In today’s competitive car market, there are no truly bad cars any more. It is much harder to choose the “best” car, so it becomes necessary to dig harder through the crowd to find the most compelling offerings for your money. Here, we’re only looking at cars that we did full road tests for.
Factors taken into account include price and overall value, ride quality and comfort, build quality and materials, engine characteristics, on-road handling ability, and off-road ability for 4x4s.
Factors not taken into account are future reliability, history of previous models, quality of dealer service, country of origin, and snob value of the brand
These are our top recommendations for new cars over the years:
2017 Mazda CX-9
Mazda’s worst offering has transformed into Mazda’s best offering, with its edgy styling, premium interior, modern engine, class-leading handling and still managing to be competitively priced, even if lacking in outright space.
2016 Mazda 6 2.5
Building on its previous iteration with this facelift, this midsize sedan is now even closer to being faultless in every possible aspect, while still being surprisingly enjoyable to drive for a family commuter car.
Not particularly exciting to drive, but it’s packed with so much space, practicality and features for the price that it is impossible to ignore when all you want is a vehicle that takes your family from point to point.
2015 Ford Mustang GT
It may have lost some of that retro-cool vibe, but what we get instead is an immensely mature product that still has a streak of hooliganism should you wish to go crazy. More expensive than before, but you get more.
2015 Infiniti Q50 S
Nissan’s luxury brand has its own niche following but it never caught on with the general public. However, this is their first new sports sedan in half a decade, and it deserves a look as a legitimate entry in this segment.
2014 Nissan Patrol LE
Designed specifically with the Middle East in mind, this is as good as it gets for a full-size SUV. Be sure to pick the LE model for the better engine, to round out a 4×4 that’s surprisingly satisfying to run.
2014 Dodge Durango R/T
Probably the only sporting three-row crossover you can buy in its segment, with a V8 roar, worthy suspension and a hint of offroad ability, aside from a well-trimmed interior, tons of space and great tech.
2014 Mazda 6 2.5
Aside from above-average road noise, a shallow boot and a smidge less space than its oversized rivals, this midsize sedan is nearly faultless in every other possible aspect, especially driving satisfaction.
2014 Dodge Charger SRT8
Easily the most value-packed big-boy sports sedan we’ve ever driven. Packing 470 horses, adaptive suspension, multimedia gadgetry and premium upholstery, all for the price of a basic Euro-luxury sedan.
2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI
It remains the default choice for an automatic, spacious hot hatch. This new one’s lost a bit of its premium sheen, but it’s gained an upgraded engine and better controls, improving its performance cred.
2013 Ford Focus ST
Quite possibly the best car we’ve driven in years. Turbo engine, trick diff, sharp styling, sporting interior, space for five and a slick manual gearbox. All this for the price of a well-equipped family sedan.
2013 Nissan Sentra 1.8SV
We weren’t expecting to like this car. It’s tall, comes from Thailand, and saddled with a CVT. But it’s surprisingly good once you get past the weird transmission. Spacious, smooth, economical and affordable.
2013 Volkswagen CC V6
One of the best sedans we’ve ever tested. It is deceptively quick, handles like a sports car, looks sleeker than a submarine, and still manages to fit five passengers. Heck, it can even parallel-park itself.
2013 Honda Accord 2.4 EX
A mainstream midsize sedan that’s crept up in price over the years, but at least Honda is making an effort now to offer a car that matches its price-tag. Well-trimmed, nice to drive and fairly economical to own.
2013 Peugeot 208
It’s an affordable European car that costs a little more, but offers a lot more than its rivals. It drives and feels more expensive that it is. If you mostly drive alone and don’t mind the cramped rear, this car is the best.
2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
It looks like a Maserati, sounds like a Porsche, rides like a BMW, and drifts like a Mustang, all for the price of a Toyota 86. If you can get past the wonky auto gearbox, it is among the best sports cars around.
2012 Toyota 86
Not quite the Porsche-killer that the hype made it out to be, but if you’ve never owned a proper rear-driven sports car before, this is the best one to start off with. Go for the manual one and skip the pricier automatic.
2012 Volkswagen Touareg V6
The cheapest way to experience a premium German SUV without actually paying premium prices for a luxury badge. Sharing its platform with Porsche, it is satisfying to drive, with a great interior ambience as well.
2012 Nissan Xterra
Easily among the top offroaders around, and probably the most honest one as well, forgoing funky styling in favour of a straightforward practical body. A dinosaur in a world now dominated by crossovers.
2012 Ford Focus 2.0 Hatchback
An American-badged German-built hatchback that feels every bit as nice as its actual European rivals. It rides, handles and pulls well, so if you don’t mind a tight rear seat, this is the daily-driver for you.
2012 Volkswagen Golf GTI
A great all-rounder that is as practical as it is fun. That turbo engine offers intoxicating acceleration, even though it runs out of steam on the highway. No wonder VW sells more GTIs than regular Golfs here.
2012 Nissan GT-R
When we drove the first-generation GT-R, we actually drove it hard enough to reach its limits. This new one has been improved, and we couldn’t find its limits any more. This is as good as Japanese supercars get.
2012 Renault Duster 4×2
This little crossover is not for everyone. It’s a bit noisy and unrefined. But you still get a lot for what you pay, including a raised ride height, decent space, great fuel economy and cheap driving fun.
2011 Dodge Charger SE V6
A full-sizer with the styling of a muscle-car, the cabin trim of a luxury car and the price of a midsize commuter-car, this American is jaw-droppingly good. Easily the best large sedan in the market at this time.
2011 Ford Mustang GT
Quite literally, the fastest car you can buy for the money. If you can bear the harsh ride, you get a retro-cool bruiser that can outrun pricier sports cars, and hang on the corners as well. Amazing bang per buck.
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland
Currently America’s most desirable 4×4 in our eyes, combining upscale interior appointments with a Hemi V8, and riding on a platform bummed off of Mercedes-Benz, but still retaining its offroad capabilities.
2011 Volvo S60 T6
One of the best cars out of Europe that nobody knows of, it is now a superb premium-sports sedan that also conquers the comfort side of the equation rather well, while being one of the safest cars around.
2011 Chevrolet Captiva LTZ
We generally don’t pay attention to crossovers, but this one was a nice mix of comfort, handling, space, features and power. The third-row seats, one of the few in this class, actually fits adults somewhat.
2010 Cadillac CTS-V
Sharp good looks, a premium badge, a ridiculous amount of power, superb handling and decent luxury. This car matches rivals in most areas, exceeds them in others, and still manages to be much cheaper than them.
2009 Renault Safrane
The first car from this French brand that appeals to the conservative masses, because it’s not French. Built in Korea with Nissan engineering, it’s a solid commuter car with a fair mix of comfort, space and value.
2008 Toyota Land Cruiser VX-R
Looks like a doofus but drives like a king. It has finally overcome its truck-like behaviour to become a rather good all-rounder in terms of comfort, performance and space, but only if you go all-out on expensive options.
2008 Chevrolet CSV CR8
A car this big cannot be any more exciting than this. Packing aggressive looks, a huge V8, rear-wheel-drive handling and a manual gearbox, it offers no excuses for either side of the practicality-sportiness argument.
2007 Honda Civic
Easily the best commuter car of its time. It looked like something that was ten years ahead of its time when it first came out. With decent handling, solid fuel economy and good cabin space, nothing was better.
2007 Ford Explorer V6
An off-roadable comfort-cruiser that’s priced to surprise, it may boast a pathetic engine, a plasticky cabin and an embarrassing taste for petrol, but it defeats its rivals with an overkill of safety features in its class.
2006 Range Rover Supercharged
Stupidly pricey but you get what you pay for. It may not boast a perfect reliability record in recent times, but when you can afford something as special as this, you better not whine about maintenance costs.
2006 BMW 330i
Expensive little runner but nothing can touch it in drive. The 3-Series is the benchmark for sports-sedan handling, without any real penalties in other aspects. Its rivals at the time were still playing catch-up.
2006 Renault Sport Megane
An excellent well-rounded affordable speedster. Among hot hatches, certain generic German brands seem to get all the credit when the French are perfectly capable of bettering them at a lower price.
2006 Nissan Tiida
Spacious well-engineered hatchback that puts Audi to shame. While it may not boast tons of premium cabin materials, the point is it all looks rather upscale for an economy car, with enough space to rival midsizers.
2006 Kia Optima V6
Well-built under-appreciated midsizer that kills the Japanese in value. It burns more petrol than Japanese rivals, but it offers so much more for a price so low that this sedan is still worth it.