They say three is a crowd, but this is a trio every car company wants to be a part of. This is the podium for the 2020 Wheels Car of the Year. And it seems electric rules the roost, with two of the top-three placegetters gaining life via a plug and not a conventional fuel bowser.
So, here are the cars left in contention for the most prestigious motoring award down under; the Mazda 3, Mercedes-Benz EQC and Tesla Model 3. Each of the contenders has its own unique USP which helped it reach the final stages of COTY in 2020.
It might be at the cheaper end of the COTY spectrum (in fact, it was the cheapest car on test), but the plucky Mazda 3 punches hard in a field full of premium brands. However, don’t let the 3’s small-car status fool you – the BP-generation is now more upmarket than ever. And our appreciation for the 3 has grown with the current car, the fourth iteration since dropping ‘23’ from its 323 badging.
That’s because the road noise and NVH issues of old are now gone. The Styling has been overhauled and the new interior is truly a class above in terms of quality and design. Yes, there’s a price to pay for this, and that’s by way of a significant bump to the entry point, but you do get a lot more kit. Sadly, the Aussie range is still sans SkyActiv X, too, with the current line-up powered by SkyActiv units released in 2014. However, the 3 didn’t get to this stage of COTY by chance – it’s a deeply pleasing performer with a dynamic talent that belies its small-car status.
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As far as first attempts go, Mercedes-Benz has pretty much nailed the lavish EV brief. And it doesn’t look too futuristic, instead drawing on the luxurious nature of the Three Pointed Star and eschewing the need to make an EV look like it’s out of The Jetsons.Being based on the GLC, this is an SUV that doesn’t compromise pragmatism or sumptuousness to accommodate its forward-thinking electric drivetrain.
Yet, the EQC is also a little hamstrung by those underpinnings given the GLC isn’t wholeheartedly EV-optimised. It’s heavy, too. However, beyond that it’s hard to fault the electrified Benz and its intended purpose. It has a more than acceptable range, making the switch to battery power less ‘scary’, and it’s probably one of the most significant cars released by the German marque. Does it equate to a COTY crown?
If ever a brand had a passionate following, Tesla would have to be right up there. Those for the ground-breaking EV manufacturer are true diehard fans, while those against are just as vehement in their opposition. Then there’s the middle ground, full of customers ready to be convinced and/or converted.
Tesla has performed well at COTY in the past, but 2020 feels like it could be Elon’s watershed moment in regards to the illustrious Wheels gong. The Model 3 is the most accomplished, ahem, model from the brand yet, with a breadth of handling ability mixed in with a useable real-world range and market leading safety. Comparatively speaking, it’s also not exorbitantly expensive, meaning cross-shopping it with German sedans isn’t out of the question.
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Well, there you have it, the final three. Now there’s only one more announcement left – the 2020 Wheels Car of the Year. Tune in tomorrow where all will be revealed at the Australian Motoring Awards.