Head to head time for top 10

As the ex­haus­tive COTY drive pro­gram starts, Cars­guide cov­ers the mar­ket seg­ments — the fo­cus as ever is on test­ing real cars for real peo­ple on real roads

Herald Sun - Motoring - - CAR OF THE YEAR -

THE field for the 2014 Cars­guide Car of the Year contest is in the start­ing blocks.

The 10 con­tenders cover ev­ery cor­ner of Aus­tralia’s new­car show­room, from baby cars to SUVs and lux­ury cars to peo­ple-movers. There is even a per­for­mance car. But noth­ing over the lux­ury car tax that sep­a­rates af­ford­able cars from dream ma­chines.

The COTY favourite is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class but there are dark horses in­clud­ing the up­dated VW Polo and Toy­ota Corolla sedan, as well as the classy lit­tle Mazda2 that’s a late in­clu­sion for the contest.

And then there is the Ford Fal­con XR8, an Aussie hero that’s the poster car for the fi­nal FG X Fal­con.

The two-day COTY contest puts them head-to-head with a sim­ple mantra: real cars for real peo­ple on real roads.

So we’re look­ing first at value, then ev­ery­thing from safety to com­fort, qual­ity and ef­fi­ciency. It’s the same ap­proach that most peo­ple take to their new-car pur­chase but with a much sharper fo­cus.

VW has dom­i­nated the COTY re­sults in re­cent years with the ex­cel­lent Golf and Polo, which work so well de­spite unan­swered ques­tions about own­er­ship beyond the war­ranty.

But no one knows what will hap­pen when we get down to vot­ing for the big­gest prize in Aus­tralia mo­tor­ing.

The con­tenders are:

FORD FAL­CON XR8

This is as good as the Fal­con gets, as Ford Aus­tralia does all it can to make the FG X spe­cial for the time it has left as a car maker at Broad­mead­ows. Ford fans have been call­ing for the re­turn of the XR8 for years and the best news is the car picks up the 335kW su­per­charged V8 en­gine lifted di­rectly from the discontinued FPV GT.

HONDA JAZZ VTI

A wel­come re­turn to form for a company that lost its way in the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis and has also just axed the Ac­cord Euro that’s been so popular in Aus­tralia. Honda played smart by adding a stan­dard rear-view cam­era to the new Jazz but that’s just the start for a car that’s a gen­uine step for­ward.

HONDA ODYSSEY VTI

Few Aus­tralians buy peo­ple­movers but the new Odyssey pro­vides a good rea­son to look past an SUV. A gen­uine fam­ily van, it is also well equipped and well built. It’s been a long-term suc­cess in Aus­tralia, de­spite ri­vals in­clud­ing the Toy­ota Tarago and the lat­est classy Citroen Pi­casso.

MAZDA3 NEO

Aus­tralia’s favourite car for 2013 got a to­tal makeover for 2014 that in­cludes ev­ery­thing from the SkyActiv pow­er­train to a new body and chas­sis. It’s a looker that backs the style with im­pres­sive qual­ity and driv­ing dy­nam­ics. The Mazda3 take the fight to the Toy­ota Corolla for sales and the VW Golf for ev­ery­thing else.

MAZDA2 NEO

More like a con­densed Mazda3 than any pre­vi­ous Mazda2, the Ja­panese company’s new starter car is mini but def­i­nitely not tinny. The cabin qual­ity is im­pres­sive, it goes well with SkyActiv tech­nol­ogy, and the value is up with a price that’s down.

MERCEDES-BENZ C200

The world’s old­est car maker per­formed a magic trick with the new C-Class, cre­at­ing a con­densed S-Class li­mou­sine that still comes in be­low the LCT thresh­old. It’s packed with tech­nol­ogy, takes a new ap­proach to lux­ury cabin de­sign and drives in­cred­i­bly well in C200 starter form.

NIS­SAN PATHFINDER HY­BRID

Ear­lier Pathfind­ers were a bit rough-and-ready de­spite their heavy­weight cre­den­tials but the new model is much more car-like and a se­ri­ous al­ter­na­tive to a Toy­ota Kluger or Ford Ter­ri­tory for Aus­tralian fam­i­lies. The hy­brid pack­age is the ic­ing on the cake.

SUBARU WRX

The long-term Subaru hero is still a per­for­mance bar­gain. Its user-friendly con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion is one of the big­gest changes and chal­lenges to the tur­bocharged pocket rocket. This time around the em­pha­sis has switched from the en­gine to the chas­sis in the WRX, a ma­jor de­par­ture that changes the game.

TOY­OTA COROLLA SEDAN

Four-door com­pacts are not gen­er­ally as popular as hatches but that has not stopped Toy­ota from cre­at­ing a sedan that trumps its five-door vari­ant. It’s a lit­tle more ex­pen­sive but the pay-off comes in greater re­fine­ment in a body that works for many down­siz­ers.

VW POLO 66TSI

The starter car for VW in Aus­tralia fol­low­ing the axing of the Up is a long way bet­ter than ba­sic mo­tor­ing. It goes sur­pris­ingly well, has a solid Golf-style feel and meets most of the needs of baby-car buy­ers. As al­ways, though, we won­der about life beyond the war­ranty.

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