Roadtest yearbook: the best cars we drove in 2015
Here's our look back at the best cars we've driven over the past 12 months
The year 2015 was an excellent year for new cars. Everything from small hatchbacks to countless SUVs to hypercars - but which cars did we enjoy reviewing the most in 2015? You'll find all the details on our top 12 drives and roadtests of the year below...
February had barely begun, but that didn’t stop us trying out one of the most eagerly anticipated cars of the year – the all-new Mazda MX-5.
It bucks the trend of cars growing larger as they age by being smaller than its predecessor – 10mm lower, with 15mm trimmed off the wheelbase and 45mm from the overhangs. It’s bigger inside than the slightly cramped previous model, although it’s a stretch to say it’s roomy.
We were most impressed by how the MX-5 drives. Mazda resisted the temptation to fit rock-hard suspension and wide tyres, so the result is fun at accessible speeds rather than a focus on all-out pace. The engines buck convention as well – both the 1.5 and 2.0-litre models are naturally aspirated, so there’s no turbo lag. But the best part is the sharp and direct handling.
The updated interior impresses, too, with elements from the rest of the Mazda range. We came to the conclusion that if boot space isn’t a priority, you could live with it every day.
The launch of the Mercedes-AMG GT signalled a different approach to the sports car’s muscular SLS predecessor.
Rather than a direct replacement, the GT is a cheaper and less powerful model, but the lighter, more efficient construction means there’s no penalty in terms of speed and acceleration. It’s a truly stunning car, and we awarded it the full five stars on our first drive.
The hype surrounding the XE turned out to be well earned when we drove a production version in May.
Jaguar hasn’t competed in the compact executive market since the X-Type, which was a pretty divisive car, had been discontinued in 2009. So the XE had a lot to prove.
It’s all-new from the ground up, with an aluminium architecture and a range of modern engines, some of which are built in a new factory near Wolverhampton, thanks to £2billion of investment.
The pre-production model we tried in January was a distant memory compared to the car we drove, which had a smooth and cultured 178bhp Ingenium diesel engine.
But the XE’s highlight is the ride and handling, which strikes a perfect balance between comfort and precision. The interior also delivers, with a more pleasing look than the BMW 3 Series or a Mercedes C-Class, despite having less space.
New Vauxhall Astra Prototype
We were hugely impressed with the smooth and punchy engine line-up, quality interior, clever tech and agile handling thanks to a substantial weight loss programme.
We've long been fans of the Ford S-MAX, so you can imagine how keen we were to drive the new version.
And the verdict? We found the latest seven-seater followed in the old car’s footsteps, by combining practicality with superb ability on the road.
Ford’s Aston-style grille makes the car look smart, and it’s cheap to run too, as we managed 56.5mpg in the diesel.
Honda Civic Type R
We finally got to drive Honda’s bonkers new Civic Type R in June. It was worth the wait, as the 306bhp hatch proved that despite its boy racer styling, it needed to be taken seriously.
Purists are disappointed that the high-revving naturally aspirated engine from previous models has been replaced by a 2.0-litre turbo, but it’s a muscular engine that revs sweetly to its 7,000rpm red line.
The 0-62mph sprint takes just 5.7 seconds, but what impressed most during our extensive first drive was the mid-range punch. Top speed is an incredible 168mph, which would see off a Porsche Boxster.
The car is brimming with aerodynamic extras, yet Honda is adamant every single one serves a practical purpose. Even more practical, though, is the boot, which works with the versatile Magic Seats to provide a massive 498-litre load area.
We finally got our hands on the eagerly anticipated Jaguar XF saloon in August. And we tried a number of engines – from the 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel, through to the range-topping 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel and supercharged petrol.
Regardless of engine, we came to the conclusion the XF delivers great performance, good refinement and fun driving characteristics. Throw in lovely looks and a quality cabin, and it was clear that the new XF is a force to be reckoned with.
Citroen Aircross Concept
We drove Citroen’s Aircross concept this summer – a rare occasion when a show car feels like a finished product.
The hybrid powertrain impressed us, and we liked the clever design touches carried over from the C4 Cactus. The Aircross will become a reality at some point in 2017, although it will be toned down for production. It also hints at a future range of Cactus models.
Aston Martin DB10
We got a chance to drive James Bond’s very own Aston Martin in October. The stunning DB10 was created especially for the latest Bond film, Spectre, but sadly won’t make production.
It’s based on the ageing Aston V8 Vantage, and uses the same 430bhp 4.7-litre engine. Only 10 were made, and just one will be for public sale – no doubt for a huge sum of money.
The original Honda NSX rewrote the rulebook for everyday drivability, so the new supercar has a lot to live up to.
We hit the road in October to reveal it’s been worth the wait. The 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 and three electric motors take it from 0-62mph in around three seconds and on to 191mph, while an electric mode gives emission-free town driving. We can’t wait to try it in the UK.
As well as the DB10 and NSX, we got to drive the new 570S. McLaren’s baby competes with the Porsche 911 Turbo, packing a 3.8-litre V8 that’ll propel the car from 0-62mph in only 3.1 seconds.
We awarded it the full five stars in our test – declaring it the most fun-to-drive car in the company’s range. And it’s expected to spawn a drop-top Spider in the not-too-distant future.
We were out in force in Japan this year, with our team of reporters bringing you all the news from the Tokyo Motor Show. The show also gave us a chance to try the new Toyota Prius, which goes on sale next year in the UK.
The styling might not be to everyone’s taste, but underneath, the new TNGA modular platform ensures there’s more space for passengers.
But it’s efficiency that’s most crucial for the Prius. Its 134bhp 1.8-litre petrol-electric combo claims 94mpg and CO2 emissions of 70g/km – enough to beat the daily London Congestion Charge.
What was your favourite car of 2015? Leave us a comment below!
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