Drive’s Hits and Misses of 2023 - SUV VEHICLE

Drive’s Hits and Misses of 2023


The Drive team look back on the past 12 months and share their thoughts on what made it a year to remember, and what we’ll try to forget.

The world largely returned to ‘normal’ in 2023, with a raft of new models and fresh stock triggering the first showroom deals in years, as well as record new-car sales… but not everything was a win.

Here’s what the Drive team felt were the biggest Hits and Misses of 2023.

Hit: Affordable electric vehicles

Seeing not one but three electric cars break through the all-important $40,000 barrier this year has really cemented electric transport as part of our road landscape.

These are the cars that Australians have been asking for and each of the BYD Dolphin, MG 4 and GWM Ora offer plenty of features and fun underpinned by a practical electric platform.

Bring on better urban charging infrastructure and we’ll start to see stronger adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the cities, which is where they work best and are needed most.

Miss: Extreme price rises

We get it. The world has become a more expensive place to live, work and build things. The whole automotive manufacturing supply chain has seen increases in prices, and they have been reflected in the sticker prices of nearly every car on the market. But there’s a point at which CPI or inflation-based increases step aside and inequitable increases come into play.

The most notable example is the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon which has climbed $19,000 since 2021 with no change to the car itself.

Let’s hope next year sees a little more sensibility here.

It’s hard to go past the availability of some strong options at the more affordable end of the electric-vehicle market. I’m always cautious when I refer to a $40,000 car as ‘affordable’ because, for plenty of Aussie car buyers, that figure is out of reach. However, the fact remains that without the likes of MG and BYD, there wouldn’t be an affordable EV on sale in Australia.

Another point worth making is the release of the four-cylinder LandCruiser 70 Series. In an environment where the V8 simply can’t carry on, rural buyers especially needed some form of reassurance that Toyota would offer them something to continue the tradition of the no-frills workhorse. City buyers need not apply (even though they will), but the 70 carries on doing the things that rural buyers expect.

Governments – of all colours and levels – still missing the boat on removing their hands from under their collective bums and actually doing something about electric-vehicle charging infrastructure. The end of nonsense incentives is a start, but a lot more needs to be done as the sale of EVs continues to outpace the rollout of infrastructure.

Australians are buying EVs, as we’ve always said they would if they make sense to the individual. However, a road trip anywhere out of a major city is still soured by no chargers, not enough chargers, or chargers that don’t work.

It’s one thing for governments to encourage Aussies to buy EVs under the guise of helping the environment, but there needs to be tangible work on infrastructure, not just bleating.

Hit: GM’s decision to ditch Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Very few cars do smartphone mirroring well. For reasons beyond my limited tech knowledge, some Apple CarPlay and Android Auto installations are glitchy, slow and sometimes even inoperable.

It’s not just a few brands with this problem, either; many of the cars I’ve driven this year – more than 120 different models from dozens of brands – suffered from stuttering smartphone integrations. Sadly, whether it’s the car brand or the phone brand to blame, the car brand cops it.

So good on GM for taking responsibility and forging a brave new path. I just hope it works, because cars and phones are only going to get more complex – and more invasive.

Miss: Government initiatives driving Australia’s motoring future

Call me old fashioned but I believe a good government proactively prepares a country for future prosperity, whereas our State and Federal Governments seem to focus on reactive tax legislation to bankroll bad decisions.

Victoria’s short-lived EV road user tax was ridiculous, as was the Federal Government’s tightening of the Luxury Car Tax criteria for fuel-efficient vehicles.

It all slows our transition to a more sustainable motoring future. Instead let’s revamp the entire GST, LCT, Stamp Duty, Fuel Excise, and registration mess for a system that makes safer and more economical cars more affordable to buy and own.

Hit: More affordable electric cars coming to Australia!

We’re not quite at price parity yet, but how exciting to see some options under the $40,000 mark. The arrival of the GWM Ora, MG 4 and BYD Dolphin have genuinely shifted the needle forward for people who were previously on the fence about making the switch to electric.

I hope this trend continues in 2024, and we see some more cars closer to $30,000 (maybe even under $30,000? Or am I dreaming?).

The arrival of US-made super utes (cough, Yank tanks) like the Toyota Tundra and Ford F-150 might be exciting for those regularly towing, carrying heavy loads and tackling rocky terrain, but for city dwellers like myself it just means parking is about to get even more difficult.

I understand these mega-utes serve a genuine purpose for some, but as the rest of the world moves towards compact electric cars, their rise feels a little incongruous and even tone-deaf given the current climate. Sorry, Yank tank fans.

Hit: Affordable electric cars

Like everyone else, the influx of relatively affordable electric cars has placed EV ownership within reach of more people than ever before. While we have applauded the engineering and technological electric marvels from high-end premium manufacturers, the reality is they were only ever going to appeal to the top end of town.

But this year, thanks entirely to Chinese car makers like MG, BYD and GWM, electric cars have never been more affordable and within reach of everyday Australians.

Miss: Public charging stations for electric vehicles

Putting aside that there are not enough of them and parking frustration that there’s a better-than-even chance they are often fitted with the dreaded ‘Out of Order’ sign, the real frustration is that there are a multitude of apps needed to be able to use them.

Each charging provider seems to require their own app. At last count, we here at Drive have downloaded 11 (!) different apps in order to be able to access public charging facilities. Payment technology has moved at incredible speed the last few years so why electric charging providers haven’t embraced the simplicity and ubiquity of Paywave is beyond comprehension.

Perhaps it’s a reflection of my personality, but I feel the need to complain first about the most exciting new car in 2024 from my point of view. It’s way too expensive, conspicuously overweight, and has a few other flaws to note.

But the simple fact that the Ineos Grenadier – a literal brain fart of Britain’s wealthiest individual – has made it so far is cause for celebration. It goes against the grain of just about every car out there, championing old-fashioned values of utility, durability and practicality instead of comfort, all-out tech and convenience. And for a first swing from a newly-minted car brand, it’s impressively well executed.

Miss: Traffic sign recognition systems

It’s undoubtedly going to be fixed in due course, but the traffic sign recognition system in recent Hyundai and Kia vehicles shows that even the biggest and most proliferate carmakers can still let howlers slip through to the showroom floor.

I don’t like beeping at the best of times, and some iterations of this tech made me quite cranky in regular driving. With widespread backlash, fixes are coming. Some of the more recent Kias and Hyundais have already been improved, and we look forward to that improving even more and speading across the complete ranges of both brands.

Hit: Car companies that have allowed the V8 to live on

With automakers preparing to reach lofty EV goals, we’ve been witnessing the slow death of V8s, replaced with smaller, more fuel-efficient four- and six-cylinder engines.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against electric vehicles, but particular icons are still valuable and should be preserved. Thankfully, not everyone has followed the trend. Toyota has retained the V8 in the LandCruiser 70 Series (for now), Porsche with the updated Cayenne, and Ford with the Mustang, to name a few.

Miss: We’re not over COVID yet

It’s disappointing to see new-car prices skyrocketing, especially during a cost of living crises. We saw a rapid increase throughout the pandemic, but new cars remain incredibly expensive and difficult to acquire.

And by difficult, I mean, you still have to wait for more than a year for a RAV4? When will it end?!

Hit: Kia’s new EV range

Kia made waves in Australia at the beginning of 2023 for out-gunning its South Korean cousin Hyundai in the new car sales race, but the brand hasn’t put it feet up just yet.

In the latter half of the year the car-maker unveiled plans for not just one new electric vehicle, but three distinct debuts underpinned by the (frankly brilliant) E-GMP platform. Each of the three cars is aimed at proliferating the availability of electric vehicles around the world, and each uses a unique interpretation of Kia’s funky new styling language.

What’s better, Australians will be some of the first in the world to take advantage. The Kia EV5 is expected to arrive in 2024 as the most affordable electric vehicle from the brand yet. No doubt, you’ll be seeing a plethora of Kia electric vehicles on local roads in the near future.

Miss: Mitsubishi Triton Xtreme

Mid-way through the year I had the chance to drive the Mitsubishi Triton Xtreme and I almost immediately forgot about it.

Too little, too late, too expensive – the Triton Xtreme took a run-out model and introduced a series of upgrades (Supashock suspension, underbody protection, all-terrain tyres, etc.), but it didn’t do much for the car, which was nigh-on being replaced with an all-new generation.

Then came the $15,000 increase in price over the Triton GSR on which the Triton Xtreme was based… Walkinshaw does good work elsewhere in remanufacturing, but this release fell wide of the mark.

While the Ford F-150 nearly made it to my hit list, it’s the Effie’s polar opposite that deserves to be here more: The electric MG 4 hatch.

Many continue to crow about the shortcomings in cheap Chinese cars – and not necessarily without justification, mind – but the MG 4 is a different kettle of fish.

It marks not only a step forward in terms of build quality, but design, capability, and value. Tesla may have introduced the electric car to the world, but I suspect the MG 4 could be the one that cracks open the market segment to mainstream buyers.

It’s really that good – and if you don’t believe me, have an open mind and go and test-drive one. For many people, this will be the start of a new era.

Miss: Victorian Government’s EV tax

I’d originally written a few grumpy paragraphs about the inaction of Australia’s Federal Government on emissions laws. Clearly, ASIO was accessing my laptop and passed it on to the Minister, because now the Euro 6d emissions laws have been announced, and I have to find something else to be grumpy about.

So let’s talk about the Victorian Government, which had its Zero- and Low-Emissions Vehicle levy struck down by the courts a few months ago, forcing it to refund millions of unlawfully gained taxes back to Victorian motorists.

While taxes are good and ensure we have nice things, it was premature, discouraged the purchase of electric cars and plug-in hybrids, ill-thought out, and, as it turns out, was unconstitutional.

Hit: The peak of internal combustion

We keep hearing and writing about the death of fast internal-combustion-engined cars, yet the petrol-powered performance-car market got a huge boost in 2023.

Will most of these cars be dead in five years? Probably. But the fact they’re still here today is worth celebrating.

Miss: EV charging infrastructure

Electric vehicle sales are growing at a rapid pace, but the public charging network is still simply not good enough.

In nearly every EV I’ve driven this year, I’ve had a frustrating charging experience – whether it’s a charger not working correctly (or at all), long queues as other drivers insist on trickling energy into their nearly-full cars at a snail’s pace, and the charger refusing to connect with the car.

The only shining star here is the Tesla Supercharger network, which is consistently easy to use, reliable and widespread. Here’s hoping it encourages everyone else to up their game.

Hit: Cars for enthusiasts

In a time when car-makers are investing more money into electric vehicles than ever before, it’s nice to see that there are still many enthusiast machines out there – even if they are being sold in fewer numbers at higher prices.

Though I don’t have the cash for any now, their existence means that when the price bubble eventually bursts, there will hopefully be ample supply on the used market well into the future.

As others have touched on, ever-increasing prices. Discounts are a thing of the past, consumers are buying cars in droves despite a looming economic crisis. It’s disappointing to see some brands ditch their ‘budget’ roots and go upmarket, but thus the cosmic ballet goes on.

Hit: No Cybertruck for Australia

My hit would be that the Tesla Cybertruck is showing no signs of heading Down Under. Its arrival would have paved the way for ridiculous car design and would have boosted the ego of already right-lane-hogging ute drivers. No one who would buy the Tesla Cybertruck would need a ute, it would be a purchase purely to be outlandish.

Petrol prices are a hard miss. I know there is so much at play that affects these prices, but come on. I won’t be alone when I say it needs to be policed more.

An Ampol on one side of the road will be a solid 20 cents more expensive than the Coles on the other side, and the next day it will be the other way around. Just ridiculous.

What are your thoughts? Where did 2023 win and where did it lose?

Let us know in the comments below.

Drive Team

The Drive Team brings you trusted, expert reviews of your next new car and is home to the best new car awards program in Australia.

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