Welcome to the annual paultan.org Top Five cars list, where each author picks the vehicles that have impressed them the most over the past 12 months. We’ve switched up the formula this year – we’re breaking up the usual big roundup post to give the individual writers the space to go into greater detail with regards to their selections, and some of them also get to be on camera. Enjoy!

Greetings, and welcome to my little corner on paultan.org where I reveal the list of the top five cars I’ve had the chance to drive in 2018.

There were many candidates to choose from this year, and picking out the ones that appeal beyond just performance figures remained a challenge as in previous editions of our yearly feature.

My choices, as you’ll hopefully find out, place a priority on how a car makes you feel when you’re behind the wheel. Slight bonuses are given to cars that showcase clever thinking on the part of the manufacturer, be it a nifty feature, or something else.

So, let’s not waste time. Here’s my top five cars for 2018 (in no particular order):

5. Subaru BRZ

Kicking off the list is the Subaru BRZ, a sports car that emerged from the Subaru-Toyota partnership. Yes, it has been around for many years, and yes, the powertrain has remained unchanged for most of them, but the BRZ continues to be proof that you don’t need big power to have fun.

With performance that is approachable, the BRZ delivers an engaging driving experience that provides a sense of satisfaction with every turn of the wheel, manual gear change and correcting a slide due to a little overexuberance with the throttle pedal.

To go along with that, you get a comfortable seating position, good ergonomics and some degree of practicality – this thing comes with Isofix child seat anchors and folding second-row seats for some reason.

It’s for those reasons that I decided to take the plunge and bought myself a 2013 model year BRZ in 2018, and I’m enjoying every moment driving it.

4. Volkswagen Golf R

Everyone loves a good hot hatch, and the Volkswagen Golf R is one nameplate that should never be ignored. In its latest Mk7.5 form, the model retains its ability to deliver the thrills on the road, while gaining some welcomed tech upgrades like an Active Info Display and new Discover Pro infotainment system.

With a punchy 2.0 litre turbocharged TSI delivering 286 hp and a seven-speed DSG, the Golf R has plenty of grunt to complete the zero to 100 km/h sprint in just 5.1 seconds. There’s also plenty of lovely exhaust pops to make the process a lot more exciting, an important aspect of modern hot hatches these days.

Aside from its outright pace, the Golf R displays an impressive degree of finesse in the corners, thanks to the 4Motion all-wheel drive system that steps in when things get a little too unsettled. As a driving machine, the Golf R is certainly an easy way in which to go very fast around a track.

However, one of the major appeals of the Golf R is its subtle appearance despite the performance capabilities, which isn’t something you can say about some of its rivals. Additionally, you still get all the practicality of a regular Golf, so family men/women won’t have to give up a fun time behind the wheel.

3. Porsche Carrera T

When Porsche revealed the 911 Carrera T, I scoffed that the carmaker was merely filling yet another obscure niche that didn’t need to be filled. A long drive to the Sportscar Together Day event in Bangkok in one has since left me with egg on my face.

Yes, it uses engine as the base Carrera but the T does away with 20 kg of weight by using lightweight glass, cloth straps instead of door handles, and reducing the amount of insulation material. If you can make do with less, you can even ask to have the rear seats and infotainment system removed altogether.

Of course, paying more than a base Carrera for less car seems illogical, so replacing the removed items is a PASM sport chassis, Sport Chrono Package, a new shift lever, shorter transmission ratios, and boy do they make a difference.

What you end up with is a driving experience that feels more unhinged, as the lack of insulation makes the 3.0 litre flat-six really audible and the PASM chassis provides a more direct feel for the road. Think of it like a budget GT3 RS that appeals to the most dedicated of drivers who can make do with just the bare necessities.

2. Mercedes-AMG C43 facelift

If a one-car garage is your only option, it’s hard to dismiss the Mercedes-AMG C 43, which is the filler that sits just below the manic C 63, and above the regular C-Class models. This year, the updated model was launched in Malaysia, and comes with a more powerful twin-turbo V6, minor exterior changes, and an interior that has been spruced up with new screens in keeping up with the rest of the range.

The C 43 is on my list because it offers a good balance of power and agility, a “sensible” performance sedan from a company that once stuffed a 6.2 litre V8 into an MPV, and believes that absolute power doesn’t corrupt.

With the C 43, what you get is an easily-manageable 385 hp on tap to get you from a rest to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds, a lovely sound from the V6 while doing it, and 4Matic all-wheel drive system when you need to do some cornering.

The overall package isn’t intimidating as say, a C 63, and welcomes you to push harder up to your limits. Even so, while some might wish they had bought a higher-tier variant with other cars, the C 43 isn’t something that’ll leave you saying, “I wish I bought the C 63 instead.”

1. Volvo XC40

I’ve had the privilege of viewing the Volvo XC40 in person when it was being previewed by the 40.1, and it was certainly exciting to see that the finished product look almost identical to the concept.

The refreshing design is certainly appealing in the metal but it is the interior that is the star for me. As Volvo says, the company took the time to listen to what car owners would like to have in their cars, and made the effort to engineer them into the XC40.

For instance, a built-in dustbin in the centre console, extra-large door pockets, wireless phone charger, a glovebox hook, underseat trays and flexible cargo area are just some of the things you’ll find in the XC40.

I won’t deny that some of these features can be found in other models, but I do appreciate the manner in which they are presented in the XC40. As most SUV owners will hardly take their vehicles out into the wilderness, and mainly keep them for runs around the city, this is a rather neat one.

With that, I conclude my list of the top five cars of 2018, and am looking forward to what’s in store for 2019. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, loyal readers. Please be kind in the comments.