The 2023 EngageSportMode Awards

A new year is here, so what better way to celebrate than picking the best cars from the last twelve months.

2023 ESM Awards

Worrying about which cars have been the best in 2022 feels a little frivolous, in a world where seemingly everything is either expensive or on fire. But, everyone needs a distraction. 

So, ESM’s Editor has made his choices, and dished out the awards, for another year.

EngageSportMode’s 2023 Car of the Year

2023 ESM Awards

2022 Honda Civic e:HEV

Yeah, bet you weren’t expecting that, were you? Honestly, neither were we, but the new Civic managed to charm and impress its way into our affection during 2022. 

Honda has pitched the Civic e:HEV as the ‘driver’s hybrid’, and it genuinely lives up to that claim. With 184hp it feels quick enough to be exciting, and even has a Sport mode to be engaged. Handling is neat, there is loads of space inside, and the cabin feels premium. Oh, and it even uses proper dials and buttons for the climate control, not a bloody touchscreen! Are you listening, Volkswagen Group?

What sets the Civic e:HEV apart is that its faults are so minor they are virtually irrelevant. Tyre noise is a little loud, but this could probably be solved by different rubber. Prices look high at just below £30,000 but the level of equipment and performance mean this is actually competitive in our inflationary dystopia. 

Ultimately, the Civic e:HEV is the near-perfect family hatchback, and proof that an SUV still does not always have to be the answer. It is unlikely to be bettered, although we are willing to test the Civic Type R – just to be sure.

2023 Guilty Pleasure Award

2023 ESM Awards

2023 Cadillac Escalade-V

In a year where temperatures in the UK reached over 40°C, picking a V8-powered SUV is perhaps the guiltiest of pleasures. But, something had to offset a Honda hybrid as our Car of the Year.

So here it is, the frankly ridiculous Cadillac Escalade-V. Powered by a supercharged 6.2-litre V8, it has 682hp and a thumping 653lb-ft of torque. With standard Launch Control, this 2,800kg behemoth can accelerate from 0-60mph in just 4.4 seconds, whilst emitting a proper V8 snarl. 

We’re sorry, but ESM loves it.

The ‘Don’t Be Scared of the Future’ Prize

2023 ESM Awards

Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept

Dodge hates the idea of “boring” EVs, and wants to prove that muscle cars can still have a place in an electrified future. Enter the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept, with the promise of a top speed in excess of 200mph and a 126-decibel Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust.

As part of the big reveal earlier this year, Dodge made no mention of nerdy things like charging speeds or battery range. Instead, Dodge was keen to point out that all-wheel drive means it can accelerate as fast as a current V8-powered Charger Hellcat. 

With Dodge having built its recent brand image around muscle cars, keeping the theme going will be key to its future. The Charger Daytona SRT Concept proves that even electrification cannot stop the muscle car craze. Consider us sold.

The ‘V8 Muscle Cars Aren’t Dead Yet’ Award

2023 ESM Awards

2024 Ford Mustang

With all this talk of electrification, it might seem like the traditional V8-powered sports car is dead in the water. Not according to Ford, who is keeping the Mustang going for at least one more generation. 

We’ll admit to not being instantly sold on the looks. There is, somewhat confusingly, more than a hint of Chevrolet Camaro when viewed in profile. Ford’s large front grille is also literally stretching the classic Mustang shape, too. 

But, it will still be available with the iconic 5.0-litre V8 engine, set to produce more power than ever before. That makes it a winner for us, along with the ‘Remote Rev’ feature that lets the engine be revved from the key fob. Childish, but wonderful. Don’t change, Ford.

The ‘Obvious Journalistic Cliche’ Trophy

2023 ESM Awards

Mazda MX-5 2.0 GT Sport Tech

The Mazda MX-5 is the automotive meta-cliche. Just mentioning how predictable an option it is, has become hackneyed. But it doesn’t matter, as the MX-5 is still that good.

Compared to the complicated hybrid and V8-powered cars mentioned above, the MX-5 remains as a beacon of motoring purity. A week with the range-topping GT Sport Tech roadster was a reminder of the sheer pleasure that can come from just driving for fun. 

The MX-5 demands you think about the perfect line through corners, to maximise the naturally aspirated engine, and to simply enjoy the sounds of driving with the roof down. Forget accusations of hyperbole, as the MX-5 continues to deliver. Just buy one. Now.

Social Media Nonsense Award

2023 ESM Awards


Honestly, with everything going on in the world, the last thing we need to suffer is a tedious marketing campaign for BMW’s new AI assistant. We are all so tired, please just give it a rest, Munich.

The ‘Buy Local’ Medal

2023 ESM Awards

Twisted Automotive EV Defender

Testing a car that is built just 30 minutes from ESM’s base, but isn’t a Nissan, is something of a novelty. However, the Twisted Defender EV demands to be taken seriously, such is the quality of this electric conversion. 

Famed for producing bespoke Defenders, Thirsk-based Twisted has become a leader in the custom Land Rover world. The same level of attention to detail has gone into the Defender EV, with each component chosen for maximum performance. 

The result is an electric Defender that loses nothing of the charm, or off-road ability, of the original. Yes, it may cost £270,000, but this is unlikely to trouble the clientele Twisted attracts. The North Yorkshire company has kept the soul of the Defender alive, but given a thoroughly modern… twist. (Sorry!)

With 2023 looking set to be another challenging one, just what will ESM uncover as the best cars during the next twelve months?

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