Introducing Wheels Car of the Year 2023: The Contenders

Our top gong is back for ’23. Here’s who made the starting grid

2023 COTY Contenders 230131 N Jacobs WHLS COTY 1214 WEB


It’s award season at Wheels HQ, which means it's time for us to don our road-testing jackets and crunch the numbers to crown the 2023 Car of the Year.

As ever, our award is open to every new car that went on sale in the previous 12 months, but only the models that have impressed us the most make it to the starting grid.

This time around the field comprises 17 different models, but once you factor in the different variants and trim levels available to test, we actually have 26 individual cars to assess.

Some key factoids? For 2023 we have five EVs, three hatchbacks, two sports cars, six SUVs and one dual-cab ute providing you avoid double-ups (an EV that’s also an SUV, for example). It’s also one of our most attainable fields ever when it comes to price, with every contender – bar four outliers – costing less than $100,000.

So who is in contention? Read on to find out why our group of 17 contenders are deserving of their place. And be sure to stay tuned for our winner announcement, which is planned for March 7.


As the 2023 COTY story evolves, the list of stories below will grow. Keep an eye on this page for more, or find it all at our COTY page.


Always a controversial topic. It's linked above, but if you need a refresher on how we define eligibility and our testing criteria, the What's new for 2023? story is where you need to be.


Introducing the Wheels Car of the Year 2023 contenders.

With the list below, you can click ahead to the models that most pique your interest, or simply scroll from here to read them all in the order presented.

2023 Audi A 3 Sedan COTY Blue 230131 N Jacobs WHLS COTY 1096 WEB

Audi A3

Took its sweet time in getting to Australia, but Audi’s new-gen small car impressed us with its svelte exterior styling and tidy handling.

Vast range of sedans and hatchbacks is represented by two COTY starters: a 35 TFSI sedan and the hardcore (and much improved) RS3 Sportback – which packs half a V10 under its bonnet.

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2023 Audi E Tron GT Coupe COTY

Audi E-Tron GT

It’s easy to think of Audi’s fresh electric flagship as a Porsche Taycan wearing a sharp, tailored suit, but that sells it short.

Despite using most of the same ingredients as Taycan, the E-Tron GT carves out its own identity with softer suspension and a heavier grand tourer focus. Can be had in two versions: entry-level E-Tron GT or a more hardcore RS E-Tron GT. We’ve gone for the harder, faster version.

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2023 BYD Atto 3 Suv Silver Corner

BYD Atto 3

Controversial EV newcomer sent shockwaves through the industry last year with its sharp price, brave cabin and unique sales/aftercare approach.

It trounced its closest rival, the MG ZS EV, in a Wheels comparison test and thus earned its place on our starting grid. Genuinely decent, affordable EVs are still thin on the ground, but is the BYD Atto 3 a COTY? We’re testing the 150kW/310Nm Long Range variant to find out.

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2023 Cupra Formentor SUV COTY

Cupra Formentor VZ

Spain’s take on the VW-derived crossover looks sharp and offers pleasing levels of powertrain punch and dynamic cohesion.

It’s more than just a Golf GTI or T-Roc R in a different skin, though; Formentor has a personality all of its own. We’re testing three at COTY: the front-drive VZ, VZe plug-in hybrid and flagship, all-wheel drive VZx.

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2023 Ford Everest SUV Blue E Dewar 230131 COTY Wheels 7648

Ford Everest

Hang on, a large ladder-frame off-roader at Wheels COTY? That’s right.

Separate-chassis vehicles and dual-cab utes weren’t eligible for our gong previously, but we’ve tweaked things this year to reflect their huge relevance and popularity with Aussie buyers and also their vast dynamic and safety improvements.

New Everest is case in point. It’s head and shoulders above its rivals in every metric and, given it was largely designed and engineered in Australia, it’s the closest thing we have in the field to a homegrown hero. Represented by two variants: Trend 2.0 bi-turbo and Sport V6.

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2023 Ford Ranger Ute Black 230131 N Jacobs WHLS COTY 0562 HR

Ford Ranger

The first ever dual-cab ute to have a tilt at WCOTY.

Like the Everest, new Ranger is miles ahead in its segment and sets new benchmarks for on-road dynamics and cabin presentation and refinement. Represented by two variants: the ever popular XLT V6 and the new, hardcore Ranger Raptor, which is the GT3 RS of the dual-cab world. Still doubting its inclusion? When a contender is this good and this popular, it’s hard to say no…

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2023 Genesis GV 60 Performance AWD Suv COTY White

Genesis GV60

Classy Korean EV rolls up to COTY in top-spec Performance guise so it packs serious pace.

Shares much of its underpinnings with Hyundai Ioniq 5 and last year’s winner, the Kia EV6, so the ingredients are there for a strong showing. High-ish price could count against it, though.

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2023 Nissan Qashqai Suv Silver Corner

Nissan Qashqai

Nissan’s fresh small SUV is roomier and smarter than ever and packs a beautifully-designed cabin.

Top-spec Ti is properly posh too, and every Qashqai is a surprisingly decent handler down a twisty backroad. Represented at COTY in two trim levels: ST+ and Ti.

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2023 Nissan X Trail Suv Silver Front E Dewar 230131 COTY Wheels 7191

Nissan X-Trail

Another SUV that took its sweet time in getting to Australia, but one that was certainly worth the wait.

Currently our favourite mid-size SUV after winning our $50K mega test, the new X-Trail offers more room, seven seats and an intriguing new hybrid powertrain. We’re testing two at COTY: the ST-L and flagship Ti-L E-Power.

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2023 Nissan Z Coupe Grey Dynamic COTY

Nissan Z

One of the few dedicated sports coupes left on the market, new Z takes the bones of its predecessor and cloaks them in a fresh, retro-inspired body and more upmarket cabin.

Power takes a decent step forward too, thanks to a new twin-turbo V6.

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2023 Peugeot 308 COTY Blue Dirt

Peugeot 308

The previous 308 almost won our award back in 2014, so a fresh version with sharper styling and a slick cabin is a tasty proposition.

We’re testing two versions this time around: the GT hatch and the GT wagon.

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2023 Skoda Fabia Hatch COTY Red

Skoda Fabia

Sporty small car that brings fun, punchy performance and lots of thoughtful touches.

Looks chic, too, and has one of the best-equipped boots of the entire field thanks to decent volume, bag hooks galore and more nets than a fishing trawler.

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2023 Range Rover P 530 Suv COTY

Range Rover

Fifth generation of a 4X4 icon is a mighty thing to behold, both for its sheer size and price tag.

We’re testing one variant at COTY: the P530 First Edition, which packs a 4.4-litre V8 and costs $321,875, making it easily the most expensive car in the field.

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2023 Telsa Model Y Suv COTY Blue Static 230131 N Jacobs WHLS COTY 1423 WEB

Tesla Model Y

Earns its place on the starting grid purely through virtue of being one of Australia’s most popular electric cars.

That it also offers a seriously persuasive combination of performance, room, equipment and driving range only sweetens the deal. Could this be the car that finally seals Elon an elusive first COTY? We’re testing the Standard Range variant.

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2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Suv Slalom E Dewar 230131 COTY Wheels 8254

Toyota Corolla Cross

Virtually guaranteed to be a huge seller (Toyota + SUV + hybrid option = enormous popularity), but Corolla Cross also offers plenty of space, surprisingly good ride compliance and a welcome infotainment upgrade.

Concerns linger over whether it’s a return to Toyota’s old/boring recipe, but TNGA underpinnings offer loads of promise.

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2023 Toyota GR 86 Coupe COTY Red 230131 N Jacobs WHLS COTY 1313 HR

Toyota 86

Famously won our award back in 2012 thanks to its brilliant combo of affordable rear-drive thrills.

New version advances the original with more grunt and a nicer cabin. Lack of active safety gear on manual versions is a bummer, though. Still… slidey shots, anyone?

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2023 Volvo C 40 Recharge Suv COTY White 2

Volvo C40

Another relation to a previous COTY winner, the C40 is like an XC40 that’s packing loads more grunt and an even more stylish bum.

Getting pricey, though, especially in the Twin Motor guise we’re testing.

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