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The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Cover Story -

First out were the Kia Sportage and the E300, with the Korean SUV not liv­ing up to the prom­ise of last year’s COTY win­ner, the sta­ble­mate Sorento.

Most judges found it un­der­whelm­ing. It looks good on pa­per with a seven-year war­ranty and stan­dard leather but its old-school en­gine and a lack of stan­dard safety tech counted against it.

Ev­ery­one loved the lux­ury and the huge dig­i­tal dash dis­play in the Mercedes but its unset­tled ride and a less than silky-smooth en­gine brought it un­done.

“It oozes lux­ury but it’s not the break­through of the C-Class,” says Dowling.

Next out was the Fo­cus RS. Every­body loved hav­ing a sprint in it but no one wanted to own it.

“I re­ally don’t think it rates here. It’s miss­ing two airbags and there is no driver-as­sist tech­nol­ogy,” says Dowling.

“It’s a fun car, but no. It’s too noisy, too jig­gly in the HOW THEY FIN­ISHED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

sus­pen­sion and there’s not enough tech. You couldn’t live with it day-to-day,” says Duff.

After this ex­its, it’s the turn of the Jaguar F-Pace and, de­spite all of Holden’s prom­ises, the As­tra.

“I think the car is let down by the in­te­rior. It doesn’t feel like lux­ury to me,” Chris Ri­ley says of the Jaguar.

“The steer­ing and chas­sis are as good as, if not bet­ter than, a Porsche Cayenne,” says Dowling.

Some judges felt the As­tra was built to a price, de­spite the pre­mium be­ing asked. Many felt it didn’t have the nec­es­sary wow fac­tor in the cabin. On the sec­ond day, judges as­sessed the Abarth 124, Audi A4, Honda Civic, Mazda CX-9 and Tiguan.

The course was the same but the fo­cus on “real cars on real roads for real peo­ple” was sharper.

“The Fiat is the best adap­ta­tion of a donor ve­hi­cle we’ve seen. It’s a bet­ter Mazda MX-5,” says Black­burn.

“I re­ally like it to drive but is it a Car of the Year?” asks Duff. Most judges felt Fiat could have done more to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the in­te­rior from the Mazda.

Judges felt Mazda’s CX-9 was miss­ing equip­ment and piz­zazz in the cabin.

“The CX-9 is let down by some poor plan­ning de­ci­sions. It needs front park­ing sen­sors, a power tail­gate should be stan­dard and there are no thirdrow air vents,” says Dowling.

The petrol en­gine was also a query.

“A diesel is a bet­ter way of mov­ing seven peo­ple than a petrol en­gine. And the steer­ing wheel tugs in your hand when you ac­cel­er­ate,” says Black­burn.

The A4 won marks for its sharp price and class-lead­ing tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing a coast­ing func­tion to save fuel and an exit warn­ing sys­tem to de­tect cy­clists and mo­tor­cy­clists.

“The Civic is nearly as big as the orig­i­nal Ac­cord. It has a mas­sive cabin and a big boot,” says Duff.

“It’s not cheap but it has a much classier cabin than the As­tra and any other car in the class,” says Dowling.

Judges were also im­pressed by the per­for­mance of the 1.5litre turbo.

But the fi­nal vote was unan­i­mous in favour of the Tiguan. An im­pres­sive list of stan­dard safety equip­ment — in­clud­ing steer­ing the car back into its lane if it be­gins to wan­der — was backed up by con­ve­nience fea­tures such as au­to­matic park­ing.

Am­ple stor­age, a big load area and clever touches in the well-fin­ished cabin also helped seal the deal, while the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was top-notch.

“It’s got cylin­der-on de­mand tech­nol­ogy, dual-clutch auto, stop-start and a su­perb chas­sis,” says Dowling.

“It’s not the usual Spar­tan Volk­swa­gen. It’s a very im­pres­sive car,” says Black­burn.

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