Driven Car of the Year: Green, SUV, and Performance

Holden Volt. Photo / Jacqui Madelin
Holden Volt. Photo / Jacqui Madelin

WINNER: Holden Volt

The Volt was launched last year in European and American markets as both a Chevy and a Vauxhall. It took until November for it to be redressed in a Holden badge, get a few localised tweaks to both handling, spec and looks, and find its way onto our roads.
We first pedalled a prototype of this clever tree-cuddling machine back in April in Australia, and watched it progress to what was without argument the most important environmentally-focused car released here this year. Holden considers it an 'extended range EV', but in reality Volt is just a different type of hybrid.
It uses a 1400cc engine - a non-turbo from the Cruze - to charge the incredibly complex and advanced battery rather than driving the wheels, as well as employing charging tricks like regenerative braking. Its range without touching the petrol engine was up to 90km - and with the entire tank used was around 600km.
Considering New Zealand drivers on average only drive 27.7km a day, and the car plugs into an ordinary household powerpoint, visits to the gas station were few and far between. US TV star Jay Leno managed to milk over 17,000km out of his Chevy Volt, without ever filling the tank, and the EU certed its mileage at 1.1L/100km.
Read our road test of the Holden Volt here
Runner up: Toyota Prius c

WINNER: Mazda CX-5 Limited diesel

Mazda utterly stunned us with this mid-sized SUV- especially its SkyActiv-D diesel variant - it was just that good.
The crossover SUV market is on a roll, and despite the school run/soccer mum overtones, demand just keeps on growing and there are some incredibly able contenders for buyers to choose from.
The CX-5 was the first Mazda to feature not only the company's new 'kodo' design approach, but also the full suite of its SkyActiv technologies.
The SkyActiv concept was born out of a ballsy undertaking to trim weight, fuel consumption and the carbon footprint of its vehicles by up to 30 per cent - the technology appears in nearly every part of the car - and it works.
The 2.2 diesel we enjoyed so much used a miserly 5.7L/100km and a 149g/km of CO2 emissions (surprisingly the same amount as the petrol version). Not only do these numbers put it into hybrid territory in several ways, the SkyActiv-D also pumps out 129kW and a stonking 420Nm of torque, and revs beyond 5000rpm.
The front-wheel drive GLX sells for under the $40K mark, but our fave was the range-topping Limited version, which boasted four-wheel drive, that lovely engine mated to a six-speed manual-style shifting auto, and its resulting on-road driving experience that felt more car than SUV.
Safety was also at the fore, with blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam control, and even tyre pressure monitoring on the top model.
On paper the SkyActiv-D CX-5 looks pretty good, but from the front seat it's a whole lot better - worth a pedal just to see how far technology has come. Mazda's next showpiece will be the new-generation Mazda6, which Driven tested in France earlier this year - with the same SkyActiv trickery that made the CX-5 not only our SUV of the Year, but our Car of the Year.
Click here for more on the Mazda CX-5
Runner up: Land Rover Evoque Coupe

WINNER: Toyota 86

Toyota's joint venture with Subaru was one of the most eagerly-awaited launches of the year, and the resulting GT86 (the mid model in Toyota NZ's line-up) didn't disappoint. A striking look hinting at previous respected Toymotas like the 2000GT and the Supra, and of course the iconic AE86 - the godfather of drifting. It proved to be a superb handler, and while the Subaru two-litre boxer engine mated with Toyota's clever direct injection only puts out 147kW, we loved every minute of its perfect balance and head-turning looks. It's not often we contemplate fleeing town in a test car, but this one came real close - the day weto return it. East Auckland commute to the CBD was amended to go via Kaiaua, a 160km addition. Driving these cars is pure joy, and as there's not 350kW of pure grunt under the bonnet, the chances of giving away your driving privileges are signficiantly reduced. In terms of this award, there were much, much quicker machines we could have chosen - but none that made sportscar motoring as accessible, and usable, as the sweet, sweet little 86.
Read our test of the GT 86 here
Runner up: RenaultSport Megane RS265

- NZ Herald

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