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Car of the Year Overall Winner: 2015 BMW i3

For starters, the BMW i3 electric vehicle (EV) is a funky little car. It performs very well and is a good all-rounder. BMW designed it completely from scratch, instead of adapting it from a previous vehicle, and it shows. The i3 does a lot of things well. With a range of 150kms, which is reasonable for an EV, it’s a great little car for everyday use. It combines good range with the luxury BMW is known for. It will be interesting to see how the market adapts to the new wave of EVs. Their profile has raised considerably, especially with this win, and the infrastructure for them is starting to grow, which is a key factor for their success. I’ve seen it myself with charging stations beginning to pop up at Auckland’s shopping centres. You can park and charge your car while you do your shopping. But the biggest consideration for me is where the i3 sat in the safety ratings. In a small car versus big car situation physics take over, so safety is absolutely critical with smaller cars. The i3 has a 5 Star ANCAP safety rating, which was very important to us. The BMW i3 ticks a lot of boxes and is a worthy winner of Car of the Year.

Car of the Year Safest Car: 2015 Hyundai Genesis and Volvo XC90

For the first time ever we gave two awards for Safest Car. And that’s because these two cars really were inseparable, both earning 5 star safety ratings. However, with this award it’s not so much about those 5 stars, it is more about the detailing around the 5 stars. We really examined their scoring sheets to determine how close to the 5 stars they got during their safety assessments. This year we began transitioning to a new rating system which integrates the ANCAP rating system with the Euro NCAP protocols. This made judging this category challenging, as we were looking at the ratings from both systems. We expect to finish the transition in 2018.  Under the new regime, the safety ratings will step up and be harder to achieve. It is feasible that a 5 star rating in 2014 will now be a 4 star rating under the new regime. You could say it’s the goalposts moving, but they’re moving to make cars safer. Previously the emphasis was on how safe you’d be in a crash. Moving forward, the focus will be on preventing the crash from happening in the first place. In the eyes of the AA, the Car of the Year Safety Award sits right up there beside the overall winner. We consider it to be equally as important.

Best in Class Winners  Judges Notes

Compact Car: BMW i3

“A unique approach to new technology. Not only a great ride but also one of the most head-turning cars ever.”

Small car: Mazda 2

“Has safety features often found in premium brands but also cutting edge design.” Medium/large car:  Mercedes-Benz C-Class “Exemplifies how style and performance can combine.”

Luxury car: Hyundai Genesis

“A standout in the ANCAP safety ratings and full of luxury features.” Small SUV/Crossover: Mazda CX-3 “Standout styling; modern efficiency and safety technologies and notable interior finish quality.”

Medium SUV: Hyundai Tucson

“Combines a sturdy off-roader with a city slicker.” Large SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe “Superior refinement and ride comfort.”

Luxury SUV: Volvo XC90

“An incredible amount of high technology, with superb safety and class-leading design.”

Sports Performance: Mercedes AMG C 63

“Combines a track-ready performance vehicle with luxury and comfort.”

Utility: Ford Ranger

“Combines work horse ability with the comforts of a passenger car and ease of use.”

The People’s Choice: Hyundai Tucson

Over a month, the public had a chance to select their favourite out of the Top 10 Car of the Year finalists. Almost 35,000 people cast a vote, with the most going to Hyundai Tucson.

Reported by Stella Stocks for our AA Directions Summer 2016 issue

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