Are you puzzled about which new car to buy? Take a look at the winners in the Australia’s Best Car Awards, which were announced yesterday.

The annual awards made by the RACQ and its affiliated interstate motoring clubs are the result of the most thorough assessment of new cars for sale in Australia.

There are awards and awards in the motoring world, each determined with different criteria and testing methods. While they often reach identical or similar conclusions, it’s fair to suggest none puts in more resources and effort over a full year to reach a fully-quantified result than Australia’s Best Cars.

As a result, they’re awards aimed to help everyday consumers rather than car enthusiasts. Judging covers everything from performance to safety, comfort, economy, repair costs, depreciation and many other factors.

Emphasising their credibility, this year’s awards excluded Volkswagen – a winner many times in the past – after it was found more than 90,000 of its vehicles sold in Australia used software that gave false emissions readings. The awards announcement was held over from its usual December date while the judging scores were recalculated without Volkswagen.

Two aspects stand out among this year’s winners in 16 categories.

Firstly, cutting-edge, computer-controlled systems are giving the latest cars at all price points unprecedented levels of safety. Even a cheap new small car will be safer than a larger, more expensive car from barely 10 years ago.

Secondly, six of the 16 awards went to vehicles made by Hyundai or Kia. This says that anyone who still clings to prejudice about Korean car quality is doing themselves a serious disservice.

All but one award was given for a specific vehicle category (see the winners’ list below). The last was the Judges Award and closest to an overall winner.

It went to the Mazda CX-3 MAXX, a compact SUV judges from the clubs’ engineering and magazine staffs said was strong across all criteria and deemed the “most relevant” car.

The Best All-Wheel Drive in the $65,000 to $125,000 price range, the Volvo XC90 Inscription D5, features two world-first safety technologies. One helps prevent the car turning into oncoming traffic and the other activates safety systems in preparation for a crash if the vehicle runs off the road.

The Best Medium Car over $50,000, the Mercedes-Benz C200, boasts an “attention assistant” which monitors a driver’s level of distraction or drowsiness. The Best Sports Car under $50,000, the Ford Focus ST, automatically notifies emergency services if the vehicle is involved in a serious crash.

Safety scores were strong throughout, but the Best Large Car under $70,000, the Hyundai Genesis, was an industry leader, achieving a record ANCAP crash protection rating –36.88 out of 37.

However, price isn’t an obstacle to owning wheels with an Australia’s Best Car award to its name. The Best Micro Car, the Mitsubishi Mirage ES, costs just $11,990 but comes with an impressive array of safety and comfort features.

Scorecards and videos of each winner can be found at racq.com/australiasbestcars.

Australia’s Best Cars

Judges’ Choice — Mazda CX-3 MAXX
Best Micro Car — Mitsubishi Mirage ES
Best Light Car — Hyundai Accent Active
Best Small Car under $35,000 — Hyundai i30 Active
Best Small Car over $35,000 — BMW 118i Sport Line
Best Medium Car under $50,000 — Kia Optima GT
Best Medium Car over $50,000 — Mercedes-Benz C 200
Best Large Car under $70,000 — Hyundai Genesis
Best Family Wagon — Kia Sorento SLI 2WD
Best Sports Car under $50,000 — Ford Focus ST
Best Sports Car $50,000-$100,000 — Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG
Best Small 2WD SUV under $35,000 — Mazda CX-3 MAXX
Best AWD SUV under $50,000 — Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium
Best AWD SUV $50,000-$65,000 — Kia Sorento Platinum
Best AWD SUV $65,000-$125,000 — Volvo XC90 Inscription D5
Best 4×4 Dual Cab Ute — Toyota Hilux SR5