The car world is changing, fast, and Car of the Year is changing with it.
- Car of the Year turns 60 in 2023
- Fresh criteria sees cars judged in four key areas
- Dual-cab utes and ladder-frame vehicles now eligible
For 2023 we’ve given our award a tune up with the goal of boosting its relevance, making it simpler to understand and supercharging the sense of fun.
To achieve that, we’ve tweaked what’s eligible, overhauled our criteria and adjusted our testing process. All in the hope of crowning a winner you can comfortably agree is a standout.
This story is your cheat sheet to understanding what’s new for 2023.
As the 2023 COTY story evolves, the list of stories below will grow. Keep an eye on this page for more, or find it all at our COTY page.
What is Car of the Year?
It’s the car that has impressed us the most over the previous 12 months. Simple as that.
It is not, as is often argued in the audience, "the most relevant" car. Not the most affordable or best-value, nor the most readily available car. In many ways, the cars we've determined worthy to compete for the COTY title already respond to these shopping-list points in one way or another, but the final winner is... the car that has impressed us the most over the previous 12 months.
You’ve altered the criteria?
Yep. Complex, convoluted and draconian criteria is tiresome so ‘keep it simple’ was our guiding principle.
COTY’s goal is to celebrate excellence – that can be in design, dynamics, value or even how much energy/fuel a car uses – but a winner needs to be well-rounded, too.
A one trick pony won’t win. But one that sets a new benchmark without dropping the ball elsewhere? That’s what we’re looking for. On the flip side, a solid but vanilla all-rounder won’t win either. A COTY has to stand out and excel in some way.
You might notice we’ve removed the technology criterion. That hasn’t reduced the impact of tech – quite the opposite. Technology is now an integral part of all of the other four criteria.
How do we actually find a winner? We test them. Forensically. Empirical data like safety ratings and consumption figures play a part, but we aren’t a slave to numbers and spreadsheets. To our mind that misses the point of COTY.
We test hundreds of cars each year and rate them accordingly to provide you with sound buyer advice. To win COTY, a car needs to do more than simply be a good buy. It needs to get under our skin. To surprise and delight. To deliver something more.
The new criteria
There are now four judging criteria. Each is given equal weighting.
Outright cost, price compared with rivals, equipment levels, ownership costs.
Crash rating (five-star minimum) level of active safety systems included, passive safety (vision out, agility and braking).
How it drives
Ride and handling, powertrain, refinement, efficiency.
Cabin design and execution
Space and comfort, packaging, build quality, connectivity and infotainment, boot space.
We’ve eased the belt out a touch here. Dual-cab utes and ladder-frame SUVs can now be tested to reflect their huge popularity and relevance to Aussie buyers. These segments have also improved at an incredible rate when it comes to dynamics and safety so are deserving of inclusion.
Finally, significant new variants of previously tested models, like a BMW M3, can also make the cut if they impress us enough to warrant inclusion. Game on.
Our panel is made up of seven car experts for 2023. Here’s a quick look at their credentials.
With more than a quarter of a century of road-testing smarts, editor Enright is rarely shy of expressing an opinion on the natural order of things at COTY. Sometimes it’s heartfelt, sometimes it’s a wry hand grenade lobbed in to spark discussion. Either way, it’s rarely dull.
Previous editor and now in charge of Wheels online. Born and bred in Bathurst, so he caught the enthusiast bug early by watching Brock, Skaife and Johnson fight it out over the top of the Mountain. Has a soft spot for Porsche 911s, but understands building a genuinely excellent family SUV is probably a greater achievement.
He’s the senior rating on deck at this year’s COTY, so we’ll pretend we didn’t notice Jez sideways in the Audi E-Tron GT RS on Lang Lang’s dirt course. As our Chief Content Officer, Jez brings decades of experience to the team and has one of the most sensitive bums in the industry when it comes to assessing a car’s ride comfort.
Possesses a level head and an analytical perspective to proceedings that bely his relatively tender years. Were we to snap him in half, he’d probably have Nissan: Made In Yokohama Since 1933 embossed throughout, but does a very strong job of separating the personal and the professional.
One of three judges with time spent in the Wheels editor’s chair, DC brings a rare mix of experience, talent behind the wheel and unending enthusiasm for road testing. Moose testing too, as he’s the driver tasked with compiling the lane-change data at this year’s event.
The head of Wheels’ news desk is about to head out on maternity leave, but that didn’t stop us putting her through the COTY mill. Gamefully withstood the four-ups and still managed to bring a level-headed insight into both relative pricing and real-world practicality.
The other road-testing foetus on the panel, Law’s family holidays consisted of visits to race tracks and car museums, so hats off to dad for bringing the lad up right. Loves to cremate the tyres of something cheap and cheerful at the weekend, but happy to wear the sensible hat here.