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Car of the Year 2017

A surprising Skoda has taken the big motoring prize for 2017. The Kodiaq, a family-focused SUV with a name inspired by an Alaskan bear, has trumped an all-star field to claim the Car of the Year award from News Corp.

It’s the first time a Skoda from the Czech Republic has even qualified for the COTY, although other cars from the Volkswagen Group — which owns Skoda — have claimed the prize a record-equalling four times.

The Kodiaq scored a unanimous win with the six COTY judges, who have nearly 100 years of motoring experience between them, trumping the Honda Civic Type R and Kia Stinger at the end of an intensive judging process.

“It’s really up-market but only $42,000. It’s the right size, too, for a family,” says motoring editor Richard Blackburn.

“If it had a Volkswagen badge it would sell its head off,” says Joshua Dowling.

“It feels more expensive than it is. As a family, you could run it forever,” says Grant Edwards.

The 21st staging of the COTY contest, first won by the Holden Commodore in 1997, was a landmark event with one of the most varied yet closely matched fields in the award’s history.

South Korean cars made up nearly a third of the field, proving Hyundai and Kia are well past the “cheap and cheerful” stage. There was nothing in the line-up from the three former local makers, Ford Holden and Toyota.

“They are the best cars this year. And an interesting bunch,” says Craig Duff.

The field ranged from the tiny Kia Picanto to the luxurious Audi Q5.

There were no favours as the two-day COTY finals began with an intensive investigation of the cars’ pluses and minuses, their value and safety, and how they line up against their rivals, before back-to-back driving on a tough-and-varied assessment loop south of Sydney.

The COTY judging is based on strict criteria and always with the mantra, “Real cars on real roads for real people”.

Two of the first cars cut were the smallest and cheapest, the $15,690 Picanto and $22,990 Suzuki Swift.

“What’s stunning is that you get things that other more expensive cars don’t have,” says Dowling of the Picanto.

“But it’s only four-star safety, with marginal crash ratings in some areas,” Blackburn says.

On the Swift, Dowling says, “It has six-month service intervals and astronomical service costs. It’s not as cheap to run as a Suzuki should be, and people expect.”

The Hyundai i30 and Subaru Impreza make a positive impact but are not standouts. They each have shortcomings despite respective prices of $24,990 and $28,180, putting them into the heartland of small-car sales.

If you put the engine and running gear from the Hyundai into the Subaru, with its cabin and safety, you’d have a giant winner.

“It did everything on a reasonably high plane,” Tim Vaughan says of the Hyundai.

“For a small family car we’re being tough on the Impreza. There is not a lot wrong with it,” says Blackburn.

The new Mazda CX-5 was marked down for being an evolution — not revolution — of the SUV that’s starred in the past, while the Audi Q5 was hit on value.

“The CX-5 is an A-to-B car. There is nothing to love,” Edwards says.

“It hasn’t moved on much from the old one,” Blackburn agrees.

“I was a bit underwhelmed by the Q5. The value wasn’t there, relative to the Kodiaq,” says Vaughan.

“After the Kodiaq, I can’t see the $30,000 extra in the Audi,” says Duff.

The CR-V, which is praised for everything from the way it drives to the cabin quality and comfort, runs into trouble over a lack of standard safety gear.

“I really love that car,” says Dowling, “and the only let-down is that it does not have autonomous emergency braking in the base car. When $15,000 cars now have AEB it’s inexcusable, especially when it is available on the top-level model.”


The driving loops quickly exposed the weaknesses and strengths of the top 10. Day one of testing ended with three serious contenders, the Skoda, Honda and Kia.


he Type R is surprisingly compliant as well as quick and responsive but the Stinger fidgets over bumps and is not as refined as hoped — all judges agree that the $2700 optional sports exhaust needs to be standard.

“I think the Stinger is a good first effort but it’s been over-hyped. I think it’s too expensive,” says Dowling.

“I still think the overall package is superior to the Falcon and Commodore, in the exterior and interior. It’s a giant leap forward for Kia.,” says Edwards.

“Just not a Car of the Year,” says Blackburn.

“When you look at the criteria, it doesn’t do much wrong at all,” Duff says of the Civic.

“It pretty much nails it. It manages to be the most hard-core and the most comfortable at the same time,” says Blackburn.

But the quiet and refined Skoda quickly emerges as the favourite.

“I’d recommend it,” says Duff. “It’s a sweeter size than something like the Mazda CX-9. It’s a tweenie and it works.”

Blackburn says: “Apart from the bumpers to protect the doors in carparks, the picnic blankets, umbrellas and torch, it’s got a huge infotainment screen. The only question mark is resale value.”

“Because it’s got a five-year warranty, I’d take a punt on it,” says Dowling.


There is no prize for the best performance car in the annual contest — but if we had one, the Kia Stinger and Honda Civic Type R would have staged the most hotly contested battle in the 2017 run-off.

The Stinger and Type R could not be more different in what they are and how they provide their driving enjoyment.

Solidly old-school, the Stinger has a full-size body, rear-wheel drive and a twin-turbo V6 with 272kW for a claimed sprint to 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds. Call it a Korean Commodore, as many people do.

A new-age hot hatch, the Type R is front-wheel drive and packs a four-cylinder turbo with 228kW and a claimed 0-100km/h time of about 5.7 seconds.

“The Type R is fit for purpose. It just nails it,” says Craig Duff.

“If you look at the combined package, it’s a giant leap forward for Kia,” says Grant Edwards.

The Stinger is genuinely quick, relaxed on a highway and the sort of car that lots of people will like.

But the Type R is a car to love, not just because you would need to love it to get beyond the childish bodywork but because it is such an epic drive. It can be super quick but also super refined, not just a one-dimensional speed machine.

If there was a performance car of the year, the Civic Type R would be it.


The Kia Stinger is the fan favourite in this year’s COTY field. The Korean sportster was the overwhelming choice with sideline pundits attempting to predict the 2017 champion.

More than 85,000 people voted in the People’s Choice poll run in conjunction with the COTY contest and the Stinger received 28 per cent of the vote. It finished ahead of the Audi Q5 and Honda Civic Type R.

“The Stinger has struck an emotional chord with Australian car enthusiasts,” says Kia Motor Australia boss Damien Meredith.

“Kia has consistently built great cars and, with Stinger, there is a new level of emotion and desire. Demand is all that we could have hoped for and the response from owners, shoppers and media commentators has been excellent.”


Audi Q5 from $72,400*

Honda Civic Type R from $56,700

Honda CR-V from $33,590

Hyundai i30 from $24,990

Kia Picanto from $15,690

Kia Stinger from $61,000

Mazda CX-5 from $34,500

Skoda Kodiaq (pictured) from $46,290

Subaru Impreza from $28,180

Suzuki Swift from $22,990

* All prices drive-away


Richard Blackburn, Joshua Dowling, Craig Duff, Grant Edwards, Paul Gover, Tim Vaughan

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