In December the Mercedes-Benz E-Class took home the Car of the Year 2016 trophy. It won the luxury category as well, but it was its many high-tech safety features that impressed AA Motoring Services General Manager Stella Stocks.

“While the judges make their selections on a variety of elements, for me, what is under the skin of the E-Class is excellent," Stella says. 

“Mercedes-Benz is a world leader in safety technology and it hasn’t held back from ensuring this car is one of the safest on the market today, packed full of features to both avoid crashes and maximise occupant safety.”

The annual awards are decided collaboratively between the AA and the New Zealand Motoring Writers' Guild, in a process considered by many to be the most independent and objective in New Zealand.

Eligible vehicles need to have been launched within a specific time and to have been test-driven for a minimum of 72 hours by 75% of eligible guild members, who are all professional writers. Finalists and the ultimate winner are selected by vote of that committee.

“It’s a robust judging process,” Stella says. “The top ten are established by a panel made up of Guild members and a judge from the AA. It’s debated and it can involve quite heated discussion. For example, someone might say the Lamborghini is a good car, and it is, but it doesn’t appeal to a lot of people and you have to be able to confidently argue its value for money.

“Yes, there are top-end cars in that top ten list, but many of the winning cars are affordable and appeal to a wide market. We have set it up that way so that there is something for everyone and the everyday motorist can consider buying one of the winning cars. We keep it real.”

The Best in Class winners are also decided by the team, who rates all new cars available for sale at the time of voting, which means that in any category the winning car could be a previous year’s model. 

Each year there is a People’s Choice award that goes to the car from the top ten list that receives the most votes from the general public through an online and social media campaign.

The 2016 campaign attracted more than 30,000 voters.

The Safety award is given to the car with the highest score from ANCAP, coupled with its pedestrian protection score: “We consider the winner of this category to be a car that is safest for vehicle occupants and for other road users,” Stella says.

The Car of the Year awards are very well received. “We know it has an impact on buying decisions, too. We get a lot of calls from people asking for advice on which cars to buy and we have all this detail to share from the awards' judging process. And while it's new cars being judged, new cars become used cars. Cars that won various categories in 2012 would be affordable now – and the safest cars from past years are still good options for buyers now.”

The winners

New Zealand Car of the Year 2016
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
People's Choice
Mazda CX-9
Safest Car
Mercedes-Benz GLC
Best Small Car
Holden Spark
Best Compact Car
Honda Civic
Best Medium/Large Car
ŠKODA Superb
Best Luxury Car
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Best Small SUV
Mazda CX-3
Best Medium SUV
Volkswagen Tiguan
Best Large SUV
Mazda CX-9
Best Luxury SUV
Volvo XC90
Best Sports/Performance
Ford Mustang GT
Best Utility
Ford Ranger

Reported for our AA Directions Winter 2017 issue

More information

aa.co.nz/cars or call 0800 500 333 for car reviews and motoring advice.

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