2021 News Corp Car of the Year finalists revealed


We pick the best new cars to have landed on our shores in 2021 and there are a few surprise packets that could take the top gong.

This year was a watershed moment for the car industry. After more than a century focusing on the internal combustion engine, attention has shifted to electric propulsion. Electric vehicles may account for less than 2 per cent of new-car sales in Australia, but they will inevitably fill the driveways of the future.

To that end, we plan to crown our first EV of the Year, as well as our overall Car of the Year.

Five vehicles will compete for EV of the Year and two of those will then join the main contest, competing against five conventionally-powered cars for the overall title of News Corporation Car of the Year.

The class of 2021 includes several market segments but not popular dual-cab utes, as there was no fresh metal worthy of making the final cut this year.

Also missing the cut were some outstanding if expensive machines such as the Toyota LandCruiser, Mercedes S-Class and BMW M3.

More affordable cars worthy of note but missing selection included the Hyundai i20 N, Toyota GR Yaris and Skoda Scala.

Here are our five traditional finalists.


Europe’s best-selling car is more than a benchmark for the hatchback class – it’s a yardstick for the car industry as a whole.

VW’s eighth-generation Golf ditches the divisive dual-clutch auto of previous models while switching to a classy touch-sensitive cockpit delivering new levels of connectivity and user-friendliness. Largely based on the Golf 7 – a car that won our title in 2013 – the new model elevates the Golf to new heights.

Power comes from a turbo petrol engine that blends impressive performance with efficiency.

The cabin is loaded with wide-screen digital displays and first-class driver assistance technology previously limited to $100,000-plus luxury cars, along with niceties such as three-zone climate control, wireless phone charging and smartphone mirroring. The catch is that it’s more expensive than ever and even Volkswagen says its relevance is waning as Aussies gravitate toward SUVs.


With the Subaru Liberty consigned to history, the five-door Outback wagon carries the flag for loyal Subaru families. The latest model is a winner, with plenty of ground clearance, a proper all-wheel-drive system and useful driver assistance tech for both tarmac and gravel.

Priced from about $50,000 drive-away in mid-spec Sport trim, the comparatively affordable Outback has an enormous 11.6-inch touchscreen display along with Subaru’s impressive arsenal of driver assistance technology. It’s also spacious, generously appointed and uses clever facial recognition in interesting ways. It will recognise which driver has slipped behind the wheel and adjust climate and display settings accordingly. On the road it will watch for signs of drowsiness and warn you if you take your eyes off the road. It also has limousine-like ride comfort, soaking up bumps and corrugations with ease. But an average engine and occasionally dozy transmission could harm its chances.


Once famous for discounted drive-away deals, Kia now enjoys lengthy waiting lists for key models as customers click with its combination of quality and value.

Following in the wheeltracks of the impressive Kia Sorento that finished second in last year’s Car of the Year, the new Sportage is our pick of fresh medium SUV contenders in 2021, blending sharp looks with first-class interior presentation, impressive standard features and a seven-year warranty. It’s also larger than before, with enough rear leg room and cargo space for some motorists to reconsider the need for a bigger class of car.

Customers can choose from petrol or diesel engines for now, with fuel-efficient hybrid versions delayed to next year. Price rises will stretch the loyalty of customers and could hurt its chances, though.


Near year-long queues for our 2019 Car of the Year, Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid, suggest the brand has a strong understanding of what drivers want. Bigger than the RAV4, this seven-seat Kluger Hybrid builds on its appeal with a larger body lending versatility to families on the move.

The optional switch from a thirsty V6 engine to a sophisticated four-cylinder hybrid unit delivers inner-city fuel consumption to rival tiny hatchbacks for a small premium. And it’s safer than before, thanks to the addition of a front-centre airbag along with new driver assistance features. More spacious than its predecessor, the Kluger’ has strong resale values and best-in-class running costs, making it a winner for many customers. But the Kluger’s sheer size may count against it on the road, where nimbler cars are better to drive.


There’s nothing better for moving people than a people mover. And on balance, there’s no better people mover than the new Kia Carnival.

With much-improved styling, a laundry-list of standard kit and a surplus of space throughout, we reckon the Carnival is a better bet than most four-wheel-drives for most Aussie families, most of the time. Heated and ventilated seats, powered doors and an oversized touchscreen linked to a Bose stereo win points, while the long-legged diesel engine option makes it a sure pick for extended road trips. The new machine really is a great vehicle with very few drawbacks – it’s not exactly cheap and doesn’t drive like a sports car – and even looks tougher than most machines in the school run car park.

We’re prepared to overlook the daggy image of sliding doors and myriad cupholders in favour of its practical appeal, even if many fashion-conscious mum-and-dad motorists won’t give it a second look.

Originally published as 2021 News Corp Car of the Year finalists revealed

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