Alternative Car of the Year Awards 2012
We’ve all read about the great cars that have graced our shores this year. Here’s a very different look at some of the other vehicles that I drove in 2012.
Last year I ran a rather successful piece on the Alternative Cars of the Year. It’s totally tongue-in-cheek and light-hearted. You can check out last year’s feature on CarMag Blog here. This year I got behind the wheel of some cool and interesting cars. These awards are completely fictitious and you’re not supposed to take them seriously. Thanks for a great year and I wish you all a fantastic 2013.
The “Limited Edition of a Limited Edition” award
I don’t need to change this text from last year at all. This title goes to RenaultSport for launching so many Mégane Sport and Clio Sport versions that I’ve lost count. Let’s start with the lovely Mégane Sport. There’s the RS250, RS250 Cup, while its monster brother, the RS265 Trophy arrives in 2012. The smaller Clio Sport range comprises the Clio 200, Clio Cup and Clio Gordini. It was just as complex in the past too, but to be honest, I don’t really care. RenaultSport make some of the finest handling hatchbacks in the world and each one is a character in its own right. (2012 Update: There’s now a 265 Trophy Megane and RedBull editions of both the Clio and Megane.)
The “We’ve just remembered that we’re petrolheads too” award
There’s nothing sadder than a vehicle company that forgets its sporty and racing heritage to focus on, dare I say it, mainstream motoring. Luckily, most manufacturers see the light of day and rectify things. Last year Toyota came back nicely with the monster FJ and the announcement of the 86 sports car. This year, Volvo South Africa embarked on a campaign to promote its Polestar performance range after a lukewarm announcement at the Johannesburg International Motor Show. I drove the C30 Polestar and internationally, the S60 Polestar concept was well received. Well done to the Swedes!
The “Oh goodness I want that car just based on purely looks alone” award
This year there was one car that turned heads like no other. It wasn’t exotic, not produced in small numbers and it doesn’t cost six figures to own. It’s not even a super car, nor is it particularly fast. I waited over a year to drive it and despite its flaws, it’s nothing short of sensational – both inside and out. This year’s beauty winner is the Citroen DS5.
The “It’s odd, it’s strange but it’s selling in surprisingly high numbers”
Volvo launched its all-new V40 and in the first month, sold 70 units – more than any other Volvo in the range. What a great start! It looks like a combination of a hatchback and an estate, yet in typical Volvo fashion is quite interesting. I should be driving one in the new year and will share my thoughts.
The “I don’t care what it is, but it’s rather appealing” award
Most vehicles fall into various classes. You’re either behind the wheel of an SUV, a hatchback, a saloon or a coupé. Things then get complicated when manufacturers try blend functionality and attempt to cover all the bases. It’s coming to South Africa next year and will be very interesting to drive. Be sure to head to your MINI dealership and check out the two-door offroader Paceman when it arrives.
The “Punch above its weight” title
For a vehicle to tick all the boxes and match other vehicles that are more expensive, a car has to be rather talented. Despite its age, the Subaru WRX is still a special car for a number of reasons. It seats five in comfort, has a big boot, doesn’t cost the earth and it nips at the heels of much faster machinery thanks to its 2.0-litre turbo flat four engine and four-wheel drive. It’s also one of the few cars that comes standard with a radio but you land up switching it off in favour of that magnificent engine.
“Teenage boy’s bedroom poster award”
The Schoolboy poster award is a fascinating exercise in visual appeal. For a vehicle to claim this title it has represent the cutting edge in car design, be able to stop traffic and cause onlookers to scramble for their cellphone cameras. Naturally the winner has to offer mind-blowing performance too. This year the Aston Martin Vanquish takes it.
“Makes you feel like a racing driver”
This year I was glad to see a few cars being launched that had the sole purpose of enhancing the experience of driving. Face it, most of us love the thrill of changing gear and going round a corner at speed on a deserted road. The competition was stiff this year thanks to Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ but I didn’t get to sample those (yet) so this year’s winner goes to the Suzuki Swift Sport. It’s a hoot to drive and offers bang-for-buck performance. One of my favourites.
“Improving on perfection”
This is a tough category. For a vehicle to crack the nod here, it needs to have been successful for many years in the eyes of both motoring writers and the buying public. I feel sorry for a manufacturer’s engineers when the accountants come downstairs and announce the next version is to be planned. You can almost hear the collective groan. “The last one was damn good, how are we going to improve it?” Despite this almost insurmountable challenge, the vehicle that comes off the production line is a success. This year’s winner is the BMW F30 3-Series. The best 3-Series of all time and a fresh headache to Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
“The super sleeper award”
Sleepers are the types of car that petrolheads just adore. Take a pretty non-descript, anonymous sedan and shove a powerful engine in there. Drive it normally until you encounter a boy-racer and proceed to whip him senseless in your stealth car. This year’s winner ticked all the above boxes and proved to be the ultimate stealth weapon in dispatching boy racers. To add insult to injury, it’s a hybrid too. Well done the BMW 5-Series ActiveHybrid. If you’re a hot hatch owner and want to try your luck, don’t say you haven’t been warned.