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Best cars of 2016: We have a winner!

Special Features

Johannesburg - The Opel Astra has scooped the overall prize in our 2016 Best of the Best awards. Our team of motoring journalists chose the German hatchback from over 60 new cars, bakkies and SUVs launched in South Africa over the past 12 months.

The Astra also won the Best Family Car category (see the other category winners below this).

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Against a highly competitive field of rivals, judges gave the nod to the new-generation Astra for its impressive sophistication, ride quality, and good value for money. At the same time the car’s become a lot smarter, with some driver-assistance technologies that are traditionally the preserve of more expensive luxury cars.

“Opel has upped its game with a car that’s lighter yet roomier, more interesting to look at, classier inside and packed with new-age gadgets,” said the judging panel. “In standing out against a market of over achievers, the new Astra has done it by ditching some mass in its midriff and gaining some in its cranium.”

The 11th generation of Opel’s mid-sized hatch has shed between 120kg and 200kg compared to its predecessor, depending on derivative, which has benefits to handling and fuel economy.

It cruises silently too, and Opel’s engineers have done a great job on refinement. This extends to the car’s very solid feel, which hasn’t been affected by the diet it underwent. In fact torsional rigidity has improved due to the use of low-weight but high-strength steel.

“The new Astra also ticks all the right boxes in terms of safety and refinement, while the lively 1.6T Sport derivative adds real driver appeal to the equation,” concluded the judges.

CATEGORY WINNERS

From the more than 60 new vehicles that were launched in South Africa this year, here are our top choices in various categories:

BEST ADVENTURE VEHICLE

Volkswagen Tiguan

With its sharper design, new platform and advanced gadgetry, Volkswagen’s second-generation Tiguan has every intention of becoming the new segment benchmark.

The predecessor’s rather dumpy design is now crisper and alleviates much of that top-heaviness, giving this longer, wider and lower model more attitude. Owners will revel in the increased torsional rigidity and lower mass, a recipe that translates well when presented with sharp corners.

VW’s junior SUV also gets our vote for its classy, roomy and versatile cabin, smooth ride and punchy engines.

BEST LUXURY CAR

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The tenth generation E-Class has taken classiness and refinement to new levels in the mid-sized executive sedan league.

It’s also one of the smartest cars on sale today with a wealth of technological innovations including some of the most advanced safety, comfort and self-driving features.

As we head ever closer to a future of vehicles that can run purely on autopilot, the clever new E-Class comes close to this science-fiction ideal by being able to keep a safe following distance, read road signs and automatically stick to the speed limit, and steer itself even when there are no clear road markings. It’s the world’s first car to offer an automatic lane-change function; simply activate the indicator and the car moves into the desired lane after checking its blind spot.

But the E-Class isn’t just a car with next-level safety and a high IQ; it’s also still very good at the business of carting executive customers around in genteel luxury.

BEST PERFORMANCE CAR

BMW M2

Successor to the BMW 1 Series M coupé that was introduced back in 2011, the two-door M2 becomes the new flagship of the 2 Series range. With the auto version’s claimed ability to scorch to 100km/* in just 4.3 seconds (4.5 for the manual), along with refettled suspension and brakes to deal with the extra power, the M2 coupé has the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 and Audi RS3 squarely its sights.

The firepower at the other end of those prominent four exhausts is a 3-litre turbocharged six-shooter, borrowed from the BMW 135i but specced-up with some components from the M4 engine to boost its outputs to a healthy 272kW and 500Nm.

The M2 is less powerful and therefore less quick in a straight line than its M4 sibling, but then it’s also smaller and more nimble. It pivots on a tighter axis, it’s more immediate in response to precise steering inputs, and it transmits grip from 19-inch rubber to its driver telepathically. A pointed dagger of a sports coupé.

BEST STYLING: READERS’ CHOICE

Ford Mustang

While the other category winners were chosen by our motoring journalists, the Best Styling was voted on by our readers and it was the Mustang that rocked your collective socks.

After South Africa was long denied America’s iconic pony car because it was built only in left-hand drive, the Mustang has finally reached our shores with the steering on the correct side.

The sixth-generation Mustang adheres to historically accurate design cues with its forward-leaning front grille section, vertical tri-bar tail lights and that customary chrome pony badge. True to the original 1964 car is the long-hood, short-deck styling. When you unlock the doors a Mustang-shaped light is projected onto the floor next to the car – a cool party trick that never fails to amuse onlookers.

BEST FAMILY CAR

Opel Astra

Enough said above, but it's certainly worth another look!

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