Of the hundreds of vehicles we tested in 2016, here are our favorites, and the ones we love to hate.
With teams all around the world, and lots of cars rotating through our hands every week, it's safe to say Motor1 has driven a ton of cars this year. (Check out our U.S. reviews catalog to see what we've tested.) But as we reflect on the year 2016, certain cars stand out more than others... and not always because they're great.
That's why, in addition to picking our favorite cars from the year, we're also telling you about the worst vehicles we drove. Scroll down to read them all, and leave us a comment with the cars you loved and hated the most this year.
Ford Focus RS
Like going to the Mötley Crüe after party, a career in the circus, or wearing a lot of hats: this car isn’t for everyone. But if it’s for you, the Ford Focus RS is about the best thing on wheels and on sale, today.
Ford didn’t just give it’s mainstream hatchback a ton of turbo power and a wing. No, the engineering team crafted the most modern take yet on the “road-going rally car” idiom, and one of the most super-intense driving experiences you can find on a dealer’s lot. The power delivery and at-limit handling split time between brutalizing you, and making you feel like a pro driver, which is hardly short of intoxicating. And though you might think I was drunk when I told you more than forty grand is worth it for a bright blue Focus, I’d still be willing to make the monthly payments.
– Seyth Miersma
The best car I drove in 2016 actually felt it like it was from the future, but maybe only three to five years out. Nothing about the BMW i8 is groundbreaking on its own; it’s a plug-in hybrid using through-the-road all-wheel-drive technology and aluminum and carbon fiber construction – nothing we haven’t seen before. Yet no mainstream automaker has ever assembled all of this bleeding edge technology and design in one package and then sold it to the public. It looks, feels, and drives like a truly special machine, and the numbers bear that out. How many cars with three cylinders can reach 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds. How many cars that fast can return 76 MPGe? And how many have butterfly doors and flying buttresses? Not many. I’d need a winning lottery ticket to buy one, but it’d be the first on my list of cars to buy as long as my local BMW dealership accepts comically oversized checks.
– John Neff
If you can get over the fact that the brand that's synonymous with svelte, sexy sports cars built a crossover, you'll find the Jaguar F-Pace is rather very impressive.
What's impressive you ask? Let's start with the look. Jaguar design, helmed by Ian Callum, finds a way to make what would be a tall and ungainly shape look powerful and simultaneously beautiful. You could opt for the 20-inch wheels (standard on the S trim) which really make this a standout design.
Add to it the upgraded power from available supercharged V6 rated for 380 horsepower, and you've got one rather quick cat. If fuel economy is more your thing, Jaguar will also offer a four-cylinder diesel. Although I will say worrying about fuel economy behind the wheel of something that handles this well (for a crossover) seems silly.
Yes, the cabin tech is rather dated, but it's functional and doesn't annoy its uses like Cadillac's notorious CUE system. With that exception, the F-Pace is one remarkable new addition to the crossover segment which has become the most contested frontier for luxury automakers.
– Kanishka Sonnadara
Chevy Corvette Grand Sport
There were a lot of close finalists in my mental list. The Shelby GT350 is a phenomenal expression of all Ford’s performance knowledge. The McLaren 570S, Audi R8, and Acura NSX are insanely good. And the Mazda MX-5 Miata is always a charmer. Yet the Corvette Grand Sport easily stands out in my mind as the best-driving car I drove this entire year. It has a fabulous engine, unbelievable chassis composure, and more aerodynamic grip than I can take advantage of on a track. It looks amazing, it sounds amazing, and it’s stupid fast on street or circuit. Oh, and it’s priced below six figures, which can’t be said of other cars that return such astonishing lap times.
– Jake Holmes
You cannot go wrong with any of the cars in McLaren’s Sports Series. The 570S is whopping good fun, but this slightly softer GT is the one I’m picking as the best car I drove this year.
The GT only makes the S better. You still get the same ripsnorting dynamics and supercar-like handling and style. You get everything from the S, but the GT looks a little better, it rides a little nicer on the highway, and it’s just a touch more comfortable inside. The Audi R8 was always my pick for the “everyday supercar,” but now I’m not so sure. The McLaren 570GT is a bit more special, more unique. When I reflect back on all my driving experiences from 2016, it’s not the week in the R8 that I think of first – it’s running up the side of a volcano on the island of Tenerife, the 570GT charming me more and more with each passing mile.
– Steven Ewing
Renault Sandero RS
The best thing about the Renault Sandero RS is how different it feels from the regular Sandero. The right brake and suspension setups have made wonders to a car that is normally associated only with a rational buying option. Not the Sandero RS. It is a car for those who enjoy driving and eventually piloting, when you get to take it to track days. It is an agile and fun car under a very ordinary appearance. Some of my friends that live in Europe would love to have it, but there is a restriction there towards naturally aspirated engines, what makes the RS almost exclusive for the South American market. And that is a shame: this Sandero is brilliant.
– Gustavo Ruffo
Lexus RC 200t
There are some really positive qualities to the RC 200t, as I outlined in my review of the car. Is it as thrashy as a Mitsubishi Mirage? Not at all. Is it as fundamentally overpriced as the Mercedes SL65? Of course not. So why was it my worst of the year?
I’ve never loved sports cars or coupes with down-range powerplants – not because I’m addicted to torque ratings, but because they seem counter to the whole spirit of the segment. You can’t show up in a two-door Lexus, with that so-aggressive-most-people-hate-it front grille treatment, and painted in a kind of creamsicle shade of orange, with nothing better than a 2.0-liter under the hood. It’s sort of like being the paunchy middle-aged guy biking in compression shorts and a jersey; the attempt is sporty, but the look is pitiable. Just buy an RX and be done with it.
– Seyth Miersma
I gave the Cadillac CT6 this dubious honor not because it’s a bad car to drive; it’s a fine luxury conveyance. Rather, it was the worst car in 2016 for me because it’s totally wrong for Cadillac, which bugged me the entire time I drove it. It’s mere existence to me represents the brand’s lack of self awareness and understanding of what its customers want. Like it or not, we’re living in a crossover crazy era, and rather than redesign its sole CUV sooner or introduce new crossovers (like Buick did), Cadillac developed this all-new fullsize sedan that nobody asked for. Remember, Cadillac still sells another, more popular fullsize sedan called the XTS; why the need for two? You may argue the CT6 is rear-wheel-drive and the XTS front-wheel-drive, and to that I would tell you to go drive the CT6 and honestly tell me if that makes one bit of difference. Sure, if the CT6 were the on-again-off-again six-figure uber sedan Cadillac can’t decide if it’s worthy of selling, then rear-wheel drive would be a must – but the CT6 is not that car. So Cadillac will end 2016 with a modest sales increase year-over-year thanks entirely to the Escalade SUV and redesigned XT5 crossover; sales for all of its cars were down by double digits, and the CT6’s meager sales were the brand’s lowest except for the Volt-based ELR, which ended production entirely in February.
– John Neff
It was late in the year when Toyota released the long-overdue update to the Corolla for the 2017 model year. So when I tell you my pick for worst car of 2016 is the Corolla, I'm speaking specifically of the 2016 Corolla. Across the U.S. and Canada we've sold nearly 400,000 Corollas this past year, so how could it be the worst car, you ask?
Because it's 2016, and very few automakers still make bad cars. The Corolla is just not nearly as good as it could be; especially given how successful it has been for Toyota. An archaic platform that's as engaging to drive as pudding, lack of any real class-leading features (power, fuel-economy, space, or tech), and a cabin of grey that could put the most hyperactive child to sleep make up the Corolla. Oh, and yes, that digital clock circa 2001 still sits front and center on the dash.
The Corolla is my pick for the worst car because in the face of its competition, it's so far behind the curve it may very well be in another time zone.
– Kanishka Sonnadara
The reason I’ve been so disappointed by the CX-3 is that it misses the mark so widely and is a huge letdown from a company with a track record of making excellent cars. Though it’s easily the handsomest subcompact crossover, the CX-3 is in no other way competitive. It’s far too small, with less cargo and interior room than the (cheaper and more efficient) 3 hatchback. It’s also got a rough, aggressive ride quality, and a rather thrashy engine. Granted, it handles very well and pleases the eye. The CX-3 might not be the very worst new car you can buy today (I mean, the Corolla is still appalling), but it gets my vote because it’s the biggest misstep I’ve seen from Mazda in a long time.
– Jake Holmes
Pro: It’s not the Mirage.
Con: Everything else.
The Lancer wasn’t a super competitive car when it came out in 2008, and very little has been done to keep it fresh. The minor design tweaks have actually made it look worse, the interior is still one of the worst in the business, and the powertrain is anemic. Sure, you can get all-wheel drive on the Lancer now, but if it’s an AWD compact car you seek, just get a similarly priced, way more modern, better-driving Impreza. At least the smaller Mirage makes you laugh because it's so hilariously bad. The Lancer just, well, sucks. With so many great cars in the compact class these days, I can't think of a single reason to ever buy this one.
– Steven Ewing
It is difficult to name a BMW as the worst car, but the fact is that the brand is so associated with rear-wheel drive that I find the X1 a setback. Especially after the brand slammed FWD cars in its advertising.
After biting its tongue, BMW has created a rather competent crossover, one that fits most of its customers' expectations. But it not as good to drive as the former X1. Some of these customers will miss the brand's care for dynamics, even if you had the compromise of a high transmission tunnel and not the same amount of luggage space. The X1 is a nice car, but I expected much more from it.
– Gustavo Ruffo