Hyundai has cleaned up in the carsguide Car of the Year with not one but two major awards.
The Hyundai i30 CRDi captured the main prize (the countdown to the winner starts on the page opposite) and then backed up to win the Green Car of the Year award.
The latest generation 1.6-litre, common-rail turbodiesel in the i30 became the poster child of the push for small diesels by leading the Greenfleet field home in the Panasonic Solar Challenge last month with an economy of 3.2 litres per 100km and a class-leading emission level of 97g of CO2 per kilometre.
That result was gained by concerted driving for economy.
But it's good even under normal day-to-day conditions.
The i30 has an official ratingof 4.7 litresper 100km. Voting for the Green car was spirited and widespread, with all the usual suspects in the mix along with a couple of left-fielders.
Toyota and Honda both featured strongly in discussions with the Prius and Civic petrol/electric hybrids, which thrive on a stop-start environment in the heart of the city when the harvesting of regenerative energy from braking and use of the electric motor at low speeds is best utilised.
In the arguments against were the initial cost premium, the lesser benefits in long, open-road runs and the issue of battery life and disposal.
Lexus earned consideration forits new hybrid pair, the RX400h SUV and the super-luxury LS600hL. While both utilise Toyota's knowledge of hybrid technology, there were questions about whether they _ and the environment _ would not have been better served by smaller hybrid engines and focused weight-saving.
Also thrown up as a possible contender was the Fiat Punto 1.4 with the Dualogic gearbox. The little Punto is rated to deliver 4.5 litres per 100km _ an outstanding figure for a petrol-engine automatic. The secret to the Punto is in the Dualogic's full fuzzy logic programming, which has the box constantly seeking the best match between driver characteristics, road condition and performance.
Another that caused some discussion was a nomination for the Mercedes-Benz C-Class as a whole-of-life ecological exercise.
In the end the decision for the i30 came down to real-world benefits. The car is big enough and practical enough for a family, it provides the strength of diesel performance and strong torque that keeps gear changes and accelerator mashing to a minimum, and it offers its responsible carbon footprint on every drive.
Read all our carsguide Car of the Year 2007 coverage at www.carsguide.com.au/caroftheyear