This has been a great year for car accessories: we’ve seen lots of exciting gadgets, fun gifts and other fantastic kit launched. In the past 12 months, we’ve conducted more than 200 comparative product tests, reviewing everything from tools to technology and tyres to cleaning solutions.
We’ve also featured plenty of books, games, films and apps. So which have stayed in our minds or remained in use after we tested them? Here, we share our top picks of 2013. They’re not all test winners, but they are the memorable products we just can’t live without.
Sometimes, it’s not the most feature-packed device that catches our eye – it’s the best all-rounder. That’s especially true of Garmin’s nüvi 2408LT-D. It’s the cheapest sat-nav with live traffic updates on sale, and should be all most users ever need. It’s often passed around the office when colleagues are driving to remote destinations, and many return full of praise for its simple menus.
Dyson DC44 Animal vacuum
One of the key criteria for picking our top products of the year is whether we’re still using them, and we can’t put down this handheld vacuum. It was too expensive to win our vacuums group test, but it was the top performer, and can tackle anything from a car interior to the workshop floor.
GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition action camera
the team behind the brilliant videos on autoexpress.co.uk loves the GoPro HERO3 Black Edition, as it records great HD footage and decent slow-mo. Last month, GoPro unveiled an improved HERO3+.
This is slimmer and lighter, plus has an Auto Low Light function, which improves contrast on clips filmed in low summer sun. It also works on 200mph supercars, which is a big plus for our road testers – but it’s just as happy recording your driving or a skiing holiday.
Kärcher Window Vac WV60
It’s no surprise to see a Kärcher in our top 10 products, but the Window Vac isn’t here for the reason you’d expect. Yes, it cleans the glass on our cars brilliantly, although we got good results with just a damp cloth rather than the enclosed trigger spray and cleaning pad. But it starred as a sort of powered chamois leather, drying bodywork fast.
Racelogic VBOX Sport data logger
While it’s obviously pricier than a free smartphone app, the Sport is a lot cheaper than other VBOX data-loggers and it’s very user-friendly. Our road testers are big fans of its accuracy and how it works well when connected to an external antenna. Plus, it’s waterproof and shockproof.
Towball-mounted bike carriers are all about convenience, but we were amazed by how many makers seemed to have forgotten that in our group test.
Atera’s Strada DL didn’t let us down, however. It arrives ready to drop on to the tow ball, supports itself while you adjust its position and locks securely in place.
The ratchet straps for the bike and wheel supports are easy to release and tighten, plus they can be adjusted to suit different bicycles and keep them apart. The bike mount also tilts and slides away to access the boot.
Race Glaze Refillable 0ppm Water Filter
Don’t have the time to dry your car after washing? This is the kit for you: it removes the minerals in tap water that dry to leave unsightly water spots. Analysis showed it removed all but one part per million (ppm) from our 220ppm tap water.
It dried on the car, leaving a spotless finish without drying, unlike untreated water, which left spots. Not cheap, but the seven-litre filter should be good for 400-plus litres, depending on your mains water, plus it can be refilled for £39.
London Covers indoor car cover
RRP: £335 (car); £365 (SUV)
Custom-fit car covers are pricey. However, if you have an expensive car in your garage, you don’t want to risk scratching it with a belt buckle every time you walk past. That’s not an issue for us any more, though, as we’ve had a London Covers personalised car cover since March. It looks great in the colours we chose, the fleecy underside doesn’t damage our car’s paintwork and the tailored fit is perfect.
Michelin Stealth wiper blades
RRP: £13.99-£16.99 (each)
We were sceptical about these blades, as they promise the benefits of a flat wiper with none of the drawbacks. But during some of the worst rain storms we can remember, Michelin’s Stealth blades clearly delivered what they promise: the excellent wiping action doesn’t leave any streaks and there’s a noticeable drop in wind noise from the streamlined design.
Real Racing 3 app for iPhone
We’ve racked up over 48 hours playing this – it’s that addictive – and we’re not even a quarter complete. The cars look brilliant and there are lots of realistic tracks. The pick-up-and-play factor is what earns this game a place on our list – you can tailor the driving assists to make it as easy or hard as you want, and the modes keep you interested.