On this penultimate day of the year, we get retrospective and look back on some of our exciting drives over the past twelve months. From snarling felines, to regal tanks with lofty asking prices and affordable rockets, here are some of the memorable machines of 2013.

Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG Edition 1 – For what it might lack in cornering finesse and pliability; it makes up for tenfold in straight-line kick. The mighty, compact Benz proves the adage that dynamite comes in small packages. And it makes a symphony of snaps, crackles and pops. We put it on track against beefier, pricier Germans like the Audi RS5 and BMW 650i for laughter’s sake. It’s always fun to watch the little one win.

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Jaguar F-Type – Misty-eyed reminiscence about the old E-Type marked this new cat’s arrival. And it ushers in the same sex appeal and thrilling experience as its progenitor did. The snarling Supercharged model clawed its way into our hearts and also cracked a nod from the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists. It’s a 2013 Car of The Year finalist. We loved the shape, sound and pace. Even though it truly lacks space. The Coupe could remedy that in 2014.

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Ford Fiesta ST – The era of fast Ford models has returned spectacularly. Hot on the heels of the thrilling (torque-steer is rather thrilling) Focus ST, comes its little brother the Fiesta ST. It’s currently our pick in the compact hot hatchback league; for its price, smile-factor and sharp driving character. The lovable Ford endeared more than the swift but soft Peugeot 208 GTi and pricey Volkswagen Polo GTI. We’ll have ours in black with white stripes please.

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BMW 316i – The “entry-level” 3-Series shines through as an honest and well-sorted product, amidst BMW’s confusing array of “Sports Activity Coupes” and chunky Grand Tourers. Despite packing a four-cylinder engine it performs superbly – thanks to a turbocharger – and returns good economy. Be smart with the list of extras and you might not have to pay in limbs either. BMW kept things simple and emerged with a true winner. Keen finance offerings are also enabling many sales.

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Volkswagen Golf 7 GTI  – If you haven’t driven – or bought – one yet, the GTI is a reminder of what the archetypal hot hatchback should be. Purists might find it too clinical; but remember that the hallmark of the Golf is to make swift driving safe and manageable for buyers of all driving abilities. It’s also reasonably priced, boasts a classy cabin that feels rather Audi-like and in DSG guise, serves up that tasty “brap” sound everyone likes. As a machine with many skills, it’s hard to beat.

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Subaru BRZ – It might say Toyota 86 on the tin. But it was actually the folks at Subaru who did all the dirty engineering work. The daring automaker introduced their take on the car as it should be in the form of the BRZ. It costs more than the Toyota – but it also has more kit, a louder exhaust and a suspension set-up to lessen tail-happiness. Earlier this year we took it to Phakisa Freeway in Welkom and were impressed by its pure nature.

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Volvo V40 T5 R-Design – A hot hatchback for the gentlemen. The fast Volvo eschews boy-racer stigmas but is still easily able to tackle the main players. And the V40 is a product of the fresh wind sweeping the automaker: with more exciting designs and less play-it-safe vanilla templates. The V40 (D3 derivative) also made it as a finalist in the South African Car of The Year Competition.

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Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari – Quite possibly the silliest car of 2013. But one whose ambitions evoke admiration and elicit a huge grin. The Ferrari-aspiring Fiat features more punch under the hood, lashings of carbon fibre and serious exclusivity. But you do pay the premium. The way you feel throwing it around, though? Priceless.

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Opel Corsa OPC Nurburgring Edition – Finally, General Motors South Africa pandered to the pleas of enthusiasts. Earlier this year they brought over the Nurburgring Edition Corsa, fettled on the infamous “Green Hell”. It’s more powerful, looks meaner and is more exclusive since only a handful have been shipped over. We took it to Zwartkops Racetrack for a proper workout.

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Range Rover Supercharged Autobiography – One has to resist addressing fellow citizens as “squire” or “dame” from atop this regal British chariot. There are many players in the luxury SUV segment, but the Range Rover simple feels more equal than its rivals from Germany. The range-topping Autobiography model tested here doesn’t come cheap. But it does feel worth every cent.

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Chrysler 300C SRT8 – In the current climate of downsizing, the HEMI-engined Chrysler says a proud viva to the muscle car movement. With a rumbling eight-cylinder soundtrack and rear-wheel drive, it’s a machine made for tail-sliding mirth. One of the things we also like is its value status. It’s a lot of car for the asking price.

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BMW X5 M50d xDrive – The beastly Beemer is a bastion for the advancement of diesel technology. It doesn’t sound like a diesel, nor does it perform like one. Wearing the hallowed M badge proudly, it offers brilliant acceleration: but still hangs onto that virtue of frugality we love from oil-burners.

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Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake – A quirky Benz that puts the “fun” in funeral. Our black Shooting Brake tester garnered stares everywhere we took it. This CLS proves that the words “wagon” and “sex appeal” can be juxtaposed together – especially AMG guise. They are extremely rare.

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MINI E – The electric revolution is here. Earlier in 2013 we reported on BMW’s Electric Mobility Summit, hosted to gauge thoughts on the notion of battery-powered cars. Then we spent time with the fully-electric Mini E: a glimpse of what the BMW i3 might be like, when it arrives in April 2014. We plugged into the wave for nearly a week, living with its charging requirements and range restrictions.

Mini E Picture

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Opel Astra OPC – Quite possibly the sexiest contender in the hot hatchback ambit. The sinister OPC with its road-hugging stance and fat tyres puts fear into everything else out there. And it goes as good as it looks too; serving up a novel turbocharged whistle – a bit like a Le Creuset stove kettle. It’s also on the pricey side though; making it a viable choice for the well-heeled fanboys.

Opel Astra OPC

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Brenwin Naidu