UNIVERSAL FAVOURITE: All our motoring writers were smitten by BMW’s new M car bargain: the M2. A magnificent blend of performance and everyday usability, stunning balance and grip, rear-drive fun and wide
UNIVERSAL FAVOURITE: All our motoring writers were smitten by BMW’s new M car bargain: the M2. A magnificent blend of performance and everyday usability, stunning balance and grip, rear-drive fun and wide "M" body styling. All for just $90,000. Who needs an M4? Mark Bean

Our choice of the best cars of 2016

CHRISTMAS is a time for favourites.  

There are your favourite carols, chocolates, drink of choice and visiting family members, but for we motoring writers, there's also our favourite driving experiences.  

Our three learned car-driving hacks look back on their personal motoring highlights of 2016.  

And it's not just all about supercars, either...

IAIN CURRY

Best car driven this year?  

You're expecting me to be predicable, right? It'll be something fast and expensive? Well, I won't disappoint: it's the Ferrari 488 GTB.  

MEMORABLE: Ferrari 488 GTB
MEMORABLE: Ferrari 488 GTB

On my deathbed the great-grandkids won't want to hear about the Mazda2 Sedan or Ford Fiesta three-cylinder EcoBoost - no matter how good they are - so I'll pick the $600k weapon with 492kW and 760Nm of twin-turbo V8 brilliance, impossible grip levels and total visual drama.  

That was certainly 2016's best drive for me, but in terms of the car that hit the sweet spot in delivering on a promise it was BMW's M2.   

For too long BMW has offered M cars too big, too heavy, too complicated and even a bit too scary. The M2 is the perfect package: compact, pure, bloody quick and with a playful nature I've not enjoyed in an M car since the E30 M3 of the 1980s. And all for $90k? Genuine bargain.  

2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean
2016 BMW M2. Photo: Mark Bean Mark Bean

Honourable mention to the Audi A4 Avant as my new ideal family car, and the Ford Mustang V8 for holding two fingers up to practically everything (fuel economy, nannying traction control tolerances, costly driver assistance systems... and Holden).

2016 Ford Mustang GT.Photo: Iain Curry
2016 Ford Mustang GT.Photo: Iain Curry

Biggest surprise of the year?

The Holden Spark. It's a tiny city car but hugely talented and fun. I was able to fling it around Holden's proving ground - wet bitumen and a sandy gravel course - and its balance and handling gave me so much confidence.

Ideal first car I'd say, decent enough spec and you can get in one for around $15k drive away.   

2016 Holden Spark. Photo: Contributed
2016 Holden Spark. Photo: Contributed

Also surprising me was how much I desired a Citroen Grand C4 Picasso after living with one for a few weeks. An intelligent and luxurious people-mover that shows SUVs what practicality really is all about.   

Then there's the beautiful and huge step up in cabin style and finish in Toyota's incoming C-HR small SUV... gives me great hope for our top-selling brand's future interiors.  

2017 Toyota C-HR cabin from a pre-production Australian model.
2017 Toyota C-HR cabin from a pre-production Australian model.

The price of the new Honda NSX - $420,000 - was a real surprise no matter how brilliant it is (I'll take a Porsche Cayman GT4 and Audi RSQ7 with the $70k change instead, thanks), but back in the real world, Honda's all-new Civic was a superb thing to drive - a mighty improvement over old - even if its styling is a bit over the top.  

2017 Honda NSX hybrid supercar. Photo: Contributed
2017 Honda NSX hybrid supercar. Photo: Contributed

Final (kind of) surprise was the continued growth of SUVs and utes being bought as family cars.

Please people, test drive something like the brilliant Skoda Superb Wagon (you can buy a 4x4 variant with a Golf R engine for just over $50k) before committing to a high-riding SUV.

And dual cab utes costing $40-50,000? Make sure you'll be using it on the work site or off-road regularly to justify it... they're not as easy to live with or as "car-like" as the advertisers want you to believe.   

2016 Skoda Superb 162TSI Wagon. Photo: Contributed
2016 Skoda Superb 162TSI Wagon. Photo: Contributed

Which car do you think has been the market's most significant in 2016?

In a roundabout way, the new Mercedes E-Class. Not significant in the numbers it will sell, but for me, it's the first car I've used where its autonomous driver assistance systems comprehensively showed me our driving future. I very quickly trusted it to drive itself, even at speed on the highway.  

Yes, I'm scared we may have our rights to drive eventually taken from us by a nanny state (Granddad, tell us again about the time when you could drive cars on the road all by yourself), but the idea of being able to work or just relax instead of sitting on a monotonous highway or in city traffic while your private car drives itself has huge appeal.

2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Photo: Mark Bramley
2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Photo: Mark Bramley Mark Bramley

Favourite stretch of road you've driven this year?  

A route between Albury (NSW) and Lakes Entrance (Victoria) across the Central Highlands and Alpine regions.

The car? A Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo with manual gearbox and costing less than $30k - and it was brilliant. Okay, and Phillip Island in an Audi RS 6 Avant. Was quite good. Obviously.  

2016 Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo.Photo: Mark Bramley.
2016 Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo.Photo: Mark Bramley. Mark Bramley

Anything else on your mind?

The road toll. Last year it went up 5%, and up to December this year it's increased a further 7% over 2015.   

Driving new cars every week, this horrifies me. Modern cars are loaded with increasingly intelligent safety systems to prevent you crashing, and should you crash there are crumple zones, safety cells and airbags to reduce the likelihood of fatalities.  

There are also more speed cameras than ever before. If their primary function is to lower the road toll then they are simply not fit for purpose.  

Drivers need better education, and we, as a nation, need to produce better drivers.   

Improve the driving test, sternly punish drink, drug and mobile phone using drivers and let's make re-testing older drivers mandatory at 70 years old.  

GRANT EDWARDS

Best car driven this year?  

Tough call, but there have been a few standouts.   

Sitting atop of the dais is the BMW M2. Hands down, the best thing I sampled in terms of power, driveability and luxury. For $90,000 it's the best things BMW has delivered in recent memory.  

ANOTHER FAN: BMW M2 again proved a winner
ANOTHER FAN: BMW M2 again proved a winner Mark Bean

Coming a close second was the Volkswagen Golf GTI 40 Years in what has to be one of the greatest all-rounders you can buy. We sampled it on the road and at Lakeside raceway, and the little hatch just kept delivering.   

And then there was the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe. I'd take it in any guise… although the V8 C63 derivative would be the preference.  

Volkswagen has launched the 2016 Golf GTI 40 Years model Down Under.
Volkswagen has launched the 2016 Golf GTI 40 Years model Down Under.

Biggest surprise of the year?

Probably the greatest value offering came from Hyundai with the Elantra SR. Before the purists scoff, I challenge thee to test drive.  

With 150kW and a brilliant six-speed manual, for sub-30 grand you get a spacious sedan with leather trim, dual zone air-con, keyless entry and 17-inch alloys.  

2016 Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo.Photo: Mark Bramley.
2016 Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo.Photo: Mark Bramley. Mark Bramley

Which car do you think has been the market's most significant in 2016?

It's hard to go past the Mustang from Ford. The marque has made some strong progress off the back of their Pony, but the question remains as to whether Ford can maintain the sales success now that the gloss begins to fade. 

2016 Ford Mustang GT.Photo: Iain Curry
2016 Ford Mustang GT.Photo: Iain Curry

Favourite stretch of road you've driven this year?

The Snowy Mountains proved a favourite in Audi's halo R8 sports car, and then again in Hyundai's 30 year anniversary editions of the Tucson and Santa Fe.  

Yet the most memorable was driving all four generations of the MX-5 on a closed road circuit. A rare opportunity to drive all four generations of what has become an iconic sports car.  

The first Mazda MX-5, generation NA.
The first Mazda MX-5, generation NA. Mark Bean

Anything else on your mind?  

Get set for Kia to launch a renewed onslaught. Off the back of a stellar year where the marque has led the way in terms of mainstream sales growth, watch for the South Korean brand to step up a notch.  

While there has been no official confirmation, watch for Kia to reveal full details of a rear-wheel drive muscle car early in the new year. To be called the "Stinger", it's predicted the large sedan will be powered by a bi-turbo 3.3-litre V6.  

All as the Australian-built Commodore and Falcon are about to exit stage left.    

COMING IN 2017: New Picanto one of Kia's new arrivals in what should be a busy 2017 for the Korean brand.
COMING IN 2017: New Picanto one of Kia's new arrivals in what should be a busy 2017 for the Korean brand.

VANI NAIDOO

Best car driven this year?

This year there have been a number of spectacular offerings, each with its own wow factor but I think the one that perhaps most impressed me was the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the E220d in particular.

This is a car with its eye firmly fixed on the future, an amazing technological showcase of what autonomous driving will look like.    

2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Photo: Mark Bramley
2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Photo: Mark Bramley Mark Bramley

Biggest surprise of the year?

That the waiting list on the BMW M2 isn't longer! It's an M car in the real tradition of what that means to the brand rather than a few of the interlopers we have seen in recent years. It sounds beautiful, has a silky smooth six-speed manual gearbox and offers a thrillingly engaging drive. And you get all that for less than $90,000. Loved it.  

YOU AGAIN? BMW M2 was a hero car for 2016 to practically every motoring writer. It's that good.
YOU AGAIN? BMW M2 was a hero car for 2016 to practically every motoring writer. It's that good. Mark Bean

Which car do you think has been the market's most significant in 2016?  

The Volkswagen Tiguan. It's funny the difference a few months can make. Last Christmas VW's emissions scandal was just hitting its stride, yet this year VW Australia is celebrating the success of the second-gen Tiguan and preparing for the arrival of a number of other new models too.   

The Tiguan is not only bigger than before but also better equipped and gorgeous, reminding how good VW's cars can be despite the on-going fallout of the dieselgate scandal.  

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan Comfortline. Photo: Chris Benny
2016 Volkswagen Tiguan Comfortline. Photo: Chris Benny

Favourite stretch of road you've driven this year?

The biggest thrill was probably an old favourite, Macquarie Pass in New South Wales. Its narrow roads, steep drop-offs and no centre line is often heart-in-the-mouth stuff. In a good way.    

Anything else on your mind?  

In 2017 there is little doubt that Australian car buyers will have more choice than ever before with SUVs, especially the 2WD city varieties.   

Toyota's new 2WD baby SUV C-HR should be a big hit in 2017.
Toyota's new 2WD baby SUV C-HR should be a big hit in 2017.

We'll also see more hybrids and progress in more efficient batteries and storage.  

It also follows that we will be privy to more of the accomplishments manufacturers have been making in autonomous technology.  

Autonomous driving is part of our near future, but the challenge now is infrastructure and the law to catch up.  

Autonomous cars will be getting more and more popular...but are we ready for them yet?
Autonomous cars will be getting more and more popular...but are we ready for them yet?

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