We are yet again at the end of another busy year, and while the automotive industry was battered by strikes, it has remained buoyant as manufacturers continue to weather the storm and carry on with the job at hand, that of selling cars.
A number of new cars were launched this year, the majority of them beacons in their respective segments. However, there were also those that never quite got out of the starting blocks gracefully. Each year serves to prove that manufacturers are pushing boundaries to ensure that every model that makes it onto the market is the best thus far, hence bad cars have become rather few and far between in recent years.
Audi launched a raft of performance models this year including the foam-at-the-mouth RS7 Sportback which just seems to obliterate its rivals in the performance stakes. All this is in a family friendly package that seems at odds with the blistering performance on offer.
BMW’s new X5 seems to have moved the goalposts a bit further with an even larger and more premium package. The marque also launched the performance duo that is the M3 and M4, which are exceptional performers. Kia’s Koup was a bold step forward for the company as it ushered in not only a more modern package but also new technology in the form of a turbocharged engine. This means the model has become a more rounded package than its predecessor and a more convincing product to upset the premium hatch establishment.
As far as fast hatchbacks are concerned, the Volkswagen Golf R is simply peerless, even managing to trounce its Audi S3 cousin in some instances, particularly in the aesthetics department. Still on hatches, the Chevrolet Sonic RS is yet another great package for those looking for decent performance and dynamics and a great value for money package.
Jaguar’s F-Type coupe has managed to not only look the part when compared to its soft-top sibling, but has also added practicality and better dynamics to the package. The V8 R in particular is an unashamedly loud and extroverted performer. It certainly impressed the team.
Hyundai gave us the excellent Grand i10, while Honda’s Mobilio MPV was a case of not judging the book by the cover as it offered a well packaged vehicle for the family as well as excellent value. Mazda is yet another brand that has impressed us, what with its 3 and 6 models proving that a modern sedan can be both practical and fun to drive. Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class is a sterling package for the junior executive looking for a premium sedan. Meanwhile, Porsche launched the Macan which has rewritten the rule books of melding SUV practicality with sportscar dynamics.
Nissan brought us its second generation Qashqai with its modern design and technology, making it an even more impressive package than its forbear. Renault’s updated Megane also managed to up the ante in both the quality and performance stakes, thanks to new turbocharged engines under its GT line variants. Subaru’s WRX has come of age and is now more comfortable yet still engaging to drive although I found that the manual transmission is still the one to go for in the range.
There were a few models that were less impressive. For instance, the latest Honda Accord in 2.0l guise was rather disappointing compared to its predecessor. It seems as though the marque has taken a step back with this particular model, which felt lacklustre in performance and ungainly as a driver’s car. Then there is the Datsun Go, which lacks not only primary safety items but also the structural rigidity to protect its occupants in a crash. Not a good thing to see in 2014 at all.
2015 is expected to usher in new legislation in SA that could see Datsun having to improve the safety equipment, but the body shell issue is likely to remain.