carsales Car of the Year 2018: And the winner is ...

Who took home this year's crown? Find out with our comprehensive coverage.

The Volvo XC40 is the carsales Car of the Year for 2018.

The Volvo XC40 T4 Momentum staged a late coup during the final phase of testing. Its strong showing during the previous day's judging process left it in striking distance of the grand prize.

In their assessment of the compact Swedish SUV, judges paid tribute to the blend of packaging appeal, high-tech innovation and Volvo's acknowledged expertise in both active and passive safety.

Elegant design cues for the dash, infotainment system, controls and instruments were greeted with delight by the judges. This is a vehicle that looks more expensive than it actually is. And outside, the XC40's styling strikes that fine balance between understatement and extravagance.

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How it happens

Designed to recognise excellence in the new-vehicle market and distinguish just one winner from every new model released in Australia, the carsales Car of the Year this year whittled down hundreds of eligible new models to 24 contenders, a shortlist of 11 finalists and, eventually, a single champion.

To be eligible for carsales Car of the Year 2018, vehicles must be: on sale before December 31 and available for testing (late arrivals will carried over to the following year); a production model offered via dealers or similar distribution chain; and new or substantially upgraded.

In addition: at least one variant must be priced under $250,000; a reversing camera must be standard on all models; and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) needs to be available at least as an option (this feature will be mandatory for 2019).

As you can read here, data from vehicle value specialist RedBook is used in all three stages of carsales Car of the Year judging process.

The vehicles were checked for eligibility and value, based on pricing and options averaged across respective VFACTS segments, a short list of 24 contenders was prepared and the best-selling privately purchased variant of each model selected for tested.

Judging of each contender then took place across three 'testing stations' at Wodonga TAFE's Logic Campus in Victoria's north where eight experienced judges assessed dynamics and safety, innovation and technology, and packaging and presentation.

The judges' aggregated scores (90%) and RedBook value-adjusted data (10%) decide the rankings and the top 11 finalists were then assessed by each judge individually during a specified drive program.

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Hands-on judging of each vehicle’s powertrain, chassis, comfort/refinement and safety/infotainment attributes accounted for 60 per cent of each car’s final score, with RedBook data comprising the other 40 per cent.

The car with the highest aggregate score was named the winner. This year, the Volvo XC40 T4 Momentum outscored all other finalists.

Priced from $47,990, the Volvo XC40 is small on the outside and delivers strong value, design, practicality and exceptional performance across a range of vehicle attributes.

Powered by the choice of turbo-petrol or turbo-diesel engines, the XC40 range is well equipped and includes features such as a digital centre stack and instrument panels, wireless phone charging and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

“This is the first automotive award for the XC40 in Australia, so it is a very special moment for Volvo Cars,” said Volvo Car Australia managing director Nick Connor on hearing the news.

“We know that our car’s styling, quality and performance is second to none but to have it confirmed by expert evaluation, that presents its winner and finalists to the largest automotive audience in the country, is particularly rewarding.

“Of all the hundreds of cars that enter the Australian market, for the XC40 to attain the pinnacle of carsales Car of the Year for 2018 is a testament to Volvo’s evolution and growth. To also have the XC60 honoured caps off to what has been a landmark year,” said Connor.The flagship Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander CRDi was also highly placed in the carsales Car of the Year 2018, second on points and taking out a Highly Commended honour.

The winner of multiple comparison tests, beating some of the best large SUVs Europe and Japan have to offer, the new Hyundai Santa Fe has established itself as an accomplished family choice since its local release in July 2018.

Judges praised the seven-seat Santa Fe for its locally developed ride/handling combination, refinement, flexibility and its cabin design and material quality, which sets a new standard for Hyundai.

Also claiming a 2018 carsales Car of the Year Highly Commended award was the third-placed Volvo XC60.

The Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design was feted by some judges as a potential winner due to its canny mix of sharp handling, clever packaging and innovative technology.

In the end, however, the lower purchase and running costs of the smaller SUV package, that’s is nonetheless as attractive, high-tech and well resolved as its bigger brother, helped the Volvo XC40 T4 Momentum stage a late coup during the final phase of testing.

Yes, the Volvo XC40 is that good… And, we believe, a deserving winner of the carsales Car of the Year 2018.