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Carsguide’s Car of the Year

Published: December 13, 2012 | 8:11 am
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brz 86 and coty
The final field: The BRZ/86 twins (front) were the most impressive of a strong group of contenders. Picture: Matthew Vasilescu

IT’S A tie – sort of. For the first time in its 16-years, Carsguide’s Car of the Year is shared by two companies. For one car.

Those twins, Subaru’s BRZ and Toyota 86, are joint winners, edging out the Hyundai i30 after three intensive days of judging and more than 6000km of evaluation by nine COTY judges with more than 100 years of combined motoring experience.
The Japanese sports car clones have been COTY favourites since the day they were unveiled.
They also embody the Carsguide mantra and COTY methodology: “Real cars, on real roads, for real people.”
The landmark collaboration between Toyota and Subaru combines classy engineering with a concentrated focus on driving enjoyment. Value packaging means a $29,990 starting price for the 86 and drive-away pricing with free servicing on the BRZ.
“This is the era of the SUV and that makes the BRZ/86 quite remarkable. It’s a ground-breaking car and it is the one car, regardless of the badge it wears,” says Carsguide editor Paul Pottinger.
Summing up the majority feeling, James Stanford says: “This car is a gift. Has anyone got out of either one without a smile on their face?”
The performance of Hyundai’s i30 is a surprise, as it edges the new Toyota Corolla to make the final four showdown alongside the Kia Sorento and Honda CR-V, which fly the flag for the SUV stars of 2012.
“I really like the i30, and would give it my No.1 vote,” says Chris Riley.
The COTY showdown for 2012 involves 11 cars including The Twins – as we dub the 86 and BRZ – and nine judges. The process starts with a 120km run west from Sydney into the Blue Mountains, then laps around a testing and varied 44km loop from Mount Victoria.
Each car has been chosen to reflect the best value and strongest sales, not just the way it would look if it was fully loaded with an unrealistic bottom line.
From the start, the Ford Falcon is in trouble. Its sales have plunged this year and, despite the addition of the excellent EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, it is still too old in too many ways. But by even making the Top 10 COTY contest, it’s a winner. What a pity Ford has not done nearly enough to promote the best riding and handling Falcon of its generation.
The Ford Ranger, too, struggles. It’s a pick-up that can do double duty as a family car and it led the ute world with five-star safety, but it cannot compete in such a classy field. From the Holden camp, the plug-in electric Volt is a window on the future that’s not good enough for the present. We could live with the cramped back seat and the cramped boot and the confusing dashboard if the price was about $35,000.
“It’s trying to be the car of the future but it falls down today,” says Karla Pincott.
The COTY crew does lots of laps on day one, cycling through the cars and usually going back-to-back with direct rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5.
This is a contest within the broader judging that produces a surprising preference for the Honda, which beats the Mazda on value and boot space. The CR-V has a lower loading lip and includes the little things that make a difference to families.
As push comes to shove and the preliminary scores are tallied, the four finalists become clear – The Twins make it five if you’re pedantic.
Leading the also-rans is the Corolla, narrowly trumped by the i30. The CX-5 also falls and we lose the fun little Volkswagen Up.
“The Up is a great city car. But there is no auto and you really can’t drive it with any comfort beyond the city,” says Pottinger.
By day two the judges are separating into two camps.
The shortcomings of the Sorento and CR-V take them out of the fight for top honour. For most, the Honda is not strong enough in the engine room. Despite the classy Australian suspension settings, the Sorento is not generally good enough to claim a COTY crown. It’s inherently sound but a reversing camera should be standard.
The i30 scores for its classy cabin, its affordable starting price and an overall package that edges the Corolla despite the Toyota’s impressive $19,990 starting point.
The result comes down to the final voting, with each car scored 4-3-2-1 by the nine judges in turn. The Twins win.
“This car is brilliant and it’s such a great drive,” says Stanford.
The Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are also real cars, on real roads, for real people.
FINAL FOUR
1. TOYOTA 86/ SUBARU BRZ
$29,990/$37,150
The most significant sports cars since the original Mazda MX-5 in 1989 and by far the most affordable.
“There are too many grey cars in the world. The Twins are technicolour and 3D” – Paul Gover
2. HYUNDAI i30 Active
$20,990
Better than the Corolla in many ways and proof that the Koreans now do better Japanese cars than most Japanese makers.
“It’s a typical Hyundai. They get better every time a new one comes out of the box.” – Craig Duff
3. KIA SORENTO Si Diesel
$38,990
A real family package with seven seats and a solid diesel for hauling. Put ahead of the Hyundai Santa Fe by intensive local suspension work.
“I keep coming back to value-for-money and I think it delivers. It’s a well-sorted package.” – Karla Pincott
4. HONDA CR-V VTi
$29,790
An impressive revitalisation of a global SUV favourite. The cabin is bigger and more flexible, although the engine lets it down a little.
“The load space is excellent and it drives well.” – Stuart Martin
HONOURABLE MENTION
FORD FALCON ECOBOOST G6
$40,835
The car Ford should have had in the noughties. The four-cylinder engine enhances economy and driving enjoyment.
“It’s the Falcon of the year. It’s what Ford needed to do, but four or five years ago.” – Karla Pincott
FORD RANGER XLT
$55,390
Ever more families are taking the work-and-play track into utes and the Ranger is best of the bunch.
“The Ranger is the most car-like truck out there. The only thing that hurts it is the price, which means it can’t be a finalist.” – Joshua Dowling
HOLDEN VOLT
$59,990
The first electric car to overcome range anxiety with a petrol engine to charge its batteries. Too heavy but good to drive.
“For all the greenery, it’s still got an internal combustion engine in it. And it should be 40 grand.’ – Chris Riley
MAZDA CX-5 Maxx FWD
$29,880
A runaway best-seller thank to its convenient size and the Mazda badge.
“It’s a good car but not great. And the CR-V is a better package for its price.” – Paul Gover
TOYOTA COROLLA ASCENT
$21,990
The world’s favourite car is better than it was but still has a few flaws. The starting sticker, though, is a winner.
“I’d rather spend five years in the i30 than three years in the Corolla.” – Paul Pottinger
VOLKSWAGEN UP 3-DR
$13,990
Designed for European cities but right at home in Australia, the Up is a great first car or second commuter runabout.
“The three-cylinder engine is why we call it the giddy-Up.” – James Stanford

JUDGES’ PICKS
PAUL POTTINGER
1. BRZ/86
2. Hyundai i30
3. Kia Sorento
4. Honda CR-V
PAUL GOVER
1. BRZ/86
2. Hyundai i30
3. Kia Sorento
4. Honda CR-V
KARLA PINCOTT
1. BRZ/86
2. Hyundai i30
3. Kia Sorento
4. Honda CR-V
CRAIG DUFF
1. BRZ/86
2. Hyundai i30
3. Kia Sorento
4. Honda CR-V
STUART MARTIN
1. BRZ/86
2. Hyundai i30
3. Kia Sorento
4. Honda CR-V
JAMES STANFORD
1. BRZ/86
2. Hyundai i30
3. Kia Sorento
4 Honda CR-V
CHRIS RILEY
1. Hyundai i30
2. BRZ/86
3. Kia Sorento
4 Honda CR-V
NEIL DOWLING
1. Hyundai i30
2. BRZ/86
3. Kia Sorento
4. Honda CR-V
JOSHUA DOWLING
1. Hyundai i30
2. Honda CR-V
3. Kia Sorento
4. BRZ/86

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