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Australia’s Best Cars Awards for 2012 – results

The official Australia’s Best Cars results are out for 2012, and it’s a tie between BMW and Hyundai for the manufacturer that has picked up the most awards.

Australia’s Best Cars Awards is an annual event that is run by the Australian Automobile Association, in conjunction with a number of major motoring clubs around the country. Judges reviewed over 300 different vehicles to narrow down a winner for 15 separate categories. The judges asses 21 key aspects, including initial pricing, servicing and ownership costs, and engine specifications and efficiency.

This year eight of the 15 award categories went to a diesel vehicle, while seven vehicles of the 15 were new to the Australian market this year. Eleven of the awards also went to turbocharged vehicles, coinciding with the increasing trend of turbochargers being used by carmakers due to their fuel economy benefits. Unsurprisingly, the overall efficiency of cars reviewed in this year’s awards increased by four per cent over last year.

Starting with the sports cars, the winner of the Best Sports Car Under $80,000 category went to the new BMW M135i hatch. It comes with a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six producing 235kW. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at just 7.5L/100km.

Stepping up into the Best Sports Car Over $80,000 category, and it’s the M135i’s bigger brother, the BMW M3 that has taken home the award. The all-new model is not far off now, even so, the current 4.0-litre V8 version is still seen as the benchmark in the segment. It’s available in coupe, convertible and sedan format, all offering 309kW/400Nm V8 performance, with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed M-DCT auto.

Working back down to the entry-level market segment is the Best Light Car Over $20,000. This award went to the Volkswagen Polo 66TDI. It features a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine producing 66kW and 230Nm. Judges commended it for its great build quality and its overall value for money.

Despite the Mazda3 consistently recording the most sales in the popular small hatch segment each month in Australia, it missed out on a respective award this year. The Best Small Car Under $35,000 went to the new Hyundai i30 Active, which features a direct-injected 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 110kW and 178Nm. It offers an average fuel economy rating of 6.9L/100km.

Moving up to the Best Small Car Over $35,000 segment, the award went to the Ford Focus TDCi Titanium. It features a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder producing 120kW and 340Nm, capable of 0-100km/h in 8.7 seconds. Judges said the recent price changes and capped price servicing have made the Titanium a class-leader in terms of value for money.

“It has eight airbags plus advanced technologies not normally seen at this price point, such as auto park and a voice command system.”

For the Best Medium Car Over $50,000, it was BMW once again providing the goods with the new BMW 320i. We loved the new 2.0-litre 135kW/270Nm turbo four-cylinder engine during our review, and it seems so do many of the judges. They said,

“The addition of a turbocharger and a futuristic eight-speed automatic gearbox has seen power increase by 17 per cent and fuel consumption reduced by 21 per cent.

“In previous years this category has been dominated by diesel vehicles. The small capacity, forced-induction BMW petrol closes the gap in power output and efficiency.”

Making a bit of a surprise comeback to this year’s awards was the Ford Falcon. It took home the Best Large Car Under $60,000 award with the G6 EcoBoost. Despite dwindling sales of the four-cylinder option, the turbo four provides similar performance to the big six while slashing fuel economy.

As we found out during our review (Falcon G6 EcoBoost review here), the lighter weight engine provides a better weight distribution and up to 109kg in overall weight savings. We enjoyed the improved front end composure of the EcoBoost, and think it presents good handling and balance over the heavier six. Judges said,

“Ford’s first four-cylinder Falcon is the second Falcon to win this category in two years. Last year it was won by the six-cylinder Falcon EcoLPi, the first LPG-powered vehicle to win an Australia’s Best Car award.

“The new four-cylinder Falcon matches the six-cylinder model in acceleration while delivering better fuel economy and a smoother ride.”

Lastly, picking up the Best Large Car Over $60,000 was the new Lexus GS 350 F Sport. Last month sales of the GS increased enough to surpass the usual favourites in this segment, including the highly regarded BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (October 2012 figures here). Judges said,

“Traditionally dominated by European makes, the fourth-generation Lexus has swept all before it to win this prestige motoring category. The GS 350 F Sport offers strong response and performance to surprise and delight.”

See below for the full Australia’s Best Cars Award results for 2012, including specifications, the runners up, and prices (excluding on-road costs).

BEST LIGHT CAR UNDER $20,000
Kia Rio Si

DRIVETRAIN: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol, six-speed manual
POWER: 103kW/167Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 5.6L/100km (ULP)
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 5
PRICED FROM: $18,990

Finalists:
2. Hyundai Accent Active
3. Volkswagen Polo 77 TSI Comfortline

 

BEST LIGHT CAR OVER $20,000
Volkswagen Polo 66TDI Comfortline

DRIVETRAIN: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel, five-speed manual/seven-speed DSG auto
POWER: 66kW/230Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 4.7L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 4
PRICED FROM: $21,490

Finalists:
2. Ford Fiesta LX
3. Peugeot 208 Allure

 

BEST SMALL CAR UNDER $35,000
Hyundai i30 Active

DRIVETRAIN: 1.8-litre four-cylinder, six-speed auto
POWER: 110KW/178NM
FUEL ECONOMY: 6.9L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 3.5
PRICED FROM: $20,990

Finalists:
2. Volkswagen Golf 90 TSI Trendline
3. Hyundai Elantra Active

 

BEST SMALL CAR OVER $35,000
Ford Focus Titanium TDCi

DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, six-speed DCT auto
POWER: 120kW/340Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 5.4L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 3.5
PRICED FROM: $36,590 (hatch)

Finalists:
2. BMW 116i
3. Audi A3 TDI Attraction

 

BEST MEDIUM CAR UNDER $50,000
Toyota Camry H (hybrid)

DRIVETRAIN: 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid, CVT
POWER: 151kW/350Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 5.2L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 5
PRICED FROM: $34,990

Finalists:
2. Kia Optima Si
3. Volkswagen Jetta 118 TSI Comfortline

 

BEST MEDIUM CAR OVER $50,000
BMW 320i

DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, eight-speed auto
POWER: 135kW/270Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 6.0L/100km (PULP)
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 4.5
PRICED FROM: $57,600

Finalists:
2. Volkswagen CC 125 TDI
3. Mercedes-Benz C250 CDI Avantgarde

 

BEST LARGE CAR UNDER $60,000
Ford Falcon G6 EcoBoost

DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, six-speed auto
POWER: 179kW/353Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 8.5L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 3.5
PRICED FROM: $40,835

Finalists:
2. Toyota Aurion AT-X
3. Peugeot 508 Allure HDi

 

BEST LARGE CAR OVER $60,000
Lexus GS 350 F Sport

DRIVETRAIN: 3.5-litre V6 petrol, six-speed auto
POWER: 233kW/378Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.7L/100km (PULP)
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 4
PRICED FROM: $99,900

Finalists:
2. Audi A6 3.0 TDI Quattro (d)
3. BMW 520i

 

BEST SPORTS CAR UNDER $80,000
BMW M135i

DRIVETRAIN: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol, eight-speed auto
POWER: 235kW/450Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 7.5L/100km (PULP)
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 4
PRICED FROM: $68,400

Finalists:
2. Volkswagen Scirocco R
3. Volkswagen Polo GTI

 

BEST SPORTS CAR OVER $80,000
BMW M3 Coupe

DRIVETRAIN: 4.0-litre V8, six-speed manual/seven-speed DCT auto
POWER: 309kW/400Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 12.4L/100km (PULP)
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 3.5
PRICED FROM: $155,000

Finalists:
2. Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe
3. Audi RS5 FSI Quattro

 

BEST ALL TERRAIN 4WD
Land Rover Discovery 4 SDV6 SE

DRIVETRAIN: 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel V6, six-speed auto
POWER: 180kW/600Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.3L/100km, diesel
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 2.5
PRICED FROM: $84,300

Finalists:
2. Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo CRD
3. Toyota Prado GXL

 

BEST SUV UNDER $40,000
Kia Sportage SLi AWD

DRIVETRAIN: 2.4-litre four-cylinder, six-speed auto
POWER: 130kW/227Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.2L/100km (ULP)
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 4
PRICED FROM: $32,720

Finalists:
2. Volkswagen Tiguan 103TDI
3. Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2WD

 

BEST SUV OVER $40,000
Hyundai Santa Fe R Series Elite

DRIVETRAIN: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, six-speed auto
POWER: 145kW/436Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 7.3L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 3
PRICED FROM: $43,990

Finalists:
2. Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring
3. Kia Sorento Platinum

 

BEST LUXURY SUV OVER $60,000
Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI

DRIVETRAIN: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel, eight-speed auto
POWER: 180kW/550Nm
FUEL ECONOMY: 7.4L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 3.5
PRICED FROM: $77,990

Finalists:
2. BMW X5 xDrive 30d
3. Range Rover Sport SDV6

 

BEST PEOPLE MOVER
Hyundai iMax

DRIVETRAIN: 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, five-speed auto
POWER: 125kW/441Nm (CRDi SLX)
FUEL ECONOMY: 9.8L/100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE: 2.5
PRICED FROM: $42,490 (CRDi SLX)

Finalists:
2. Toyota Prius V
3. Subaru Liberty Exiga 2.5i

Brett is the editor and founder of PerformanceDrive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.