10 December 2021 - A petrol-powered, all-wheel drive, turbocharged pocket-rocket is the 2021 AA DRIVEN New Zealand Car of the Year. Compact, fast but also clean, the Toyota GR Yaris impressed the AA Motoring and DRIVEN judging panel, to claim the top prize for 2021.

In a class field of 30 finalists across ten categories, with over three-quarters utilising electrification of some form, the Toyota GR Yaris is the classic David vs Goliath(s) victory.

Though limited in numbers, sold out and with Toyota New Zealand on the hunt for more, its all-around appeal, unique styling, WRC-style equipment and performance, coupled with its small footprint, appealing price and ultimate driving exhilaration, the Toyota GR Yaris bucks the recent trend of electrified vehicles scooping awards, and proves small is big. That special combination is still the right formula that appeals to car journalists, judges and enthusiasts alike, at a time when being ecologically conscious is more important than ever.

The increasing relevance and profile of electric vehicles saw the introduction of a new Clean & Green category for 2021, incorporating three sub-classes catering for Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) and Hybrid models. NZME’s Head of Automotive & DRIVEN, Natasha Callister says: “With many global automotive manufacturers signalling their commitment to electrification along with the introduction of the Government’s Clean Car Feebate scheme, sustainability is a hot topic. We felt the time was right to celebrate and showcase these vehicles to New Zealanders.”

“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,” says DRIVEN editor, Dean Evans. “Its numbers are impressive: 200kW from a 1.6-litre three-cylinder, all-wheel drive and a six-speed manual, 0-100km/h 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.”

AA Motoring Services General Manager Jonathan Sergel says: “This year there has been an impressive spread of finalists and it 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.

“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.”

Toyota New Zealand managing director Neeraj Lala was naturally delighted, particularly in what proved to be a very strong year for Toyota. Its diverse range of popular vehicles took out five of the 13 individual categories, including wins for its Yaris Cross, RAV4, Hilux, and of course the Sports & Performance classes, plus the overall win with GR Yaris.

From 10 judged categories, eight winners have elements of electrification, reinforcing the changing market. Kia’s new Sorento (with PHEV option) took out Large SUV, Tesla’s Model 3 (BEV) won the Passenger class, Ford’s Escape was chosen as best PHEV, Peugeot’s e-208 GT was picked as the best battery electric vehicle/BEV, and Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 (BEV) took out the Luxury class. The Subaru Outback also scored highest in ANCAP crash testing to take home the AA Safety Award for 2021.

The popular People’s Choice, voted on by almost 50,000 New Zealanders, awarded the Tesla Model 3 as the most popular car for 2021, a fitting tribute to a model that, while not new, still resonates with current and future buyers.

Congratulations to all the finalists, class winners and the overall 2021 AA DRIVEN New Zealand Car of the Year, the Toyota GR Yaris.

2021 AA DRIVEN NZ Car of the Year WINNERS
Small SUV: Toyota GR Yaris
Medium SUV: Toyota RAV4
Large SUV: Kia Sorento
Passenger (sedan, hatch, wagon): Tesla Model 3
Light Commercial Vehicle (ute/van): Toyota Hilux
Clean & Green
          Hybrid: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
          Plug-in Hybrid EV: Ford Escape PHEV
          Battery EV: Peugeot e-208 GT
Luxury ($100k+): Hyundai Ioniq 5
Sports & Performance: Toyota GR Yaris
AA Safety Award: Subaru Outback
AA DRIVEN People’s Choice: Tesla Model 3
Car of the Year overall: Toyota GR Yaris

For further information please contact:
(Available for AA DRIVEN Car of the Year comment) Dean Evans
New Zealand Media and Entertainment
027 328 3270 

Kate Grant
+64 27 422 0079