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Australia’s Best Cars hails local heroes

Two in a row: Ford’s four-pot Falcon EcoBoost has secured the locally built sedan its second consecutive large-car category win in the Australia’s Best Cars awards.

Falcon EcoBoost, Camry Hybrid fly local manufacturing flag in Australia’s Best Cars

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Ford logo27 Nov 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

FORD’S four-cylinder Falcon EcoBoost has notched up the home-grown sedan’s second consecutive large car under $60,000 category win in the annual Australia’s Best Cars awards.

More good news for local manufacturers came in the shape of the Toyota Camry’s first win, which in petrol-electric hybrid form became the first Australian-built mid-size to top the medium car under $50,000 category.

Toyota’s six-cylinder Aurion AT-X – built alongside the Camry in Melbourne – also did well, coming second to the Falcon in the sub-$60,000 large-car category.

Ford supplemented its Falcon win with top spot for the Focus Titanium TDCi in the category for small cars over $35,000.

In addition to the consecutive success – the LPG-powered Falcon EcoLPi was a winner last year – Ford is celebrating the Falcon’s seventh win since the foundation in 2000 of Australia’s Best Cars, which is run by the seven major state and territory auto clubs.

The Falcon has uniquely succeeded in two categories, taking the best sports car under $57,000 gong in 2002 with the XR6 Turbo.

Australia’s Best Cars chief judge Mark Borlace said the Falcon EcoBoost had scored even higher than the EcoLPi variant, describing it as “arguably the best mainstream Falcon yet”.

“Falcon’s second win underscores the work Ford is doing to try to arrest the slide of large-car sales by providing viable alternatives to the big six,” he said.

Ford Australia public affairs director Sinead Phipps welcomed the award as the company is still battling to convince customers with preconceptions about four-cylinder cars to try an EcoBoost.

“One of the good things with this is that the awards go into the homes of seven million Australians through the (club) membership, so it will cut through some of that (preconception),” she said.

Ms Phipps said combined EcoBoost and EcoLPi sales currently account for around a quarter of Falcon volume, and that their presence in the line-up have helped slow the decline of Falcon sales amid a shrinking segment.

“We very strongly believe that if we didn’t have EcoLPi and EcoBoost that (Falcon sales) would have dropped down further,” said Ms Phipps.

Ford has sold 11,719 Falcons year-to-date, a 26.2 per cent decline on the same period in 2011, but this year’s monthly figures are trending slightly upwards, suggesting they may be stabilising.

Ms Phipps said the EcoLPi and EcoBoost have “definitely contributed to Falcon sales remaining at the level they have”.

Both Falcon and Camry are designed to deliver reduced fuel consumption without compromising performance, the Ford using 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle and the Camry sipping 5.2L/100km.

Of the 15 winners, 11 use turbocharged engines, eight of which are diesels – the Hyundai i30’s award applies to both petrol and diesel variants – while the Camry was the only hybrid.

Mr Borlace described the Falcon and Camry as providing “big fuel economy wins for motorists”, and the panel of judges found the Toyota to be “the most rounded, best value vehicle of its type to hit the Australian market”.

Despite the presence of V8s and large SUVs among the 15 categories, average fuel consumption across all the winners improved by more then four per cent on average.

In addition to the lower fuel consumption, running costs are decreasing with an increasing number of models offered with capped-price servicing, while strong competition – and Australian dollar – have contributed to better value for money.

Mr Borlace observed a “definite trend towards meeting customer requirements for value, quality, reduced fuel consumption, and in important areas of social responsibility”.

Australian Automobile Association executive director Andrew McKellar said the trend toward capped-price servicing was “a sign of recognition by car manufacturers that they understand how important vehicle affordability is to their customers”.

“I don’t know of a time in the history of the automotive industry when Australians had such a choice of quality products representing such value for money,” said Mr McKellar.

“Competition like this is excellent for the consumer because it means that those manufacturers have to keep pushing to deliver the best technology at the best price in order to win sales.”

Seven of the 15 winning vehicles were new to the Australian market this year.

Land Rover’s Discovery picked up its eighth win in the all-terrain four-wheel-drive category.

The Hyundai iMax was again crowned best people-mover – a title it has sustained since its launch in 2008 – and the South Korean brand picked up a further two awards with the i30 Active (best small car under $35,000) and Santa Fe Elite diesel (best SUV under $40,000).

BMW also won three categories, the new M135i hot hatch securing the Bavarian brand’s fifth consecutive title in the sportscar category, while the M3 Coupe was hailed best sportscar over $80,000 and the 320i sedan was judged best medium-size car over $50,000.

Hyundai’s sister brand, Kia, also did well, picking up awards for the Rio Si (light cars under $20,000) and the Sportage 2.4 SLi (SUVs under $40,000).

Volkswagen – the most awarded brand in Australia’s Best Cars history with 21 category wins – topped the luxury SUV over $60,000 category with the Touareg V6 TDI while the Polo 66TDI took its third consecutive gong as best light car over $20,000.

The Lexus GS350 F Sport came away with a gong for the best large car over $60,000 – usually awarded to European models – and judges said it “would have also faired well in the sports car classes”.

Mr McKellar said the closeness of the results and the diversity of brands represented in the awards showed “how competitive the Australian new car market is”.

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