The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Cover Story -

Fi­nally, an all-new Holden that’s not just a price-fighter. The As­tra is back as a Euro­pean small-car con­tender with a Red Lion badge, look­ing to erase the fail­ure of the Opel As­tra and lure back peo­ple who re­mem­ber the name­plate at its best. The As­tra drives well and the tech­nol­ogy is good. But the pric­ing is con­tro­ver­sial, even more than a VW Golf, and the tech­nol­ogy only comes bun­dled in ex­pen­sive op­tion packs. Af­ter a series of misses, the new Civic is a re­turn to form for Honda thanks to a space-age dash, roomy pas­sen­ger space and big boot, and styling that stands out in a crowd. It’s also back to Honda qual­ity stan­dards. Still, the price hurts in the su­per-com­pet­i­tive small­car class, and you need to up­grade to the VTi-L to get the bet­ter safety pack­age and the es­sen­tial turbo — the stan­dard en­gine is un­der­done. There is orig­i­nal think­ing in the body de­sign, the cabin has great space, it’s an ex­cel­lent drive and you only need to get the ba­sic diesel en­gine to get the best re­turn. The start­ing price is good, too, but op­tions are ex­ten­sive and costly and you must pay more for safety that’s stan­dard on op­po­nents. In­side the cabin, the F-Pace is short on the es­sen­tial “Jaguar-ness”. The Sorento sta­ble­mate won COTY last year and the all-new Sportage is an­other im­pres­sive new­comer from South Korea. It looks good, value is great and the war­ranty is su­per-long. The sweet spot is filled by the SLi front-driver that does the job for fam­i­lies. Lo­cal sus­pen­sion tun­ing re­ally works, giv­ing Kia an edge against the Ja­panese. The en­gine is a lit­tle lack­lus­tre and some of the class’s ex­pected ac­tive safety gear isn’t avail­able. The best thing about the new seven-seater is the re­fine­ment and all-round qual­ity. It has a quiet and re­lax­ing cabin for up to seven and makes a solid case for any fam­ily. It has an im­pres­sive turbo en­gine, ex­em­plary road man­ners and good safety gear. It also shows what Mazda will pro­duce across the range in com­ing years. The spec­i­fi­ca­tion sheet is a bit light com­pared with its ri­vals and on the cheap­est model the steer­ing tugs un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion. Once again, a win­ner from the world’s old­est car maker. It has rein­vented the E-Class as it had al­ready done with the C-Class, with an awe­some in­te­rior in­clud­ing the big­gest dis­play in the busi­ness, loads of tech­nol­ogy point­ing to au­ton­o­mous driv­ing and Ben­zstyle qual­ity. The E300 was the fi­nal in­clu­sion in the line-up af­ter prov­ing its cre­den­tials with a great en­gine and air THE mantra for the COTY judges seems sim­ple — real cars on real roads for real peo­ple. Every­thing needs to be as­sessed against the COTY cri­te­ria, then bal­anced against the needs of buy­ers.

That means dif­fer­ent weight­ing for dif­fer­ent cars. Safety and value are the top pri­or­i­ties for a fam­ily SUV but per­for­mance and en­joy­ment are key for a sports car. And a pres­tige or lux­ury car must look good and make the driver feel a bit spe­cial.

At their heart, the COTY cri­te­ria break down this way: DE­SIGN Leg and head­room, er­gonomics, com­fort, vi­sion, ease of nav­i­gat­ing menu screens and using new tech­nol­ogy. VALUE FOR MONEY Price, equip­ment, run­ning costs, re­sale, ma­te­rial qual­ity, war­ranty and dealer sup­port. PER­FOR­MANCE Ac­cel­er­a­tion, brak­ing, gearshifts, steer­ing, cor­ner­ing and sus­pen­sion con­trol, fuel ef­fi­ciency and quiet­ness. SAFETY The vi­tal ANCAP crash rat­ing, ac­tive safety equip­ment and driveras­sist tech­nol­ogy. sus­pen­sion, re­mov­ing reser­va­tions about the base E. It will strug­gle on value, though, as it at­tracts the ridicu­lous lux­ury car tax, adding thou­sands to the price. This is the SUV that VW has needed for far too long and is part of the re­build­ing process af­ter Diesel­gate. The ba­sic styling is a bit bland but it does the job and there is clever pack­ag­ing, loads of space, stan­dard auto safety brak­ing and lane de­par­ture warn­ings. It is quiet to drive, has a great en­gine and solid road man­ners. Even so, VW can­not es­cape — yet — the ques­tions about long-term own­er­ship costs.

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