Sunday, 14 August 2022

Sporty MX-5 is our car of the year

GRIPPING the steering wheel of the new Mazda MX-5 for the first time in early autumn, I knew

GRIPPING the steering wheel of the new Mazda MX-5 for the first time in early autumn, I knew this motoring icon had to be a standout car for 2015.

There was a very good reason for this — although it had been around for years the 2015 MX-5 represented a thoughtful and successful new take on the classic.

The new MX-5 went further: its designers showed that any car with excellent provenance could live and thrive in the hugely competitive 21st century global car market.

And for that reason alone, with the usual humble fanfare that accompanies your correspondent’s handing out of this annual gong, I name the new MX-5 the Standard car of the year 2015.

Now I know the MX-5 is not everyone’s cup of tea. But to me the genius in its “remaking” reminds me of a golden age of British sports cars that will always be very dear to me.

The MX-5’s 2016 technological know-how makes this all but forgotten world of the sports car accessible to anyone beginning their driving career in 2016.

Of course, for some in the motor trade, 2015 was an annus horribilis. And no doubt there is a lot more to come in 2016 on the emissions scandal that has embroiled the giant Volkswagen Group.

It was with a heavy heart that many of us learned of the US cheating scam, especially from a carmaker with such a fine reputation for consistent quality.

Far less gloomy for me in 2015 was the continuing upswing in the fortunes of the Jaguar Land Rover group in Solihull.

Now a worldwide force again with its cars, I was impressed by the way the Jaguar XE that I tested showed there is bags of life still in this fabulous marque.

I wrote that the “Jaguar XE SE 2.0 i4 163PS Automatic is probably the greenest Jaguar saloon ever — a veritable lean machine that gobbles up the miles but not the fuel”.

The XE I drove had an official combined fuel rating of nearly 70mpg.

Volvo’s pre-eminence as a carmaker is unrivalled in my book, simply because — as I will tell anyone prepared to listen — when it comes to building cars, its designers consider everyone’s needs: not just the driver but all the passengers too.

The Volvo V60, V40 and spanking new XC90 proved winners for their “lightness of being” — that is to say, Volvos are no longer clunky tanks. Their very real attraction to prospective buyers is that here are cars produced with care and wisdom.

Å koda continued to impress me in 2015 and indeed was named as “the UK’s most dependable brand” in a JD Power study. The new Å koda Fabia and the flagship new Å koda Superb, both of which were estates, scored highly in my rating as excellent value-for-money products.

I have been playing catch-up with Citroën, and the DS4 DSport HDi 160 I tested showed its build quality from the moment I got behind the wheel.

Treat of the year was the remarkable Audi RS 3 Sportback 2.5 TFSI Quattro. I said in my report that “the performance is subtle, sleek and very fast and if you are not careful also a touch scary”.

The new generation Audi RS 3 is the hottest hatch around — the fastest production hatchback on the road in Britain today. Cars are about their drivers. A bad driver will be awful in the smallest hatchback or the biggest SUV (sports utility vehicle). The RS 3 demonstrated everything that can be good about driving as long as the driver has self-discipline to match.

I have been enthusiastic about the Audi Q3 and Q5 and one of my first reports of 2016 will be on the biggest beast — the Q7 — so watch this space.

I am always a sucker for good-looking cars and what a handsome fellow the new Kia Sorento turned out to be. “Its matinée idol good looks are enough to tempt the most discerning of buyers” was my verdict.

Everywhere I went in the Sorento it drew admiring glances. I posed the question: “Is it the Cary Grant of cars, dare I say the George Clooney of crossover SUVs?”

I’m sure this is worth revisiting in 2016, but it wasn’t all about rakish good looks in 2015.

The Peugeot 2008 Crossover is not half bad looking, as it happens, but I found that it was its size and practicality that hooked me after a further drive in 2015.

I wrote: “The 2008 cannot for my money be faulted on size. Peugeot has larger crossover models that are fine but this size suits me for its proper compactness.”

Will the big SUVs thrive in 2016? At one time I thought their future looked bleak, but with plug-in hybrids to the fore I think the largest of 4x4s, which have long been a favourite with many motorists, might surprise us all.

Which seems a good note to end on.

I look forward to many happy and safe motoring hours in 2016 and wish you all the same.

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