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Australian vehicles lose out in ‘best cars’ awards

Czech mate: Low-volume Skoda Superb deemed as 'Australia's best large car' for 2010

Skoda Superb judged better than local large cars as imports clean up ‘best’ awards

General News logo2 Dec 2010

NO AUSTRALIAN-MADE vehicles have made it onto the 2010 ‘Australia’s best cars’ winners list, with the coveted motoring association awards this year favouring imported vehicles – most of them diesels – across all 15 categories, including the low-volume Superb large car from Volkswagen’s Czech brand Skoda.

In a blow to the local car manufacturing industry, the judges determined the niche Superb 125 TDI Ambition station wagon as ‘Australia’s best large car’, scoring it 758 points across the program’s broad criteria, with the 118 TSI variant coming in second on 748 points.

Ford’s FG Falcon XR6 was back in third place on 738, while last year’s winner, Toyota’s Aurion AT-X, was relegated to fourth with 705 points.

Despite a significant Series II upgrade this year which included E85 ethanol capability, Holden’s VE Commodore sedan and Sportwagon – Australia’s most popular model line and the runaway large-car market leader – was not even among the finalists, with both SV6 and Omega variants failing to reach 700 points.

Other vehicles tested in the large-car category were the Nissan Maxima, Honda Accord, Citroen C5, Hyundai Grandeur and Chrysler 300C.

This is the first time in the event’s 11-year history that an Australian-built car has failed to win the large (or family) car category.

Holden has not claimed the title since winning in the first two years (2000 and 2001) with the VX series – the billion-dollar VE has never struck a gong – while Falcon has taken the top award four times (2002-2004, 2008) and Aurion three (2006-07, 2009). Mitsubishi’s ill-fated 380 also won gold in 2005.

Best Cars chief judge and RAASA technical services manager Mark Borlace described the Superb as “probably a surprise winner to a lot of people” but insisted the award was well deserved.

“In this traditional class dominated by Australian-made cars, the combination of European engine technology in a well-packaged vehicle with a wagon option has upset this market and is a well-deserved winner,” he said.

In accepting the award at a presentation in Sydney this week, Skoda Australia head Matthew Wiesner said the company had “broken the stranglehold on the large-car segment”, although this overlooks the fact that the Superb’s sales volume is still only a fraction that of the Australian-built cars.

 center imageFrom top: Hyundai i20, Land Rover Discovery, Volkswagen Jetta and BMW 320d

To the end of October, Skoda owned just 0.4 per cent of the market segment for large cars under $70,000 with 278 Superb sales for the first 10 months of this year.

By comparison, Holden had racked up more than 38,400 Commodore sales for a 48.8 per cent share over the same period, while Ford had sold more than 25,200 Falcons for a 32.0 per cent share.

Toyota had managed more than 9600 sales with Aurion for a 12.2 per cent share over the period, while all other vehicles tested in the Best Cars award – bar the Hyundai Grandeur, which will soon be discontinued – had also outsold the Superb.

“Skoda has broken the stranglehold on the large-car segment with its refreshing approach to delivering customers a winning combination of space, technology, performance, safety and fuel efficiency in a stylish package,” Mr Wiesner claimed.

“Since we launched the Superb, it has grown in popularity and given our customers a new-found appreciation of what they can expect from a large car in this segment.

“This award will give Skoda even greater awareness and will no doubt put a new model on people’s shopping list in what is one of Australia’s most iconic segments.”

The awards program assesses vehicles across 19 areas bracketed into three main sections: value for money, design and function, and on-road performance. The finalists are road tested during a week of assessment before category winners are determined.

The Volkswagen Group also won in three other categories: best light car over $20,000 (Polo 66 TDI Comfortline), best SUV under $40,000 (Tiguan 103 TDI) and best medium car under $50,000 (Jetta 103 TDI).

The Australian-built Toyota Camry was not among the medium-car finalists, despite launching an environmentally friendly hybrid version this year. Camry Hybrid placed 10th, with the regular Camry Altise model back in 13th position.

BMW featured heavily in the awards with wins for the best medium car over $50,000 (320d Lifestyle), best sportscar under $80,000 (135i Coupe), best sportscar over $80,000 (M3 Coupe) and best luxury SUV over $60,000 (X5 xDrive30d).

BMW Group Australia also collected the award for best small car over $35,000 for the Mini Cooper D.

Hyundai took home three awards, winning the best light car under $20,000 category with the recently released i20 (in Active trim), the best small car under $35,000 section with the i30 SX, and taking top honours in the people-mover category with the iMax.

Sister brand Kia won the best SUV over $40,000 with the Sorento SLi, outpacing the Subaru Outback and Hyundai Santa Fe, as well as the locally built Ford Territory – a previous category winner that only managed seventh place this year.

Land Rover again won best all-terrain 4WD with the Discovery 4 TDV6 SE, while Audi won the best large car over $60,000 award (replacing the previous prestige/luxury car categories) with the A6 3.0 TDi quattro.

Australia’s Best Cars awards are run under the umbrella of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), with the judging panel made up of representatives from the NRMA, RACV, RACQ, RAASA, RACWA, RACT and AANT.

In other noteworthy annual motoring awards announced recently, Honda won the 2010-11 Japanese Car of the Year with its Honda CR-Z hybrid – due on sale in Australia mid-2011 – while Nissan’s Leaf electric vehicle, which should arrive here in 2012, was awarded 2011 European Car of the Year.

Australia's Best Cars 2010

Best Light Car under $20,000
Hyundai i20 Active

Best Light Car over $20,000
Volkswagen Polo 66 TDI Comfortline

Best Small Car under $35,000
Hyundai i30 SX

Best Small Car over $35,000
Mini Cooper D

Best Medium Car under $50,000
Volkswagen Jetta 103 TDI

Best Medium Car over $50,000
BMW 320d Lifestyle

Best Large Car under $60,000
Skoda Superb 125 TDI Ambition

Best Large Car over $60,000
Audi A6 3.0 TDI Quattro

Best People Mover
Hyundai iMax

Best Sports Car under $80,000
BMW 135i Coupe

Best Sports Car over $80,000
BMW M3 Coupe

Best SUV under $40,000
Volkswagen Tiguan 103 TDI

Best SUV over $40,000
Kia Sorento SLi

Best Luxury SUV over $60,000
BMW X5 xDrive 30d

Best All Terrain 4WD
Land Rover Discovery 4 TDV6 SE

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