Best Large Car and Family Wagon

Australia's Best Cars 2018

Best Large Car Under $70,000

Once the biggest individual segment in Australia’s car market, the large car category is on the wane, but this year’s winner is a breath of fresh air.

Winner: Kia Stinger 200S


What a change a year can make. Recent previous winners in the Australia’s Best Cars large car category have been conventional sedans, such as the VF Commodore and Hyundai Genesis, with rear-wheel drive and big naturally aspirated engines.  

This year, the winner has a liftback instead of a separate boot, and a longitudinally mounted 2.0-litre turbo-charged engine sending drive to the rear wheels. All of this makes the Kia Stinger’s specification rare in the Australian marketplace, and it is so well executed it became a sensation as soon as it arrived here, especially in 3.3-litre twin-turbo form. However, it was the Stinger with the smaller engine and cheaper price that took home the trophy for large cars under $70,000 in Australia’s Best Cars 2018.

While so many Australians continue to flock to SUVs without even considering the other options, the Kia Stinger offers almost SUV-like practicality but with the handling of a low-slung sports sedan. It’s still a big vehicle, and from the front seats it definitely feels that way. There’s a wide transmission tunnel and plenty of room either side of it. A long bonnet reaches out ahead as per the grand tourer tradition, and the driver sits low and pleasingly ensconced.

The engine produces 182kW and 353Nm, with all of that torque available from just 1400rpm. Given that grunt comes in from just a tickle above idle speed, and with it being sent through Kia’s eight-speed auto, the Stinger is just so good at getting down a winding road with maximum driver satisfaction and minimal fuss.

In the large car category, and indeed the new car market as a whole, the Kia Stinger has been a breath of fresh air.

At 4830 millimetres long and 1870 millimetres wide, the Stinger is 67 millimetres shorter but 7 millimetres wider than the current ZB Holden Commodore. Space in the rear seats is reasonable but its sporty styling means it’s no Hyundai Genesis back there. The interior fit and finish is excellent and far better than most people would expect, especially if they haven’t been in a Kia of any kind for a while.

Those familiar with late-model European cars may get a sense of deja vu from the design of the gear shifter and the air vents, but they nonetheless look good and function well. The entertainment system in the 200S includes a six-speaker sound system, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and, of course, Bluetooth compatibility.

After an upgrade in early 2018, the Stinger 200S is now very well equipped with safety gear. All models built after March 2018 have autonomous emergency braking and lane-support systems, both of which are critical in helping drivers avoid crashes. The 330S received the upgrade at the same time, and as such the ANCAP safety ratings for both vehicles were lifted to the maximum five stars.   

The Stinger scored particularly well in its warranty and dealer access, thanks to Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. It’s still among the best standard factory warranties in the business and another reason why the Stinger topped its class this year.

Second place: Holden Commodore RS Liftback


Holden designer Richard Ferlazzo is no Nostradamus, but he did drop a hint in the early 1990s that the Commodore may one day be front-wheel drive with a transverse engine. And he wasn’t far off.  

Today, the ZB Commodore does indeed have a transverse engine layout, with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, depending on the model you choose. The one that made it as a finalist in Australia’s Best Cars for 2018 was the Commodore RS Liftback, with all-wheel drive and a 3.6-litre V6.  

Comprehensive suspension and drivetrain tuning by GM Holden engineers meant this was a very different car from the Opel sold into the European market. The ZB Commodore is sure-footed in challenging corners where there’s water or bumps or both. The calibration of the nine-speed transmission is also driver focused, meaning it’s always in the right gear at the right time.

Technology that had never been seen on previous Commodores was also introduced on this one. This includes LED matrix headlights and autonomous braking with pedestrian detection. However, the Commodore did lose some ground on build and finish, seating comfort and smoothness and quietness.

Third place: Chrysler 300 SRT Core


As a car of extremes, the Chrysler SRT Core does a better job than most of the competition. Its price, for example, is well above its competitors’ in the large car class and its engine is more than three times the size of that in the Kia Stinger 200S. But its safety credentials are average, especially for a car costing almost $70,000 drive-away.

On the outside, this is one big sedan and this may lead you to think it’s also big on the inside. However, it’s quite small in there, with the low roof, long bonnet and short cabin making the interior fairly tight given the car’s size.

This affected how the SRT ranked in terms of its practicality and ergonomics. The SRT Core also took a hit thanks to its engine’s desire for 95 RON petrol and a lot of it. CO2 emissions are also up there at 303g/km, compared to the V6 Commodore’s 206g/km. The trade-off for all this is the monstrous performance from SRT Core’s 6.4-litre Hemi V8, which makes 350kW and 637Nm.

Best Large Car Under $70,000

Best Large Car Under $70,000

WEIGHTING

Kia Stinger 200S CK MY18

Holden Commodore RS Liftback

Chrysler 300 SRT8 Core

Details

Scores are weighted – critical, high, medium or low – according to their importance to buyers of cars in this class. The overall average totals reflect these weightings.

Type: 5-door liftback
Fuel type: 91 RON
Fuel economy: 8.8L/100km
Engine size: 2.0L, 4cyl
Transmission: 8-spd auto
Ind. drive-away: $51,305
ANCAP: 5 stars

Type: 4-door sedan
Fuel type: 91 RON
Fuel economy: 8.9L/100km
Engine size: 3.6L, V6
Transmission: 9-spd auto
Ind. drive-away: $44,910
ANCAP: 5 stars

Type: 4-door sedan
Fuel type: 95 RON
Fuel economy: 13L/100km
Engine size: 6.4L, V8
Transmission: 8-spd auto
Ind. drive-away: $69,892
ANCAP: N/A

VALUE FOR MONEY
Pricing

High

6

7

2

Cost of depreciation ($)

Medium

7

7

2

Running and repair costs

Medium

6

6

2

Fuel consumption

High

3

3

1

Warranty and dealer access

Medium

9

4

2

Insurance

Low

5

7

3

Standard features

High

6

6

6

DESIGN AND FUNCTION
Safety

Critical

8

9

6

Environment

Critical

5

5

4

Seating comfort

Critical

7

6

6

Space

Critical

7

7

6

Practicality

Medium

6

5

4

Ergonomics

High

6

6

4

Build and finish quality

High

7

6

5

ON THE ROAD
Performance

High

6

7

9

Ride

High

6

7

6

Handling

High

7

8

4

Braking

Medium

6

6

7

Smoothness and quietness

High

7

6

5

OVERALL AVERAGE

848

844

630

Best Family Wagon

The ability to carry seven or eight passengers and a boot full of bags in comfort and relative economy define the best family wagon segment.

Winner: Kia Carnival SLi


There was a time not long ago when hauling the tribe meant owning a traditional box van with three rows of seats and not much in the way of creature comforts or safety. Australia’s obsession with SUVs has since blurred the lines somewhat, but the thing that hasn’t changed for family wagons is their need to carry at least seven passengers and a boot full of bags in comfort, and not cost the earth to own and run. Those were the areas the judges put the emphasis on in this year’s Australia’s Best Cars family wagon category.

A recent mid-life upgrade for the third-generation Kia Carnival delivered increased safety, suspension refinement, an electric park brake and a new eight-speed automatic transmission, not to mention some styling and packaging upgrades to take the Carnival to the next level.

So much about the family wagon is its ability to move a load of occupants comfortably and safely, and none did this better than the Carnival in this year’s awards. Sitting alongside the Honda Odyssey, the Carnival is considerably wider, which translates into more internal space for all occupants. The Carnival will actually carry eight average-sized adults.

Multi power-adjustable, heated leather-appointed seats for the front row offer great comfort and support. The second row is extremely flexible, with the centre seat able to be removed to create walkthrough access to the third row. Second-row seats can be folded forward individually to create additional space and slide for more space for the third row if required. Behind the third row, the Carnival can accommodate four full-sized suitcases, as well as a couple of backpacks and computer bags. Folding away all seats in the back creates an enormous space.

Keeping your family safe is vital and something Kia has taken seriously with the recent model upgrade. All Carnival models now come with autonomous emergency braking as standard, along with lane-departure warning, active cruise control and six airbags including curtain airbags covering all three rows. The Carnival also received a localised suspension upgrade to further improve the ride and handling characteristics.

Family wagons are all about how the occupants interact. This is ergonomics and where the Carnival puts its head above the rest. Fitting an electric park brake instead of the old foot-operated unit is a great leap forward. The new infotainment unit now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps via the 8.0-inch touchscreen. Navigation is standard, with 10 years of map updates thrown in. The rear-view camera presents a clear image for the driver and both sliding doors can be activated from the driver’s seat. Tri-zone climate control should have everyone at a comfortable temperature.

The 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine is a carryover from the previous model, however, a slick new eight-speed auto has been added. The combination works fantastically together, with a wide range of ratios allowing the Carnival to stay right in the middle of its 440Nm torque band, leading to a relaxed driving experience even when fully loaded. Listed fuel economy on the official combined cycle is 7.7L/100km.

The upgraded Carnival SLi will cost you just under $60,000 on the road. Running and repair costs over five years are similar to the Odyssey, but the Carnival gets a scoring boost from its industry leading seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Second place: Honda Odyssey


At almost $8000 cheaper than the winning Carnival, the Honda Odyssey makes a compelling play for outright honours. A long standard features list for the top-spec VTi-L and a better-than-most five-year warranty add to the value-for-money equation.

The VTi-L seat configuration has the driver and front passenger catered for by multi-adjustable leather-clad heated seats with foldable armrests, while in the second row are two fantastic ‘captain’s chairs’ that recline and extend. The downside is there are just two of them, while the third row is designed to seat three, although our testing found it very tight for three average-sized adults. While the design allows for seven occupants, a reality check says six would be the comfort limit. Luggage space behind the third row doesn’t match the Carnival, but there’s still reasonable space available.

The Odyssey’s 2.4-litre petrol engine coupled to a CVT was no match for the Carnival. At highway cruising speeds there was little that separated the pair, but a load of occupants and an average country road incline sees the elasticity of the CVT become apparent and the tacho head north. It produces a significant amount of engine noise intruding into the cabin and not a lot of forward motion.

The Odyssey takes care of safety with multiple advanced features including forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, multi-view camera and blind-spot alert. The Odyssey features an auto parking system, tri-zone climate control and both sliding doors are one-touch electrically operated. Navigation is standard and all the usual smartphone connectivity is available.

Third place: Kia Sorento Si


You can’t dispute Sorento’s $12,500 price advantage over the Carnival, which might dull the compromises it creates as a family wagon. Besides your initial saving on purchase, insurance will be less, servicing and repair will be similar to the Carnival, but the hip pocket will take a hit on fuel consumption for the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. The official combined consumption figure is 10L/100km.

The Sorento picks up Kia’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty but falls behind its rivals in design and function. Yes, it gets plenty of bells and whistles, but its ability to carry seven passengers in comfort for an extended period isn’t to the same standard as the Carnival or Odyssey. That said, as a seven-seat SUV, the Sorento does it better than almost anyone else. You don’t need to be a contortionist to enter the third row and you can still get a few groceries in the back with all three rows in action. The third-row seats pack away nicely into the floor, revealing considerable cargo space. Drop the second row and you get a large flat area.

The Sorento gets a five-star ANCAP rating and recently received a safety upgrade with autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control and lane-keep assist now standard. Infotainment is similar to the Carnival, without the premium JBL sound system. All rows get ventilation outlets, with the third row having a fan control, and the front and outer second-row seats also have seat heaters.

Best Family Wagon

Best Family Wagon

WEIGHTING

Kia Carnival SLi

Honda Odyssey VTi-L

Kia Sorento Si

Details

Scores are weighted – critical, high, medium or low – according to their importance to buyers of cars in this class. The overall average totals reflect these weightings.

Type: 5-door wagon
Fuel type: Diesel
Fuel economy: 7.7L/100km
Engine size: 2.2L, 4cyl
Transmission: 8-spd auto
Ind. drive-away: $59,623
ANCAP: 5 stars

Type: 5-door wagon
Fuel type: 91 RON
Fuel economy: 7.8L/100km
Engine size: 2.4L, 4cyl
Transmission: CVT
Ind. drive-away: $51,967
ANCAP: 5 stars

Type: 5-door wagon
Fuel type: 91 RON
Fuel ecomony: 10L/100km
Engine size: 3.3L, V6
Transmission: 6-spd auto
Ind. drive-away: $47,161
ANCAP: 5 stars

VALUE FOR MONEY
Pricing

High

3

5

7

Cost of depreciation ($)

Medium

3

5

6

Running and repair costs

High

6

6

6

Fuel consumption

High

5

5

1

Warranty and dealer access

High

9

7

9

Insurance

Low

5

5

8

Standard features

High

7

9

7

DESIGN AND FUNCTION
Safety

Critical

9

9

9

Environment

Critical

5

6

5

Seating comfort

Critical

7

7

6

Space

Critical

9

7

6

Practicality

Critical

7

6

9

Ergonomics

High

9

8

6

Build and finish quality

Medium

8

9

7

ON THE ROAD
Performance

Medium

7

6

8

Ride

High

7

7

7

Handling

Medium

7

6

6

Braking

Medium

6

6

6

Smoothness and quietness

Low

8

6

8

OVERALL AVERAGE

888

876

858

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