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Toyota GR Yaris wins NZ Car of the Year title

Petrol-powered vehicle triumphs in a field dominated by electrified models. PLUS – gallery
Posted on 10 December, 2021
The Toyota GR Yaris is the AA Driven NZ Car of the Year 2021, as well as winning the sports and performance category  
Medium SUV winner: Toyota RAV4  
Large SUV winner: Kia Sorento  
Passenger (sedan, hatch, wagon) and people's choice winner: Tesla Model 3  
Clean and green, BEVs winner: Peugeot e-208  
Clean and green, PHEVs winner: Ford Escape  
Clean and green, hybrids winner: Toyota RAV4  
Light commercial vehicle winner: Toyota Hilux  
Luxury winner: Hyundai Ioniq 5  
Safety winner: Subaru Outback  
Small SUV winner: Toyota Yaris Cross  

The Toyota GR Yaris has been named as the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year 2021 after impressing judges for the annual award.

It was chosen as the top vehicle from among 30 finalists across all categories and also won the sports and performance section. 

In taking out the overall title, the petrol-powered Yaris defied the growing trend for electric vehicles (EVs) with three-quarters of its rivals for the honour utilising electrification of some form.

Dean Evans, editor of Driven, says: “While 24 of the 30 Car of the Year finalists were electric or electrified, the GR Yaris made a big impact from the time it was announced.

“Its numbers are impressive: 200kW from a 1.6-litre three-cylinder, all-wheel drive and a six-speed manual, 0-100kph in 5.2 seconds; it’s a throwback to the traditional world rally cars from the 1990s, but with 2021 safety and technology. 

“With fuel economy of 7.6l/100km and a price of $54,990 drive away, it’s a fast, fun, affordable and frugal pocket rocket.”

Other winners in the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year awards included the Tesla Model 3 taking out the passenger award, the Subaru Outback winning the safety category, and the Toyota Hilux scooping top honours in the light commercial section.

The Model 3 also won the people’s choice award, voted for by nearly 50,000 members of the public, as it saw off competition from 10 other vehicles shortlisted for the category.

Jonathan Sergel, AA Motoring Services general manager, notes the impressive spread of finalists “marks a paradigm shift” as the majority of models included electrified options. 

“This is proof that electrified models are now just as competitive as their ICE equivalents,” he adds.

“While the sporty GR Yaris took out the overall Car of the Year win it was a very close battle for the top spot, with starkly different models rounding out the top three. From the pocket rocket GR Yaris to the futuristic Hyundai Ioniq 5, which was like a window into the future, and then the family friendly Kia Sorento, all were equally as worthy in their own way of taking the win.”

Ford’s Focus won the NZ Car of the Year title when the awards were last held in 2019, with last year’s event cancelled because of Covid-19.

Other previous winners of the gong have included the Mercedes-Benz A-Class in 2018, the Skoda Kodiaq in 2017, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class in 2016, the BMW i3 in 2015 and the Mazda 3 in 2014.

Eligibility criteria for the 2021 contest was tweaked from previous years, with the awards covering all vehicles on sale rather than just those released in the previous 12 months.

Award winners

AA Driven NZ Car of the Year: Toyota GR Yaris

Small SUV: Toyota Yaris Cross

Medium SUV: Toyota RAV4

Large SUV: Kia Sorento

Passenger (sedan, hatch, wagon): Tesla Model 3

Clean and green: BEVs – Peugeot e-208, PHEVs – Ford Escape, Hybrids – Toyota RAV4

Light commercial vehicle (utes/vans): Toyota Hilux

Luxury ($100,000-plus): Hyundai Ioniq 5

Sports and performance: Toyota GR Yaris

Safety: Subaru Outback

People’s choice: Tesla Model 3.