7 January 2022

Naming a Car of the Year is harder than it looks, but here goes ...

| James Coleman
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Choosing a Car of the Year is hard – no matter how you slice it. Image: Enya Maxwell.

It was an Australian motoring journalist who first put a hand to his bearded chin and came up with a ‘Car of the Year’.

The late Bill Tuckey, and his alias Romsey Quints, lit a spark that spread through motoring magazines the world over.

But far from just a way of saying that “we’ve tested all these cars throughout the year and this is the one we liked the most”, naming a ‘Car of the Year’ has almost become a red-carpet affair.

The audience falls silent and the seconds grow long as the editor majestically approaches a car before ripping the sheet off it and bestowing a wreath upon it to the audience’s standing ovation.

Yeah, right.

So Region Media will do away with melodrama and crocodile tears. Instead, I will rattle off the cars I’ve tested this year and simply see where it takes us. And that’s hard enough because, frankly, you would be perfectly happy in any of them.

Ford Puma

Chasing panthers in the Brindabellas with a Puma. No, that doesn’t really work. Photo: James Coleman.

We start with the Ford Puma ST V-Line. If the name sounds familiar, it was a sports coupe from 1997, which Ford resurrected this year as a compact SUV. As far as its breed goes, it’s definitely a cut above, but a voice inside still thinks a Puma should be low and lithe.

The car that Canberrans couldn’t get enough of last year was the Toyota Corolla, and after a gad through the country in the hybrid version, it’s easy enough to see why. Looking for a car that does all the things you want a car to do? Don’t bother reading any further. But please do anyway …

Next is the Peugeot 508 GT Sportswagon. After suffering through years of French cars that look like the proverbial slapped bum, here is one that actually had passing cars slowing down with faces pressed to the windows.

Peugeot 508

The 508 is almost pretty enough to compensate for many Peugeot crimes against design in recent years. Photo: James Coleman.

The Nissan Leaf began as the second electric vehicle to come to Australian shores, but since then, it has traded the goofy bubble styling for a much sharper suit. It’s electric, and you can drive it with one pedal – that pretty much covers the unique selling points.

Subaru Outback

O the road to Mandalay, Where the flyin’-Subies play. Photo: James Coleman.

It now seems that even the simplest outing in the ACT will require you to negotiate an obstacle course of stripes, islands, speed humps, slow-points, and just when you thought life couldn’t get more exciting, potholes. Fortunately, the Subaru Outback doesn’t care about any of this.

Imagine swanning a good head above the masses, cocooned in wood and leather and chrome. Now imagine you’re in a Hyundai. I know it’s hard to fathom, but the Genesis GV80 still exists. Maybe don’t sell your BMW yet, though.


The Margaret Pavilion at the Arboretum is reserved for special occasions, and this is one. Photo: James Coleman.

The surprises continue with the Toyota Yaris GR. Nobody wants to undertake a master’s degree in product design only to whittle away the rest of their days drawing a Camry’s indicator stalk, but on this occasion, the bosses at Toyota turned a blind eye. And you can tell that every engineer and designer put their heart and soul into it. At more than $50K, however, this hot hatch doesn’t come cheap.

Stars and Stripes Forever, radioactively yellow cheese, and a Dodge Ram. There you have the recipe for Americana, and I set out to find out whether it fits in a city like Canberra. ‘Only just’ is the answer.

Lockdown in the ACT saw a brief but painful pause from testing cars. This left me staring through the window at my trusty Mazda 6 wagon out on the driveway, until I could stand it no more and went to the shops for milk. But this is the car I have. For what it is, and certainly for what my wife and I paid for it, I’m very happy with it. But it’s still not exactly a dream car.

Being an SUV, the Lamborghini Urus is the perfect car for negotiating Canberra potholes. (Note, it is $500K, plus on-road costs). Photo: James Coleman.

The Lamborghini Urus might show off its supercar handling finesse at a neck-snapping 60 km/h through Civic, but the electric Volvo XC40 Recharge is where it’s at for the hoi polloi. Well, when I say hoi polloi, I mean those with $77K lying around.

Having more than three kids used to resign parents to a miserable existence in a glorified postie van, but no longer, because the Hyundai Staria is here. People may still give you strange looks, though.


Getting into awkward positions is a breeze in the new LandCruiser. Photo: James Coleman.

Of course, the biggest news of 2021 is that the Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series has arrived, and a quick expedition through the Brindabellas proves that it knows a lot more about off-roading than me. The only trouble is that if you were to order one tomorrow, you wouldn’t see it for another 12 months at least. Some quick maths on the back of my notepad and yep, that nearly puts it in 2023.


What a view. Photo: James Coleman.

Ah, the Porsche Taycan. Powered by electricity, this four-door sports sedan – with two boots, no less – can leap from standstill to a lifetime in prison in a stomach-churning 3.8 seconds, showing just what an EV can be capable of. Not really for everyone, though, with prices starting at $197K.

This brings us to the BMW M3 Competition, which boasts similar performance to the Porsche, but adds the addictive theatre of internal combustion. But a BMW worth $150K was always going to be good. No surprises there.

Without a doubt, the inside of the new Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the nicest things I’ve ever sat in. There is burnt orange leather and diamond quilting, for goodness sake. A number of people also suggested there were shades of Range Rover about the front end, and what higher accolade for an SUV is there than that?

Kia Stinger

A Kia that’s actually, properly good. Photo: Michael Briguglio.

Every other car manufacturer is in headlong pursuit of zero emissions and batteries. The Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon died years ago because hardly anyone wants a rear-wheel-drive sports sedan anymore. And you certainly can’t say ‘V6’ in public anymore without prompting a protest outside Parliament House.

And yet, Kia has waded into these waters with the Stinger GT, and then they’ve gone on to give it a facelift. And all of that for tens of thousands of dollars less than you’d get from anywhere else. Stupidity? In this instance, I call it bravery.

So does that make the Kia Stinger GT the Region Media Car of the Year 2021? I suppose it does.

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Close, but on the basis of a weighed combination of price, performance, looks, practical family size, features, reliability, warranty, depreciation percentage, servicing costs and overall value for money, my choice of COTY goes to the Kia Sorento. Good article.

If sales were an indicator, COTY would go equally to the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. One of the factors in determining COTY should be availability of spare parts. If you bought the Peugeot 508 GT Sportswagon, where are the spare parts if you broke down in the back of Burke?

Finagen_Freeman7:18 pm 07 Jan 22

Cheers Bill. Nice write up.

Nice choice.

Let’s hope that there is serious journalism about cars and not just promotional puff pieces.

How about information on reliability, recalls, consumer feedback. If you have problems will the dealer look after you or throw you under a bus.

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