The relentless rise of Sports Utility Vehicles seems to have dominated discussions among motoring writers, drivers and the industry during 2016 but it was a more familiar family-car which impressed just before the dawn of 2017.
Looking back at our testing diary for the year and also the brief opportunities for some first drives in a host of cars, we picked out about 20 which were memorable and four which were forgettable.
Taking in no particular order except the sectors in which they sell, spring and summer was populated with some cultured convertibles.
In the two-seater sports sector the Mazda MX 5 really impressed with its modest ability within a familiar, simple and fun to drive package. If luggage capacity is not important but packing in fun is the rule of the road it is hard to better this legendary little sports car.
Should you need more room and have a bigger budget, the BMW 4 Series Convertible comes highly recommended with its sophisticated systems, luxury interior and instant driving appeal on twisting Welsh mountain roads.
We took to the Black Mountains to evaluate the mighty Audi R8 V10 coupe (below) and as expected we were not disappointed.
I have always been a fan of the spyder and coupe slingshot and to me it is the ultimate everyday supercar, so long as you can travel with just a clean G-string and a credit card in the minimal bootspace. Do you really need anything else if you have an R8 underfoot ?
While parking our thoughts in the VIP area, we could not fail to mention the Maserati Ghibli and Quattroporte models tested as the Italian marque relaunched its Welsh dealership in Cardiff shortly before its involvement with Polo In The Park.
Rarer than Ferraris with which they share much engineering under their bodies, the Maseratis stand out anywhere as larger than life supercars.
For their size, the Maseratis respond with agility and finesse and that is a mark of a true supercar. And you cannot illustrate the noise the exhausts make. Bellissimo.
Staying in the supercar sector I was lucky enough to experience a handful of McLarens this year, both open and closed models, and can say they are so impressive in every way.
Their power keeps flowing from the McLarens’ engine bays and a keen driver has a range of selectable driving modes to extra every bit of it and put it down as desired.
Pity they are only two-wheel-drive though and not possessing the 4WD all-weather capability of the R8.
Before we leave the supercar sector, the arrival of the new Honda NSX in 2017 will certainly transform buying habits, as I discovered on an early UK drive in the autumn. Few cars have ever turned heads in Britain in the way of the NSX, and it even stopped traffic as I waited to rejoin from a rest area.
With its styling, usefulness and rarity it’s going to be future classic and may even make money for the few lucky owners who will be taking delivery in 2017 and onwards.
So let’s return to the start of this reflection and look at the SUVs which arrived in our hands this year.
The benchmark Range Rover Evoque, has been tweaked and remains a target for others to aim at and usually fail to hit, and it is very, very good.
No surprise really that the Jaguar F-Pace should be a hit from the moment it sprang out of the factory and into the showrooms.
All that combined JLR 4WD knowledge and re-interpreted by the Jaguar enthusiasts in engineering and for me it’s now ahead of the Evoque in desirability.
The newer entrants into the SUV sector comprise the Ford Edge and SEAT Ateca tested in 2016 (right and below)
Not direct competitors because they are different sized cars, but the Edge can definitely pinch some sales from longer established rivals if their residuals hold up over the next 12 months.
The Ateca is a very good value and a capable car with a surprising performance even in its least powerful form. For this reason of room and refinement the Ateca really deserves to do very well.
So while you may think less is more, it was the Honda Civic Type R GT which really brought a big smile to my face as we looked forward to Christmas. It’s an enthusiasts’ car (right) and has a fan following, although you can barely see them through the ridiculously obscured rear window, but for sheer driving fun at the price it packs a punch.
It’s also a family car with good room and economy potential so it ticks many boxes while looking unboxy with its sweeping curves and ducts.
There’s no doubt 2016 has been enjoyable for mile after mile, and I am excited that 2017 will possibly be even better.