New car releases: What’s hot and what’s not in 2020

Three jeeps driving along a road in the countryside.

Tim Nicholson

Posted January 18, 2020

From hot hatches to premium pick-ups and SUVs, gear up for 2020’s new car releases.

Australian new-vehicle sales may have taken a significant hit in 2019, but that doesn’t appear to have slowed the number of new-model launches scheduled for 2020.

According to official figures released this month, 1,062,867 new vehicles found homes in Australia in 2019, representing a 7.8 per cent drop compared with 2018. Of the 19 market sub-segments, the only growth areas were small and upper-large SUVs. (More: Trends that changed the automotive industry over the past decade)

Passenger cars such as sedans, wagons and hatchbacks continued to fall out of favour – dipping by 16.5 per cent year on year – while the light-commercial vehicle segment, which includes popular dual-cab pick-ups, dropped by 5.2 per cent.

While Australian new-car sales are expected to steady in 2020, there will be another onslaught of fresh product from brands throughout the year.

Unsurprisingly, there are far fewer sedans, wagons and small hatches launching in 2020, as the SUV boom continues. There will be plenty of action from the premium brands as they continue to fill every imaginable model niche, and performance car fans will have plenty to get excited about. (More: Australia's Best Cars for 2019 revealed)

There will be a big increase in the number of electrified vehicles coming to Australian showrooms next year too. At least six battery electric vehicles (BEV) are expected, and there will be even more hybrid and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models as well. 

Last year’s sales results showed that Australians are slowly warming to electrified vehicles. Just over 33,500 BEVs, PHEVs and hybrids found homes in Australia last year, representing a huge 114 per cent increase over 2018.  

Top automotive releases for 2020

Passenger cars

Following the trend of recent years, only a handful of traditional passenger car models will launch in 2020. Arguably the biggest of these will be the hotly anticipated Volkswagen Golf Mk8 hatch, expected in the final quarter of the year. It will be a busy year for Volkswagen Group Australia, with the Skoda Scala – the Golf’s mechanical cousin – arriving mid-year, while the mid-life update for the Superb large car is also on the cards.

The few other new passenger cars landing this year include the updated Mitsubishi Mirage micro car, refreshed versions of the Honda Civic and Suzuki Swift hatchbacks, Renault’s new-generation Clio light car and the all-new Hyundai Sonata medium sedan that ushers in a radical new design. Mazda’s SkyActiv-X compression ignition powertrain will roll out in the Mazda3 later this year. The new engine promises diesel-like fuel economy from a petrol engine, combined with sporty performance.

Toyota’s long-awaited Yaris replacement will lob mid-year, marking the only activity for the market-leading brand this year. The all-new Yaris will be available with a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain for the first time, while the GR (Gazoo Racing) hot hatch version has just been announced.


Of the mainstream brands, there are some crucial new SUVs launching this year, kicking off with what’s likely to be a huge model for Mazda – the CX-30. Essentially a Mazda3 on stilts, the CX-30 bridges the gap between the sub-compact CX-3 and the mid-size CX-5.

One of the most popular small SUVs in Australia, Nissan’s Qashqai, will get an update early in the year, but the Japanese car-maker will be making more of a splash with the mid-year launch of the second-generation Juke. Unveiled in September, the new version evolves the quirky styling of the original and introduces new powertrains and tech features.

MG Motor is placing its hopes for growth on the all-new HS compact SUV that replaces the middling GS. The Chinese-owned car-maker has been something of a disrupter in the past year, nabbing sales from other more established mainstream brands on the back of improved product and keen pricing.

Other new SUVs include Renault’s all-new Captur and the refreshed Suzuki Ignis in the second quarter.

The big news in the small SUV space is the belated arrival of two Volkswagen models in May. The Polo-based T-Cross and larger Golf-based T-Roc will fill the big hole left in VW’s line-up when the Tiguan grew in size with the launch of the second-generation version back in 2016. Fellow Volkswagen Group brand Skoda will offer up its Yeti-replacing Kamiq in July.

The second half of the year will see the arrival of Ford’s new-generation Escape mid-sizer that shares many of its underpinnings with the impressive Focus small car. As a result of the new platform, it is lighter and has more interior space than its predecessor.

Updated versions of the Holden Equinox and Honda CR-V mid-sizers will also lob in 2020 and more variants of SsangYong’s all-new Korando are also expected.

In terms of family-sized SUVs, Kia will launch an all-new Sorento seven-seater – as well as a new Carnival people-mover – this year, and Mitsubishi’s updated Pajero Sport off-roader has just rolled into showrooms.


After a flurry of activity in recent years, it will be a relatively slow 12 months in the pick-up segment.  

Quarter two will see the arrival of Jeep’s Wrangler-based Gladiator that will be pitched at hardcore off-road fans who might also look at Ford’s Ranger Raptor. 

While Isuzu Ute Australia is yet to confirm it, the replacement for the hardy D-Max ute – revealed last October – is a good chance to land Down Under later this year. It’s expected to get a big uptick in safety tech and usher in big improvements to ride, handling and interior comfort.  

Chinese brand Great Wall will replace the ageing and slow-selling Steed with a new-from-the-ground-up model that is yet to be named. Uncovered at last year’s Shanghai motor show, the new ute has a more refined look than its predecessor, and promises to be light years ahead of the Steed in virtually every area. This will likely mean a price increase over the current bargain-basement offering. 

Elsewhere, Holden will update the Colorado in quarter three and VW will launch a manual version of its V6 Amarok early in the year. 


New orange car zooms along a country road with trees on the side.

The Ford Focus ST hot hatch will arrive early in the year.

Sports and performance cars 

Australians love performance cars and it’s not just sporty coupes we’re snapping up. Increasingly, buyers are opting for performance-focused SUVs, while small hot hatches are still big business.

On the hot hatch front, the Toyota Yaris GR will go head to head with Ford’s delayed Fiesta ST that finally arrives in quarter one. The Fiesta’s larger cousin, the Focus ST, is also expected in the first quarter and will lock horns with the likes of the Hyundai i30 N and Honda Civic Type R when it launches.

Renault’s Megane Trophy-R and VW’s Golf GTI TCR (a swansong for the Golf Mk 7 GTI) are also expected, and Mini’s hardcore JCW GP hatch lands mid-year.

While some of these represent the more affordable end of the sports segment, there’s quite a bit of action happening at the top end of town.

Holden will start taking orders for the fire-breathing Chevrolet Corvette this year, but it looks like deliveries won’t start until 2021. It’s the first time the all-American sports car will be offered in Australia, imported directly from Kentucky in factory right-hand-drive configuration.

BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have multiple performance cars lobbing this year, with the former launching a final ‘heritage’ edition of the M4, ahead of the reveal of the new-generation 4 Series at some point this year. The gorgeous V8-powered M8 Coupe and Gran Coupe will be here soon and the eagerly anticipated M2 CS coupe – a more powerful and lightweight version of the brilliant M2 – lands mid-year. The X5 and X6 M Performance models will top the brand’s SUV line-up in quarter two.

Benz has a slew of AMG-fettled models on the way, including the all-new A45 S hot hatch and its mechanical sibling, the CLA 45 S sedan, in March. Mercedes’ answer to the X5 M – the AMG GLE 63 SUV – and its hulking GLS 63 stablemate both lob this year, powered by the same 4.0-litre V8 engine pumping out 450kW/850Nm. 

Audi’s revised R8 Coupe lands mid-year, as does the bahn-storming RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback mechanical siblings and the RS Q3/RS Q3 Sportback performance SUV twins.

That other German prestige brand, Porsche, also has a busy year, kicking off with the 718 Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder in the first quarter, followed by the excellent Macan GTS SUV. Another pair of sporty SUVS – the Maserati GTS and Trofeo – lob in the first quarter.

The convertible version of the stunning Lexus LC500 V8 hits showrooms in the second half of the year and Jaguar’s heavily revised F-Type sports car is set for an April launch. 

As far as the exotic brands go, McLaren’s track-focused lightweight 620R lands in very limited numbers in the first half, while Aston Martin will serve up a drop-top roadster version of its wild Vantage in the middle of the year.

Premium cars and SUVs 

Following Porsche, Maserati and Lamborghini, Aston Martin is the latest sports car manufacturer to turn its attention to SUVs and its first attempt – the DBX – is expected this year. 

Mercedes-Benz will lob the facelifted version of its E-Class mid-sizer, as well as the GLA and GLB compact SUVs. The latter is a boxy seven-seat offering that should appeal to buyers needing a bit more space.

Filling yet another niche is BMW with its 2 Series Gran Coupe small sedan that will battle the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3 sedan. Speaking of Audi, a number of facelifted models including the A4/A5 and Q7 SUV are coming, as is the new coupe-like Q3 Sportback crossover.

One of the most anticipated events on the automotive calendar is the return of Land Rover’s famed Defender nameplate. The all-new version, which replaces the iconic model that had a production run of 67 years, promises unrivalled off-road prowess while offering the latest safety and connectivity features.

Hyundai’s freshly launched premium arm, Genesis, will finally join the SUV market this year with its big GV80 in the first half. The all-new G80 large sedan – a rival for the Lexus GS – is expected before year’s end.

Electrified vehicles

While Australia trails many developed countries when it comes to the uptake of EVs, more buyers are putting electrified cars on their shopping list and plenty of new models are on the way in 2020.

One of the more affordable BEVs to land this year will be MG Motor’s ZS EV. While the company announced a keen $46,990 driveaway price tag for the first 100 examples of the SUV last year, the full-time pricing is expected to increase to more than $50,000. The ZS has a 262-kilometre driving range and will compete with the likes of the Hyundai Kona Electric.

The revised version of Renault’s tiny Zoe electric hatch lands later in the year with an increased driving range of 390 kilometres and an overhauled interior.

The Mini Electric hatch is slated for an Australian launch in mid-2020 and along with a 240-kilometre driving range, it promises to retain the brand’s trademark go-kart-like handling.

Audi’s delayed e-tron electric SUV will finally arrive in mid-2020 to take on Mercedes’ recently launched EQC and the Tesla Model X, but Tesla’s smaller Model Y and BMW’s iX3 SUV are expected to push out to 2021.

One of the most talked about EVs of recent years is Porsche’s Taycan and it arrives in the final quarter of the year. Its chief rival will be the Tesla Model S, but it will soon face competition in the form of four-door EV sports models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, among others.

Volvo will launch its standalone Polestar performance EV brand later this year, with the Polestar 2 small sedan expected to lead the charge. 

2020 marks a big year for plug-in hybrids, which is great news for green-focused buyers who are concerned about range anxiety. Ford’s all-new Escape mid-size SUV will be offered in plug-in guise in the second half of the year and will be capable of driving on electric power only for 50 to 55 kilometres.

Volvo will introduce a PHEV version of its hugely popular XC40 small SUV in the second quarter and Porsche will add another PHEV variant to its Cayenne large SUV range with the sporty Turbo S E-Hybrid Coupe.

BMW’s X3 xDrive30e SUV lands in quarter two and Mercedes has no fewer than three PHEVs lobbing this year, with a plug-in version of its A-Class hatch and GLC and GLE SUVs on the calendar.

More petrol-electric hybrid models are coming too, including the Toyota Yaris, but the big news is that Subaru will finally enter the hybrid market. The Japanese car-maker will offer hybrid versions of its two most popular models – the XV and the Forester – from March this year.