The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

How time does fly, with the signature final post to sign off the year now into its fifth year. As before, the 2016 Top Five list continues on that seen in the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions, with the writers each picking five cars that impressed them the most out of that sampled in a calendar year.

We’re assuming that readers already know how it all goes, but a recap in case it’s the first time you’re coming into this one. The five selection cap, which was set when we first ran with the idea, is not because we have anything against the usual 10 as found on most lists – my original intent of going with half of that number was to encourage the writers with a more challenging selection process and to put more thought into the decision.

The brief back when the ball was first rolled was to see which five cars driven in that particular year had the most impact on each of us, with no consideration of pricing, reliability, resale value and all the things that drive say, a vehicle purchase. As seen in previous editions, the selections have ably highlighted the individuality that resides in our collective, and this year’s outing continues that.

Some changes in authors, as well as additional Top Five lists. In 2016, we sadly bid farewell to two writers, Christopher Aaron and Graham Chin, but Mick Chan joined us, and his selection kicks off this year’s list. Our bike man, Mohan K. Ramanujam, had plenty of machines to occupy his time this year, and you can read his 2016 Top Five motorcycle picks here. Likewise, you’ll find Top Five lists from the Chinese and Bahasa teams for the very first time.

Here then are the individual picks from the team, what each thought were the cars that got them going in 2016. As always, we hope you enjoy reading the musings as much as we did penning them down. Have a very Happy New Year, folks, and we’ll see you in 2017!


2016 has been eventful to say the least, and for the Klang Valley road user, just about every commute will have been fraught with congestion, and to a lesser extent, diversions and road works. As such, the automobile has its task of cocooning its occupants from the big, bad outside world cut out for it; four out of this Top 5 stand out for their ability to ensconce their occupants.

5. Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv-D 2.2L

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

In its class, the CX-5 isn’t the most spacious, nor is it the most plush in terms of suspension, however for the keen one behind the wheel it is arguably the most well-rounded. Of particular note is the recently introduced 2.2 litre Skyactiv-D diesel engine, which is about as refined as four-cylinder diesels come.

Flexible and capable it is, too, when you really open the taps. Accessible, abundant torque is a given; what’s pleasantly surprising is the diesel’s appetite for its (admittedly still modest) redline. Pair that with a willing gearbox and a sufficiently nimble chassis, and you have a crossover which doesn’t immediately make you wish you were driving something else once the commute turns a bit more recreational.

All these traits can be attributed to a decent sedan or hatchback, but the CX-5 carries all that with a taller vantage point, which is among the key selling points which make SUVs so popular.

4. Toyota Alphard

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

This was my surprise entrant this year. I’ve to admit, my time with this model was the first Alphard I had spent any considerable amount of time in, and like the W213 Mercedes-Benz E-Class that takes the next slot in this list, it is the interior that makes the vehicle.

Inside, the Alphard is spacious, plush, well appointed and easy to see out of all at once; for relaxing one’s passengers, it’s probably among the best. Now with first-hand experience, I can see how the likes of the Alphard could supplant the venerable, three-box luxury sedan as The Bosses’ Car.

3. W213 Mercedes-Benz E 200

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

I’ll echo Jonathan Lee here – the W213’s cabin is a sublime place in which to spend time, especially in Klang Valley traffic. It almost doesn’t matter than it’s a more languid machine compared to the outgoing BMW 5 Series, in fact the three-pointed star car’s relaxed demeanour is exactly what works for it.

The generously-sized dual LCD displays ahead of the driver are wonderfully sharp, while the ambient lighting and the current Mercedes-Benz interior design language pair beautifully for a cabin that is possibly beyond reproach. If there was one car this year which, upon parking, stalled my egress out of sheer comfort, the W213 E-Class was it.

2. Nissan Serena

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

How does a more mainstream people mover score higher than the Alphard? With cabin flexibility. It’s a stretch to call it an eight-seater (seven is the practical limit), but the Serena’s seats can be configured to accommodate almost any combination or proportion of passengers and cargo.

Weekly family groceries plus five? Bicycles and picnic gear for three? Furniture plus two? The Serena can answer those questions with an emphatic ‘yes’.

In any other car, a tall body steered by light, slow helm might turn out to be a bad concoction, but it seems to work for the Serena, again, in a calm, unhurried manner. Its powertrain isn’t anything more than adequate, but the MPV’s ease of manoeuvrability makes up for it, and visibility all around is splendid. If driver appeal, God forbid, has been booted off your list of prerequisites, then the Serena might just be the one family car to haul them all…

1. Isuzu MU-X

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

…so long as absolutely no rough-roading comes into play. My time with the Isuzu MU-X actually predates my tenure here at, but it makes the list by virtue of its schedule boxes being on the 2016 calendar. Like the Serena, the MU-X can seat seven, albeit with slightly more difficult access to the third row of seats; the trade-off is that you get a vehicle that is properly capable off-road, with switchable 4WD and low-range.

It’s a rudimentary, workhorse device, certainly when compared to any Mercedes-Benz or Jaguar Land Rover product. However, the MU-X’s relative simplicity is perhaps where it holds a great deal of its charm.

Chunky controls and hard plastics complement rather than detract from the Isuzu’s character, and it imparts a sense of reliability, load lugging ability and crawl-over-most-things prowess which makes it all the more desirable, for that theoretical scenario where civilisation turns to rubble.


Yes, it’s that time again where we list some of the cars that have left a major impression on us during our time behind the wheel. Unlike last year, 2016 was full of new experiences for me, which were made even more memorable thanks to the machinery that accompanied me on each occasion.

Therefore, this list represents a tribute to the cars that have managed to not just be a hoot to drive, but also became a partner on those adventures. The list covers a pretty wide spectrum, from the affordable to the utilitarian, and even to what some would call “downright pricey.” Keep in mind that this list is in no particular order, as they each stand out in their own way. Ready? Onwards then

5. Honda Civic FC

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

The drive up to Mount Kinabalu Park in Sabah was enough to make me heavily consider the new Honda Civic as an upgrade should I decide to move up a segment in the future, and here’s why.

For starters, the 1.5 litre VTEC Turbo engine is certainly one of its high points, with plenty of grunt to leave its rivals behind on a hill climb, despite a CVT that requires some restraint in throttle input. It isn’t just the power either, as it is also matched by impressive levels of agility and a ride that makes long journeys comfortable.

With Honda’s packaging prowess complimenting those qualities, the Civic is the perfect all-rounder that can deliver on many fronts. While the styling can be a little polarising among the crowd, I personally enjoyed every second spent photographing the Civic from a variety of angles (for my favourite, refer above).

4. BMW 120i M Sport

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

Hold up a second, wasn’t the BMW 120i M Sport launched last year? Well, your memory isn’t failing you but it was only in 2016 that I managed to get behind the wheel of one during this year’s BMW Driver Training programme at Sepang.

Most would say that an M model (M2, M3, M4, M5 or M6, take your pick) is faster on a track and I’ll agree. However, the small Beemer is perfect for someone who’s learning to walk before they run (i.e. me), and it shined with every lesson during the programme, being a useful instrument while learning the dark myths of understeer, oversteer, late braking, etc.

It gets even better on track, as the 120i won’t intimidate you with a colossal power output. The direct-injected 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbo engine with 177 hp and 250 Nm of torque is more than sufficient to make things exciting, while the predictable handling encourages one to try and push a little harder with each subsequent lap, running the car to its limits.

3. Mitsubishi Triton VGT MIVEC

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

The only pick-up truck in the list and for one good reason – the Borneo Safari. If you ever wanted to test just how tough a truck can be, this is the event to do so. And so Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia did, fielding four modestly-modified Tritons in one of the world’s toughest 4×4 expeditions.

Among the Tritons, two were the new MIVEC-powered ones, while the other two were non-MIVEC models. Regardless, all four managed to survive the orde-journey with only a few bruises, and even won the affection of the drivers behind them. This included Leona Chin, someone who is more familiar with driving on a racetrack than on muddy trails.

We winched them, slept in them, bathed them and relied on them throughout the expedition, and on every occasion, the Triton never let us down. The experience was a real eye-opener, finally allowing me to understand why some people love pick-up trucks so much.

2. Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 facelift

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

Once again, one of the “entry-level” AMG models have managed to snuck its way into my list, and this time, it is latest iteration of the CLA 45. With even more aggressive styling cues like the new A-wing, front splitter inserts, bootlid lip spoiler, front canards and that designo Polar Silver Magno exterior paint finish, remaining inconspicuous has now become virtually impossible.

This isn’t helped by a “brappp-happy” exhaust, which is now hooked up to a more powerful 2.0 litre turbo mill under the bonnet. With 381 hp and 475 Nm of torque at your disposal, it is certainly more than before, and you’ll see 100 km/h from standstill much sooner as well.

It isn’t just power either, as the car receives a retuned AMG sports suspension that makes things a little more comfortable/bearable in daily driving, where things like bumpy roads were previously very annoying. So, it’s more liveable with on the way to the track, and when you get there, it is still a force to be reckoned with. Lovely.

1. Porsche 718 Boxster

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

The 911 may be the most desirable Porsche model among the masses, but the 718 Boxster was the one that appealed to me more during the Porsche World Roadshow earlier this year. It may not equal the power output set by its bigger brother, even with the new turbo-four mills, but the overall package made for an enjoyable time behind the wheel.

The mid-engine, rear-wheel drive setup, coupled with the quicker steering, allowed me to enjoy the car’s wonderful balance, and through the corners, it communicated all the necessary information needed to make any required adjustments. And this was with a driver whose hands are made of ham and fist, so imagine what a more experienced driver can wring out of it.

Away from the track, the Boxster’s improved visuals will certainly draw a few eyeballs to it, and that’s even before you let the top drop on the drop-top Porsche (song reference). It also helps that the interior is a lovely place to be in, with access to plenty of amenities.


So we’ve come to the end of the year, and gosh – 2016 has certainly been very, um, interesting, hasn’t it? But it has brought along quite a smorgasbord of new cars for us to savour, and while I don’t think I’ve travelled quite as much as I did last year, I’ve still corralled a decent amount of miles driving an amazing variety of four-wheeled machinery.

There’s so many, in fact, that assembling the Top Five for this year has probably been the most difficult in all of my time here. As before, the final list presents an eclectic mix, consisting of a British SUV (no, not that one), a game-changing executive sedan, a back-to-basics roadster, a forward-thinking plug-in hybrid sports sedan and a surprisingly excellent budget sedan. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

5. Jaguar F-Pace

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

Okay, hands up, all those who were sceptical of a Jaguar SUV. I was. For decades, there was a clear distinction between two of Britain’s great premium marques – the Leaping Cat was supposed to be focused on building slinky, sexy sedans and sports cars, and all ye who entered looking for a versatile, go-anywhere off-roader were immediately directed to the nearest Land Rover showroom.

But then Jaguar took the age-old rulebook and tore it apart by introducing the F-Pace, ostensibly a jacked-up F-Type sports car according to those who developed it. Let’s not kid ourselves, however – this was Coventry grabbing an unhealthy chunk of the lucrative premium SUV pie at the expense of its well-established stablemate, one that helped shape the market in the first place. It was bound to be a disaster, right?

Except it wasn’t. The F-Pace brought a compelling blend of on-road dynamic brilliance (so much so that my co-driver became sick as I hooned it up Montenegro’s brilliant mountain passes), decent practicality and more than a hint of off-road capability – all wrapped up in an achingly stylish package. At prices starting a shade under RM600k, it’s certainly very expensive, but you can’t argue with this level of competence.

4. W213 Mercedes-Benz E 200

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

Is it superficial of me to include a car based solely on interior ambience? Perhaps, but the new W213 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has moved the game on so far ahead of the competition that it bears mention. In part, that’s actually because the exterior is so boring – a not-quite-so-successful exercise in stretching the C-Class’ swoopy, just-right design to the breaking point.

Step inside, however, and you’ll be blown away at just how stylish the cabin is, how much panache it exhibits, particularly when dressed to the nines as you can see here. Sure, it’s not exactly original, with the basic design including the Widescreen Cockpit wall of displays and the circular metal air vents lifted from the S-Class, but the E-Class adds touches like 64-colour (!) ambient lighting to bring it to new heights.

The rest of the car isn’t too bad either, with strong engines, a smooth nine-speed 9G-Tronic auto and a faultless low speed ride. Sure, it’s still not a dynamic steer as the BMW 5 Series is, but the E-Class proves once again with class, elegance and a more relaxed demeanour that there’s more than one way to serve an executive sedan dish. Once local assembly starts next year, it will surely fly off the shelves.

3. Proton Saga

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

Aha, you thought it would be the Perodua Bezza, didn’t you? While I agree that the second national carmaker’s first sedan perfectly meets the needs of the market on paper, out in the real world it just doesn’t move the game on quite as much as we expected. Its sole claim to fame is the completely in-house design; look past that and you’ll realise there’s still a whiff of the typical Perodua tinniness, and that’s a right shame.

After that, I was expecting to again be disappointed by the new Proton Saga. Not only was it yet another refresh of an ageing design, it was also saddled with the same CVT that we didn’t like that much in the Iriz. It would be no exaggeration to say that I wrote it off as an also-ran before it even turned a wheel.

Oh, how wrong I was. Driving this car was a revelation – it had exemplary levels of refinement for the price, and was impressively stable at speeds that would throw the Bezza off the road. And the CVT, surprise, surprise, was an able sidekick to the punchy 1.3 litre engine – a lot of the big boys could learn a thing or two from this car on how a stepless transmission is supposed to respond to your throttle inputs.

There are faults, sure – despite having an adjustable steering wheel, it has a worse driving position than the Bezza; some of the switchgear is also all over the place, and the base model doesn’t even come with ABS (in 2016!). But if you want a sedan and your bank account only allows you to stretch so far, you can do worse than the Saga – joy of joys, it’s a true return to form for the beleaguered carmaker. Welcome back, Proton.

2. F30 BMW 330e

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

This was a tough one. The question wasn’t whether the facelifted BMW 3 Series would fit in the Top Five, but which one. See, I got the chance to drive two models this year – the 330i, a traditional sports sedan served straight up, and the 330e, the plug-in hybrid version that points to the future of Munich. Both are deserving of the second spot, and for the longest time I hummed and hawed over which one should take it.

In the end, however, it was the petrol-electric one that swayed it for me. This is a hybrid that retains the peerless ride and handling balance of the standard 3 Series, but adds a whole new driving experience that really needs to be felt to believe. With the electric motor running nearly all the time in normal driving, the car is buttery smooth and whisper quiet, and responds quickly to every prod on the throttle.

The best part is that it’s not just exciting for the driver, but for the passengers too. Virtually everyone I ferried around were amazed at the eerie lack of vibration and noise. Sure, you’ll have to charge it at least once every day to get the best out of it, but those who are able to manage that will find a genuinely beguiling car that is easy on both your wallet and your conscience.

1. Mazda MX-5 manual

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

Earlier this year, I took part in a press event at Mazda’s Mine Proving Grounds in southwest Japan. Essentially an open day of sorts, it gave us an opportunity to test Hiroshima’s latest and greatest, the highlight being the newfangled G-Vectoring Control system. But what I wasn’t expecting was some seat time in its most famous roadster, a small, lightweight, front-engined, rear-wheel drive riot of a sports car.

And so I found myself near the end of the day behind the wheel of the Mazda MX-5, a car I had been wanting to drive for donkey’s years. What’s more, the stick in the middle wasn’t connected to some electronically-controlled automatic transmission that we get over here, but an honest-to-god six-speed manual. What happened next was to be expected, really – this car is near the bottom of this list in terms of power and sophistication, but managed to get under my skin and tug at something no other car has managed to do.

It took just a few metres to appreciate how lithe and responsive the car felt – every tug on the steering wheel resulted in an instantaneous reaction from the rest of the car, and there was an inherent balance that allowed me to teeter at the limit without it biting back, no matter what I tried to provoke it. With such little mass to carry, it was quick too, despite this 1.5 litre model having barely more power than a Mazda 2.

But the best part, of course, was the stick shift, with short throws and such a positive, mechanical action that it made rowing through the gears a right joy. At the end of the drive, I was panting, but in love, and until today I still yearn for it. The best news? Word on the vine is that Bermaz will be bringing in manual units of the upcoming hardtop RF model next year – bring on 2017!


Less variety on call this year, but no shortage of choices in the provisional list and in filling up the plate, twice over. The list actually sorted itself out until a day ago, when one of the five jumped straight in and prompted a slight rejigging of positions.

What didn’t make the final cut of five? An AMG model, a pony with a Coyote strapped on, something big from Munich, a track-focused offering from Hethel and a little Japanese roadster, the last of which is present in two lists here. It’s a tidy thing, the MX-5, but that slush box being pushed here takes much of the gloss and purity away for me.

There was also the odd snore-fest or two – good tools, undoubtedly, but totally uninvolving on a psychological or emotional level. No, we don’t need to cover that ground again.

5. Peugeot 3008 (second-gen)

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

Working on the confidence that presentation is the key to captivate buyers, the French outfit has significantly upped its game in this department, and nowhere is this better encapsulated than with the interior of the new 3008. It’s an outstanding place to be in, and the level of trim and material on call easily puts some offerings from premium brands to shame.

There’s an all-star cast in here, from a visually arresting high-res 12.3-inch display screen that makes up the instrument cluster, to superbly presented piano-key toggle switches and a funky gear selector lever, among other things. The exterior works very well too, serving up enough visual flair to more than keep up with that being pitched inside.

It drives quite well too. The ride is pleasantly taut and the handling, poised, if predictable. The 1.6L THP 165 S&S six-speed auto has enough grunt to keep things engaging, but the 1.2L PureTech 130 S&S proved a pleasant surprise in terms of poke, despite low end pull being a bit puffy. However you look at it, no shortage of presence – especially inside – with this one.

4. W213 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E 300 Avantgarde

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

While the recently introduced, full-on AMG example is the more mesmerising proposition, it’s the regulation car that provides the better overall – and far wider – scope. For starters, it’s more accessible, and in its E 300 Avantgarde guise as sampled in Lisbon, the tenth-gen is all the car most will ever need.

The cabin is a standout, a veritable showcase of how to do plush, and do it right. Such is the sense of occasion and levels of sensory tactility on call that to say that it’s a downright treat would be to understate it. With Air Body Control present for the count, it rides impeccably as well.

Equally impressive is the plethora of tech and driver-assist systems that has been stuffed into the car – Drive Pilot, the brand’s semi-autonomous driving system, and Remote Parking Pilot are the leading lights in a very long and extended item count. The G30 BMW 5 Series promises that it will be one heck of a scrap in store next year, but by all accounts, what’s on hand shows that the W213 will give as good as it gets.

3. Ferrari GTC4 Lusso

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

This one invited a division of opinion, at least so in the office, with some of the guys continuing to not think much about the looks of the two-door, four-seater shooting brake despite its heavy revision. Its precursor, the FF, worked for me, and the update works even better. While it’s no 488 GTB (which was on last year’s list), the GTC4 Lusso has no less appeal, with a lot of charm to be found underneath the new clothes.

The rework lends the car more civility – and quietness – when it matters, and the refinement carries through into the cabin, with far improved materials and presentation lending the interior higher levels of luxe. Some will no doubt lament that the polish has also removed much of the likable rawness of the pre-facelift, but you get a far more engaging and accomplished drive in return.

The updated 4RM-S quattro ruote motrici 4WD system is outstanding – grip levels are tenacious, with outstanding turn-in, but decisive handling is only part of the story. The normally-aspirated Tipo 140 EB 6.3 litre V12 is an absolute joy, especially screaming at full pelt. The curtain will eventually fall, but this one shows just how defiantly it’s going into the night.

2. C205 Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe S

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

With Affalterbach cranking out the M177 and M178 mill siblings like they’re going out of fashion, you’d think that one would get blase about it at some point, and that the next one to wear one of these things would be – progressively – less enticing.

Well, the answer is no. I experienced the 177 iteration of the DE 40 AL over two occasions in two different AMGs this year, and both 63s worked a treat. The 4.0 litre V8 isn’t quite as feral as the 5.5 litre M157, but otherwise, it’s an absolute sledgehammer of an engine. It propelled the Coupe S into the list at the death, as in yesterday, its placing here cemented by an outstanding five-hour run that went well into the night.

The ride can come across as brittle at times, but aside from that and a slightly detached steering feel, there’s plenty to like, an effervescent nature and exhilarating sense of dynamic balance right into thresholds being just two aspects.

Yes, in absolute terms, it’s not quite as sharp as the BMW M4 at the limits, and the price seems a tad silly, but hot diggity damn, I haven’t had so much fun in a car as I have with this one, for quite a while. It’s still parked outside, so yes, I’ll be heading out again soon. Brutal is beautiful.

1. F30 BMW 330e iPerformance

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

No shortage of BMWs driven in 2016, but this was the one that stood out above the rest. The packaging of the demonstrator on call in Munich no doubt helped. Unlike the local car, this was a fully loaded M Sport variant decked out with an M Aerodynamic package, M Sport brakes and suspension, BMW Individual trim and just about everything possible from an electronics point of view.

Still, it’s what’s underneath the skin that makes for the allure. The plug-in hybrid system – first sampled on the X5 xDrive40e last year – continues to impress with its workings; the delivery coming off the B48 2.0 litre and synchronous electric motor pairing has great appeal, with seamless transitions at speed.

Though it’d have been nice to squeeze more juice in on the go, the battery power is very usable, with charge up times via the engine being decently fast. That it handles almost as well as a standard 330i, gives little away in performance elsewhere and is more frugal – on top of the tech – presses all my buttons right.


I need to get started on gingko pills. My memory isn’t as good as what it was, and it sometimes takes effort to even recall what I had for lunch. This would mean that my fab five for 2016 have each left a serious imprint.

Unsurprising, as predecessors of the two-door cars listed here have long been in this writer’s list of dream machines. I have a thing for convertibles and even after a decade, the coupe below never fails to turn my head.

Those svelte bodies are joined by a duo that’s less sexy but no less bold – a game changer in the mass market and an SUV that’s off most radars. Oh, I had khao kha moo for lunch and it was rather good as well!

5. Renault Koleos

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

The original Renault Koleos was a strange looking thing. This new one looks unusual too, but in a good way. It appears tall and muscular, and boasts plenty of presence along with attractive jewellery. In a crowded ‘me too’ SUV class, fresh thinking is a good thing.

Step inside and the fascination continues. The dashboard is dominated by a Tesla-esque portrait central screen that’s user-friendly. There’s also a variety of digital meter layouts and ambient lighting hues to choose from. The Renault feels high-tech and very distant from the Nissan X-Trail, which it shares a platform and drivetrain with. No one would have guessed.

The Koleos is not just all light and show. The 2.5L engine that’s gruff in the T32 X-Trail is well-tamed here, and Nissan’s Xtronic CVT is great as usual. It’s not just an alternative to the Japanese stalwarts; against small premium SUVs, the Renault delivers plenty of SUV for the money and considerable charm.

4. Honda Civic

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

Don’t mess with what works, they say. They are not Honda, a company that has always gone its own way, while somehow managing to appeal to the masses at the same time. Even higher risk with a core product in a conservative segment.

The Civic FC‘s long body and fastback shape is unique in the market, never mind the Japanese C-sedan class. Also bucking the trend is a 1.5L turbo engine, making Honda the first Asian brand to embrace downsized forced induction in the mass market.

Misplaced sports sedan expectations from enthusiasts aside, it all comes together rather nicely. In time to come, the FC will be remembered as a landmark Civic alongside radical predecessors like the EG and FD. High risk, high reward.

3. Audi A5

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

It’s hard to arrive at a top five list without some introspection, and my weakness in the face of good design is disappointing. I would have picked an Audi TT just for that interior, again, but I did not drive the Mk3 in 2016.

I did however sample the new A5, an update to what surely is the most beautiful coupe shape of modern times. Walter de Silva thinks the original A5 was his best piece of work, I think it’s timeless – ten years on and my radar never fails to lock on to its perfect proportions and gently flowing lines. Luxury GT or aggressive RS, it pulls off both looks with ease.

Which is why the Mk2 needs no more than a nip and tuck. A lower and wider grille, plus a longer, more “3D” wave signature line gives the A5 a more contemporary look. I’m not sure about those strakes on the bonnet, though.

Overall, the new A5’s design is bolder but also fussier. I prefer the original still, but the top quality, high design dashboard from the B9 A4 pulls one back for the new car.

2. Mazda MX-5 2.0

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

When one strips down ‘driving enjoyment’ to the basics – shaving off weight, power and gadgetry – he’ll most likely arrive at the Mazda MX-5.

Going further, the latest version of the world’s best selling roadster is a stripped down version of itself – the ND is shorter than the Lotus-inspired original from 25 years ago (!) and weight starts from under a tonne, which is mind-blowing for a well-equipped, crashworthy modern car.

All that would mean nothing if the MX-5 experience wasn’t so pure. It’s sensory overload in a cold, digital world; it’s a throwback to days where cars were more simple; it’s also a very capable sports car. This little roadster is Zoom-Zoom personified, and there’s nothing quite like it on sale today.

1. Porsche 718 Boxster S

The 2016 Top Five cars list – the writers each pick five that impressed them the most this year

Progress is evil, car enthusiasts warn, citing the suffocation of the naturally-aspirated engine and the death of the manual gearbox. But change is inevitable, and cars like the Porsche 718 Boxster show that it’s not all that bad.

As an NA fan, it’s sad to see Porsche’s big boxers ride into the sunset. Cliched, but the old car’s flat-six had a ‘character’ that was distinct and endearing. However, I disagree that the new turbo-fours are soulless – they just have a different flavour and take on performance.

Acceleration is so much more forceful than before, as if Porsche wanted to ram home the point that new is better than old, with a big hammer called Torque. Despite this, the Boxster S’ 2.5L motor revs till 7,500 rpm and sounds angry behind you.

Turbo or NA, the Boxster’s status as the best driving convertible is beyond dispute. I still want one.

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