Another year over, a new one has just begun. So, these are the awards you had been waiting for.
I wish I could say the best car I drove this year was some kind of Bugatti, Ferrari or a Motorsport-engineered Porsche GT. But spectacular as those cars are, they are not, let’s face it, that relevant in the whole scheme of things.
As the industry faces its biggest challenges yet, mobility is going to be something completely different in a decade. Come 2029, I am pretty sure the automotive landscape will be totally different from what it is today – and I hope fuel cell cars can prove their merit against plug-in electric vehicles, which I still believe are a stepping stone and not an end in themselves.
I have not yet driven an electric car I can rate above the best internal combustion engine machines, so in these 7th Annual Resident Motoring Awards, I will name those cars I think are the ones you should buy, taking into account the time and place we live in right now.
Let’s do this in the typical gold, silver, bronze medals fashion, because otherwise I start including too many cars and I don’t feel the need to award prizes for every category this year. Drums rolling please … and let’s begin.
The bronze medal goes to: it’s a tie, I am afraid, between two completely different cars, from different segments, built for different purposes and, very likely, different clients. The Mazda 3 and the Suzuki Jimny are our first winners of 2019 and I shall now explain why.
The Mazda because it is really, and I mean really, beautiful for such a simple car – easily the best-looking hatchback on the market. Remember, this is a Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus rival, but every time I see one, I can’t stop staring at it, in the same way I do when a Ferrari goes by. Every car has something that can be bettered design-wise, but I cannot fault the 3 in any way. Clearly, I am not the only one, since the Mazda has picked up so many design awards it puts its competitors to shame.
However, the Mazda 3 would not be here if it was ‘just’ beautiful. The drive is very satisfying as well. In fact, the only problem is the capability of the chassis versus the power of the engines available. I am absolutely sure the chassis could take a lot more and the car would be even more involving as a result. Is the new Golf a better all-rounder? Having not driven it, I am pretty sure it is. The Focus is also slightly better to drive. And I just could not care less about all of that. I look at the Mazda and my choice is made. It would be a better life with something so beautiful in the driveway.
On the same step of the podium we find the Suzuki Jimny. The cheapest car ever to feature on the Resident Awards. And the slowest, with the poorest build quality. And yet I absolutely love it. It’s a toy for grown-ups, for people who don’t take themselves too seriously and think we should have at least a little bit of fun every day.
The Jimny is truly a tremendous off-roader that can keep up with cars that cost five or six times more, while looking better than all of them. It’s so cute I want to bathe it, comb it and feed it bone-shaped cookies.
It’s pretty useless on the motorway and fuel economy is not great for such a small engine; comfort is but an idea and rear seat space an even more distant one. And still Suzuki cannot make enough Jimnys to satisfy a worldwide demand they could not have predicted. You drive it, you love it, especially because to drive it, you have to look at it and think about it. I guarantee the Jimny will win you over at first sight.
Let’s talk Silver. The Ford Fiesta ST. A car for petrolheads in the same mould as a Porsche GT3 or a Ferrari F8. I mean it. This is so good, so much fun to drive, it can occupy garage space with any supercar and hold its head up high. Everything it does, it does brilliantly and the more you drive it the more you love it.
I spent two days with one and I was so sad to see it go, I went home and started exercising my math skills to see if buying one was possible. But being a 500 Abarth owner makes me unsuitable to buy an ST, simply because they are too much alike to own both. And selling the Abarth, I don’t have it in me.
Still, ask me which one you should buy today, and I will tell you to go for the Fiesta without blinking. It’s a riot to drive. It’s practical. It’s even comfortable around town, something its predecessor was definitely not. And that exhaust note will make you an ST addict, believe me. For under €30,000, it is not possible to have a better driver’s car than this.
And so on to the best car I drove this year. And I apologise in advance for this being a diesel wagon, with a traditional estate body and as traditional as a car could have been in 2019. But when I drove the saloon, I wrote in these pages it was peak automobile; that the car, as a vehicle, a technology we have known for a hundred years, could not get any better than that.
To build a better car than the current BMW 320d, you have to change things in a radical way. Small improvements just won’t cut it anymore. So add to that the practicality of the Touring version, et voilá … you have a winner.
Now I may be a bit partial here, because I own a previous-generation BMW 3 Series Touring and I love it to pieces, it has never let me down and I still look at it after parking it, 100% content with my choice.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be writing for any newspaper if all I could write were my personal, subjective choices. I have to think about who is reading this. And I do, trust me, I really do. That is why I chose such a traditional car: because it is miles better than any electric thing you can buy, any coupé, any sports car. This is it, the pinnacle of what a car is in terms of taking you from A to B in comfort, safety and providing such a depth of engineering you can even enjoy yourself when the time comes to engage Sport Mode and forget fuel efficiency for five minutes.
The current model is definitely not the best looking 3 Series ever to have graced our roads. The Touring, however, looks better than the saloon and if you are careful with the spec, you can end up with a decent-looking machine. The BMW design department has seen better days and seems a bit lost and without guidance at the time, but the engineering is world class and the way this car drives is so much better than the Mercedes C-Class or the Audi A4 that if you care in any way about driving, you will not think twice. As for all the practical elements you need from a family car, they are all covered as well.
As modern as a 3 Series Touring is, there is already a sense this is an old-fashioned type of car, a fact shared with all the other vehicles I wrote about this week. Mark my words: we will miss them when they are gone.
By Guilherme Marques