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RX-8 wins Wheels Car Of The Year award

RX-8 the winner: Wheels praised the RX-8’s performance and value for money.

Mazda’s rotary sports car wins Wheels award while BMW’s 5 misses final cut

20 Jan 2004

MAZDA’S rotary-powered, four-door, four-seat RX-8 sports car is the 2003 Wheels Car Of The Year.

The RX-8 was awarded the magazine’s top gong ahead of 18 other eligible models and 41 different variants.

The other finalists were the Toyota Kluger and petrol-electric Prius, and the Honda Accord Euro.

Shock omissions from the final group were the BMW 5 Series and the new generation Subaru Liberty. Other high profile omissions included the Nissan 350Z, Audi A8, Volkswagen Touareg and Volvo XC90.

Eight judges spent six days driving the cars over thousands of kilometres at a proving ground and on public roads. The winner was then selected by secret ballot.

The five key areas of the judging criteria are:  Function: How well does the car work?  Technology: Does the car deliver advantages to consumers through improved technology?  Efficiency: How effectively does the car utilize material resources?  Safety: How well does the car protect its occupants?  Value: Does the car’s price reflect its qualities?A change for this year was the adoption of an Academy Awards-style system, with the basic sales volume and safety criteria no longer enough to gain automatic entry to the test program. A panel of senior magazine staff and contributors rejected many cars that would have previously made the cut.

Wheels editor Ged Bulmer said: “The Mazda RX-8 represents the birth of a new and worthwhile category of car.

“The RX-8 has achieved a genuine sports coupe experience, complete with four doors and four seats, thanks to a daring, ingenious design.

“With no direct and obvious competitor, and priced between $56,170 and $63,280, the RX-8 is brilliant value.

“It’s good looking, clever, great to drive and a worthy winner of the Wheels Car Of The Year.

Mr Bulmer said the judges were critical of the 5’s interior plastics quality and new-tech active steering system.

The Liberty was felt to be a step forward rather than a major leap forward, he said.

Mazda has regularly enjoyed WCOTY success, taking the award five times and making it the most successful full-line importer in the Australian market.

Past Mazda winners were the 323 in 1980, MX-5 in 1989 and the 626 in 1983 and 1992.

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