With hundreds of models to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down your choices when shopping for the best 2020 car models on offer in Australia. Once you’ve decided on your preferred vehicle size and type, the next step is finding out which models provide maximum value and the most appropriate range of features for your needs.
This list of serious contenders for the best cars in 2020 is based on Canstar’s latest customer satisfaction data for nine different vehicle categories:
Best light cars 2020
#1. Mazda 2
In the subcompact range, the Mazda 2 continues to shine, with impressive levels of safety, comfort and reliability. Whether you opt for the sedan or hatchback, you’ll get a great-looking, easy-to-drive, well-equipped car with a quality 1.5-litre engine that’s got more than enough grunt for zipping around the city.
The Mazda 2 comes with a healthy range of standard features including electronic stability control, rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, six airbags, cruise control, hill launch assist, push-button start and more.
- Brilliant safety rating
- Easy on fuel
- Exceptionally responsive steering
- Plentiful cargo space for a car this size
- Five-year warranty with unlimited kilometres
- Some Mazda models have jumped considerably in price in 2019/2020
- The tachometer is small and hard to read
- Still needs some work on tyre noise
#2. Toyota Yaris
Since it first burst onto the Aussie scene, the Yaris has grown in popularity and carved itself a firm place amongst small, fuel-efficient vehicles. It’s a really practical choice if you’re budget-conscious and want something that’ll get you around town efficiently and squeeze easily into the smallest of city parking spaces.
The 2019 version has a decent range of safety features (including seven airbags) and is packed with innovative technology that makes it more economic to run, safer, more responsive and more enjoyable to drive than previous models. It’ll never win any ‘macho car of the year’ awards, but it gets the job done.
- High-quality multimedia package with voice recognition, Bluetooth and a 7-inch touch-screen
- Super-maneuverable and responsive handling
- Doesn’t cost much to fill up the tank
- Wide range of advanced safety features
- A cute, practical car that’s economical to run
- Acceleration is pretty average
- Not terribly roomy inside
#3. Honda Jazz
The Jazz is an attractive choice, especially if you’re looking for above-average boot space in a compact, fuel-efficient vehicle. It may look small from the outside, but the 354-litre boot and back seat room are surprising generous for a car in this class. The 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine does a nice job in varied conditions and there are a lot of little design touches that improve the ride.
The Jazz is easy on the fuel and offers the kind of responsive steering and zippy maneuverability that makes it an excellent option for city driving.
- Interior design and overall comfort outshines many of its competitors
- Despite its size, it has even more boot space than some small SUVs
- Spacious – good height and legroom in the back seats
- Airbags and other essential safety features are standard
- Lacks some of the newer safety features found in other light cars
- No Android Auto or Apple CarPlay
Best small cars 2020
#1. Mazda 3
It’s hard to argue with rampant popularity. The Mazda 3 is the best-selling sedan in Australia at the moment, with more than 8,000 sold in 2019[i]. Only our love of utes (like the Hilux and Ranger) prevented it from taking top honours as our most-purchased vehicle in the country.
Why is it so popular? Well, it rates high for safety, has a solid track record for reliability, combines technological innovation with practical comfort and handles like a dream. Steering response is exceptional, especially when compared to many of its competitors. The 2-litre engine is technically refined and powerful enough to make you feel you can handle whatever the road conditions serve up.
- A quieter ride than previous models
- Standard safety features are plentiful and up-to-date
- Superb steering control with Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control
- Top-of-the-range multimedia package
- Compared to previous models, the exterior is bigger but the interior space is not
- No USB ports or air vents in the back seat
#2. Hyundai i30
The i30 has won Australia’s Best Car award six times and certainly holds its own against similar-sized vehicles in Australia. A lot of its appeal comes down to design, comfort, reliability and value for money. It’s a no-fuss, easy-to-drive choice that has more than enough tech-smart, practical features to keep all its competitors on their toes.
Standard features include an adjustable steering wheel, auto headlights, reversing camera, cruise control, tyre pressure monitor, Smartphone integration and electronic stability control. It comes with seven airbags and offers a quiet, comfortable ride and plenty of space for passengers and cargo.
- Proven reliability in Australian driving conditions
- Well-considered interior design and attractive appearance
- Reasonable boot space and a full-sized spare tyre
- User-friendly infotainment system
- Engine is adequate rather than exceptional
- No in-built satellite navigation system
- The back seats need USB ports and rear air vents
#3. Toyota Corolla
The much-loved Corolla has been around a long time, first making its appearance in Australia in 1967 – and more than a million of these super-reliable vehicles have been sold since. The Corolla has essentially been the template for small cars around the globe for half a century, and its wide appeal isn’t waning at all.
With a punchy 2-litre engine and rock-solid powertrain, the Corolla is available in sedan and hatchback versions and is packed with all the driver-assist tech you could ask for, including active cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. With fifty years of history behind it, you know what you’re getting with a Corolla.
- All-new dynamic chassis and locally tuned suspension
- The world’s most popular car in an improved, stylish package
- 2-litre engine has plenty of grunt
- Smooth handling and comfortable ride
- Respectable level of safety features
- In the hatchback version, space is tight in the rear seats
- Hatchback boot is pretty tiny
Best medium cars 2020
#1. Hyundai Sonata
Our current Aussie obsession with utes, SUVs and small, fuel-efficient subcompacts means that mid-sized sedans sometimes get a bit lost in the mix. The Sonata is a perfect example: although its global sales top 7 million a year, fewer than a thousand are being sold annually Down Under at present. This is a shame, because this car has plenty to offer.
Safety features are generous, including lane-keeping tech, radar cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, auto high-beam, blind spot monitoring and nine airbags. There’s also Bose sound, Bluetooth multi-pairing, full LED headlights and twin flat-panel display screens.
- Impressive tech and safety package
- Crisp new styling with elegant use of chrome
- Interior finish oozes class
- Quiet, comfortable and reliable
- Engine performance is a bit tepid
- Tourer wagon and diesel version have both been discontinued in Australia
#2. BMW 3 Series
It’s unfortunate that the market for mid-sized prestige sedans in Australia is shrinking so fast. These days, BMW’s own SUVs (the X5, X3 and X1) tend to be bigger sellers in this country. But if you value impeccable German engineering, crave a luxury sedan and aren’t afraid to pay for it, the 3 Series is a fine choice.
You can pick between a diesel and petrol model, both with 8-speed paddle shift automatic transmission. Standard equipment in the petrol-version 330i includes Brembo brakes, 19-inch alloys, Vernasca leather trim, active cruise control, steering and lane control assist, adaptive M suspension and a whole lot of other impressive technology.[i]
- All the ride comfort you’ve come to expect from BMW
- Huge range of classy optional extras
- Exceptional handling ability and mid-turn grip
- An ultra-dynamic medium sedan that’s the best 3 Series in generations
- No manual transmission available
- Lacks support for Android Auto
- No full auto emergency braking in the 320d diesel version
#3. Toyota Camry
While the safety features in the Toyota Camry are exemplary, there’s much more to this vehicle than its five-star ANCAP rating. With the option for hybrid power and enough space for the whole family, the Camry fully earns its place in the best cars list for 2019.
While technically classified as a medium-sized car, you’ll feel you’re in a much larger vehicle with copious legroom. The upgrades on previous generations (such as new soft-touch surfaces for arm and elbow rests) make it a pleasure to drive.
- Spacious interior and ample boot space
- Lively, efficient engine
- Proven dependability and high resale value
- One of the safest cars you can buy
- Rather outdated infotainment technology
- Doesn’t offer all-wheel drive
Best large cars 2020
#1. BMW 5 Series
Although the BMW 5 Series faces stiff competition from competitors like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, it still provides all the European style and superior engineering you expect from a large luxury sedan. The mid-range 530i model boasts a 2-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, or you could opt for the less powerful 520i. Elsewhere in the range, diesel and plug-in hybrid options are available.
A ride in a 5 Series is an exercise in luxury, comfort and efficiency, with a hefty swag of technology at your fingertips and all the safety gear you could ask for. If you’ve got a spare $111,900 (plus on-road costs) sitting around doing nothing, the 530i isn’t a bad option at all.[i]
- Superb interior presentation
- Smooth, comfortable ride with plenty of room
- Four-cylinder engine supplies solid performance
- High safety rating and user-friendly technology
- Value for money hard to quantify compared to BMW’s SUV range
- Showing signs of age compared to the 3 Series
- The 3-year warranty is short for a prestige car
#2. Kia Stinger
The Kia Stinger offers rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, a spacious interior, a low price point and superior performance. The twin turbo V6 engine delivers 272kW of power and has the ability to go from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds.
The 2019 Stinger is highly rated for safety, with AEB, blind spot detection, lane support systems and a whole bag of other tech-savvy safety gear. The GT is the pick of the six variants, and it’s a real head-turner. If you’re ready to ditch your sensible SUV and have some driving fun, you could do a lot worse.[i]
- Powerful and reliable acceleration – drives like a true sports sedan
- High street appeal
- A good, practical choice for families – excellent value for money
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and voice recognition
- Small boot
- Rear visibility isn’t great
- Fuel economy is just average
#3. Holden Commodore
If you’ve always wanted to own a brand-new, iconic Holden Commodore, now’s your chance – but you’d better hurry. In 2019, Holden announced that they’re phasing out all Commodore and Calais variants (plus the Astra) to focus on selling utes and SUVs. They’ll still sell the MY19 model until stocks run out, presumably in 2020.
The Commodore is a true classic – roomy, comfortable, well-equipped and solidly built. Choose between the 2-litre turbo petrol, diesel or V6, which is available with all-wheel drive. All Commodores have auto emergency braking and grip the road with enthusiasm.[i]
- Good connectivity for Smartphones, maps and other functions
- Advanced driver assistance features and good all-round safety tech
- Dual-zone air conditioning
- Solid chassis and reliable engine performance
- Not built in Australia any more
- Low resale value
Best small SUVs 2020
#1. Mazda CX-3
Although it’s technically an SUV, the CX-3 feels more like an urban hatchback, which perhaps explains its appeal to such a diverse range of Aussie car buyers. Mazda is good at adding little improvements to their vehicles year by year, and the CX3 is no exception. It rates highly for dependability, engine performance, safety, suspension and steering.
The CX-3 provides a quiet ride and has more than enough grunt for urban commutes, road trips and the occasional bumpy jaunt. It’s one of the more attractive small SUVs around and handles like a dream.
- Outstanding interior build quality
- Eye-level infotainment system is user-friendly but not distracting
- Excellent value for money
- Impressive range of standard safety features
- Less cargo than some sedans
- Engineered more for street use than off-road adventures
#2. Toyota C-HR
Stylish, fuel-efficient and easy on the eyes, the CH-R doesn’t pull any punches in the small SUV category, rating highly for comfort, safety and ease of maintenance and boasting the kind of sporty handling and driver visibility that makes driving fun. It has plenty of interior space, a sleek look and a full range of high-tech safety features.
Standard gear includes seven airbags, forward collision monitoring, auto-on/auto-dipping headlights, reversing cameras, front and rear parking sensors, auto braking and auto cruise control.
- Exceptional range of safety technology
- Good fuel economy for an SUV
- Great-looking exterior, with plenty of bright colours to choose from
- Handles typical Australian driving conditions well
- Lacklustre acceleration
- No all-wheel drive option
- Cabin wind noise is noticeable
#3. Mitsubishi ASX
The ASX is a firm favourite with young families and car rental companies, offering smooth-as-silk handling and a bit more internal space than other SUVs in its class. It’s affordable, works well with Smartphones and navigation apps and is a treat to drive – both in the city and on less forgiving country roads.
The 2020 version made an appearance in late 2019 and boasts an attractive new look, updated technology and engine improvements. It’s a popular model with very competitive safety features, including lane-keeping tech, auto high beams, rear cross-traffic alert and pedestrian recognition.
- Exterior design improved for a sharper look
- Low price point and easy to look after
- Improved performance with the 2.4-litre engine
- Easy-to-use multimedia and digital connectivity
- Fuel economy is okay but not amazing
- Interior styling isn’t as contemporary as some competitors
- Cabin is a bit noisy
Best medium SUV 2020
#1. Mazda CX-5
The CX-5’s versatility ranks it amongst the best SUVs in Australia. It manages to look like a ‘normal car’ but still has enough all-wheel drive grip and road clearance to handle bumps, gravel roads and bush adventures.
Standard equipment includes push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, auto LED headlights with high-beam assist, six-speaker stereo and blind-spot monitoring. It comes with a whole range of useful safety technology including rear-view camera, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, Sat-Nav and rear parking sensors.
- Turbo-charged engine and transmission are powerful and responsive
- Nice range of standard equipment
- Silky-smooth handling – fantastic steering and stability
- Attractive inside and out
- Easy on fuel
- Rear seats could use more headroom and legroom
- No manual transmission option
#2. Toyota RAV4
The RAV4 was one of the first medium-sized SUVs to really take off in Australia, offering a nice combination of affordability, safety and advanced technology. There are plenty of features to help drivers with navigation, including a rear-view camera, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning and adaptive cruise control – which does a great job of ensuring a safe gap between you and the vehicle up ahead. Visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent.
With six petrol-electric hybrid options thrown into the RAV4 mix, there are plenty of variants to choose from, although the diesel version is no longer available. Families will love the spacious 580L boot.
- An economical family SUV
- Solid safety rating with plenty of driver-assist tech
- Spacious cabin and boot
- Hybrid power options available
- Acceleration could use more ‘oomph’
- No Android Auto connectivity
#3. Mitsubishi Outlander
The sturdy Outlander is one of the few mid-sized SUVs to offer three rows of seats and a choice between all-wheel or front-wheel drive and the option of diesel, hybrid or petrol. With front and back USB ports, Smartphone integration via touch-screen and a number of other high-tech advancements, it’s a thoroughly modern vehicle with ample safety equipment and a reputation for dependability.
You’ll revel in the comfort of the power-operated driver lumbar support and tinted windows, and navigate the roads easily with the help of hill-start assist, dusk-detecting headlights and rear parking sensors.
- One of the most reliable, affordable SUVs around
- Competitive fuel economy
- Bounteous safety features
- Third row seat option
- High-tech infotainment system
- Engine can be noisy when accelerating quickly
- The third row of seats is cramped and best suited for children
Best large SUVs 2020
#1. Mazda CX-9
Not many large SUVs feel as sporty or comfortable to drive as the CX-9, with its powerful fuel-efficient engine and practical styling. This 7-seater is spacious, tech-smart, crammed with driver-assist safety features and offers the option of all-wheel drive. Its many user-friendly attributes helped it win Wheels magazine’s Car of the Year award in 2017.
Best of all, the CX-9 keeps improving: for example, the ride is much quieter in the 2019 version because of upgrades to insulation. The combination of an excellent engine, spacious size and attractive finish is hard to resist, and the infotainment system is first-rate.
- Petrol engine performance is well above average
- Brilliant standard of safety and driver-assist technology
- Superb handling – drives more like a sporty sedan than an SUV
- 2019 has newly re-tuned suspension
- Responsive precision steering
- Third seat row is only comfortable for children
- Rear-view camera image isn’t as sharp as it could be
#2. Toyota Kluger
The Kluger is a serious SUV that increasing numbers of Aussie families are finding just right for their needs. Its robust chassis, advanced safety technology, smooth handling and versatile 7-seat configuration make it the ultimate all-rounder for a wide range of Australian driving conditions, in or out of the city.
Toyota has improved the 3.5-litre V6 engine’s fuel efficiency and offers plenty of high-tech wizardry and solid safety gear to go along with the Kluger’s spacious interior and impressive towing ability.
- Flexible, roomy, powerful and great for growing families
- Superb handling for a large vehicle
- Solid, well-built chassis and impressive range of standard safety features
- Offers a smooth ride with both all-wheel and front-wheel drive
- Interior doesn’t feel contemporary
- Infotainment unit is pretty average
#3. Kia Sorento
There’s a lot to like about the Sorento: a 7-year warranty, a beautiful interior finish, auto braking (standard) and the comfort and versatility of an extremely well-built 7-seater SUV. You can use it as an all-wheel drive or a front-wheel drive, and a powerful diesel version is also available.
There’s an 8-inch colour infotainment touch-screen, sat-nav (that doesn’t rely on your Smartphone), four USB ports for charging devices, auto headlights, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitors, adaptive cruise control and a number of additional features that should put the Sorento firmly on your must-see list.[i]
- Potentially life-saving smart braking options
- One of the best warranties in the industry
- Good value for money for an SUV this size
- Quiet cabin, comfortable seats and smooth ride
- The petrol V6 engine is on the thirsty side
- Less cargo space than some other vehicles in this class
Best dual cab ute 2020
#1. Ford Ranger
Jockeying for position with the Toyota Hilux as Australia’s top-selling vehicle, the Ranger is a perfect option for families wanting space and cabin comfort or anyone requiring a tough, practical ute that can tote (or tow) a hefty load. It boasts fair-dinkum off-road capability, powerful engine performance and a level of seating comfort that’s surprising for a dual-cab utility.
The Ranger line-up was revitalized in 2019, with more high-end features now filtering down through the range. Driver visibility is awesome, suspension is improved, seat support is excellent and the Ranger continues to prove its worth in everything from stop-start city driving to lengthy road trips and serious outback action.[i]
- Super-versatile – handles everything from snow and mud to freeway marathons
- Brilliant for towing and hauling
- Advanced safety tech
- Good value for money
- Simple-to-use interior controls
- Long wheelbase and large turning circle makes tight car parks a challenge
- Manual transmission not available
- No rear seat ventilation
#2. Holden Colorado
The Colorado had a major facelift in 2016 and a minor one heading into 2020. It’s a quick and lively ute with a suspension well suited to Aussie conditions. The tech bells and whistles get more impressive (and more costly) as you move up through the range, but whichever variant you choose, you’ll know you’re at the wheel of a serious off-roader.
The Colorado’s interior is solidly put together, with ample legroom in the second seat row, a spiffy multimedia system and an attractive finish. Engine-wise, there’s no problem with grunt and the six-speed gearbox works just fine in both low and high range.[i]
- Punchy engine
- Solid ability to tow and move heavy loads
- Engineering updates have made it a real competitor in its class
- Excellent handling in a variety of driving environments
- No rear diff lock
- Tie-down hooks are placed too high
#3. Mazda BT-50
If you’re looking for a family-friendly ute that’s affordable across the range and takes its off-roading credentials seriously, this is the kind of tough, well-engineered, multi-purpose vehicle you should be looking at. You get a 5-star safety rating, 3.2-litre turbo diesel engine and fuel efficiency coming in at 8.9L/100km.
There’s loads of room in the interior, which looks rather SUV-like. You’ll feel more like you’re in a passenger car than fresh off a worksite, with a large multimedia screen occupying the central stack. The reversing camera, power-assisted steering and quiet, comfortable cabin are tangible selling points.[i]
- Competitive drive-away pricing
- Massively strong and well-engineered
- On-road comfort and space is great for families
- Robust, enthusiastic drivetrain
- Steering wheel isn’t adjustable for reach
- Drab-coloured dash
Best large 4x4s 2020
#1. Ford Everest
The Everest performs well on the bitumen but is also a very capable off-roader, offering the option of full-time, dual-range four-wheel drive. Smartphone integration is first-rate, comfort level is high and the cabin feels roomy and well-ventilated. The angular lines and faux-metal surfaces around the dash give it a contemporary look.
Safety equipment includes seven airbags, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, stability control and trailer sway control. The Everest has enough strength and grunt to tow a two-horse float or a large caravan or boat.[i]
- Plush, premium interior with modern-looking instrument console
- All the seats feel comfortable
- Intimidating stance commands respect
- Reliable handling in both on-road and off-road conditions
- A little cumbersome to drive in urban situations due to its size and wheelbase
- Gear shifts feel a bit lazy, especially in lower gear
#2. Holden Trailblazer
This SUV-style wagon seats seven, feels comfortable and relaxed on the highway but has the off-roading chops to take you just about anywhere in Australia. It drives rear-wheels-only on sealed roads but out in the bush, you can select four-wheel drive or low-range 4×4, which helps you drive slowly in more challenging outback situations.
Safety features abound, including cruise control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, hill start control, hill descent control, electronic traction control and seven airbags.[i]
- Tough, reliable off-roader with a powerful engine
- Respectable pricing
- Just as competent on or off the road
- Spacious cabin with a decent range of tech
- Only one USB port
- Could use a bit more advanced safety tech
#3. Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
Wherever you travel in the outback, you’re bound to run into more than one Pajero owner who is unconditionally loyal to their beloved off-roader. It has all the stylish fittings, safety credentials and rugged comfort you need when you go bush, and a strong engine that won’t let you down when the terrain gets dicey.
The Sport comes with seven airbags, adaptive cruise control, tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment, 7-inch touch-screen, AEB, push-button start, Bluetooth phone connectivity, trailer sway control and a lot more to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.
- Auto emergency braking across the range
- Spare wheel storage beneath the car saves internal space
- 3100kg tow rating
- Selectable full-time 4WD
- Rear of the cabin could be roomier
- Exterior looks a little dated
Disclaimer: Data on this website was sourced from Canstar in September 2019 from their latest available data. Auto & General Services Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.
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