2019 is officially over. It’s time for sunshine and (a sometimes rose-tinted) reflection on the year gone by.
Here at CarAdvice, we’re taking the chance to look back at some of the most interesting, exciting and downright strange stories published this year.
Here are the cars (or parts of the automotive industry) that most disappointed our editorial team this year.
Curt Dupriez, Senior Road Test Editor
When Tesla unveiled what it claimed was the world’s toughest pick-up truck, in the flesh in California in October before purportedly millions of online fans, it really had one job to do.
That one job wasn’t to demonstrate its 1500kg payload capacity or its heady six-point-two-tonne towing capacity.
It didn’t have to ratify how its 800-kilometre range was probable or validate whether its hypercar-like 2.9-second 0-60mp/h (96km/h) acceleration claim was even possible.
It just sat there, not tasked with answering some basic onlooker skepticism about packaging, occupancy, rollover and frontal impact safety credentials, payload practicality, or how spec, equipment and construction as described (but not necessarily displayed) could possibly land in Tesla showroom from just $US39,900.
No. It just had to prove its glass wouldn’t shatter. Infamously, the demonstration was a 100-percent failure. At first public attempt.
Not perturbed, Tesla repeated the attempt. And failed. Again. Call it a 200-percent failure.
Okay, Cybertruck had just two jobs to do…
It was a demonstration of such complete and comedic failure I half expected Elon to tear off his latex face to reveal a smiling Will Ferrell, mid-Saturday Night Live skit. This new Tesla so full of promises couldn’t have damaged credibility further had its wheels also suddenly fallen off.
Even funnier still, despite Tesla’s best effort at deterrence, the company opened its online order books and prospective buyers began laying actual money of a specified figure ($150) in order to line up for, well, some sort of something where “specifications will be developed at a later date”, that will hopefully arrive somewhere, some time. With higher quality glass, maybe…
Mike Costello, Comparisons Editor
Public support for electric vehicles
My column decrying car brands for failing to offer certain models here in Australia received lots of feedback, so my first thought was to revisit that well. But for all the frustration of not receiving certain desirable models like the Kia ProCeed shooting brake, Ford Puma, and Nissan Micra in Australia, we're still swimming in options overall. More than 60 brands sell their vehicles here.
Then I considered the end of Holden's Commodore, which came principally because of a constant buyer migration towards SUVs, but which was also an indictment on GM for not retiring the badge when it shuttered its South Australian plant.
The imported Opel version was an under-appreciated car, but the 'Commodore' badge equity was dead by then since V8 diehards hated it and new prospects didn't like the affiliation.
But what really caused me dismay was the continued lack of public support for electric cars.
I won't play partisan politics because energy policy need not be a left versus right ideological debate. We all breathe the same air. But let's acknowledge that governments across Europe, Asia and the Americas are helping car companies grow EV sales by offering temporary tax breaks, subsidies, and rewarding them fleet contracts.
Sales are strong, battery prices are falling, and soon economies of scale will make them more affordable for a wider public now trained and familiar with them. Australia is not doing its bit here, at all.
Yes, more EVs are here now – the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona and Ioniq, Renault Zoe, Mercedes-Benz EQC, Jaguar I-Pace – joining early champions from Tesla and BMW.
And companies like Tritium and Chargefox are playing their role in growing infrastructure, as are bodies such as the RACV.
But EV market share remains a fraction of a fraction of a per cent. Public assistance is sometimes needed to topple a tired incumbent with the odds stacked in its favour, in this case if we want our cityscapes to be quieter and our air cleaner.
Would Sydney be nicer with fuel-cell buses chugging up those hills? Would Melbourne's Punt Road be less horrifying at 8am if every third car was a Leaf?
There's a basic public-good argument for this, just like there was when solar panels were subsidised. But I fear the sound argument has been hijacked by ideology, and that puts us so far behind the eight-ball that we can't even make out the number.
Rob Margeit, Culture and Lifestyle Editor
The politics of electric vehicles
If you'll cast your mind back to this year's Federal election, both sides used electric vehicles as a political football, with claims and counter-claims flying across the news cycle as one party looked for the high ground over the other in what was a fiercely contested campaign.
The disappointment comes in just how ill-informed and uneducated both sides of the political divide were on the subject.
From 'They're coming for your utes!', to 'Electric vehicles can charge in around 10 minutes', the level of stupidity on display was mind-boggling.
Surely, if you're going to turn EVs into a pillar of your future policy, you'd hire an expert adviser to fill in the blanks in your rudimentary understanding. Otherwise you'll just end up sounding like a political pillock.
Sam Purcell, Off-road Editor
Australia might miss the diesel Gladiator
I was lucky enough to spend some time behind the wheel of the Gladiator early in 2019, and while I wasn't saying to myself 'how good is this big Wrangler dual-cab!?', the thought 'jeez this would be a zinger with a nice diesel under the bonnet'.
And considering there is a 600Nm, 3.0-litre V6 floating around, I thought it would be a match made in heaven.
However, Jeep has fallen short of confirming such a thing – even though the Gladiator is not far off showroom floors in Australia. This has got me worried that they either can't or won't bring a diesel-powered Gladiator to the (almost) antipodes.
Jeep's current line that the 3.6-litre petrol V6 is a fine and proven engine is fair, but the Australian buying public doesn't give a damn. Toyota recently dropped the petrol option out of their LandCruiser, Prado, and HiLux.
And while the Ram 1500 is doing well with Hemi V8 power, Ateco was quick to add a diesel option to the lineup. And whaddaya know, it's that same 3.0-litre diesel V6. Diesel is still king in the 4X4 ute market, and I think the Gladiator needs diesel to really leave a mark.
Scott Collie, Journalist
The cars Haval doesn't sell here
Earlier this year, I had the chance to check out Haval's incredible factory in Baoding, China. Suffice to say the factory is massive – it outputs 2200 cars per day – and the proving ground is a match for anything I've seen elsewhere in the world.
To put that into context, Haval sold just over 600 cars in Australia last year. Had it built them in a single day, our total sell would've been out the door and on a boat before the staff had finished chatting about last night's episode of Game of Thrones.
But the real eye-opener was getting to drive some of Haval's modern products. The F7 and F7X are price rivals for the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson, but they're both longer and taller, with a more upmarket interior.
Modern engines are a feature, too, along with wet-clutch dual-clutch transmissions.
Oh, and a fully loaded F7 costs the equivalent of $30,000 in China. A spokesperson from Haval told us it'd likely cost around $5K more in Australia, were it to appear in showrooms tomorrow.
But we still don't know when – or if – they're coming to Australia.
Apparently the model we'll be offered will be "more than a facelift" of the car you see here, but it hasn't actually been locked in. And that means Haval could lose its nerve, or decide not to bother, at any point between now and 2021.
Meanwhile, the brand languishes with the H6 in Australia. As in the H6 that scored a 6.5 on review in 2016.
It's time for Haval to decide whether it's serious about making it outside China, because it's a damn shame we don't get anything remotely close to its best products Down Under.
Kez Casey, Road Tester
The state of Holden
There's no avoiding it. The biggest disappointment of this year (and last, and the year before) is Holden.
But I'm not sure where to direct that disappointment. Large passenger cars aren't the sales force they once were so the declining Commodore sales we saw this year were likely to have occurred regardless of the Commodore's 2018 shift to full importation.
Perhaps GM's gradual desertion of the brand deserves scorn. Having sold Opel to Peugeot's parent company the Commodore and Astra became odd orphans in a range that was sourced from Opel, Chevrolet, and GMC – completely free from any kind of aesthetic cohesion.
Maybe it's a sudden shortfall of future product, as GM winds up RHD operations around the globe Holden's remaining portfolio of potential products has all but vanished.
A factory-built RHD Corvette slated for 2021 isn't the car Holden needs, it's a nice-to-have product for when there's a top selling mid-size or family SUV and a chart conquering dual-cab ute safely on the books.
Sales keep sliding, the brand continues to devalue itself with price-slashing offers, the ship has no helmsman right now, and the marketing message is somewhere between vague and non-existent.
Watching consumer confidence and sales slide month on month for a brand that was once a point of pride to Australian's is far and away 2019's most galling slight.
Joshua Dowling, National Motoring Editor
Multiple, for the reasons laid out below...
With each layer of skin that comes off my shins, some of the shine comes off the Ford Ranger Raptor.
I’m still getting used to the massive side steps that I whack my shins on almost every time I climb aboard.
The scabs don’t get time to heal before I bump them again. Indeed, I’m reminded of the Raptor every time I take a shower, when I feel the stinging on my lower legs.
Meanwhile the mighty mouse Toyota Yaris GR could be the shortest love affair I’ve ever had with a car.
As a former Ford Fiesta ST owner (with an eye on the next one), I fell in love with the Yaris GR by the end of the first fast lap, only to fall out of love once I discovered Australia isn’t getting the good one, the Performance Pack model.
Instead we’re getting the base model with less grippy Dunlop tyres and open diffs. Meh.
Presumably Toyota thinks hot hatch geeks don’t have the internet, so won’t know what they’re missing out on.
For what it’s worth, on behalf of like-minded hot hatch fans, I badgered the big wig from Toyota Australia for days about the price, and the likelihood of the Performance Pack coming.
At $30,000 to $35,000 it’d be a gem. At $40,000 to $50,000 it’s a big ask for such a small car, even if it is a little firecracker.
Unfortunately, I was beginning to stretch the boundaries of being polite with my pestering. Toyota gave no clue about price, and said the Performance Pack isn't coming. Sorry kids, I tried.
And my disappointment with the Hyundai i30 Go? The headlights are dim (by modern standards) and there’s a rattle in the dashboard I can’t find. As someone who listens for squeaks and rattles for a living, it drives me crazy. I know, right? Poor me.
Mandy Turner, Podcast Host and Road Tester
'That' 4 Series grille
Is anyone keen to take bets the grille on the 2020 BMW 4 Series will be the most controversial thing to happen next year?
When a leaked photo from the factory floor in October clearly showed a grille very similar to that from the Concept 4, it sent everyone into a spin, with one CarAdvice commenter saying, "Someone at BMW needs to go to Specsavers".
Although it appears BMW could be harking back to the tall grille from the pre-war BMW 328 Roadster, and even though we haven't seen the production car yet, I think it's something that belongs in the past... and should stay there.
Trent Nikolic, Managing Editor
New cars without a five-star safety rating
For me, any vehicle released in 2019 that can't achieve a five-star safety rating – or get very close to it – is a disappointment. If the vehicle would have achieved five stars except for a warning chime, then I can live with it.
If it's structural, I'm sorry, that's not good enough.
We've railed for years that commercial vehicles don't have the requisite safety, especially given the amount of time drivers spend behind the wheel of said vehicles.
Now the overwhelming majority of them do, and while driver error still accounts for most of the stupidity that goes on, on the road, the tradie and delivery landscape is safer than it's ever been.
The argument that gets trotted out often runs along the lines of, well – insert vehicle here – wasn't intended to be a family vehicle. Irrelevant. Completely irrelevant.
If buyers are using them as family vehicles, then that's what the manufacturer should be paying attention to. Safety might be boring when it comes to testing and writing, I get that, but it should be a priority.
Mike Stevens, Producer
Anybody that follows me on the socials will be able to guess at this one.
The afternoon it was revealed, the CarAdvice Melbourne office crowded around my desktop to watch the unveiling event as I live-tweeted it, and the moment the Cybertruck rolled onto stage, I sent: "prank truck alert".
I truly thought it was Musk being Musk, funny guy that he thinks he is. When the reveal ended, busted windows and all, I sent: "This is either the most poorly executed joke in history, or that was all for real. Kill me now."
And I'm still not sure I believe any of it. If Musk reveals 'the actual' Cybertruck tomorrow with a more familiar design, the only thing I'll be surprised about is how far out he dragged the joke.
Of course, the reality is that this is the real deal, and plenty of people like it. Around 300,000 or so, going by the number of $150 deposits dropped on it.
I just can't get around it. It looks bloody ridiculous, and dangerous. The sort of thing contrarians leap on for the sake of being different. It's all yours.
Paul Maric, Senior Road Tester
I'm not disappointed with the H2 because it's a bad car – it's okay. The problem is when we tested the car earlier in the year, I did a brim test on the car to verify the accuracy of the fuel economy meter on the vehicle.
The fuel gauge was indicating the tank was emptying far quicker than the economy meter was suggesting it was using fuel.
The brim test indicated the economy reading was way, way off. It was using over 30 per cent more fuel than the trip computer's claim. We've never come across this with a car before.
We then also had issues with the radio intermittently cutting out, the headlights would significantly dim as the air conditioner compressor kicked in, and there was a considerably driveline vibration at idle.
Immediately after the road test we let Haval know, and the company spent quite some time investigating. We were told it was an issue with the ECU calibration for Australian fuel density, and that the lights dimming was a characteristic of the vehicle.
Satisfied with that answer, we asked to rebook the car (in July) and haven't heard back since.
That's why I'll chalk this up as the most disappointing car of 2019.