Taking it to the top

by Andy Bryenton

On December 12, AA Motoring and the New Zealand Motoring Writers Guild came together to make a very tough decision indeed. With a menu of wildly different vehicles placed before them as a ‘top ten’, judges had to choose just one to become 2017’s Car of the Year.

It’s fair to say that this process is never easy, but this year the scope of vehicles in the top tier was wider than ever. From Hyundai’s electrically powered Ioniq through to Suzuki’s tiny, retro-futurist Ignis, to the aggressive styling of the new Civic hatch from Honda, it was a field of opposites and extremes.

This just makes victory even sweeter for the overall winner, the cleverly designed Skoda Kodiaq. A large, seven seater offering from the eastern European marque took on the new Land Rover Discovery in the top ten and won, with critics praising its refinement and reasonable price as well as its smooth power and handling. 

The Kodiaq joins other award winning skodas such as the Superb and the Yeti in cementing the place of this brand as a top contender, and doing away with the very outdated view of Skoda as an ‘Eastern Bloc’ car maker. With the cold war a distant memory, Skoda’s clever thinking and reputation for customer satisfaction are helping put the company in the frame with other top Continental manufacturers, and rightly so.

There were no real surprises in the other awards snapped up this year — the Suzuki Swift returned to the throne of ‘people’s champ’, taking home the people’s choice award, and Ford’s Ranger ute continues its reign as boss ute — not only holding onto the crown it’s held since 2011, but also entering a third straight year as the best selling vehicle in New Zealand. The hotly contested small SUV prize went to Toyota’s CH-R, while NZ’s top luxury car is the new BMW 5 Series — the latest of a lineage of champions.