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Home  /  January 2021  /  Comment

“What’s a COTY?” I asked.

Wrong answer.

“The Car Of The Year is an award, judged by a panel of senior motoring journalists to honour the most outstanding new car to go on sale in the 12 months preceding the date of the title. Every serious motoring column has one which is why you only have 18 readers, including one friend but not your family. All you and that rag tag team around you do is sit at the corner bar of the Kensi, drink Coopers, try to bludge expensive wine out of Peter and Jenny Hurley and Glenys the bar tender and mention companies that never advertise with us.

OK. So, the boss conveniently forgets that we did a WAMCOTY (Weekend Australian Motoring Car Of The Year award) four years ago and it went down like an electric Stellantis. But I need the job so last night I gathered the WART team and once again we sat around at an exclusive Dr Tim’s (Cooper) Traditional Ale and scallop pie tasting (proudly sponsored by the beer made by a medical specialist so it must be good for you) and decided to name the best new cars for 2020. These pieces of metal are a compromise between pure petrol heads and great vehicles for ordinary drivers who often ask questions like, “why is the accelerator called the loud pedal?” and “does an electric car ever run out of petrol?”.

Here’s the bottom line. CV-19 means dealers are low on stock and that means you’ll pay more and find it harder to do a deal. At the same time, we’ve had manufacturers doing what NRMA test driver Tim Pomroy quaintly calls “bracket creep” or what we would call jacking up prices.

“The implicit assumption that a small car had to come in under $20k is passe and the light SUV segment, which up to now has been the domain of base models in the low $20k region, is slowly pricing out buyers,” Tim told me.

And the guides don’t show it yet but used car prices have gone through the roof. A good cheap used car like a Toyota Corolla is going to cost you at least $10k.

So, the best light SUV is the Hyundai Venue which starts at $20k with a five-year warranty. But, if you want a lot of kit for the dollar and you’re not a serious driver then the fastest-selling light SUV in this country is the MG HS (just under $30k) with a 7-year warranty that makes up for it not being as great to drive as some of the competition. It’s a safe and solid car for the average Australian family. Skoda is the best unknown car brand round here. Owned by the VW Group, makers of Porkers, Bentleys and Audis, it makes some really good cars backed up by super old-fashioned service. The best stationwagon on the market for under $40k is the Skoda Octavia. If you are into road fun spend extra on the Skoda RS 245 wagon.

Best sports cars at any price are the Mazda MX-5 ($40k-plus) and the Porker 911 ($240k-plus). Look, I’m biased because I race one, but what the MX-5 lacks in grunt it makes up for in handling and just wonderful delight through any road with corners. Two other pluses: a really good social club in all states and they’ve built the same car for over 30 years, so it’s sorted. The main competitor to the 911 is the Porker Cayman. Great metal. Good thing engine in the middle. Bad thing engine in the middle, particularly when you’re out of warranty and need to drop it out to put oil in. Plus, not a real Porker. Two real pluses: the best car club in the world and they’ve built the same car for nearly 60 years.

Our WAMCOTY? At a time when every person and his/her/other’s dog is driving a Macan, Beemer X something, Audi Q something and soon a Ferrari SUV something, the VW Touareg (from $81k) is incredible value. Stretch to $136k for a V8 that’s as quick to 100km/h as the Bentley that’s three times the price.

Our COTY used car? Bid now on Sean Connery’s snowy white, shark-nosed, five-speed manual BMW 635 CSi. A steal at $60k. The best Bondy ever, bought it in 1989 to schlep around Marbella, Spain for 10 years while he filmed Dr No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Never Say Never Again. Of course, Jimmy Bond drove Astons at that time, not getting (disappointing) Beemers till the 90s. Seriously: giving Jimmy the favoured transport of slick real estate Johnnies from the provinces: a Z3? That’s so Stellantis. As they say in Munich: “How is a golf ball different from a Z3? You can drive a golf ball 200 metres.”

In dry-storage in Britain and then Luxembourg, it’s rust free and as auction house The Marketm says, “because it was made at a time when BMW still built their cars up to a quality standard rather than down to a price point, it is a well built, well engineered, solid piece of machinery”. But wait there’s more. “If the car is bought by anyone wishing to take it back to Luxembourg, the vendor will include in the sale the personalised registration plate 635CSI.”

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