After a year in which a pandemic caused all sorts of logistical nightmares and delays for new car arrivals, 2021 is shaping up to be a year to look forward to. Car makers have plenty of exciting and important models headed here over the next 12 months, so we've listed the cars most significant to Australia.
1. VOLVO XC40 RECHARGE EV
(*denotes an estimated price)
Already known for safety and building practical wagons, Volvo is set to bring electricity into its modern repertoire via the XC40 Recharge EV. Sitting above the XC40 Recharge PHEV, the EV version drives all four wheels via two electric motors making a combined 300kW/600Nm.
The dash to 100km/h takes just 4.9sec and the claimed range from its 78kWh battery is north of 400km. Considering the XC40 is already one of the marker’s top-selling PHEVs, it bodes well for the all-electric version due mid-year.
2. BMW iX
After the smaller BMW iX3 kicks off BMW's all-electric SUV story earlier in the year, we can expect the iX to lob before year's end. Closer in size to a BMW X5 (the iX3 is based on the X3), the iX makes a big electric statement, right down to its buck-toothed grille.
Dual motors combine to send 367kW to all four wheels, and range from the 100kWh battery is said to be more than 600km, suggesting excellent energy efficiency. Early adopters will have to head to the BMW website because the iX is online order only.
3. VW GOLF
Prices jump but the manual gearbox option remains. Those choosing an auto will do without the fuel-saving DSGs, Australia instead receiving regular torque converters with eight ratios for smoother take-offs. Golf remains at the core of Volkswagen, now picking up a more advanced IQ driver assistance system.
Even better is that the 180kW front-drive GTI will arrive within weeks of the mainstream range, providing the first taste of the hot hatch range that in 2022 will include the 235kW all-paw Golf R.
4. FORD MUSTANG MACH 1
A new year and a new addition to the Mustang family, this time the Mach 1. For about $10K more than a regular GT you get revised aerodynamics (including a rear diffuser), Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber and ample visual trimmings to accentuate the muscle.
The 5.0-litre V8 makes the same 345kW/556Nm but the optional 10-speed auto holds onto gears for another few hundred revs, not only stepping up the sound but also acceleration. Just 700 are heading here.
5. BMW M3/M4
Price: $144,900 (M3), $149,900 (M4)
The pinnacle of 3 Series (and 4) performance is an early (and welcome) new arrival that doesn’t mess with a proven formula. An in-line twin-turbo six-cylinder makes 353kW as a manual or 375kW in the auto Competition pack.
All-wheel drive (BMW calls it xDrive) will feature for the first time late in the year. The new M Track Mode and Drive Analyser are among the many tech advances for a car that promises a slick driving experience, albeit one that increasingly leverages technology.
6. PEUGEOT 3008 PHEV
The 3008 mid-size SUV will kick off the brand’s electrification push in Oz. Early in the year the 3008 gets a facelift, but things get more serious in the second half with the 3008 PHEV, in front- or all-wheel drive.
Front-drivers pair a 1.6-litre turbo with an 80kW electric motor, while the AWD adds an 83kW rear motor and ups the total output to 221kW. A 13.2kWh battery is good for 56km in the FWD or 59km in the Hybrid4.
7. LEXUS UX300E
Luxury rivals have long offered EV options, but Lexus has relied on regular hybrids as a fuel-saving measure. That all changes with the arrival of the UX300e. Utilising the compact SUV body of the UX, the UX300e replaces the engine with a 150kW/300Nm electric motor driving the front wheels.
It will sit at the top of the UX line-up, suggesting a starting price around $70K. Fed by a 54kWh battery, it’s good for 300km-plus between charges.
8. MAZDA MX-30
The sixth Mazda SUV model will be very different to the other five. The MX moniker is typically reserved for Mazdas with a bit of zing – think MX-5 and MX-6 – and the MX-30 will add some coupe flair to the compact SUV segment, something highlighted by the rear-hinged ‘freestyle’ back doors.
It is also the first Mazda EV, but comes with a range-extending petrol sibling pairing a 2.0-litre engine with a mild hybrid system. The hybrid will arrive by mid-year, followed by the EV.
9. CHEVROLET CORVETTE
General Motors’ presence in Australia switches from true-blue Holden to apple-pie American during 2021, in the form of the eighth-generation of a sports car legend. The first mid-engined Corvette is also the first to emerge from the Bowling Green factory with the steering wheel on the right, taking hefty conversion costs out of the equation.
V8 muscle and supercar DNA will make the Porsche-crushing circa-$150K price tag tempting for those prepared to try some two-door muscle from the US of A.
10. MERCEDES-BENZ EQA
This is the year when Mercedes-Benz doubles down on its electric offensive, with the EQA set to be the most affordable of its early EV efforts. Just as its EQC bigger sibling shares much with the GLC, the EQA leans on the core design of the GLA.
A closed-off grille and blue highlights will provide visual differentiation, while a choice of electric drivetrains is set to broaden its EV appeal in a market segment set to explode in 2021.
11. NISSAN NAVARA PRO-4X
Just when you thought the ute market was reaching its peak, along comes another brand looking to expand the appeal. This time it’s Nissan hoping to capitalise on the action at the pointy end of the pick-up category.
Joining the heavily updated Navara that arrives early in the year will be a Pro-4X early in the second quarter. Rather than just cosmetic tweaks, the Pro-4X gets more substance, with all-terrain rubber, a chunkier sports bar, black highlights and red towhooks.
12. RAM TRX
The slicker DT version of the Ram 1500 fleshes out the Ram range early in the year, selling alongside the existing DS as a premium offering to better fight the Chevrolet Silverado. Modern active safety kit will add to its appeal.
But it’s the Hellcat-powered Ram TRX that promises to raise the expectations of those who like their utes to not only lift heavy things but be able to do so with muscle-car acceleration. The 0-100km/h sprint takes about 4.8sec, powered by a stonking 523kW/881Nm supercharged 6.2-litre V8.
Unlike early private imports, the right-hand-drive conversions will be done by the Walkinshaw Group with factory approval. Pricing is a guesstimate for now, but we'd expect a price tag of around $160,000 before on-road costs.
13. SKODA OCTAVIA
It’s long been the Golf alternative for those who want something more individual, and the all-new Octavia for 2021 is no different. Slightly larger than the previous car, the new Octavia will be offered as a liftback or wagon, the latter providing a tempting point of difference in this class, especially in sporty RS guise.
The 1.4-litre turbo soldiers on in the more affordable models, which should sneak in under $30K, while the RS gets the Golf GTI’s 180kW 2.0-litre. As with the Golf 8, expect a step up in standard gear to reflect buyer preferences.
14. SUBARU OUTBACK
With its Liberty donor car now confined to the growing list of recently departed family cars, the Outback wagon gets more clear air in the crossover segment. Sharper styling and the bolder use of black highlights modernises the look.
Infotainment is easier with a new vertical touchscreen, while safety improvements add to its family appeal. Gone is the diesel engine and boxer six-cylinder, a heavily revised 2.5-litre four-cylinder boxer now the sole option, mustering 138kW and 234Nm.
15. TOYOTA KLUGER
Toyota plans to build on its hybrid success with a petrol-electric version of the fourth-gen Kluger. Almost two years after hitting America, the bigger, bolder Kluger’s 2.5-litre hybrid AWD drivetrain promises diesel efficiency with performance not far off the 3.5-litre V6 (which continues as the price leader).
A longer body unleashes more luggage room without impacting space for seven people. Toyota hopes it will match the success of the RAV4 Hybrid.
16. KIA NIRO
It’s been a long time coming, but Kia will unleash its local electric attack in 2021 in the form of the Niro, a car that hopes to steal some sales from Toyota’s hard-charging RAV4 Hybrid. While the circa-$60K EV version (the e-Niro) will dominate plenty of headlines, it’s the regular Niro Hybrid at almost half that price that will do the heavy lifting sales-wise, providing the same clever packaging.
The small SUV will also be available as a plug-in Hybrid version to offer a complete electrified suite.
17. LAND ROVER DEFENDER 90
One of the many models delayed due to Covid, the shorter 90 joins the Defender family in April, bringing with it the choice between coil spring and air suspension (the longer 110 sticks exclusively with air suspension).
In line with updates across the Land Rover ranges, there are various tweaks and additions, including the new in-line six-cylinder turbo-diesel that replaces the four-cylinder in the Defender 110.
Later in the year expect the coil spring suspension to become available on some 110 models, including the commercial-focused Hard Top, which does without any rear seats, limiting capacity to two (or three if you choose a centre ‘jump seat’).
18. MAHINDRA THAR
Indian car maker Mahindra has made inroads with its Pik-Up ute and plans to make 2021 the year it translates some of that rugged simplicity to the bottom end of the 4x4 segment. Like the rival Suzuki Jimny, off-road is where the Thar is designed to do its best work, having a traditional ladder-frame chassis and live rear axle.
Having plenty of Jeep influence in the exterior design probably won’t hurt its cause, and like the Wrangler, the roof can be removed to bring nature a bit closer.
19. HYUNDAI IONIQ 5
Ioniq switches to Hyundai’s new all-electric sub-brand in 2021 and it will be the Ioniq 5 that will lead the charge. Based on the Hyundai 45 EV concept (pictured), the mid-size SUV will utilise the new E-GMP bespoke electrical platform planned to underpin a trio of Ioniqs over the next four years.
Sitting above the Kona Electric, it will provide a more spacious and upmarket SUV alternative and flesh out the most expansive electrified line-up in the country.
20. MG HS AWD/PHEV
The 2020 arrival of Australia’s most affordable EV – the ZS EV – was an indicator of MG’s electric future. This year plug-in hybrid tech joins the family in the mid-size HS, which also arrives with an AWD option in the first half.
There’s plenty going on in the HS PHEV, including an extra couple of hundred kilos courtesy of a 16.6kWh battery pack that provides 75km of electric range. A 1.5-litre turbo and 90kW electric motor have combined outputs of 214kW and 480Nm.
21. MASERATI MC20
The first Maserati supercar in 15 years also marks the beginning of a revival of sorts for the Italian brand. It may have fewer cylinders than its direct competitors, but the new Maserati-developed dry-sump 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo makes a thoroughly acceptable 463kW and 730Nm.
Built around a carbonfibre monocoque wrapped in aluminium panels, the lightweight two-seater promises potent performance (0-100km/h in 2.8sec) along with track-honed mid-engined dynamics.
A digital rear vision mirror and butterfly doors add to the experience of what is shaping up to be one of Maserati’s most exciting models.
22. MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS
The pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz luxury still delivers on space and grace, but the all-new model steps up the tech in a big way. Augmented reality, a 3D display and eye tracking aim to pre-empt what the driver is thinking while world-first forward-facing airbags for the rear occupants are indicative of the safety innovation.
Computing power has also increased 50 per cent, in part to help with the semi-autonomous systems. There’s also a new rear steering system for long-wheelbase models and the requisite extra few millimetres of space. All of which is likely to cost a bit more than today’s S.
Later in the year we will see the S-Class PHEV – called S580e – which can top 100km on electricity alone before reverting to an inline six. By the end of the year the S-Class’s all-electric sibling will arrive in the form of the EQS, adding an EV flagship to the EQ sub-brand.
23. HYUNDAI i20 N
Easy-to-park city hatchbacks may be a dying breed, but not in the land of hot hatches. Hot on the bumpers of the Fiesta ST and GR Yaris will be Hyundai’s most affordable plaything, the i20 N.
As with its larger sibling, the i30 N, there will be a hefty focus on getting it to point assuredly towards an apex and make plenty of good noises along the way. It will be brisk too; a 1.6 turbo musters a thoroughly handy 150kW and makes you work for it with a six-speed manual.
24. FERRARI ROMA
It’s all about living the life Ferrari-style in the Roma, a grand tourer with its sights firmly set on the Porsche 911 and Bentley Continental GT. While the sumptuous lines will, for many, be the headline act, there’s plenty of substance under the skin.
The 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 edges outputs to 456kW and 760Nm, enough for 3.4-sec sprints to 100km/h. The Roma also introduces new haptic steering wheel controls, the additional feedback designed to allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road.
25. Genesis GV70
Slotting below the recently arrived GV80 and with its trio of four- and six-cylinder engines, the GV70 finally gives fledgling Genesis some firepower. Rear-drive architecture claims to deliver the requisite sporty handling, while equipment levels will be suitably lavish as Genesis tries to muscle in on established mid-size luxury SUV rivals.
The Hyundai-owned luxury brand hasn’t talked pricing yet, but expect it to kick off around $70K where rivals such as the X3, GLC and Q5 hover.
26. PORSCHE 911 GT3
Porsche’s most track-focused 911 will have a bit more race car in it for 2021, picking up the double-wishbone front-end from the RSR. In larger 992 guise there has been a more intense focus on weight savings – including gorilla glass and a carbonfibre bonnet – simply to maintain the 1430kg kerb weight of the 991 it replaces.
Aerodynamics have also stepped up to make use of the broader rubber, a swan neck top-mounted rear wing a highlight. The glorious 4.0-litre atmo flat-six is mostly unchanged, making a rev-happy 368kW, the performance improvements instead centering on balance and corner speed.
27. SUBARU BRZ
More smoke, more grunt and more fun is the promise with the second generation of a modern Japanese sports car icon. Once again twinned with the Toyota 86, it’s only the Subaru that has been shown to date, though the expectation is that the two will arrive in Australia at a similar time in the third quarter.
The horizontally opposed four-cylinder has increased in capacity to 2.4 litres, in turn upping max power to 170kW, a healthy increase of up to 16 per cent. A stiffer body and availability of Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres brings big expectations for handling.
28. VW AMAROK W580/W580S
Volkswagen already holds the handling high ground for utes, and in 2021 is set to crank things up with the W580. The result of an extensive local engineering exercise by Walkinshaw – the same people who previously turned Commodores into HSVs – the W580 focuses on muscling up the look while ensuring it still delivers over bumps and through corners.
Pirelli all-terrain rubber and revised suspension raises the ride height 40mm, while a unique sail plane and side exit exhaust amp up the aesthetics. No change to the 200kW/580Nm V6 diesel, which is still the performance pinnacle in its class.
29. JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE L
By the end of 2021 there will be two Grand Cherokees, the newer one picking up an ‘L’ in its moniker. A significantly bigger body on a new monocoque platform lay the foundations to better take the fight to Toyota Prado and Land Rover Discovery.
It also picks up a third row of seats for the family firepower it so desperately needed, a big emphasis on materials and finishes in the push upmarket, and improved off-road ability.
30. AUDI E-TRON GT
Riding on the J1 architecture also underpinning Porsche’s Taycan, the e-tron GT adds some pace to Audi’s soon-to-grow electric family. It also provides the basis for the first electric RS, a faster model to follow the regular E-Tron.
Like the Porsche, there’s a bigger motor on the rear, part of the driver focus, while an 800V electrical system accepts 270kW charging and delivers 400km-plus range to tick plenty of EV boxes and cement the GT as a worthy flagship of the E-Tron line-up.
31. TESLA MODEL Y
Things often run late in the Tesla-sphere and the brand’s second (and most affordable) SUV appears to be following suit. Best guesstimates are that the mid-sizer will arrive in the second half of the year.
Borrowing the basic architecture of the Model 3 four-door fastback sedan, the Model Y has a higher-riding body and the option of seven seats. There’s up to 505km of range and drive is sent to all four wheels, although a rear-drive model is also in the mix.