James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Popularity of SUVs shows in top-car contest

2013 Ford Kuga.
2013 Ford Kuga.

Three SUVs, a sports car, a luxury vehicle and a pricey electric car are among the finalists for the New Zealand car of the year title.

Members of the Automobile Association and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild are ranking what they consider New Zealand's top 10 cars on several elements including value, design and quality for the 2013 New Zealand Car of the Year.

Three of the top 10 are SUVs, which AA motoring services general manager Stella Stocks said accounted for about 30 per cent of the local new vehicle market.

Among those are the Ford Kuga, the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Subaru Forester. Ms Stocks said the fact that SUVs were these days much more flexible and easier to drive than their predecessors was possibly why they are so popular.

"You go back 10 years and SUVs were big, chunky vehicles, whereas now they are a bit like a car on steroids," she said.

"You have that flexibility of space, height and good fuel consumption, so it's a good all-around vehicle."

Also among the finalists is the Holden Volt, which becomes the first electric vehicle to make the top 10 in the competition's history.

But while the cars have great fuel economy, their price is close to $80,000.

"They are still low volume and they are expensive but it's good to see one there," said Ms Stocks.

The Volkswagen Golf, which starts at about $32,000, is on the list, as is the Volvo V40, which comes with a pedestrian airbag.

The other Holden in the top 10 is the large car stalwart Commodore.

The entry-level luxury car the Lexus IS also features.

Rounding out the top 10 is the Mazda 6, a favourite family and fleet car.

Guild president David Linklater said members had a lot to consider as they make their selection.

"Regardless of the outcome, what is good to see is the wide range of choice that Kiwis have this year with value, quality and also safety," he said.

The car of the year will be announced at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland on December 5.

NZ Car of the Year

The top 10 finalists:

* Ford Kuga
* Holden Volt
* Holden Commodore
* Hyundai Santa Fe
* Lexus IS
* Mazda 6
* Subaru BRZ
* Subaru Forester
* Volkswagen Golf
* Volvo V40.

- NZ Herald

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