10 cars that ring in spring

By Phil Hanson

Mazda MX-5.
Mazda MX-5.

Yeah! It's the first day of spring. Goodbye firewood pile and hello patio, barbecue tongs and warm sunny days.

Well, maybe not, but let's not spoil the mood. In the spirit of a great season to come, here in alphabetical order are Driven's top 10 suggestions for cars that will put a spring in your new season's motoring.

Citroen C3

They write songs about Paris in springtime so substitute this car for the city and hum along with its engine note. The C3 has a remarkable Zenith panoramic windscreen, supported by thin and elegant A-pillars. This not only gives a view of I-MAX proportions but keeps on going after other windscreens have stopped, to somewhere over the front seats. Should springtime sun glare penetrate the tinting, a sliding section of headlining complete with its own sun visors can be pulled forward to crop the windscreen into a more conventional size. But once you're used to the full Zenith, anything less is claustrophobic.

*1.6-litre four petrol, 88kW, 160Nm, 6.6 litres per 100km, 153g.km CO2, $27,990

Honda Euro Civic L

Wow, what a tonic for jaded motorists coming out of a dreary winter. The recently arrived UK-built Civic hatch that looks like it might be a three-door due to the cleverly disguised second back doors, ticks just about every box. Great styling, clever design, brilliant interior, rides and handles well, paddle controls for the autobox; a triumph for Honda. Could be a bit quicker but you'll be too smitten to care.

*1.8-litre four petrol, 104kW, 174Nm, 6.5 litres per 100km, 155g.km CO2, $38,900

Jeep Wrangler

It's the only four-door convertible. It's also the only vehicle that really lets you commune so closely with nature: remove its roof, remove its doors, fold the windshield flat. New Pentastar V6 means it's more powerful and easier on the gas. The four doors are practical, the two doors way more fun, and so competent off-road, especially the Rubicon version.

*3.6-litre V6 petrol, 209kW, 347Nm, 10.7 litres per 100km, 248g.km CO2, from $51,990

Mazda MX-5

Well, it wouldn't be a list of springtime cars without the evergreen MX-5 convertible. Lithe, compact, beautiful, brisker than a spring breeze, the MX-5 is one of the all-time great sports cars and anyone can afford one, used if not new. Caught in a shower, the MX-5's manual soft top can be pulled up as fast as the Volkswagen Eos's power job (see below).

*2.5-litre petrol, 118kW, 188Nm, 6.1 litres per 100km, 167g.km CO2, $51,100

Renault Koleos

Nissan's X-Trail is one of the best all-round soft off-roaders, but it's a bit stoic. No worry, Renault does its own take with a different body and interior on the Japanese car's platform and mechanicals. It's a captivating combo with room, style, verve, élan and feel-good factor. The back is notable for its split-opening tailgate like a Range Rover's, so you can sit on the bottom bit for a picnic lunch while the top bit provides a shelter from the drizzle.

*2.5-litre petrol four, 126kW, 226Nm, 9.5 litres per 100km, 228g.km CO2, $43,990

Suzuki Jimny Sierra

Cheapest, smallest and least powerful of our top 10, the Jimny's still a blast of spring air. Tie a surfboard to the roof, whiz along a beach, keeping an eye out for dotterel nests and cops with radar guns, of course. Don't take this wee warrior too seriously, just enjoy it.

*1.3 litre four petrol, 63kW, 110Nm, 7.1 litres per 100km, 168g.km CO2, $22,990

Skoda Yeti TSI 77

What a wicked, weird, wonderful little wagon the Yeti is. Several versions are available, but the one with the wee 1.2 litre turbo engine that buzzes away like a happy worker bee is just right for the new season. The Yeti has a ridiculous amount of space for its size, is fun to drive and gets along very nicely. Inside, the equipment betrays this model's low place on the Yeti status ladder but you'll be having too much fun to notice, driving around and waving back at the friendly people who are waving at you. They are waving, aren't they?

*1.2 litre turbo four petrol, 77kW, 175Nm, 6.4 litres per 100km, 149g.km CO2, $37,500

Toyota Avensis Wagon

Odd choice? Maybe, maybe not. Thing is, the Avensis is the kind of wagon you can load everything into and head off for a spring break. The Avensis is stylish, modern, capable and doesn't cost huge money, yet it's not low rent and doesn't necessarily look like the fleet vehicle that it is. It comes from Toyota Europe, which is good for at least some bragging rights.

*2.0 litre four petrol, 112kW, 196Nm, 7.1 litres per 100km, 165g.km CO2, $47,990

Toyota Prius c

Here's another Driven plug for Toyota's game changing hybrid. It's fresh as the new season, costs relatively little yet is not lacking for specification or capability. Even were it not a hybrid, people would buy the c-car for its sassy appearance and great interior. Some of the exterior colours are brighter than the new season's gerberas.

*1.5 litre four petrol, 74kW, 111Nm, 3.9 litres per 100km, 90g.km CO2, $30,990

Volkswagen Eos

You know what it's like with spring weather, hosing down one minute, shining the next. So that's not necessarily fun if you're hanging for some open-air motoring. That's where the latest Eos comes in. This clever car can fold its hard top away in less than half a minute and put it up again in the same time, hardly long enough to get damp. You can even drive along, though not at speed, while the roof electro-hydraulically re-arranges itself. The Eos also has an opening glass sunroof in the roof; not quite sure why, but you're covered, or uncovered, for every nuance of the season's weather.

*2.0 litre turbo four petrol, 155kW, 280Nm, 7.5 litres per 100km, 174g.km CO2, $60,250

- NZ Herald

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