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Play Car of the Year Nominees 2017

By Editors
January 3, 2017
img769215655 1483648987218 jpg 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata | photo by Evan Sears

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata

If you want a car that’s fun to drive, you have many choices, but few come close to the MX-5, better known as the Miata. You’ll see its mix of a front engine with rear-wheel drive and balanced weight distribution elsewhere, but few cars of that description manage to be as fun in everyday driving as the Miata is. Light weight and excellent feedback give it an involving character that heavier models don’t match. Combine that with the inherent fun of a convertible and you have a singular entity — an affordable one — even in today’s crowded market.

Many aspects make the Miata a triumph, starting with an affordable price that gets you everything that makes a Miata fun to drive. The middle trim level, Club, has a sport suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers and a limited-slip differential, but you’re not giving up much without them. Even the optional six-speed automatic transmission performs very well, but if you’re not getting the manual, you ought to rethink your life and how you live it. The 2016 redesign brought a substantially lighter and smaller but roomier car with a blissfully easily operated manual top. The Miata’s strengths seem countless.

img 1030592758 1478905047475 jpg 2017 Land Rover Range Rover | photo by Angela Conners

Best Car for Off-Roaders

There's nothing quite like sitting in the driver or passenger seat of a Range Rover; however, much of our discussion about this luxury SUV centered on the impressive driving dynamics of the all-aluminum chassis, on- and off-road. The vehicle does many things very well, with one of the widest capability bandwidths around, meaning that it's confident on rocky terrain and quite sporty when pushed through a tight curve. Between the compliant and height-adjustable suspension, performance tires and the optional turbo-diesel engine, there is plenty of value to be had in this package, even if it's the most expensive player in the field.

img2088750419 1478895735048 jpg 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI | photo by Evan Sears

Recommended for Driving Fun

There was a time when front-wheel-drive cars couldn't get any respect from driving enthusiasts, and the Golf GTI was one of the models that changed things. Now as then, the GTI is a blast to drive on canyon roads yet is nicely appointed, exceptionally livable and even reasonably efficient in daily driving, all of which played into its victory over other affordable sporty compact cars in our $30,000 Cheap Speed Challenge, and nothing has replaced it since. Purists will appreciate its six-speed manual transmission, but you can't go wrong with its fast-acting dual-clutch automatic, either.