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!

Diversity at this publication continues to be strong, nowhere more so than with our annual list – if anything, the change to separated posts after the six previous integrated outings highlights this aspect even further.

This year, I spent the most time behind the wheel with a new addition to the household, the resident Honda CR-V having been replaced by another CR-V, a pick in my list last year. This isn’t going to be replicated in 2019, unless that winning stub comes up, and even then, three-fifths of the selection would simply be out of bounds. I did however get a particular game console (three generations on from the first one, mind you), which will eventually allow me to drive them virtually every day.

On then to the list, which is decidedly sportier than the norm this year. Before we proceed, a honourable mention for the Perodua Myvi, which I finally got to drive at length this year – it really is quite a little gem.

5. C190 Mercedes-AMG GT C

So the car that wasn’t supposed to come came, and what an absolute toe tickler it has – again – turned out to be, sneaking in at the very death here. The soft spot that I have for the Mercedes-AMG GT S has grown less resolute in the face of the GT C, simply because it really is what the S should have been at first plot.

The correct descriptive term is accessibility, as ridiculous as it may sound for a car costing this much, but the S’ sibling is less inclined to want to have a go at you each time you suggest doing the deed, something that was already suggested very strongly during the first sampling with it in Germany last year.

Mechanical improvements abound, and the net effect is that there’s simply more manageability and suppleness across the board when you start hammering it, especially around the bends. Faster? Surely. Less hairy? Absolutely. That the game console steering feel of the initial outing has been tautened adds to the allure.

Striking and never shy, there’s no shortage of occasion with this one, and such is the visual draw that it can even get you access into a stadium (sport, how apt!) for an otherwise impossible, elevated front row shot. Okay, I know the guys in the team are going to give me stick for this, in this case very likely a physical one called a rotan, but ringgit to ringgit, this over the other turbocharged kid from Stuttgart any day, and it doesn’t matter how the flip goes.

4. Ferrari Portofino

By and large, roadsters are a tricky thing to get right when it comes to balance. While most provide an eye-catching form (usually, with the top down), the performance equation is a bit harder to manage. Precious few get that mixture right, for many do pretty better than they drive.

The Ferrari California is a good case in point. While it opened up the brand to new buyers, Maranello’s previous drop-top arguably felt too soft to be taken seriously or considered to be a true Ferrari. Great to look at with the top down, less so with it up, and with a languid approach to handling and ride meant that the car was for all intents and purposes pigeon-holed in terms of audience.

The Portofino addresses that by sharpening things up on all fronts. Its shape is tighter, and the neat thing is that it looks as good – if not better – with its new, less tetchy retractable hard-top up as it is down. Covered, the car has a sleek, fastback look that’s well ahead of its predecessor in terms of styling.

It drives much better too. Pace is rapid, and the chassis and suspension now keep up ably during the tango, giving the driver the ability to tackle terrain in faster and surer form, although it can get edgy – that new found firmness may not be everyone’s idea of what a open-air tourer should be. Still, this should open up new vistas, especially with male buyers. One thing’s for sure, no one will deem you a dandy in one of these.

3. Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

The purely large capacity, normally-aspirated engined sports car may be in its twilight, but surely there’s no better way to give it a special send-off than in a bells-and-whistles machine like the SVJ. Everything about this one screams excess, from the uninhibited utilisation of carbon-fibre to all the aero elements you can inhumanly place on a car. Does the clobbering work? You bet it does.

The shape is enough to make your wildest fantasy a kid’s bedtime book in comparison, but it’s not just the physical presence alone that mugs you. As you’d expect, this thing goes like stink, though the full breathtaking effect comes when the ALA gets to work, the active aerodynamics lending the car improved flow (pardon the term) and progress through the twisties.

Immense, brutal, over the top, and quite simply making no excuses for anything, the SVJ takes the Aventador platform to what should be its zenith of technical exploration, and what a farewell it is for the NA-only route. The next one may be faster, but it surely won’t be as pure.

2. G20 BMW 3 Series

With competitors closing in fast, if not already at the door in some cases, the BMW 3 Series’ long-held lead as the driver’s car within the segment has been under assault. The good news for fans is that the replacement for the F30 places the title holder quite comfortably back at the perch, at least where handling is concerned.

That served up by the G20 is precise and taut, with increased prowess noticeable in the corners. The presentation is aided by a sharp, fast steering, which offers the car greater immediacy and a keener disposition when pushed.

This balance means that the ride, which again adopts the firm/soft cyclic approach seen from the E36 (firm), is on the firm side, as suggested by the initial sampling through the car’s standard suspension setup, especially at lower speed levels.

Elsewhere, the interior makes noticeable progress in terms of trim and kit, although the overall presentation is still missing outright plush. New, larger display screens, including that for the instrument panel, along with voice command functionality give it a nice veneer of electronic sophistication. When it arrives on our shores in 2019, fans of the 3er will have a lot to look forward to from a driving and tech perspective.

1. FK8 Honda Civic Type R

I didn’t drive that many cars this year, but as surmised from the rest of the list here, there was plenty in the way of big hitters, and so it really takes something special to sit at the top of this particular heap. Which this one happens to be, and by a very decent margin.

To say that the Civic Type R drives well would be an understatement, because for sheer subliminal engagement, this is my clear pick of the crop for 2018. As a point-and-shoot machine, it’s a scalpel, and the joy comes from everything working as a whole, in complete unison – the motor has good tractability once you stir it, the steering is crisp and accurate and the suspension is a marvel both from a control and compliance viewpoint.

Granted, a lot of the adhesion and placement precision the car is imbued with is likely due to those model specific rubber feet it has on, and the interior doesn’t quite match the pitch laid out everywhere else (I adore the in-your-face looks), but that doesn’t take anything away from the CTR. Not one bit. Great stuff, great car.