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Sentiment and substance are a powerful mix and the BA Falcon had both in abundance when it came time for motoring writers from News Limited's Australiawide network, including The Daily Telegraph, to nominate their car of the year.
Ford Australia's $500 million investment in the BA is little more than small change by international standards -- MercedesBenz poured more than seven times that amount into the new generation of its EClass -- but the money produced a wealth of improvements and industry standards.
A new look, new engines, new suspension and a safety and comfort rating up with the best more than compensated in most quarters for a marginal setback in fuel economy. In short, the BA is the car many independent observers were hoping Ford could come up with.
That was reflected in the tally, with the BA blazing a quality field to record 70 points, a staggering 24 ahead of the secondplaced Honda Jazz and with the Mazda6 a further eight points behind in third place.
Rather than an indication of its superiority over the rest of the field, the size of the BA's winning margin is a clear indication of the quality of the field it beat, with the vote split among a wide selection of runnersup.
The BA's strength was that all the judges found enough about the BA to like to warrant including it in their final culls.
With almost 100 eligible new cars to consider, the task of finding a single winner from a field bursting with quality and innovation was never going to be a simple one.
The power and the passion were there in abundance.
At the top end of the market, BMW offered its outrageously luxurious and technologically complex 7Series, Alfa rediscovered the heartbeat with its raunchy GTAs, MercedesBenz gave us a dream with the SL500 and Range Rover lifted the bar for offroad luxury.
On the homegrown front, Toyota unveiled its new Camry with dynamics many believed were beyond its reach, Holden sent the VY Commodore into battle with the BA and Mitsubishi went looking for an image with the Ralliart Magna.
At the economy end of the market, shoppers learned there was no need to endure a diminished quality and enjoyment just because the size was smaller.
Honda's Jazz, the Mazda2, Hyundai's Getz and Citroen's C3 all made late statements in favour of the lowercost shopper.
And there were many, many more -- the majority of which had valid claims for consideration in the final voting.
In its sixth year, the News Limited Star Car award has grown to include expert opinions from Sydney to Perth and Brisbane to Hobart.
The rules are simple, with scoring based on the 2002 points system in Formula One racing.
Cars must have been launched in the year they are considered, with each judge awarding points to their top six cars on a 1064321 scale.
The cars voted on must have been driven by the judge during the year, with consideration given to the basics of everyday newcar shopping including value, safety, economy, comfort, driving enjoyment and standing against rival models.
This is Ford's first Star Car Award victory.
Holden has won the award on three of the previous five occasions with cars ranging from the Monaro to the Astra.
Ford's success comes just weeks after the BA Falcon won the Car of the Year Award organised by Wheels magazine.
1st: Ford Falcon BA - 70 points
2nd: Honda Jazz - 46 points
3rd: Mazda 6 - 38 points
4th: Toyota Camry - 13 points
5th: Mercedes-Benz E-Class - 12 points
6th: Mitsubishi Ralliart Magna - 10 points
7th: Mercedes Benz SL - 9 points
8th [equal]: Holden Commodore VY & Mazda 2 - 7 points
10th: Mini Cooper - 5 points
1997 Holden Commodore VT
1998 Holden Astra
1999 Toyota Echo
2000 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2001 Holden Monaro
2002 Ford Falcon BA
KEVIN HEPWORTH (The Daily Telegraph)
The Mazda6 is a superb demonstration of just how good a front-drive four-cylinder sedan can be. It looks almost as sharp as it drives.
As for the others, for me BA was an easy pick. What a revelation. Sure, it may be a little more thirsty than political correctness dictates -- but you are not going to stop smiling long enough to notice.
With the Jazz, Honda has finally rediscovered the music. This little thing is a treat.
1. Mazda6;2. Honda Jazz; 3. Ford Falcon BA; 4. Toyota Camry; 5. Mercedes-Benz SL; 6. Nissan X-Trail
STUART MARTIN (The Daily Telegraph)
Mazda's turnaround model, the Mazda6, has injected some serious sparkle back in to the breed, with an excellent underbody package, lively engine and useable interior.
1. Mazda6; 2. Ford Falcon BA; 3. Mini Cooper; 4. Toyota Camry; 5. Mercedes-Benz SL; 6. Hyundai Tiburon.
PAUL GOVER (Melbourne Herald Sun)
1. Ford Falcon BA; 2. Mazda6; 3. Honda Jazz; 4. Mercedes-Benz SL; 5. Holden Commodore VY; 6. Mini Cooper S.
JAMES STANFORD (Herald Sun)
The AU's styling was its only major problem but Ford decided to spend $500 million to make sure the new Falcon was substantially better. A smooth new range of engines including the standard six and storming turbo unit, new suspension, all-new interior, improved styling and better ride make it the clear star car of 2002.
1. Ford Falcon BA; 2. Mazda6; 3. Honda Jazz; 4. Mazda2; 5. Toyota Camry; 6. Holden Commodore VY.
MIKE DUFFY (Adelaide Advertiser)
Ford has bounced back big time following the folly that was the AU. BA is bold, with power, styling attitude and value to give the excellent VY Commodore close competition in 2003 and beyond.
1. Ford Falcon BA; 2. Mitsubishi Ralliart Magna; 3. Holden Commodore VY; 4. Mazda6; 5. Mercedes-Benz E-Class; 6. Toyota Camry.
BRUCE McMAHON (Brisbane Courier-Mail)
The Honda Jazz is a fresh approach to the compact segment and deserves credit for its packaging, engineering and zest. It is a handy, handsome car for 21st-century city driving.
1. Honda Jazz; 2. Mercedes-Benz E-Class; 3. Ford Falcon BA; 4. Porsche Cayenne; 5. Range Rover; 6. Subaru Forester.
GORDON LOMAS (Courier-Mail)
The Falcon is appealing on the street but more for a powertrain worthy of coming out of Germany and a quality interior. Ford is armed with its most important product for years.
1. Ford Falcon BA; 2. Honda Jazz; 3. Mazda2; 4. Saab 9-3; 5. Mercedes-Benz E-Class; 6. Jaguar S-Type R.
NEIL DOWLING (Perth Sunday Times)
1. Ford Falcon BA; 2. Honda Jazz; 3. Mitsubishi Ralliart Magna; 4. Alfa Romeo GTA; 5. Mercedes-Benz SL; 6. Saab 9-3.
KEITH DIDHAM (Hobart Mercury)
1. Honda Jazz; 2. Ford Falcon BA; 3. Toyota Camry; 4 Mazda6; 5. Mercedes-Benz E-Class; 6. Nissan X-Trail.