The most open COTY in years?

How the fi eld is shaping up for Australia’s most coveted motoring award

ANDY ENRIGHT

ALFA ROMEO GIULIA

The game-changing 375kW Quadrifoglio hogs the headlines, but there’s real bench strength in the Giulia range, showing what a confident, cash-rich and re-emergent Alfa Romeo can do when all the stars align. An Italian car has never won COTY. Will that duck be broken in 2017? a

AUDI Q5

The A4 came within a whisker of winning the marque’s first COTY last year and the all-new Q5 has garnered the thumbs up from the test team.

With a brilliant ‘quattro ultra’ drivetrain in the cooking models and, for the first time, a petrol SQ5 variant in Australia, the all-new Q5 looks to have all the fundamentals in place to go a long way this year.

KIA STINGER

The most eagerly awaited car of 2017 is a Kia. Chew that one over for a moment.

Can the Stinger take up the big rear-drive baton from the Falcon and Commodore or will proving ground punishment and ruthless on-road analysis reveal a dynamic chink in its armour? First drives suggest that local tuning for this model will be key.

MAZDA CX-5

Odds on a three-peat for Mazda? The latest CX-5 went straight to the top of our compact SUV test this year, beating the highly fancied (and ’17 COTY finalist) Volkswagen Tiguan in the process. You said the old car needed better refinement and more space.

Mazda listened and the all-new CX-5 will take some beating.

McLAREN 720S

Although high-end supercars are usually well placed to excel against COTY’s technology criterion, the law of diminishing returns at this price level can make objective value assessments difficult.

Yet the 720S is a supercar cut from very different cloth.

The fastest car we’ve ever considered for COTY inclusion could well spring a surprise.

HYUNDAI i30

The most successful contenders at COTY are often those with a broad palette of talents and that certainly applies to the new i30 range.

Time will tell if the disruptive i30 N hot hatch will make it to Oz in time for testing and whether it can live up to the pre-launch billing. COTY will provide the perfect crucible to find out.

Wheels Car of the Year winners are easier to predict in some years than others. It would have been a brave – or foolhardy – person who bet against the Golf Mk7 in 2013 or even the Mazda MX-5 in 2016. But the recipient of Australia’s most prestigious motoring accolade isn’t so easy to pick this year.

In fact, it’s hard to think of a year where the field has been more open. That’s not to say there’s a shortfall of talent.

We’re still a long way from finalising the long list of entrants (currently it stands at more than 30 models), and the current crop of contenders is so varied that it’s hard to pick an early favourite.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from previous years, it’s that talent will always shine through; that the rigorous process of judging leaves no room for pretenders.

LYNCHPINS AND LONG-SHOTS

Every year at Wheels COTY there are cars that punch well above their weight against the function, efficiency, value, technology and safety criteria that underpin the award. It will be no different in 2018 and there were a few consistent fixtures on the informal wish lists of some of the judges.

Hyundai’s Kona has piqued the curiosity of many, as has Holden’s Equinox mid-sized SUV. The all-new Suzuki Swift looks a serious contender. Toyota is a brand keen on carrying off a second COTY crown and this year’s potentials include the fresh and focused C-HR and the all-new XV60-gen Camry.