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An LPG-powered family car has been judged as one of Australia's Best Cars in the Australian Automobile Association's (AAA's) annual awards.

The Ford Falcon EcoLPi becomes the first LPG-powered vehicle to win one of the prestigious awards, taking out the Best Large Car Under $60,000 category.

The victory is significant in that the Falcon tackles a number of key concerns facing consumers in the marketplace - especially in the large car segment.

"First of all, LPG is considerably cheaper than regular petrol, which makes it cheaper to run," said Mark Borlace, chief judge for Australia's Best Cars.

"On top of that, LPG burns a lot cleaner than petrol or diesel, which means that the Falcon EcoLPi emits just 203 grams of CO2 per kilometre, compared with 236 in the regular petrol-fuelled Falcon.

"Significantly, it feels exactly like a normal Falcon - if anything it feels slightly better in that it produces more power and more torque earlier in the rev range."

Volkswagen was another big winner at the awards, collecting an incredible five categories - exactly one-third of the awards on offer.
The Volkswagen Polo 66TDI Comfortline was named Best Light Car Over $20,000, the Golf 90TSI Trendline took out Best Small Car Under $35,000, the Jetta 118TSI Comfortline was the Best Medium Car Under $50,000, while the Tiguan 103TDI and the Touareg V6 TDI won the Best SUV Under $40,000 and the Best Luxury SUV Over $60,000 respectively.

"The driveline technology on show in the Volkswagen cars is very impressive," said Mr Borlace.

"They have done a fantastic job of minimising fuel consumption and emissions output, while maintaining impressive levels of power and torque - both with petrol and diesel powertrains.

"A great example is the Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI - it is approximately two tonnes of luxury SUV, and its turbo-diesel V6 propels it from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in just 7.8 seconds.

"However it produces less than 200 grams of CO2 per kilometre and uses just 7.4 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.

"There is no compromise with these vehicles - driving enjoyment does not come at the expense of huge running costs and emissions outputs, and vice versa."

A number of new models to market in 2011 claimed awards, with the Kia Rio Si named Best Light Car Under $20,000, the Lexus CT 200h Prestige the Best Small Car Over $35,000, and the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe taking out the Best Sports Car Over $80,000 category.

BMW's 135i coupe remarkably won its fourth consecutive Australia's Best Sports Car Under $80,000 award, while the Audi A6, Hyundai iMax, Kia Sorento and Land Rover Discovery all defended their awards.

Mercedes-Benz snatched the Best Medium Car Over $50,000 from rival BMW with the C250 CDI Avantgarde taking the prize from last year's winner.


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Kia Rio Si - Best Light Car Under $20,000
As tested, the Kia Rio sells for $18,990, which is pretty competitive in anyone's language. For that outlay buyers get five doors with plenty of interior space, a free revving, willing and efficient 1.6-litre petrol engine, and a crisp six-speed manual transmission. All in all, it adds up to an extremely fun daily drive that certainly doesn't break the budget.

The Rio outpointed or equalled all comers in the areas of performance, handling, ride and braking. If you're looking for a budget-conscious vehicle that delivers all the equipment you need and puts a smile on your face every time you drive it, the Kia Rio Si is as good as it gets.

Volkswagen Polo 66TDI Comfortline - Best Light Car Over $20,000
It's two in a row for the Volkswagen Polo 66TDI Comfortline. A perennial winner over the years in Australia's Best Cars awards, the Polo makes a name for itself again with back-to-back wins.

It's not surprising really as the Polo 66TDI punches above its weight in many of the important Australia's Best Cars criteria, and would give many cars in the next class up, Small Cars Under $35,000, a serious run for their money.
The Volkswagen Polo has redefined the category with the German car-maker adding a touch of class and luxury to this sector of the market.
Volkswagen Golf 90TSI Trendline - Best Small Car Under $35,000
It's the Golf again. So what gave the Volkswagen victory this year? Solid results in the design and function and on the road areas cemented its unassailable lead. The Golf scored top marks for safety and environment, and almost perfect scores for comfort and ergonomics.

One of the secrets to Volkswagen's success has been the handling characteristics the company has been able dial into the range. The Golf is the best example of that recipe, while the 1.4-litre four-cylinder inline direct injection turbo-petrol engine is the jewel in the crown.

Lexus CT 200h Prestige - Best Small Car Over $35,000
When it comes to scoring, a perfect 10 is never easy for an Australia's Best Cars finalist and, at its first attempt the CT 200h achieved this feat not once, but four times, with perfect scores for running and repair costs, fuel consumption, safety and environment. It's a rare achievement and since the inception of the Australia's Best Cars awards only the cream of the crop can claim such a distinction.

On-road scores for the CT 200h reflect a measured and capable approach, and the fuel consumption figure of 4.1L/100km is outstanding. Attracting a nine out of 10 for build quality and finish, and the same for standard features, the Lexus CT 200h could not be reined-in by its rivals.

Volkswagen Jetta 118TSI Comfortline - Best Medium Car Under $50,000
Volkswagen's mid-size Jetta sedan isn't any new-comer to Australia's Best Cars' annual final test week. It's been a finalist a number of times and a two-time class winner. Since last years' win, Volkswagen has released the new, sixth-generation model.

Bigger, cheaper and better equipped than its predecessor, this petrol-powered Jetta combines small displacement (1.4 litres) with forced induction from a supercharger and a turbo to prove a surprisingly sprightly performer. With well-above-average scores in most areas, the new Jetta once again convinced the Best Cars judges it deserved the Best Medium Car Under $50,000 title.

Mercedes-Benz C250 CDI Avantgarde - Best Medium Car Over $50,000
There's tough and there's really tough - and when you look through the list of potential winners in this class, you start to wonder how one vehicle could possibly shine among such a range of high quality offerings. The Mercedes Benz C250 CDI did just that, and how. Across all scoring options, and all manner of driving tests and styles, the combination of C Class body style and brilliant diesel engine is pretty much irresistible.

You expect a Mercedes Benz to feel bullet-proof and indestructible - an expectation forged in the legend of decades of quality - and the C Class delivers a level of refinement and elegance that is almost unmatched in any class. It's more expensive than the other two finalists, but drive the C250 CDI under any conditions and you're left feeling that every cent was worth it. This is a brilliantly built vehicle - every part of it feels solid and well executed.

Ford Falcon EcoLPi XT - Best Large Car Under $60,000
Having your cake and eating it too has typically been a rare luxury when it comes to LPG cars. Sure, LPG is around half the price of petrol, but this has traditionally been tempered by diminished performance, efficiency, gas availability and a boot with the useable space of a shoebox.

Ford's new generation LPG Falcon, the EcoLPi, is challenging most of these old stereotypes. The way Ford has successfully made the EcoLPi perform like a petrol car while still offering the advantages of LPG has contributed strongly to its victory in this category. What will surprise some is that the LPG-fed powerplant has slightly more power and torque than the petrol version - which translated well in the judges' scoring where it rated highly for its performance, running and repair costs, safety, comfort, ride, and smoothness and quietness.

Audi A6 3.0 TDI Quattro - Best Large Car Over $60,000
The new seventh-generation A6 showcases plenty of Audi's technological innovation and engineering skills. Its list of standard features and safety scores are high, with both scores equal best-in-class. The V6 diesel is now lighter and punches out an extra 4kW, while claimed torque is a muscular 500Nm - all while drastically reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The German sedan delivers sure-footed all-wheel drive grip matched to accurate and consistent, if slightly dull, steering for a top-of-the-class handling score. Audi's fit and finish is something of a benchmark, even in the luxury car class, and the A6 has a quality look and feel and attention to detail that should please fussier buyers. With design, function and on-road scores all well above average, the A6 again reigns supreme in this class.

Hyundai iMax - Best People Mover
Plenty of vehicles, both people movers and SUVs, can seat seven or eight, but in most cases their primary focus is elsewhere and they don't take care of the passengers nearly as well as the iMax. There is no denying the iMax is a big van with commercial origins but the massive interior has been put to excellent use, while subtle mechanical refinements transform it from a solid workhorse into a family-oriented people mover that's ideal for everyday use.
The iMax seats eight adults in relative comfort. Not only can adults sit in the third row without having their legs crushed or bumping their head every time the vehicle hits a pothole, there is still plenty of luggage space - a rarity in most people movers or SUVs. Complementing its strong design and function, the iMax also does well in the value-for-money stakes with affordable pricing, low servicing costs and a reassuring five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

BMW 135i Coupe - Best Sports Car Under $80,000
After this, its fourth consecutive year as champion, we are running out of superlatives for the BMW 135i Coupe. Yes, it really is that good. A recent price rise of $2200 makes the 135i's ability to win all the more remarkable, considering that a poor score in value for money is often a vehicle's downfall.

The BMW makes up for this by achieving perfect 10s and nines (and one eight) in all 10 design and function and on the road criteria. Under the bonnet is a 225kW twin-turbo, direct-injection, 3.0-litre straight-six, the winner of several international design awards going back some years. BMW has blessed the smart-looking coupe with the ultimate in underpinnings to complement its class-leading performance. Simply put, the BMW 135i Coupe is the complete driver's car.

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG - Best Sports Car Over $80,000
In the classic hot-rod vernacular, there's no substitute for cubic inches. But in a world of superchargers and turbochargers that pretext has lost a lot of its relevance. That is, unless you're talking about the massive, naturally aspirated 6.2-litre Mercedes V8 shoehorned into the mid-size C-class coupe. With its AMG technical refinements, this direct fuel injection engine delivers a power output of 336kW with an amazing 600Nm of torque.
Needless to say, the C63 AMG delivers eye-popping performance, enhanced by the dynamic and direct power delivery of a unique AMG seven-speed automatic transmission. Its true brilliance comes from a cleverly integrated engineering package that makes the whole car feel confidently composed in any situation. The AMG sports suspension and high performance composite braking system are also key to the C63's brilliant capability. The C63 will feel as much at home on an elegant evening out as it would on a closed circuit track day, and possesses all the ingredients of a classic collector's car.

Volkswagen Tiguan 103TDI - Best SUV Under $40,000
Last year's winner, the Volkswagen Tiguan has just received a mid-life refresh and price reduction, which builds on an already solid foundation and further strengthens its hold on the Australia's Best Cars crown. It is the Tiguan's strong all-round ability that keeps it ahead of the pack - despite still being one of the more expensive vehicles in what is the largest and most hotly contested Best Cars category. The 103TDI Tiguan's quality engineering, comfort and all-round ability, both on and off the bitumen, far outweigh the premium purchase price.

Tiguan has a solidly constructed feel and achieves an excellent five-star ANCAP safety score, while the high standard of fit, finish and trim material quality gives the interior a top-class appearance. While the Tiguan is quite a compact SUV the practical cabin layout makes good use of the space available, with plenty of versatility in seating and load combinations.

Kia Sorento SLi - Best SUV Over $40,000
Not topping any of the tables in the three scoring categories for its category didn't prove an obstacle for the Kia Sorento, which accumulated more than enough points to be a clear winner for the second year in a row.
Class-leading running and repair costs, as well as an above average score for Kia's five-year unlimited kilometres warranty, provide a solid footing in the value-for-money stakes. The 2.2-litre diesel engine is matched nicely to an in-house designed six-speed automatic transmission, with 145kW of power and 422Nm of torque on tap from 1800rpm. The Sorento is never short of grunt without sacrificing economy, returning an official combined cycle of 7.4L/100km. Off-road performance was equally impressive with the ability to lock-in the all-wheel drive mode and engage hill descent control for steeper slopes.

Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI - Best Luxury SUV Over $60,000
The series-two Volkswagen Touareg is indeed all new and bristling with technology. It's larger than the previous model, with improved occupant and load space thanks to an additional 50mm in the wheelbase, it boasts class-leading body structure yet weighs up to 90kg less, and the upgraded engines mated to the new eight-speed automatic transmission deliver even better performance while offering up to a 20 per cent reduction in fuel consumption.

From the moment you slip behind the wheel there is a high quality look and soft touch feel to the Touareg interior, and a particularly smart dash presentation. The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine delivers 180kW and an impressive 550Nm of torque from around 2,000rpm. BlueMotion technologies, which include faster engine and gearbox warm-up, engine stop-start and regenerative braking, result in a significant reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. The new diesel returned a remarkable 7.4L/100km.

Land Rover Discovery 4 SDV6 SE - Best All-Terrain 4WD
Land Rover Discovery 4 is victorious again in the All-Terrain 4WD category in 2011, taking the number of wins for Discovery models to a phenomenal seven in a row. So smooth and comfortable is the Discovery 4 that judges had to remind themselves at times that they were driving an all-terrain, not luxury, category 4WD.
The SDV6 3.0-litre sequential twin-turbo diesel engine pumps out a brutish 600Nm of torque, some 36 per cent better than the 2.7-litre diesel in Discovery 3. Power is also up nearly 30 per cent at 180kW, while fuel economy has actually been improved over the previous model. 'All-terrain' means just that, and Discovery 4 walks the talk thanks to an accomplished Terrain Response system with programs to meet nearly any challenge. Height-adjustable air suspension and hill descent control system add to the 'Disco's' impressive off-road capability.


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New levels of standard equipment and technological innovation set by this year's Australia's Best Cars winners are a boon for new car buyers, according to the Australian Automobile Association (AAA).

This year's winners are equipped with class-leading consumer technologies, safety equipment and fuel-efficient drivelines - setting a standard for all vehicles in the Australian new-car market, AAA executive director Andrew McKellar said.

"Consumers are the real winners when it comes to the value presented by this year's category winners," Mr McKellar said.

"Australian motorists are increasingly tech-savvy, and they expect new cars to offer the latest in consumer technology to complement their busy social and work lives.

"At the same time, a rise in the cost of living has seen consumers trend toward cars that use less fuel compared with equivalent older models.

"Developing safe, efficient and well-equipped new models is a major cost for any automotive manufacturer - one that has been shouldered by the consumer in years past.
"The manufacturers of this year's winners have delivered models that are particularly well equipped, offer outstanding occupant safety and are efficient to run - while remaining affordable."

The average fuel consumption of this year's winners (across all categories) has dropped to 7.37 litres per 100 kilometres (down from 7.4 litres), with small vehicles posting the most significant gains.

As an example, the winner of the Best Light Car Under $20,000 award, the Kia Rio, uses just 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres compared to last year's winner, the Hyundai i20, at 6.0 litres per 100 kilometres.

These savings are delivered with a substantial improvement in performance, with the Rio producing 30kW more power than the previous winner.

Mr McKellar said the efforts of manufacturers in bringing better value-for-money vehicles to the Australian marketplace was commendable.

"Active and passive safety features - like side curtain airbags and electronic stability control (ESC) - were once exclusive to the most expensive luxury models, but are now fitted to even the most basic models.

"With fuel prices trending upward and an intensely competitive new car market, the coming years will see manufacturers working hard to deliver new models that push the boundaries of safety, performance and efficiency even further," he said.


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Australia's Best Cars awards judges have reviewed more than 440 vehicles to determine 134 individual category winners in the awards' 12-year history.

Australia's Best Cars awards are presented each year by peak motoring body the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) in conjunction with the seven major state and territory motorists' clubs.

Volkswagen is the most awarded brand in the history of Australia's Best Cars, winning no fewer than 19 individual categories since the awards began in 2000.

Land Rover's Discovery has been awarded its seventh consecutive category title in 2011 to be Australia's Best Cars' most awarded single model.

Ford's Falcon receives its sixth individual category award this year to become Australia's Best Cars' most awarded locally manufactured model, and the second most successful model overall.

Uniquely, the Falcon has been a past winner in two separate categories. It was awarded Best Family Car/Large Car in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2011, with the XR6 Turbo variant awarded 2002's Best Sports Car under $57,000.
Australian-built sedans have dominated the Best Family Car/Large Car class, winning 11 of the 12 yearly awards. Previous class winners include the Holden Commodore (2000 and 2001), Toyota Aurion (2006, 2007, 2009) and Mitsubishi 380 (2005).

The origin of past award winners has been diverse. Nineteen individual manufacturers have been represented, with winning vehicles sourced from no fewer than 13 countries.

European vehicles dominate this year's awards, winning 10 of the 15 categories, compared to just three (from 10 categories) in the awards' inaugural year.


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