Wheels Car of the Year 2020 has a new judging process, and stricter requirements for eligibility. Let’s meet the contenders that made the cut for the toughest motoring award in the country.
Bigger dimensionally than the generation it replaces, the MQB-equipped A1 is verging on A3 size. The exterior is stylish and befitting of the price, while the interior gains the latest VAG Group infotainment. Three trim levels and engines are offered, with the base 30 TFSI and mid-spec 35 TFSI making it to the COTY field. But can the A1s live up to their respective $32,350 and $35,290 price tags?
As one of the last models in Audi’s range to undergo a generation change, the Q3 arrives at COTY packed with a new interior, revised mechanicals and tweaked exterior styling. Arriving in the top-spec, for now, 35 TFSI Launch Edition, the Q3 utilises the company’s proven 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder to power the front wheels only. It’s traditionally a top seller for Audi, but how does it compete in this field?
After winning our premium mid-size sedan comparison, the 3 Series comes to COTY with high expectations. The G20 generation retains rear-wheel drive for the most part, but the would-be M-car, the $99,900 M340i, gains traction to the front wheels via the brand’s xDrive system. The $70,900 330i offers a compelling all-round package, but is it worthy of Wheels’ top gong?
Since its inception in 1999, the BMW X5 has proven to be a premium SUV with more than a touch of class. Now in its four generation the G05 X5 has strong competition. However, the $117,900 xDrive30d has already fended off the box-fresh Mercedes-Benz GLE in a Wheels comparison test, while the $120,900 xDrive40i joins to bolster the X5’s COTY charge.
It’s the sun-loving drop-top version of the Toyota Supra. We have both the $84,900 sDrive20i (sadly, not the manual) and top-spec $124,900 M40i to play with. The latter is, for all intents and purpose, a Supra without a roof. Hence the powerful B58 straight six hides underneath the sculpted bonnet and power goes to the rears via an eight-speed ZF automatic. Which will prove the better package?
Launching a luxury off-shoot brand in Australia is hard – just ask Infiniti. Although with the might of Hyundai behind it, Genesis has a very good chance. And the 3.3-litre twin-turbo equipped G70 came close to pipping a BMW 330i in a recent Wheels comparison test. We have both engines on test, with the $63,300 2.0T Sport and the $79,950 Ultimate Sport. Just don’t call them Hyundais...
The Mazda 3 has always been a perennial favourite with private buyers. However, the popular Japanese marque has taken the 3 upmarket, cutting the traditional Neo entry level and upping the premium appeal with a sumptuous interior and elegant exterior. Trouble is, prices now start at $24,990. We also have the $27,690 G20 Evolve hatch and the $37,990 G25 Astina sedan to see what’s what.
As far as important steps go, this is a big one for Mercedes-Benz. The German marque has plug-in hybrids within its portfolio, but this is the first all-electric offering to wear the venerable Three Pointed Star badge. The single-grade EQC comes fully loaded with kit, so its $137,900 sticker is reasonable. To cover all bases, we have two EQCs with both 20- and 21-inch wheels in the field.
This is the only second-generation electric car to gain a COTY start. As one of the pioneering EVs in Australia, the $49,990 Nissan Leaf presents as a more refined package the second time around. With more range and more power, the electrified Nissan has come of age with ‘normalised’ styling and a cabin stacked with standard equipment. But with other all-electric options, how does it stack up?
The likeable Pug is a refreshing addition to the mid-size segment. With its lightweight chassis, keen dynamics, premium interior and striking exterior design, the Frenchie brings back some joie de vevre to the brand. The spritely 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo punches above its capacity, too. Can the single-spec $53,990 Fastback and $55,990 Sportswagon wager a Peugeot renaissance?
Just when you think Porsche can’t best itself, it does. The 992 generation might not be flush with variants yet, but the $264,600 Carrera S could be all the 911 you’ll ever need – keep an eye out for our performance figures. Price has always hamstrung high-end performance cars at COTY, however, a tweaking of the Wheels criteria means 2020 is Porsche’s best chance to date.
Style versus substance – it’s a balancing act all luxury marques have to straddle. The Range Rover Evoque is undeniably a good-looking SUV with a luxe cabin to match its design-led exterior. The $67,040 D180 S lays claim to the slowest 0-100km/h time of the field, while the $69,820 P250 S R-Dynamic offers more pep. It’s a high-tech experience that’s now roomier and comfier than ever, but is the Evoque just a pretty face?
If there is one car that does what it says on the packet, the RAV4 is it. Toyota’s loveable RAV has grown in size over the years, and now with bold new styling and a long list of standard kit, it makes for a compelling package. Three variants make the COTY field – the $30,640 GX 2.0 FWD, $44,640 Cruiser 2.5 Hybrid AWD and $47,140 Edge 2.5 AWD. Is it a pre-event favourite? You bet.
As far as hype goes, the Toyota Supra has the stamp licked. However, the COTY criterion cuts through preconceptions quickly. The well-known joint collab with BMW spawned the Z4 and Supra, with the latter coming in two guises. We chose the higher-spec $94,900 GTS to attend, and with a boosted 250kW/500Nm straight six and rear-wheel drive, it rates on the fun scale. Does it live up to its iconic status?
The Model S came painstakingly close to claiming overall honours in 2014, while the Model X failed to light a fire with the judges in 2018. The Model 3 is a different kettle of fish. Touted to mesh handling and performance with sufficient real-world range, the $67,900 Standard Plus and $92,900 Performance present as Elon’s best chance yet. Or has the Tesla fanfare lost its charge?
Can the VW transcend its almost premium badge and best the likes of fellow German rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz? The $85,490 Touareg 190TDI Premium would suggest so by name, but its staggering list of optional extras could be its undoing. However, the Touareg is based on the acclaimed MLBevo platform and has plenty of luxurious accoutrements to satisfy all needs.
There is a hefty weight atop the shoulders of the Volvo S60 and V60, with the Gothenburg manufacturer staring down the prospect of winning an unprecedented three Wheels Car of the Year gongs on the trot. The XC40 and XC60 won over judges in ’19 and ’18, but can this sedan and wagon pairing, that shares much of the same ingredients as its SUV siblings, do the same? All will be revealed very soon.