2023 has been described as a ‘challenging year’ for the automotive industry here in New Zealand, however, it’s hard to think of a time when things have been easy. Covid is (kind of) in the rear view mirror, but it, global unrest, freight uncertainty, environmental policy seesawing and finances, have certainly made life interesting.
Anyway, regardless of the above, NZ car distributors have kept their heads and brought us an epic amount of vehicles, from all-new nameplates (and brands), and revised &/or modernised favourites, to bold designs and clever, space-age technology. We have managed to get behind the wheel of most, and are proud to announce our 5 category winners and our overall – Tarmac Life Car of the Year 2023.
(Note: All vehicles must have been tested by us this year and of course, must have impressed our panel of esteemed judges).
There are 5 category winners
Small Lifestyle Vehicle
‘Small Lifestyle Vehicle’ – This category covers all manner of small footprint vehicles, from hatches to compact SUVs, and everything in between – regardless of what powers it.
And the winner is: The Opel Astra
This little beauty has been winning awards across the globe for multiple generations and this latest model would have to be the best. We particularly liked the GSe, but it’s a model that’s great about town and confident enough to venture further afield – it’s a looker too.
Medium Lifestyle Vehicle
‘Medium Lifestyle Vehicle’ – This category covers all manner of medium-sized footprint vehicles, from spacious sedans to roomy medium SUVs. Sure it’s about space and practicality for all, but it’s got to turn heads too.
And the winner is: The Nissan X-Trail
With its fresh design, innovative powertrain and advanced AWD system, (in particular the ePower e4ORCE) the incredibly modernised X-Trail impressed all that ventured inside.
Large Lifestyle Vehicle
‘Large Lifestyle Vehicle’ – This category covers all manner of large footprint vehicles, from the big ‘Mericans and MPVs to large SUVs and Utes. If it’s up there in size it’s here in this category.
And the winner is: The Volkswagen Amarok
Volkswagen have managed to take an already popular frame and somehow make it their own. It drives like a VW should, feels like a VW should and comes in a wide range of models that look great whether at work or at play.
Most Sustainable Vehicle
‘Most Sustainable Vehicle’ – For this category, sustainability extends much further than zero tailpipe emissions. We take into account the brand’s green philosophy too!
And the winner is: The Volvo XC40
Not only is the XC40 Recharge a premium, all-electric SUV but it’s also loaded with recycled materials that removes ‘unsightlies’ from the environment, land and sea. On top of that, the brand’s vision of an environmentally-clean circular economy has to be admired.
Most Thrilling Vehicle
‘Most Thrilling Vehicle’ – This is the category where the judges get to really use their imagination. Thrilling can be all manner of things, from expressive design, unmissable technology, off the line speed or stunning performance.
And the winner is: The BMW M2
All we can say is WOW! Bigger in size than the previous generation, but bigger in the way it performs too. Stunning good looks and yet a sense of overall brutality – so in a word ‘Thrilling’.
Tarmac Life – Car of the Year
Drum-roll please – the Tarmac Life – Car of the Year for 2023 is:
The Nissan X-Trail
Surefooted, smart, safe and oh so popular, the Nissan X-Trail feels more premium, has a totally refreshed design, embraces technology and has a EV-style powertrain offering that’s free of any ‘range fears’ – top marks.