Japan, the SUV and Mazda triumph against a stellar COTY ’17 cast.
THE road grime has settled on the proving ground pounding and countless road kilometres at the core of Wheels’ prestigious Car of the Year award, yet the embers of fiery debate are still aglow.
We have a winner: the 2017 Wheels Car of the Year is the Mazda CX-9.
This, the eighth win for the fearless Japanese brand, makes Mazda the second most successful maker in COTY’s 54-year history, behind Holden (10 victories) and ahead of Ford and Honda (six apiece).
It also marks Mazda’s second consecutive COTY, following the ND Mazda MX-5’s triumph in 2016, making it one of just five brands to back up (with Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen).
However, most impressively, as only the second sports utility vehicle to win the COTY title the Mazda CX-9 marks a startling achievement in a category in which there’s often a tenuous link between ability and popularity, and one which has been on a steep rise since the Ford Territory took the gong in 2004.
The CX-9’s victory also comes precisely four decades after the first for a Japanese car – the Honda Accord in 1977. Mazda’s first, with the 323, came three years later.
The 2017 Car of the Year was announced at a gala event in Melbourne tonight.
“The CX-9 is such a convincing blend of eye-catching design, genuine practicality and performance, all with a sprinkling of driver appeal,” Wheels acting editor Alex Inwood said.
The rigorous COTY process saw a 28-strong field culled to a sensational six over three days at the Ford You Yangs Proving Ground in Victoria.
On Stage Two’s road loop, the heat was on the Mazda among fierce competition from the Holden Astra, Subaru Impreza and Volkswagen Tiguan, persuasive models from brands with multiple COTYs to their credit.
At the final cull, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A4 ensured the Mazda worked hard to earn Australian motoring’s top prize, to make its glory taste even sweeter.
“The CX-9 blitzes the category for interior comfort and versatility, despite being smaller (and more than 130kg lighter) than the model it replaces,” wrote Wheels senior journalist Nathan Ponchard in Wheels’ bumper 194-page Car of the Year issue, which is on newsstands now and also available as a digital edition.
“This seven-seat SUV is so vastly superior to the competition, you’d need to stretch to a premium SUV like Audi’s superb Q7 to try and better it – for double the price...”