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Wheels24's Top 10 for 2008

2008-12-17 08:01

The Wheels24 team munched our pencils and scratched our heads to come up with our top 10 cars launched - and driven - in 2008.

Admittedly, no rates of fuel consumption were compared and no boot sizes measured - this is merely a selection of the cars we were most reluctant to return to manufacturers after their test periods had expired.

Audi A4 Avant
Audi has always been good at building estate cars – and do it beautifully. The all-new A4 Avant is again a showcase of this. It is a beautifully crafted estate, which just can’t be matched by BMW or Mercedes.

Furthermore, as an upmarket family runabout, it certainly feels the premium part. There is nothing dull about it either, and it turns heads wherever you drive – in fact, we think it looks better than its sedan sibling. Again one can’t help to be impressed with Audi’s overall build quality too… On the inside it certainly sets the standard for fit and finish in its segment. Attention to detail is excellent!

Then the A4 Avant comes with a range of capable and state-of-the-art engines. Another distinct characteristic is its road manners, and we find it be an engaging car to drive.

Cadillac CTS 
We never thought we would say this, and should the wheels fall off don't quote us, but this has to be the best American sedan in creation. Ever.
Caddy's stated mission ahead of this car's release was that it would be a car to appeal to the world (and not just the world known by Americans). And this is an American car that is good looking and handles, a most unlikely American pairing before now. Cadillac has nailed it so completely that the prospect of encountering the hotter CTS-V seems almost daunting.

Ford Fiesta
When Ford first unveiled its Verve concept car hinting at its new Fiesta, one immediately knew that the production model will turn its segment upside down. Sharing its underpinnings with the already competent Mazda2, the new Fiesta sets the benchmark for small hatchbacks. With exciting looks, great engines and good build quality one can’t help but to be impressed with the Fiesta.

The international automotive media is also raving about it, and we are joining this chorus. And if you get behind the Fiesta’s wheel it feels the premium part too – and on the road is where the Fiesta really scores points. It is light in weight, has a low centre of gravity and is a responsive number. The Fiesta deserves to be a runaway success for Ford.

Honda Accord
When the latest Honda Accord was released, we had great difficulty understanding how it could possibly improve on the previous one that remained an incredible car, even as it was being phased out. Boy were we mistaken!
The new Accord is a total gentleman, carrying on where its predecessor left off in impeccable style. Everything about this car, from its bold and imaginative design, to its ride comfort, makes us want to grow old sooner so that driving the archetypical old man's car can become cool. Honda at its best. 
Honda Jazz
It might look like a minivan, but with its ingeniously practical and spacious interior, it moves nearly as much as a full sized van.

Honda’s redoubtable build quality comes as standard, and thanks to a heritage of unparalleled engine building prowess, the drive is oddly engaging for a B segment hatch. You really don’t need more car than this.

Hyundai i10
South Korea’s real world hero. Its cute exterior proportions hide a practical, and remarkably spacious, interior sporting an odd (for Korean design) assortment of quality materials and design accents.

Sporting a city-car characteristic, low kerb weight means the 1.1l engine hauls it around with requisite alacrity and miserly fuel economy. Refined, cheerful, and aesthetically untarnished by oddball Korean design heritage, i10 is a real world car for under R100 000. If only it had ABS, it would be perfect.

Jaguar XF
Attempting to banish the disappointment that was S-Type, the XF entered the market shrouded in suspicion instead of expectation.

A thoroughly original exterior design, with refreshingly contemporary interior touches, makes it easily the most distinctive executive saloon around.

Blend in original XJ-series ride dynamics and smooth, powerful engines and you’ll quickly take back any mentioned Tata inferences. We salute it.

Subaru Forester
Strange name, superb car. Sporting Subaru’s fabled symmetrical all-wheel drive system, flat-four engines which keep the centre of gravity low, and more contemporary, urbane styling, the latest Forester is an awfully painless SUV ownership experience.

Turbocharged models are indecently fast, whilst the naturally aspirated derivatives feature low-range tractability for slightly more committed off-road work. Build quality is ace and the only let-down is the slightly tacky interior plastics in their bright silver hue.

Suzuki Jimny
Not a new car globally by any means, but the Jimny evokes memories of the Samurai with its arrival late in 2008.

Disarmingly cute styling hides a low-range gearbox, solid axles and off-road ability able to shame most challengers vastly larger.

Fun to drive, with a mercifully more accomplished interior design than its Samurai forebears, Jimny might be small, but it’s every inch a proper 4x4. Makes most SUVs look decidedly silly (and horribly overpriced) when it comes to real lifestyle accessory capability, especially of the mountain climbing variety…

Suzuki Swift
When Suzuki announced that it is to relaunch cars in South Africa, we were immediately excited to experience the renowned Japanese carmaker’s product range. After all, in Europe Suzukis usually receive good reviews and score well in quality surveys. But we couldn’t have anticipated how much we would like its Swift range.

First Suzuki stunned us with very competitive pricing for the Swift, showing that it is committed to give South Africans value for money products. However, the Swift isn’t only about affordability, it is quite a refined car too with solid build quality. And its overall ride impresses too… It is a car that will give you many happy motoring memories.


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