We pick our best cars of 2013
By Denis Droppa, Motoring Editor
Another hectic motoring year comes to a close and it’s time again to hand out our annual best-of-the-best laurels to the cars that really raced our motors.
It’s been a busier year than usual, and apart from the dozens of new-model introductions our team of motoring journalists attended on local soil we’ve also travelled all over the globe to drive the automotive world’s latest and greatest machines, and penned our impressions in these pages.
From the long list of vehicles launched in 2013, our team (from Independent Newspapers’ print and online motoring publications) whittled them down and voted for our overall and category winners.
AND THE OVERALL WINNER IS...
Without further ado, our award for Independent’s overall 2013 Car of the Year goes to the Volkswagen Golf. Against some very stiff competition VW’s iconic hatchback, now in its seventh generation, stood out from the herd for being the benchmark of not only its specific segment, but for feeling like a more expensive car in a higher category.
It’s a mass-market car that displays true engineering excellence in its refinement, ride quality, roadholding and sophistication. Attention to detail is a class above and a range of first-rate engines paired with one of the best auto ‘boxes in the business make the entire Golf lineup worthy of our award.
The flagship GTi throws some adrenalin into the bargain with its 162kW 2-litre turbo engine, which gives it a 246km/h top speed and the ability to sprint from 0-100km/h in a racy 6.5 seconds. Handling-wise the Golf delivers a taut, quick-turning nature and with its impressive torsional rigidity this hatch displays judder-free finesse in quick direction changes, even on unruly road surfaces.
A little more visual flamboyance would have been welcome, but as a driving machine there’s little to fault the seventh-generation Golf. VW’s had nearly four decades of practice to get this car right, and the latest version takes all that was good about the previous-generation Golf and raised it a notch higher.
(Our publication’s top choices according to size and segment)
BEST SMALL/BUDGET CAR
The new fourth-generation Clio proves that budget doesn’t have to mean boring. With its classy interior the Clio has a grown-up feel and raises the bar in the “affordable” sub-200 grand car league.
But the thing that’s going to entice more people into Renault showrooms is the pricing, as the Clio’s particularly well-specced for the money. Standard across the range, right from the entry-level Clio selling for R152 900, are items including front electric windows, central locking, Bluetooth, ABS brakes, and front and side airbags. So too hill-start assist, cruise control, a key card, and electronic stability control – these features being unique to the Clio at this price level of the B-segment.
The higher models have a cool touchscreen multimedia system with satellite navigation – the only car in this segment that comes with a built-in digital map.
Its new-generation 900cc turbocharged engine offers honest commuting pace, and at high altitude it doesn’t suffer a major performance plummet compared to sea level, like normally-aspirated engines do.
BEST COMPACT/MIDSIZE CAR
(Detailed under ‘overall winner’ above)
Mercedes-Benz calls the CLA the most aerodynamic car on the planet, and backs this claim up with an impressive drag-coefficient value. But the four-door coupé, especially in terms of design, is far more than just very slippery. It creates a new segment for the German carmaker, but at the same time is a bright new design star in Merc’s constellation.
The CLA’s styling is an interplay between concave and convex surfaces, and we can’t help but get excited about the power domes, and the flare-effect LED headlights. Throw in short pillars, a sloping “fastback” roofline, frameless windows, muscular arches, and a seriously flamboyant rear-end (with tail lights in an arrow-style arrangement) and we have a style winner.
BEST PERFORMANCE CAR
Porsche 911 Turbo S
The 911 may not have the glamorous styling of a Ferrari or a Lambo, but when it comes to the business of driving, the rear-engined German has its mojo going and needn’t stand aside for any car. The new-generation Turbo S is faster and fitter than ever, with a 318km/h top speed and a 0-100km/h sprint of just 3.1 seconds.
Good news is that there’s a lusty howl to match the violence of the turbocharged 3.8-litre engine’s thrust, compared to the rather vapid-sounding previous-generation turbos.
Along public roads, the car displays the impressively civilised road manners of 911 renown, with a comfortable everyday-commuting ride quality quite out of sync with the concept of a red-blooded track car. But once on a handling track it doesn’t take more than a few corners to confirm what a supreme driver’s car this all-wheel drive Porsche is, and why the new 911 Turbo S snipped two seconds off its already very agile predecessor’s Nurburgring laptime.
Apart from ceramic brakes and the body-roll-defeating PDCC (Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control), the car introduces two new laptime-enhancing features: a variable front spoiler (which is a world first) and rear-wheel steering.
It all makes for a forgiving sports car that flatters an average driver and still thrills a competent one.
BEST ADVENTURE VEHICLE
Range Rover Sport
Rarely does the world of motoring come across a vehicle as all-encompassing as this. Besides its magnificently imposing style, the new Range Rover Sport is also a technological marvel with a new lightweight aluminium body structure and a sublime drivetrain that can adapt from tarmac-tearer to bundu-basher with one turn of a knob. It’s also supremely comfortable, and the cabin reflects a quality that surpasses anything else in its segment.
With low-profile tyres it’s clearly a road-biased vehicle, and the shedding of almost five passengers worth of weight reflects in the way it bombs around bends like a high-riding grand tourer. But, being a Rangey at heart, it doesn’t disappoint in the bush either and its wheel articulation, wading depth and ride height are all better than in rival luxury SUVs.
Our experiences with the Sport have proven that it’s a go anywhere, do anything machine, and the best part is how configurable it is to personal needs.
Three engines, two drivetrains and three specification levels combine with almost 80 000 colour combinations to make for one of the most personalisable adventure vehicles ever made. - Star Motoring
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