COTY CLASS OF 2019

10 million

ANDY ENRIGHT

The number of Ford Mustangs sold over the last 64 years. The Blue Oval has exported 500,000 Mustangs since the 2015 decision to sell the car globally. Those overseas sales figures extrapolated over six-and-a-bit decades? Thatíd be another 10m cars.

Mazda introduces fi ve-year warranty

Mazda has joined the likes of Holden and Ford in offering Australian customers a five-year/ unlimited kilometre, transferable warranty on its retail vehicles. Of Australiaí top-10 selling brands, Toyota, Nissan and Volkswagen are the sole holdouts on a traditional three-year deal. ďThe new warranty will give customers another reason to choose Mazda, bolstering confidence in our already solid reputation for quality, hard-wearing carsĒ says Mazda Australia boss Vinesh Bhindi. Toyota insists it still has no plans for a warranty extension.

Australian motoringís most prized award is set to be a battle royale

THE field for Wheels Car of the Year has rarely, if ever, been stronger than that assembled for the 2019 showdown. Last yearís finalists, the Alfa Romeo Giulia, the Skoda Kodiaq and the Volvo XC60 subtly morph into the Stelvio, the Karoq and the XC40, so right there you have a trio that many would consider likely to go deep into the competition.

Mass market favourites like the Toyota Corolla and the Ford Focus just canít be ignored, and the massive 50-car long list contains some cars that could easily come up on the rails and spring a few surprises. The Hyundai Santa Fe and Volkswagen Polo have both won big Wheels comparison tests, so weíre aware of their credentials going into the competition. Would you bet against a maiden victory for BMW with its new X5? Mazdaís CX-8 also demands to be taken seriously, especially given that its sister vehicle, the CX-9, measured up very smartly against the judging criteria of function, safety, efficiency, value and technology to take the win in 2017.

One car will emerge at the end of an intense week and itíll deserve the accolades. Many extremely good vehicles will have fallen by the wayside. Here are 10 cars that have undoubtedly caught the eye of our testers in the lead-up.

ANDY ENRIGHT

We loved the Giulia and first drives of the Stelvio show it cedes little dynamically to its sedan sidekick yet gains the traction advantage of all-wheel drive. Whether it can overcome the quality issues that saw the Giulia fall at the last could be key.

The notion of a Porsche Cayman rival thatís lighter, cheaper, purer and arguably better to drive is one that ought to wield real clout. Sports coupes donít always shape up well against the judging criteria but the A110 could prove a riotous exception.

As much as we love technological innovation, thereís a place in our hearts for a big old V8, especially when itís wrapped in the bodywork of Chevroletís Camaro. HSVís righthook handiwork may see the Camaro muscle its way into contention.

Serious respect to Jaguar for being the first of the big manufacturers to put its money where its mouth is and try to stick it to Tesla. The disruptive I-Pace is an EV with both clout and character and could well win over our hard-bitten judging panel.

Does the world need a Lamborghini SUV? Not really. Do we want to drive one? Hell, yes! A quarter of a century has elapsed since SantíAgata last built an SUV Ė and we deliberately use that term loosely Ė so this one ought to be a belter.

Why canít small cars be as well finished and equipped as big ones? If customers are willing to pay for the privilege, why shouldnít an A-Class feel like an E-Class? That was Mercís logic and its beautifully built baby could well prove a game changer.

Distil the qualities of the brilliant Skoda Kodiaq into a smaller package, make it more accessible and give it the same thoughtful attention to detail and you end up with a compact SUV that plugs straight into the meat of the judging criteria.

As long as itís in the country in time, the Jimny could be a big hit at COTY. Promising the usual cheery indestructibility with a welcome veneer of interior modernity, the little Suzuki could take down some big reputations.

What looks likely to be Australiaís bestselling passenger car aims to prove that registrations alone arenít enough. The Corolla has become sharper and better equipped in its latest generation, indicative of the renaissance underway at Toyota.

We gave the XC40 the nod in a recent comparo against Audi Q2, Jaguar E-Pace and BMW X2, so we know itís made of pretty stern stuff. Whether it can go all the way at COTY like its supersized sibling last year is the biggest question left hanging so far.