SMALL CAR OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Hyundai i30
The second generation i30 was a handsome hatchback with incisive lines and definited character. It delivered more head and leg room for front passengers while the boot size increased despite the full-size spare wheel beneath its floor.
The Elite model was specced to the hilt with features normally found in expensive European vehicles - reversing camera, proximity key with push-button start, seat warmers for the electrically-adjustable front seats, auto defog and a rather nice welcome-home feature in which the car recognised its key approaching, unfolded the wing mirrors, and turned on door handle and puddle lamps to light the ground around your car. Add those factors to the range that included a 1.8-litre petrol and a 1.6-litre diesel, both in standard manual and auto, and this car would be a pick for a variety of buyers.
Read more on the i30 here
Runner up: Suzuki Swift Sport
MID-SIZE CAR OF THE YEAR
WINNER: BMW 3 Series
When BMW NZ launched the 3 Series early this year, it came chooka block full of intelligent aids to encourage people to drive more thriftily, including stop/start, brake energy regeneration that blended twin-turbocharged power with eight-speed automatic gearboxes for improved fuel use and cleaner exhaust emissions.
New to the sixth-generation 3 Series was Eco-Pro mode that included Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings. The cabin looked and felt more upmarket and the range was available in a trio of trim and equipment variants - Sport Line, Luxury Line and Modern Line - identified by different design elements around the grille and headlights. Teamed with an array of engines - 320 diesel, 328i, 335i and 320i petrol version plus a price drop - and you have a winner.
Read more on the 3 Series here
Runner up: Ford Falcon EcoBoost
EXECUTIVE CAR OF THE YEAR
WINNER: Lexus GS450h
Toyota's luxury brand Lexus has arguably done more to herald acceptance of hybrid technology than its gigantic parent company, despite big-value nameplates like the Prius. Lexus' latest GS model - the 450h, which combined leather-bound luxury with environmental sensibility and, of course, trimmed down fuel costs.
The fourth-generation of the GS pushed the boundaries after chief engineer Yoshihiko Kanamori drove the trio of competitors in the autobahn's fast lane. If he was in the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, people pulled over and let him pass. In the GS, they didn't.
So the new car got a far more aggressive design which was topped off beautifully with a dominating spindle-shaped grille. There were three models launched here, but the 'h' was the pick, especially with the $25,000 luxury package with goodies like pre-crash avoidance and a smashing 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.
The 3.5 litre six-cylinder engine combined with the Lexus Hybrid Drive electric motor offered blistering performance off the line - and we liked that, a lot. The performance variant - the GS350 F-sport was also very appealing, and might be a better option for the more motivated executive drivers out there, although the hybrid was undoubtedly the best all-rounder.
Read more on the GS450h here
Runner up: Jaguar XF 2.2D