Australia's Best Cars 2019 revealed

Welcome to our special feature on Australia’s Best Cars for 2019, the annual independent new car awards program conducted by the RACQ and other state auto clubs.

The big news this year is the revamp of various categories aimed at ensuring the awards continue to remain relevant to new vehicle buyers. Accordingly, four categories have been merged into two, reducing the overall number from 15 to 13, and the price point on several has been raised.

With buyers deserting passenger cars at the opposite ends of the market, the Micro category has been absorbed into the Light category and the Large category merged with the two Medium categories.

The latter pair have been amended from Medium Under $50,000 to $65,000 and the Medium Over $50,000 to Medium Prestige Over $65,000 in recognition of the brands and models involved.

Further realignment of price points sees the Sports Under $50,000 become $65,000 and Sports $50,000-$100,000 become $65,000-$125,000.

The AWD SUV categories have also been revamped: Under $50,000 to $55,000, $50,000-$65,000 to $55,000-$70,000 and $65,000-$125,000 to $70,000-$125,000. And the Small 2WD SUV Under $35,000 becomes Small SUV Under $40,000.

As of end of October, the Australian new vehicle car market continued to decline, making it 19 months in succession that sales had fallen. However, buyers continue to be spoiled for choice with more than 50 manufacturers selling into our domestic market. Since the 2018 awards, there has been a plethora of new and upgraded models launched into dealership showrooms.

This included brand new names such as Genesis G70 and G80; Holden Acadia, Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Mercedes-Benz X-Class and MG ZS, as well as the return of Toyota’s iconic sports car, the Supra.

Among the new/upgraded models were the BMW 3 Series, X1, X2 and Z4; Chevrolet Camaro; Ford Ecosport and Endura; Great Wall Steed; Hyundai Ioniq, Kona Electric and Veloster; Infiniti Q80; Isuzu MU-X; Lexus ES300h and NX300 F-Sport and Lotus Elise Cup 220.

There’s more:  Mazda3 and CX-8; Mini Countryman JCW; Peugeot 508; Mercedes-Benz A and C Class; Nissan Leaf; Renault Megane RS; SSangyong Musso; Suzuki Jimny; Toyota RAV4; Volkswagen Polo GTi and Tiguan; and Volvo S60.

All of which made the task of Australia’s Best Cars awards judges even more challenging.

This year, Toyota dominated the awards, taking out five of the 13 categories.

How the awards work

To bring you the best of the best, only the volume-selling models across 13 categories are scored throughout the year in three key areas: Value for Money, Design and Function and On the Road. Within each of these, there are up to eight criteria.

For the record, they include: pricing, cost of depreciation, running and repair costs, fuel consumption, warranty and dealer access, Insurance, standard features (Value for Money); Safety, environment, seating comfort, space, practicality, ergonomics, build and finish quality (Design and Function);  performance, ride, handling, braking, and smoothness and quietness (on the Road).

All-wheel-drive (AWD) SUVs are further assessed on off-road ability, and 4x4 dual cab utes on tray space, rated towing, payload, engine gearing and traction and clearance and articulation.

Each criterion is awarded a score of between one and 10, which is then weighted critical, high, medium or low, according to its importance to buyers in the relevant market segment. The weightings vary between categories.

For example, in Light cars the price and fuel consumption are seen by consumers as critical to their buying decision, but performance is only of medium importance and space is a low priority. In Family Wagons, on the other hand, space and practicality are critical factors. In Sports cars, performance handling and braking are what the buyer demands, whereas fuel consumption and running costs are weighted low.

In October, the three top-scoring vehicles in each category are assembled at the purpose-built Australian Automotive Research Centre at Anglesea in Victoria. They undergo four days of final testing and vigorous evaluation and data checking by a panel of eight judges representing all state auto clubs, including the RACQ’s John Ewing and Barry Green.Then, and only then, are the winners determined.

Australia's Best Cars 2019: Winners and placegetters

Best Light Car

  • Kia Picanto S*
  • 2nd Mazda2 Maxx
  • 3rd Kia Rio S

Best Small Car Under $35,000

  • 1st Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport
  • 2nd Mazda3 G20 Evolve
  • 3rd Kia Cerato S

Best Small Car Over $35,000

  • 1st Mercedes-Benz A250 4Matic
  • 2nd Hyundai Kona Electric 2WD Highlander
  • 3rd Hyundai Ioniq Premium

Best Medium Car Under $65,000

  • 1st Toyota Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid
  • 2nd Mazda6 Touring
  • 3rd Peugeot 508 GT

Best Medium Prestige Car Over $65,000

  • 1st BMW 330i
  • 2nd Genesis G70
  • 3rd Volkswagen Arteon R-Line 206 TSI

Best Sports Car Under $62,000

  • 1st Hyundai i30 N Performance
  • 2nd Honda Civic Type R
  • 3rd Volkswagen Golf GTi

Best Sports Car $62,000-$125,000

  • 1st Toyota GR Supra GTS
  • 2nd Volkswagen Golf R
  • 3rd Kia Stinger GT Black

Best Family Wagon

  • 1st Mazda CX-8 Sport
  • 2nd Kia Carnival Platinum
  • 3rd Mazda CX-9 Touring

Best Small SUV Under $40,000

  • 1st Kia Seltos Sport
  • 2nd Hyundai Kona Go
  • 3rd Hyundai Venue Active

Best AWD SUV Under $55,000

  • 1st Toyota RAV4 GXL AWD Hybrid
  • 2nd Subaru Forester 2.5i-S
  • 3rd Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport

Best AWD SUV $55,000-$70,000

  • 1st Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander
  • 2nd Kia Sorento GT-Line
  • 3rd Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription

Best AWD SUV $70,000-$125,000

  • 1st Volkswagen Touareg Launch Edition 3.0 V6 TDI
  • 2nd Range Rover Evoque D150 SE
  • 3rd Volvo XC90 D5 Inscription

Best 4X4 Dual Cab Ute

  • 1st Toyota HiLux SR5
  • 2nd Ford Ranger XLT
  • 3rd Mitsubishi Triton GLS

 

* Note: Australia’s Best Cars awards policy requires vehicles to be five-star ANCAP safety rated or eligible for five-star rating to win its category. As this vehicle is rated four stars, it could not be crowned Light Car category winner.