come any better.
The 5.0-litre V8 Ford Mustang has already picked up my ‘politically incorrect’ award for 2016. It’s a drive down memory lane, a flawed car you buy with your heart, not your head.
But back to the Skoda Superb. It’s available as a sedan or wagon, in two- or four-wheel-drive, with a choice of diesel or petrol engines and six-speed automatic DSG transmissions from parent Volkswagen. Price is between $47,490 and $65,490.
Personally, I prefer the sedan, although the wagon outsells it, roughly 60/40. Either way you get a bank vault-like build with extensive standard appointments, a cavernous interior, and a ride on an excellent chassis and suspension set-up that soaks up all but the worst of surfaces.
The pick of the front-drive models is the boosted 132kW 1.8-litre petrol four; the optional 110kW 2.0-litre diesel isn’t on intimate terms with the gearbox, certainly in stop-start, town-and-around traffic.
The all-paws get either a 140kW diesel or 206kW petrol engine from the VW Golf R. The diesel is lively enough but the more responsive petrol brings out the best in the Superb. Sedan or wagon, it is the thinking buyer’s European option.