The Ford Fiesta ST makes the list because, in all the years that I’ve been testing vehicles, I have never been as tempted to impulse buy a car…

2013 Nissan NV200
2013 Nissan NV200
2014 Fiesta ST
2014 Fiesta ST
Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible
Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible
Bentley Continental GT Speed
Bentley Continental GT Speed
Bridgestone Racing Academy
Bridgestone Racing Academy
Nissan LEAF NISMO RC
Nissan LEAF NISMO RC
Nissan NV200 Cargo Van
Nissan NV200 Cargo Van

Before looking ahead with hope for a promising new year, indulge me while I check my rearview mirror.

My review of 2013 might offer you some thoughts to ponder for your 2014. I tried to count how many cars I tested last year. I tried. However, I could only come up with an approximate figure. And it comes in at around 102. That’s a lot of vehicles. And it doesn’t even include motorcycles, ATVs, ROVs and anything else that you could consider some sort or transportation or recreational vehicle.

So, within that lot, you have to either be pretty good or pretty bad to stand out.

Though, there were a few surprises along the way that made the list.

Here are the cars that stuck with me and still leave me wanting more (or less).

Making the top of my list as the most memorable car that I drove is not what you’d expect. It’s the 2013 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van. (Say what?)

Without taking up too much space, I fell in love with its utility, its practicality and its ability to be a workhorse, even though it only has 131 horsepower. In the city, it fit in underground parking lots and surprisingly had pep.

Visibility is non-existent out the rear and there was no vanity mirror, but it was just an admirable vehicle to drive. And it even fits a motorcycle inside. I’m not a small business owner who could fully make use of its adaptability, but I made Costco runs, helped a friend move and transported audio equipment for a band with which I occasionally sing. I just love it.

The 2014 Ford Fiesta ST makes the list because, in all the years that I’ve been testing vehicles, I have never been as tempted to impulse buy a car. For under $25K you get a firecracker of a car, a manual transmission, 197 horsepower and an amazing chassis setup. For an everyday driver and a car you could put on the track, it’s just stellar. The smile on your face when driving is included in the price tag.

The least bang for your buck, that I tested, comes with the 2013 BMW 320i xDrive. At $46,500, that’s pretty steep for a car that doesn’t even have a backup camera or streaming Bluetooth audio. Not to mention, it comes with a humble 181 horsepower engine. That said, it’s a BMW, therefore has some nice touches to it. Put it in Sport mode, tinker with the throttle and you’ll instantly become a happier person. And for everyday driving, I really had no complaints.

My favourite convertible of the year goes to the Bentley Continental GT Speed drop top. It’s not hard to see why. Yes, I could have opted for the Porsche Boxster S (it came so close and is hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper) but I hand the title to the Brits because I love the craftsmanship. After all, that’s what luxury is all about. Getting inside and feeling like you’re in your living room, albeit a posh and exquisitely detailed living room. And one that has 616 horsepower and all-wheel drive. Sign me up.

It’s always a fabulous time when I can be behind the wheel of a racecar. I had two opportunities. The first came when I participated in the Bridgestone Racing Academy at the Driver Development Track at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Two days behind the wheel of a Van Diemen Formula car was heaven. And I learned a thing or two about car control (www.race2000.com).

Then, I drove a track ready vehicle that was super fast and zero emissions. Nissan’s world renowned LEAF was available for laps at the manufacturer’s international event called Nissan 360. But this one was a little more special. It was the LEAF NISMO RC (RC stands for race car) and had been on tracks around the world. It was lightening fast and of course, a very memorable experience.

And while I loved most of all the cars I drove in 2013, adding the 2014 VW Touareg TDI to the family was certainly a highlight of my year.

Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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