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Carsguide car of the year 2000? Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan

Star turn - the best and the rest - C-class of its own

In racing parlance it was a case of daylight second when the votes were tallied for the 2000 Star Car.

Mercedes-Benz's brilliant C-class streeted an outstanding field to finish a stunning 60 votes clear in the poll of News Limited's Australia-wide motoring writers.

Apart from the dominance of the winner, the range and quality of new cars released in Australia in 2000 was clearly demonstrated by the spread of votes, which saw 24 models from 17 manufacturers receive a nod.

Second place was shared by Hyundai's Accent, the Subaru Impreza range and Holden's VX Commodore with 16 points each.

BMW's soft-roading X5 polled 13 points ahead of Mitsubishi's Pajero, the BMW 330 Ci Coupe and Audi's TT Roadster (six points). While Mercedes has not reaped the benefits of any other major motoring awards for 2000, that would surely only be because of the early cut-off dates for other awards.

Mercedes launched the C-class in Australia in early November and as Star Car voting is for the full calendar year, it qualified for the 2000 award. Now in its fourth year, the Star Car contest uses a simple format for judging the best cars of each year. It's the grand prix scoring system -- 10 points for first, six for second, four for third down to one for sixth.

Each car is judged on design, build quality, innovation, driving enjoyment, safety, economy and -- most important of all to new-car shoppers -- its value. Each of the News Limited team voted only for cars they had driven during the year, calling on their own experience and experiences to settle on their final six choices.

This year's contest was tougher than ever, with more than 100 worthy new arrivals and countless updates.

Contestants ranged from the small -- Daihatsu's Sirion GTi, the Suzuki Ignis and the Hyundai Accent -- through to extremes like the Porsche 911 Turbo and Mercedes S600L.

In between there were offerings in every category from family sedans -- Holden's VX range, Ford's revised AU, Mitsubishi's new Magna and Toyota's brave Avalon experiment.

Previous Star Car winners are the VT Commodore in 1997, Holden's Astra in 1998 and the Toyota Echo last year.

 

What the judges said

KEVIN HEPWORTH
The Daily Telegraph

1.Mercedes C-Class
A quantum leap forward for the Benz ``small'' sedan. Boasts some of the most sophisticated technology on the road with rapid flow-down from the top-of-the-range S-Class. An outstanding drive in beautiful surrounds. If you skip the underpowered C180 and go straight to the C200K pricing, it is also razor sharp at about $63,000.

2.BMW 330ci Coupe
Arrived just in time to counter the very serious challenge from the little Benz. A driver's car with all that is great about Bimmer and a bit more grunt to boot.

3.Kia Carnival
Rarely does a car redefine a segment, but the Carnival did just that. Kia proved that a V6 seven-seater could be delivered at a price the people who need the car most can afford. And it's not a bad unit at any price.

4.Hyundai Accent
Further proof that Korea can offer quality and style at a budget price. Starting at sub-$15,000 this is an exciting city car and a worthy successor to the Excel.

5.Volvo Cross Country
Not just a V70 with extra clearance. Has surprising off-road credibility in what is essentially a luxury touring wagon with turbo grunt.

6.Porsche 911 Turbo
The very definition of power and poise. A road monster few can afford but all can dream of.

MIKE DUFFY
The Advertiser, Adelaide

1.Mercedes C-Class
Combines most of the brilliant features of the ultra-expensive S-Class in an elegant, today package.

The Silver Star earns the top marks for bringing such a stunning car to market after a $2 billion investment spend, at starting prices just over the $51,000 mark.

2.Holden VX Commodore
It makes most other revisions look like quick spit-and-polish jobs.

The General's men Down Under turned down the volume on the car's NVH with a number of clever measures and sharpened up the steering, with enhanced handling for good measure.

3.Volvo V70
This is not a wagon derivative of the V70 sedan as it sits on a modified S80 chassis and was designed as a stand-alone crossover vehicle.

The result is a cargo carrier that drives like a sedan and has an excellent payload.

4.Mitsubishi TJ Magna
Those happy to predict Mitsubishi Motors' early demise would have been shocked by the efficient manner in which the TJ Magna was spruced up in a mid-life makeover.

The new Sports and VR-X models are attracting many enthusiast drivers who formerly would have considered only rear-drive cars.

5.Nissan 200SX
A two-seater sports that is a winner straight out of the box. The car remains faithful to its simple, almost classic sports car styling with a few subtle, contemporary changes.

6.Subaru Impreza
Subaru has copped a widespread bagging for its headlight design and other cosmetics in the latest Impreza line-up.

This writer believes the range has been an ugly beast since its inception, but it has more than made up for this with wondrous dynamics, particularly in WRX guise.

KEITH DIDDHAM
The Mercury, Hobart

1. Mercedes-Benz C Class
A classy act from Benz which shows that leading-edge technology and one of the best safety packages can come without an out-of-reach price. It has great styling, good road manners and is no longer an old man's car -- the C200 Kompressor Classic is the pick.

2. VX Commodore SS/Acclaim
A tie between both models, which are streets ahead of rivals in the big car class. Love the gutsy performance of the SS, but the Acclaim comes strong on value.

3. Hyundai Accent
The big improver of the year in terms of quality, proving the Koreans have indeed climbed the steep learning curve to match it with their rivals. Affordable and easy, it is only let down by lacklustre styling.

4. Subaru Impreza
No surprise here. Like a good cheese, the Impreza has matured into a terrific car. Price is a sore point but plenty of equipment makes for a financial aspirin.

5. Toyota Prado
At last Toyota can offer an mid-sized, auto-diesel that is the pick of the off-roads. With plenty of torque for towing, only the cost of diesel may cause some grief.


GORDON LOMAS
The Courier-Mail, Brisbane

1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Tops the list on all counts. Svelte styling, great chassis and balance, beautiful road manners, incredible levels of standard gear and unsurpassed safety levels all add up to an attractive package.

2. Subaru Impreza
While the bug-eyed styling may not suit all, the Impreza has surpassed its predecessor in driving dynamics and road-holding abilities.

3. Hyundai Accent
The Koreans are really going places. Sharing little with Excel, the 2000 has benchmark road manners and a breakthrough in chassis dynamics.

4. Nissan 200SX Spec-R
The discovery of the year in sports coupes, it balances beautifully on the road and has a decent load area in the boot. One of the sexiest cars to come out of Japan, with an appealing turbocharged 2-litre engine.

5. Toyota Avalon
While the styling may be a tragedy, there is more to ``Frankie'' than meets the eye. With an equipped and spacious interior, it is the front-wheel drive that will raise the eyebrows of the harshest critic.


NEIL DOWLING
The Sunday Times, Perth

1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
A solid selection of engine and features that start in the low $50,000s make this an absolute winner. The stand-out is the C240 V6, which displays virtually all the supreme characteristics of its bigger sister,the S-class.

2. Subaru Impreza
The WRX turbo sedan remains an absolute joy. The new range has solid, Euro-style handling, a perky and frugal engine, the safety aspects of a 4WD and a high level of comfort to suit the family buyer.

3. Toyota RAV4
Toyota has upped the ante and hits Honda's CR-V with a silky engine and drivetrain, all-wheel drive with no complex mechanicals and a cabin featuring flexible seating arrangements.

4. Mitsubishi Magna VR-X and Sport
A healthy 163kW of power from a lusty 3.5-litre V6 and the option of a five-speed auto make this a superb town and country cruiser.

5. Mazda MX-5
It may look the same as the original, but the engine is stronger at the bottom end and the handling tweaked to raise driver enjoyment to new levels. It has a boot and the six-speed gearbox is a delight.

BRUCE McMAHON
The Courier-Mail, Brisbane

1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The sweetest surprise of the year. A good-looking, well-packaged and well-mannered prestige car starting at $51,800.

2. Mitsubishi Pajero
The latest Pajero is a quantum leap over the previous model, combining better on-road dynamics with improved off-road ability in a well-sorted and well-priced wagon for the Australian family.

3. Holden VU Commodore Ute
A long time coming but worth the wait with sublime style and handling. The best of the bunch is the barn-storming SS, Australia's answer to the Chev Corvette.

4. Hyundai Accent
Another of the season's big surprises. An entertaining car to drive with ever-improving quality levels yet steady and attractive pricing.

5. Chrysler PT Cruiser
May not be perfect (the engine could have a little more punch), but the cool van is clever and useful and very cute.

6. Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG
The tyre-frying, head-turning CLK55 is very expensive but this is one of those sports tourers of a lifetime.


PAUL GOVER
Herald Sun

1. Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
The compact Benz is the best of the bunch this year. It is beautifully designed, brilliantly built and surprisingly enjoyable to drive. It feels totally unbreakable, sets a new standard for small-car quality and has some crafty little design tweaks that show really innovative thinking.

2. Audi TT Roadster quattro
The most fun of the year, from its open-air roof to the combined turbo-motor and quattro drive. The TT Roadster is a poor(er) person's Porsche, with styling and impact that many people rate higher than the 911 and Boxster.

3. Holden Commodore SS
Proves Holden can build a master blaster with panache at a realistic price. Surprisingly soft when you want to waddle, but solid steel for cut-and-thrust enjoyment.

4. BMW X5
A magical car if you can pay the price. Rapid, roomy, totally equipped luxury car that can really boogie on gravel roads.

5. Hyundai Accent
Proves that cheap doesn't have to mean nasty and that Hyundai is getting much better at the bargain-basement game. Surprisingly solid and enjoyable, but still struggling to slide customers up to $14,990.

6. Chrysler PT Cruiser/VW Beetle
This pair are both flawed -- the Beetle is too expensive and the PT is no fun to drive -- but they prove that motoring in the new century can still be fun.

ANDREW MacLEAN
Herald Sun, Melbourne.

1. BMW X5
This classy off-roader proves the German car-maker is not content playing ``follow the leader'' but obviously strives to set new benchmarks. Although the X5's price is on the wrong side of $100,000 and it weighs more than two tonnes, it has everything else covered in the luxury four-wheel-drive game.

It drives like a sedan, has the power of a sportscar, the space of a wagon and the ride quality of a limo.

2. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
It's a tough call to put Mercedes' new C-Class in second place because the new baby Benz is a fantastic piece of machinery, but it doesn't redefine its class the way the X5 does. It does, however, show that Mercedes is keen to throw away its crusty old bowler hat and chuck a cap on backwards.

3. Honda Civic
Honda's new Civic is perfect proof that you should never underestimate the engineering power of the Japanese giant. Its bread and butter small car might look a little awkward today, but its tall-boy body and spacious interior -- complete with a dash-mounted gear lever -- is sure to be copied by its rivals in the near future.

4. Toyota Avalon
If you can forgive Toyota for the styling of the five-year-old Avalon, then you will be driving a very sweet, efficient and inoffensive motor car. The Avalon is refined, quiet, handles well and has heaps of interior space.

5. PT Cruiser/New Beetle
They may be based on run-of-the-mill machinery, but they look cool and brighten up the lives of their baby-boomer owners.

6. Porsche 911 Turbo
It's $300,000 price-tag will limit its car-park presence, but Porsche's new 911 Turbo is easily the ultimate sportscar. It's so good and easy to drive, it can put a smile on anyone's dial.

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