Wheels Car of the Year

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Wheels Car of the Year (commonly abbreviated to COTY) is an annual automotive Car of the Year award presented by Wheels magazine. The publisher claims that it is the world's oldest continuous motoring award of its kind.[1][2] The award is given to the best newly released vehicle each year.


Since 1963, Wheels has awarded the title of Car of the Year.[3] In its inaugural year, the French Renault 8 became the inaugural COTY winner, which was built in many countries including Australia.[4]

The original intention of COTY was to promote excellence in the Australian car manufacturing industry, dominated at the time by Ford, Holden, Chrysler, Datsun and Toyota. With the fuel crisis in the 1970s, European makers also based in Australia, such as Renault and Volkswagen, began closing their local assembly plants. With a shrinking local manufacturing base and reliability and quality issues that affected Australian-made cars, Wheels changed the basis of the award to include imported cars. At first, this was condemned by the local industry, unions and media, however, the approach permitted local products to be judged on a global basis. This, in turn, is claimed to have contributed towards a more competitive local industry and sees each winner heavily advertised as a COTY winner.[citation needed]

The award is given on an annual basis, except in 1972, 1979 and 1986 when, under the stewardship of the then-editor Peter Robinson, no newly released car in those years was considered worthy of the award.[5][6]

The withholding of the award in 1972 and 1979 twice coincided with the release of a new Ford Falcon (the XA and XD series). On the second occasion, as the Falcon (XD) was a sales success and leading candidate for the 1980 COTY award, the then deputy manager of Ford Australia, Edsel Ford II, took out a 1-page advertisement in Wheels magazine, depicting the Falcon and other contenders as lemons and stating "There are times when being a lemon is not a bitter experience at all". This was both in answer to the award's withdrawal against the Falcon and Wheels' cover for March 1980, which was a four-wheeled lemon under the title "NO CAR OF THE YEAR".[6][7]

The first imported car to win the award was the Japanese Honda Accord for 1977. In 1982, the award was shared for the first time between badge engineered cars and, in 1991, between completely different types of cars. Over the years, the COTY criteria has been further refined and, for 2004, it was amended to allow any Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) to be eligible for the first time, permitting the Australian-made Ford Territory to take the title. For 2011, the Honda CR-Z instead became the first hybrid to win the award.[citation needed]

Starting from 2015, the temporal basis of how the award is branded has been changed such that, the award now carries the year of when the winner was announced, instead of the preceding year when testing took place. Consequently, what would have been the 2015 COTY winner is instead be the winner for 2016 and so forth.[8]

COTY winners[edit]

To date, in chronological order, the award winners (by name including series where available) have been the following:[9]

  1. ^ First manufacturer to win consecutively
  2. ^ First coupé winner
  3. ^ First model-specific award (V8 engined range only)
  4. ^ First fully imported winner
  5. ^ First luxury winner
  6. ^ a b c Awards shared between badge engineered models
  7. ^ First multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) winner
  8. ^ First convertible winner
  9. ^ Award shared between different types of vehicles
  10. ^ First rotary engined winner
  11. ^ First sport utility vehicle (SUV) winner
  12. ^ Last Australian-made vehicle to win COTY
  13. ^ First hybrid vehicle winner
  14. ^ First body-on-frame winner

Multiple wins[edit]

Most awarded vehicles[edit]

No. Models
5 Holden Commodore
3 Ford Falcon, Mazda MX-5, Volkswagen Golf
2 Chrysler Valiant, Honda Accord, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Mitsubishi Magna

Multiple awards by manufacturer[edit]

No. Manufacturer Models
10 Holden Commodore (5), Barina (1), Camira (1), Gemini (1), Monaro (1), Torana (1)
9 Mazda MX-5 (3), 626 (2), 323 (1), RX-8 (1), CX-9 (1), CX-30 (1)
7 Ford Falcon (3), Telstar (2), Territory (1), Everest (1)
6 Honda Accord (2), CR-Z (1), NSX (1), Prelude (1), Odyssey (1)
5 Volkswagen Golf (3), Passat (1), Polo (1)
4 Subaru Liberty (2), BRZ (1), Impreza (1)
Mercedes-Benz S-Class (2), C-Class (1), EQC (1)
3 Mitsubishi Magna (2), Nimbus (1)
2 Chrysler Valiant (2)
Renault 8 (1), 12 (1)
Volvo XC60 (1), XC40 (1)

Includes award won by the S-Class predecessor—the Mercedes-Benz 380 SE (W126).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Car of the Year". Wheels. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  2. ^ "C-Class is 2007 Wheels Car of the Year". Car Advice. 22 January 2008. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Honda's CR-Z wins Wheels Car of the Year". AAP. News Corp Australia. 18 January 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  4. ^ Kenwright, Joe (17 May 2013). "Renault R8: The First Wheels Car of the Year". Shannons. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  5. ^ Cameron Kirby (2020-01-12). "The top five iconic Wheels Car of the Year moments". Wheels.
  6. ^ a b Wheels staff (2016-01-07). "Wheels Car of the Year 2016: Fast facts". Wheels.
  7. ^ "My tilt at the wheel". Wheels. May 1993. p. 78.
  8. ^ "The road to 2016 Wheels car of the Year". 20 November 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  9. ^ "The road to COTY". Wheels. 30 November 2007. Archived from the original on 15 May 2009.
  10. ^ Westerman, Ash (2021-03-01). "The Mazda CX-30 is the 2021 Wheels Car of the Year". Wheels. Retrieved 2021-03-02.