Drive Car of the Year’s all-time top brands


Looking back on 16 years of the winners and grinners of Australia’s top consumer automotive awards.

Twenty new vehicles were crowned category champions in the 2022 Drive Car of the Year awards announced earlier this month. Of those 20, only four are new additions to the growing pantheon of worthy winners since Drive Car of the Year began in 2006.

Congratulations also to the Kia Sportage for taking out this year’s top honour, and making it two in a row for Kia after the Sorento won last year.

But Kia’s still got a bit of work to do if it wants to climb to the top of the Drive Car of the Year ladder. In fact it will need to double its current trophy haul of 17 to beat the best brands of the last two decades.

The winningest brand in DCOTY history is Ford with 33 trophies in its collection. The Blue Oval has the Ranger and Focus to thank for 14 of them (seven each), the Everest and Mondeo have earned five each, and the imported Puma and homegrown Territory SUVs have two each.

Interestingly, the Ford Falcon never won a Drive Car of the Year award, either for best large car or best ute. Ford’s longtime crosstown rival Holden – now consigned to the history books – won five awards in its time, all thanks to the Holden Commodore Ute (Best Utility 2006-2010). 

No other Holden earned a Drive Car of the Year gong, although the VE Commodore sedan came close in 2006 but was pipped by the Toyota Aurion for Best Large Car.

Mazda ranks second on our all-time DCOTY leaderboard with 31 of the 290 awards bestowed over the last 16 years. Many of those are thanks to the Mazda 2 and BT-50 (6 wins each), the Mazda 3 (5), MX-5 roadster (4) and CX-5 SUV (3).

Hot on Mazda’s heels is Volkswagen with 30 wins, including 13 for Golf across the small car, hot hatch, convertible and small SUV categories – remember the Golf Convertible and Golf Alltrack? In fact, the Golf is our most highly decorated model. 

Other noteworthy Volkswagens include the Polo (7 wins) and Tiguan SUV (3).

Fourth on our all-time ranking is Australia’s best-selling brand Toyota, its 28 wins come courtesy of Camry (6), RAV4 (4), LandCruiser, Aurion and 86 (3), Kluger, Yaris and Corolla (2), and Prius, Prado and the Hiace van (1). Interestingly, the HiLux, one of Australia’s most popular utes, has never won a Drive Car of the Year award.  

Fifth position on our all-time list is a three-way tie between surging Korean brand Kia, and luxury German marques Mercedes-Benz and Audi, each with 17 trophies.

Kia has the Carnival to thank for six of those trophies, and has been undefeated in the Best People Mover category since 2015. The Kia Sorento has also won six times, and the Sportage – this year’s overall champion – has three trophies. 

Nine of Mercedes-Benz’s 17 wins are courtesy of the C-Class, which had a laser lock on the Best Luxury Car under $80K category for six of the eight years between 2011 and 2018.

Audi was the winner of the inaugural Drive Car of the Year Overall Champion award in 2006 for the innovative Audi TT, but since then it’s been a team effort with wins for the Audi A3, A4, A6, Q3, Q7 and RS Q8 in a variety of categories. Of those, the Q7 has the most with four.

BMW (14), Porsche (13) and Volvo (12) round out the top ten, followed by another 21 of the 49 new car brands, which means there are 18 brands yet to win an award.

But hey, there’s always next year!

Drive Car of the Year overall champions

2018 Toyota Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI

2011 Mercedes-Benz C250 CDI

2010 Volkswagen Polo 77TSI

2009 Volkswagen Golf 118TSI

* In 2019 the awards were renamed to align with their published calendar year.

Total awards by brand over time

Drive Car of the Year – Brand Rankings

Ford 33
Mazda 31
Volkswagen 30
Toyota 28
Audi 17
Kia 17
Mercedes 17
BMW 14
Porsche 13
Volvo 12
Honda 11
Hyundai 10
Skoda 8
Holden 5
Jeep 5
Nissan 5
Land Rover 4
Lexus 4
Renault 4
Jaguar 3
Suzuki 3
Isuzu 2
Mitsubishi 2
Subaru 2
Alfa Romeo 1
Aston Martin 1
Citroen 1
Ferrari 1
Genesis 1
MG 1
Peugeot 1
Glenn Butler

Glenn Butler is one of Australia’s best-known motoring journalists having spent the last 25 years reporting on cars on radio, TV, web and print. He’s a former editor of Wheels, Australia’s most respected car magazine, and was deputy editor of before that. Glenn’s also worked at an executive level for two of Australia’s most prominent car companies, so he understands how much care and consideration goes into designing and developing new cars. As a journalist, he’s driven everything from Ferraris to Fiats on all continents except Antarctica (which he one day hopes to achieve) and loves discovering each car’s unique personality and strengths. Glenn knows a car’s price isn’t indicative of its competence, and even the cheapest car can enhance your life and expand your horizons. 

Read more about Glenn Butler


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