Wheels Car of the Year 2023: Finalists
Nissan X-Trail, Ford Everest, Tesla Model Y, Cupra Formentor
- Four finalists chosen from a field of 17 COTY contenders
- Finalists progress to 'Round Two' where judges assess them on country- and urban-road loops
- Finalists group includes a sporty crossover, large SUV, family SUV and a popular EV
- COTY winner announced on March 7
Just like the major sporting codes that look to find a ‘final eight’, Wheels Car of the Year is also designed to select a smaller group of finalists.
Our number of finalists is flexible, but the goal is always the same: to identify the models that have impressed us enough over the first three days of testing to warrant further exploration in Round Two.
This year, four cars out of our 17-strong field earned enough votes to become a COTY finalist and they are: Cupra Formentor, Ford Everest, Nissan X-Trail and the Tesla Model Y.
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.
A NOTE ON CRITERIA
Always a controversial topic. It's linked above, but if you need a refresher on how we define eligibility and our testing criteria, the What's new for 2023? story is where you need to be.
Challengers, welcome to Round Two
Unlike Round One of our testing, which is conducted at a purpose-built proving ground, Round Two is all about how the finalists perform on the public road over the course of two additional days of testing.
1️⃣ Day one
The first day presents a challenging country loop that includes sweeping bends, broken surfaces, stretches of highway and tighter technical sections as we look to assess ride and handling, open-road refinement and fuel consumption.
2️⃣ Day two
The second day of Round Two is a loop in the centre of Melbourne that incorporates peak hour traffic, speed bumps, school zones and traffic lights to assess a car’s low-speed ride and behaviour in the day-to-day grind. Judges also ride four-up in the cars on this day to further test rear-seat room, comfort and ride compliance.
Of our finalists, only one can be Wheels Car of the Year for 2023 and we’ll announce the final result next Tuesday, March 7, so mark that in your calendars.
Until then, which of our finalists do you think will win? To help, here’s a quick summary of how they impressed us at the proving ground.
An early favourite...
- Only one brand has won Wheels Car of the Year in its first attempt (bonus points if you can name the brand!), but the Formentor’s sporty dynamics, strong engine performance and striking exterior design had a few judges wondering early on if Cupra might become the second.
- We had three Formentors to test: VZ, VZe and VZx.
- Formentor quickly proved to be much more than a reskinned Volkswagen, despite sharing its platform and engines with other MQB Evo products
- All three Formentors we had at COTY were standouts in our acceleration, braking and swerve/avoid tests
- They also scored well in our Value and Cabin Design and Execution criteria
- This is the first year ladder-frame vehicles have been eligible to compete at COTY and the Everest’s strong showing validates the inclusion
- Offers an impressive amount of room, performance, capability and dynamic cohesion
- Value is a key strength, too, with prices ranging from approx $50-75K
- All-terrain tyres and a hefty kerb weight saw Everest finish towards the bottom for braking and swerve/avoid but it was easily the class of the field for driving on dirt
- Everest is designed and engineered by Australians for Australian buyers, and the benefits of that local focus are obvious
Medium SUV comparison: 2023 Mega Test
Thinking of buying a new mid-size SUV this year? We test eight of the best and most popular contenders to see where you should spend your money
Who's surprised that our SUV mega test winner is a finalist?
- New-gen X-Trail is a marked improvement over its uninspiring (but attractively cheap!) predecessor
- Cabin execution is a real highlight with its modern design, clever storage solutions and optional seven-seats impressing the judges
- Thoughtful packaging solutions are also a strength against our Cabin Design and Execution criteria. Rear doors that open to 90 degrees to allow easier entry/egress for example, and a third row of seats that folds flat into the floor and doesn’t eat into boot space
- New hybrid powertrain also impressed the judges for its performance, efficiency gains and relative value compared with atmo petrol versions
Tesla Model Y
This sales-champ EV is an obvious shoo-in for finalist
- An absolute standout in our acceleration, braking and swerve/avoid tests
- Also impressed on our ride/handling loop thanks to high grip levels and rapid acceleration
- Value is a clear strength, especially when you consider the level of performance, range and interior room you get for circa-$70K in the entry-level rear-drive model
- Scored highly in our criteria for Cabin Design and Execution thanks to strong focus on infotainment tech, large boot, ample storage and minimalist design. Some ergonomic and materials quality shortcomings were noted, however.