What is Australia's Best Cars?
Australia's Best Cars is the Nation's most comprehensive and independent consumer focused vehicle testing and award program, and is presented by the Australian Automobile Association, on behalf of Australia's Motoring Clubs (NRMA Motoring & Services, RACV, RACQ, RAASA, RACWA, RACT and the AANT).
Each year, our judges put the most popular cars through rigorous testing and analysis, including hundreds of kilometres of road testing, to determine Australia's Best Cars – a process which has been followed since the program's inception in 2000. The rationale behind the program is to take the legwork out of the search for new cars on the Australian market.
All information on the Best Cars program and testing process is made available to the public in a number of ways including this magazine, through Motoring Club advisory services channels, as well as via our dedicated website www.australiasbestcars.com.au.
This magazine, however, is what we consider the 'buyers guide' as it includes news, reviews and scores on more than 300 vehicles – a great way for you to compare vehicles against their competitors and gives you confidence and knowledge to make your next new car purchasing decision.
What are the categories?
- Light Cars under $20,000
- Light Cars over $20,000
- Small Cars under $35,000
- Small Cars over $35,000
- Medium Cars under $50,000
- Medium Cars over $50,000
- Large Cars under $60,000
- Large Cars over $60,000
- People Movers
- Sports Cars under $80,000
- Sports Cars over $80,000
- SUVs under $40,000
- SUVs over $40,000
- Luxury SUVs over $60,000
- All-Terrain 4WDs
The categories correspond to consumer purchasing trends.
The Scoring Process
Judging and selecting a winner in each of the 15 categories, covering some 300 cars, is no easy task. The judging panel is made up of 10 Club representatives with backgrounds in engineering, vehicle road-testing and motoring advisory – from each of the Australian state and territory motoring clubs (NRMA Motoring & Services, RACV, RACQ, RAASA, RACWA, RACT and the AANT). Read more about the judges at www.australiasbestcars.com.au
There are three key areas which the judges consider, being Value for Money, Design and Function and On the Road Performance.
Within each of these areas there are up to eight criteria. Each criterion is given a score between 1 and 10, with 10 being the best score possible. Each vehicle's overall score reflects its position within the class and should only be compared within its category.
The scores for each criterion are weighted – critical, high, medium or low – according to their importance to buyers in the relevant market segment. We use information from the general public via the "Your Say" online survey to tailor these weightings.
Value for Money
Pricing: Australia's Best Cars takes the manufacturer's list price (from the October edition of Glass's Guide) of the volume selling version (as identified by the manufacturer) from each model line.
Depreciation: Vehicles are ranked by the cost of depreciation in dollars, based on "Predicted Future Values" compiled by industry recognised Glass's information services.
Running and Repair Costs: A comparison of calculated scheduled servicing and repair costs over five years or 75,000km on a number of typical replacement components including tyres and brakes.
Fuel Consumption: Measured fuel consumption according to Australian Design Rule 81/02 government fuel consumption test figures weighted by fuel grade price, and ranked across all vehicles in the program. In previous years, this has been ranked across each vehicle category, however, as fuel consumption is a critical factor to many new car buyers we have enabled consumers to compare across all categories.
Warranty: Warranty scores include the manufacturer's specified cover in years, with additional points given to extended power-train and body rust warranties.
Standard Features: Australia's Best Cars judges compile and rate a list of the features (including safety features), which are provided as standard. Vehicles that do not provide features that are expected in the class are penalised.
Design and Function
Safety: Using both ANCAP data and overseas crash testing information an assessment of each vehicle's secondary safety performance, including pedestrian safety is made. The score generated from this assessment represents approximately two thirds of the total Australia's Best Cars safety score. The remaining third of the safety score is based on the vehicle's standard dynamic safety features, the most important being Electronic Stability Control (ESC). ESC offers greater benefits to high centre of gravity vehicles like SUVs, and these categories of vehicle gain a higher dynamic safety score if this technology is fitted as standard equipment. Other technologies that may enhance a vehicle's dynamic safety are also rewarded under the scoring system and these are Anti-locking Brake Systems, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist and either Traction Control or constant All Wheel Drive.
Insurance: National insurance premiums are calculated and based on an “average” premium being: middle class suburb, male driver, 30 years driving experience, no accidents in last 5 years, market value, private use with no finance.
Environment: The Australian government "Green Vehicle Guide" rating based on fuel consumption and emission standards.
Comfort: All seat shaping, support and comfort, as judged by the Australia's Best Cars road test panel.
Space: Interior dimensions, including the occupant and luggage area, as measured according to the Australia's Best Cars road test procedure.
Practicality: This is an assessment of the vehicle's practicality for its intended use and includes access, versatility and convenience. Consideration is given to cargo/storage areas, seat folding or removal, seat belts and child restraint anchorages. Vehicles are penalised for impractical features such as space-saver tyres etc.
Ergonomics: This is the road test panel's assessment of user interaction. It encompasses the interior design, and the position, layout, access and operation of all controls and facilities. It incorporates the human aspects of usability and how the occupants interface with the machine.
Build Quality and Finish: An examination of several examples for the standard of assembly, painting, trim materials, quality and finish, together with a review of reliability information.
Performance: Measured acceleration and passing performance, as recorded in accordance with Australia's Best Cars road test procedure using electronic data collection. This is combined with an assessment of every-day drivability and towing specification where applicable.
Ride: The road test panel's assessment of the vehicle's suspension compliance and ride comfort.
Handling: The vehicle's stability, precision and control in cornering manoeuvres, as judged by the road test panel. This includes steering sensitivity, response and road feedback.
Braking: These areas are a combination of measurements using the electronic road test equipment and the assessment of the road test panel and include braking performance, stability, control/regulation and pedal feel.
Smoothness and Quietness: This includes both measurement and evaluation of Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) levels of the vehicle's engine, transmission, suspension and body refinement.
Off Road Ability: This is assessed during off road testing and is presented as one overall score for SUVs and Luxury SUVs. However, due to the limited off road capabilities of 2WD vehicles, these vehicles have only been given a score of 1 = Poor and 2 = Good. For the All Terrain 4WD vehicles, these are broken into two more specific aspects, gearing/traction which includes off-road engine performance and clearances/articulation.
The Short List
The list of vehicles tested is drawn down in October and a shortlist of three finalists in each category is developed. The judges then subject the cars to back-to-back driving tests on a variety of surfaces in an exhaustive, week-long process. Computer score sheets enable the team to review all contenders in each class side-by-side and arrive at an award winner for each category.
How do I get involved?
There are two ways in which you can play a part in the judging process:
- Complete our online “Your Say” survey. We value your input into what criteria are important to you when purchasing a new car. The feedback gained via our survey is used to develop the weightings for our scoring criteria when analysed prior to each judging period. Keep us informed of what matters to you when buying a new car by visiting www.australiasbestcars.com.au
- Our ‘Comments Board' provides the opportunity to enter your own comments about our winning vehicles. In turn, this also allows you to read other consumers thoughts, experiences and recommendations for cars in the category. Visit our website at www.australiasbestcars.com.au to review and comment on the current winners.
The Selection Process
All volume selling new vehicles on the Australian market are considered, not just current year releases. Limited edition models are not taken into account. Eligible vehicles must have a published on-sale date on or before 15 October 2011.
2. Tested by the Motoring Clubs
Eligible vehicles must be made available to one of the state Motoring Clubs for a full road test prior to 1 October 2011.
3. Model selection
The specific model chosen for testing is the volume-selling version from each model line, including both the highest selling petrol and diesel models as specified by the vehicle manufacturer.
4. Even comparison
For the Light Car categories, the manual transmission version is selected for scoring, unless the vehicle is only available with automatic transmission. For a direct comparison in the Large Car category, all of the models are scored with automatic transmission and air-conditioning included.
5. Judges' discretion
The judging panel reserves the right to exclude vehicle models that lack consumer relevance (sales of less than 200 units per annum) or where pricing exceeds three times the Luxury Car Tax threshold.
6. Engine variants
Where petrol and diesel variants of the same model are reviewed, both scores are indicated on the category score sheets. However, the higher scoring variant only is reviewed within the category summary pages.
Similarly, in the SUV categories, both 4WD and 2WD vehicles are reviewed and both scores are indicated on the category score sheets. However, the higher scoring variant only is reviewed within the category summary pages.
ABS Anti-lock braking system
ANCAP Australasian New Car Assessment Program
CA Curtain airbags
CVT Continuously variable transmission
DFA Dual front airbags
DFSA Dual front and side airbags
DSG Direct-shift gearbox
ESC Electronic stability control
GVG Green Vehicle Guide
KA Knee airbag/s
MLP Manufacturer's List Price
TCS Traction Control System
A Note About ANCAP Ratings
Safety rating information is sourced from the ANCAP website www.ancap.com.au. The model variant which is rated by ANCAP may not be the same as the model variant assessed by Australia's Best Cars. Consumers are advised to confirm applicability of ANCAP ratings with the vehicle manufacturer when considering purchasing a vehicle.
All state Motoring Clubs follow a standard road test procedure and data collection process when assessing all new vehicle releases during the year.
Additional information such as safety, security, operating costs, depreciation and environment is compiled by experts in these fields.
Each of the state Motoring Clubs has responsibility for monitoring one or more of the objective scoring formulas and maintaining consistency of scoring across the class.
Each area of scoring is given a weighting (critical, high, medium or low) according to information gathered from market research and Motoring Club Member feedback for importance to buyers in that car category. For example, buyers in the "Small Car Under $35,000"class considered pricing to be 'critical'; standard features to be 'medium' and smoothness/quietness as 'low' in their buying decision.
Scoring in objective areas involves a computer program ranking of hard data and the application of a standard deviation scoring spread to allocate up to ten points. Scoring in the subjective areas is conducted in the same manner, but relies on the expertise of the judging panel, having researched, driven and inspected the contenders. Finalists are subjected to a final comprehensive back-to-back road test.
Each score is entered on to the computer score sheet, which enables the team to review the scores for all contenders in the category, side by side, and confirm as an Australia's Best Cars category award winner. The full scoring sheets are posted for consumer information on the Australia's Best Cars website and used by motoring advisors in each state to discuss the relative merits of comparable vehicles.
The Australia's Best Cars award is presented to winning manufacturers at an industry function each year.
Return to Judging Criteria summary