Auto Trader’s favourite cars of 2012
Friday 21 December 2012
From superminis to supercars, 2012 has been a bumper year for car launches. We’ve seen the good, the bad and – yes – the ugly, but these are the cars that our team reckon are the very best things they have driven in the last 12 months.
Jon Quirk – McLaren MP4-12C
For those that say the McLaren MP4-12C is full of technological wonderment but less encumbered with emotional residue, I say drive further. I was very fortunate to test the 12C this year, and although it may not possess the same visual smack in the chops you get from a Ferrari 458, I haven’t driven anything so indecently fast that fulfills the brief of everyday supercar quite so well.
This achievement is all the more incredible when you consider that the 12C is only the second road car McLaren has built in its entirety, yet the ergonomics, the fit, the finish are the sort you’d associate with a mass produced car, not the rarefied club of low-volume sports car maker. McLaren Automotive, we salute you.
On reflection, I thought I’d plump for something more ‘real world’ instead, the BMW 330d Touring. As a diesel-powered estate, it ticks that box quite comfortably, but that’s not to say that it’s just a sensible family car: the 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds means it’s faster than the Boxster and as it’s a 3 Series, the ride and handling make it a match for almost anything else on the road. After driving one to and from Paris for the Drive story in the first issue of ignition, where it returned around 50mpg without me even trying, I was doubly impressed.
Santa, I promise I’ve been a good boy this year, so how about whacking one on the back of your sleigh, eh?
Dan Tye - Honda CR-V
CR-Vs have been family favourites for years, but its ugly front end pushed many other buyers towards the likes of RAV4s and Sportages. However, this new version is filling 30- somethings like me with lust: a car which has the potential to take you on big adventures with the boot loaded up with kit, skis strapped to the roof and a huge silver mug full of Hot Lava Java high-caffeine coffee in the three-cup-holder. I can even fit my paragliding kit in the back. Oh, and the kids too. What’s more, the 2.2 litre engine is so quiet I keep thinking it’s not running – well, until I’m sharply reminded as I put my foot down, that is. I now know what the V in the CR-V stands for. It’s V Good.
Andy Pringle – Dacia Sandero Stepway
Ok, I admit that the Sandero Stepway isn’t the most exciting car I have driven this year – that was the revised Audi R8. But, I have no doubt that Dacia is the most significant brand to arrive in the UK this year, and that the SUV-style Stepway is the best car it produces.
When I came to write up our expert review, I expected to have to qualify every point I made with the phrase ‘For the money’, but far from it: this is a very decent car in its own right – good-looking, cheap to run and very practical – and I reckon Dacia could get away with charging a couple of grand more for it.
Sports cars are well and good, but the Stepway will answer the motoring needs of more people in 2013, and that’s why it’s my favourite models of the last 12 months.
May Starey – Mini Coupe
Minis always have a ready-made fan club, but until this model came along, I had only ever been a fan of the ‘original’ MINI. What I like about it car is that, above all, it looks so different to everything else on the road – its innovative styling is a real head-turner. Whilst stuck in traffic, it inspired fellow motorists and passing pedestrians to strike up the most conversations I’ve ever had with strangers! I even got a respectful nod from a Porsche 911 driver and I won’t forget the cute comment from the police about it being a nice car and looking after it, but we won’t go there.
Apart from the lack of boot space and the fake popping on the overrun, the Mini coupe is a fresh-looking, nippy and playful little car, that’s fantastic fun to drive everywhere – around town and across country!
Andy Goodwin – Toyota GT86
Saying the Toyota GT86 is my favourite car probably holds as much surprise as the Queen’s speech. The headline could read: ‘senior road tester in “I like a sports car” shocker’. But, honestly, I’m not always a big fan of rear-wheel drive coupes. All too often they are too poorly resolved and overpriced compared with the best hatchbacks, but the GT86 is neither of those things. There are lots of reasons why it’s special: there’s its price; the fact Toyota has built something more exciting than a fridge freezer; its refreshing approach to shunning big power and rapid lap times; its compact size (which suits British roads perfectly); and, the fact that it gained cult status before it even went on sale. Most of all, though, get behind the wheel and you just don’t want to stop driving it.
James Richardson – Ford Focus ST
Everyone likes a fast Ford; they are genuine, honest and just great fun. The new ST is a genuinely brilliant car, combining practicality and dynamic prowess, as well as power and far better economy and emissions than the old model. The introduction of an estate has also added an extra dimension to this everyman’s performance car, meaning that you could now scare the Labrador rigid down your favourite B-road.
While the ST may have lost some character after dropping the warbling turbocharged five-cylinder engine from the old model, this is more than made up for in the increase in power, torque and handling maturity. More grown-up than its predecessor, more refined and more practical, it makes as much sense as a daily run-about and as a performance car. Surely that’s what a hot hatch should be?