With more than 90 new models launched this year - ranging from new models to revamps - Driven's motoring team spent many hours on the road, be it in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and even Africa.
So when it came time to pick what where the winning vehicles of 2012, the list the nominations in each category was extensive and varied.
The vehicles that the team tested ranged from superminis to large SUVs, cars for $25,000 or less, and vehicles from $250,000 or more. We reviewed the biggest sellers - Toyota's Corolla - to luxury cars that only a few people in New Zealand could afford, including the Rolls Royce Ghost, to some that we wished we could afford, such as the BMW Gran Coupe 650i.
The launches also took the team from such locations as Portugal for Peugeot's 208 and 4008 reveals, to the Paris motor show for Mazda6's new look sedan and wagon, and recently to Morocco with Range Rover.
Locally, we were kept busy with an ever increasing variety of products. Hyundai launched the i30 and coupe-hatch Veloster (that you either loved or hated the look of) while Ford showed us its revolutionary Falcon EcoBoost engine, and Holden had everyone talking with its electric Volt.
Honda was kept busy with the announcement of the new Civic then CR-V, while Suzuki opted to produce another Sport version of the highly popular Swift, much to
the delight of the Driven team, and Subaru had the XV launch.
But it was Toyota New Zealand that was the busiest car company - hitting the road with the Camry, Avensis, new hybrids - Prius c and Prius v wagon - then it was on to the much hyped 86 coupe and the Corolla hatch plus its luxury marque, Lexus, showing off the GS range that exhibited a front grille to impress, and restyled RX SUV.
Next year looks just as busy for the Driven team - with the next-generation VW Beetle to reviewed mid-January and Land Rover showing us its new products.
Matt Greenop APN motoring editor
Liz Dobson APN deputy motoring editor
Colin Smith Motoring editor, APN Regionals
John Maslin Motoring editor, Wanganui Chronicle
Phil Hanson Driven motoring writer
David Linklater Driven motoring writer
Jacqui MadelinHoS motoring editor (bike reviewer)
And 2012 Car of the Year is....
Most corners of the automotive marketplace are kicking along nicely this year - but the SUV buyer has become one of the most enthusiastic and as a result, is utterly spoiled for choice.
Picking a Car of the Year from any segment isn't the easiest of feats, and from one as hard-fought and well-stocked as that should make things doubly difficult.
But here's the thing - a COTY should stand head and shoulders above the rest. It should redefine what it means to make a great vehicle of its type, make other manufacturers take notice, and as Mazda did with the superb CX-5 Limited diesel, it should defy convention and create a new benchmark.
We used to think SUVs were all massively thirsty - this was proven wrong with the SkyActiv 2.2 diesel's fuel economy figure and very light carbon footprint. SUVs never handle as well as cars, goes the next fallacy. While you're unlikely to see crossovers with 911-like precision the CX-5 will still out-handle a whole lot of cars across the small, medium and large markets. Only vastly more expensive Euro SUVs come with the latest safety gadgets - CX-5, again, defies the rules. And this is why it is Driven's Car of the Year. It moved the bar so far, that whenever we drive an SUV/crossover, and even some more conventional family machines, the CX-5 is going to be the benchmark that they're being judged against. Think back a few years, and the segment was just something invented for mums who wanted a bit more vision in traffic, and were sick of driving station wagons. Amazing how quickly things change when the right blend of technology and innovation is applied.
- Matt Greenop