At this time of the year it’s always nice to sit back and reflect on all the trips I’ve done and all the cars I’ve driven the previous year. So what was the best car of 2014 for me?
My favourite moment of 2014 was fairly easy to choose. I had some amazing adventures and added a few more stamps to my passport, but everything pales in comparison to an event on 10 April. I woke up that morning a man, but went to bed a first time father!
Choosing my favourite car of the year is not as easy. I drove many vehicles and I don’t recall a single dud among them. That says a lot about the quality of cars these days. You have to look long and hard to find a truly terrible vehicle. Some are borderline cases but for the most part, you’ll be acquiring a good car, whatever you buy.
A few great vehicles were introduced in 2014. The new Range Rover Sport is utterly sublime, while the new Jeep Cherokee proved that Jeep has the means to build a premium alternative to its German competitors.
My surprise car of the year is the Foton Tunland. There’s a certain stigma attached to Chinese vehicles, but our long-term Tunland proved that these bakkies can hold their own against their Japanese counterparts. Our long-termer was put through hell these past few months, and apart from a sticky front passenger door, it performed flawlessly.
The medium sized SUV segment got even more interesting with the addition of a revamped Mazda CX-5, while Nissan stole the show by introducing the all-new X-Trail. Nissan’s other lovable SUV, the Qashqai, also arrived in 2014 and while it’s not as ground breaking as its predecessor, it is a very good car – so good, in fact, that it was recently named a finalist in the SA Car of the Year competition.
While I thoroughly enjoyed each of these cars, I wouldn’t go so far as to name one of them my favourite.
At this point I have to confess that I actually have two favourite vehicles for 2014. Both of them are Car of the Year finalists and I’d be ecstatic if either of them won the award.
The first is the Porsche Macan. I know that a few of you will groan about that, but it really is that good. I didn’t want to like it, but it won me over completely after I’d had a day behind the wheel.
The second car is the Renault Duster. I’ve written extensively about it, but let me sum up by saying that it offers space, technology, comfort and frugality, at a very reasonable price. It has real off-road ability, as we’ve shown twice in Leisure Wheels excursions.
So of these two favourites I’ve decided that the Duster is my personal car of the year. The Porsche is stunning, but that’s to be expected of a car that costs more than R800 000. To build a highly impressive car like the Duster and put it on sale for R255 000 is a staggering achievement. It’s no wonder Renault is selling so many of them.
The public has shown a massive interest in compact crossovers and the manufacturers have responded. Over the past year we’ve seen many new concept vehicles and I’m willing to bet that around 90% of them will make it into production. For now, though, the Duster is the best in its admittedly small segment.
After looking back at a busy year, one can’t help but look forward to the interesting new metal heading our way in 2015. The most important new model is undoubtedly the Hilux/Fortuner, which will probably find its way here by the end of 2015. Then we have the go-faster versions of BMW’s X5 and X6. How does 423kW and 750Nm sound? Luckily we only have to wait until April to find out.
The car I’m most excited about is the new Volvo XC90. It looks sensational, and the amount of technology the Swedes have packed into it is astounding. If the press releases are to be believed, this machine is going to set new standards in comfort, performance, frugality, luxury and, naturally, safety. It’s been a long time coming, but it seems that the second generation XC90 is going to be worth the wait.
But first, it’s time for a break. Drive safely wherever you go, and have a fantastic festive season and a very happy New Year.