Best family car: Skoda Roomster
It packs more great ideas into its wheelbase than any other car in its class, while offering oodles of space, theft-preventing styling and a sublimely capable chassis _ plus there's a useful safety and home comfort specification, including a glass roof, blinds and room for three mountain bikes, inside.

Best new range: Ford Mondeo
It has the biggest interior ever found in a European-built Ford, wonderful handling and a ride quality that smacks of a seriously refined and well-sorted luxury car. It's also as well built as any car you'll find and but for the lack of some diesel options, the Mondeo would have beeen a shoo-in for a full Car of the Year Award.

Best large car: HSV Grange
This is the latest Statesman refettled by Holden Special Vehicles and it's not only a stunner to look at; thanks to Magnetic Ride _ where particles in the shock fluid automatically stiffen said fluid when bumps intervene _ it rides better than the Audi A8 which it resembles.

Best performance sedan: BMW M3
As quick as the R8 and with five seats, the M3 may not look as good, but it saves you $100,000, flatters a decent driver, while forgiving an average one and has the best V8 engine in the world.

Best sports car: Audi R8
OK, it costs from $260,000, but you can see where every cent has gone. The engine ululates hypnotically, while the chassis merely proves that it is possible to make a user friendly day to day mid-engined super car.

Best executive range: C-Class Benz
A driver's car in this class for the first time from 'Benz, with the lowly C220D turbodiesel being my favourite. Very well made, good to look at and incisively well sorted. Try to avoid the Sports wheels and suspension _ they're too stiff for New Zealand.

Best convertible: Jaguar XKR
OK it's a ragtop and its cockpit is a bit brash, and some might worry about Jaguar's ownership going to an Indian firm, but the XKR convertible shows how desperate Ford must be. How could you sell the company that makes a car this sexy and this good? It erupts into its task with alacrity and yet can settle into a "look at me" cruise with the best of them.

Best hot hatch: VW Golf GT TSi
Using a special 1.4-litre turbo and supercharged engine, the Golf GT embarrasses the 2-litre GTi and perplexes those who can't cope with low numbers on their hatch lids. It's lusty, makes 100km on just 6 litres of gas and is built like a bank vault.

Best ute: Holden VE Ute
Think of a Corvette with a wheelbarrow and you have it. Talented, quick _ especially in V8 form _ this is the ideal sports car for a lifestyle block and it even drives better than the sedan from which it's derived.

Best luxury car: Maserati Quattroporte
Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren each have one, and I'm a starter, too, especially now that the car has a proper automatic transmission _ with paddles. It looks brilliant, thanks to Pininfarina and with a V8 that just sings to you, I defy anyone with a skerrick of soul in their blood to drive this car without goose bumps on their arms.

Best SUV - Honda CR-V
It's funny to look at, but with a sticker that causes other makers to make drastic discounts and a low emissions drivetrain, the Honda wins this one. Other reasons are its car-like chassis, high safety levels, space and not-to-be-sneezed-at off-road ability.

Best reps car: Mitsubishi Lancer
By covering the previous Lancer and Galant segments with one car, Mitsubishi could have blurred the space in between. I'm glad to say they haven't with the new Lancer, which is a delight to drive, and well-equipped, with a pricing band that starts at less than $29,000.

Best diesel: Hyundai i30
It doesn't reach the market until early next year, but I've driven this family 1.6-litre turbodiesel already and suggest that it will be one of the fastest-selling new cars of 2008. It rides and handles with almost Ford Focus-like ability and looks very pretty indeed.

Best 4x4: Toyota LandCruiser 200
A brand-new twin-turbo diesel V8 makes the all-new LandCruiser less profligate and cleaner than the previous six, despite being bigger and heavier. It also uses a new chassis to go places that few other vehicles could consider.

Best small car, best car over all: Mazda2
This car thoroughly deserves its gong. They carved a huge 100kg from a model that only weighed 1000kg in the first place. The benefits in terms of fuel economy and emissions are to be applauded, it looks as cute as a nut and drives with a fluidity and poise that many small cars do not have.





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