The new Mazda6 Touring Sedan has taken both the Medium Car Under $50,000 category and the Judges’ Choice in the 2013 Australia’s Best Cars Awards announced in Brisbane in November.

The vehicle was the overall winner with a panel of 12 judges voting it as the one they were most likely to buy from a field of 45 finalists in the 15 awards categories. The Judges’ Choice was given for a mix of emotive appeal and its role as a benchmark car in its class that would influence the direction of competitors.

The Mazda6 scored highly with its interior design, quality and luxurious finish that were on par with expensive European vehicles, providing value for money. Features include push-button engine start, leather seat trim, satellite navigation and powered leather front seats. The new model is longer and wider and, as a result, provides enough legroom to comfortably carry four adult passengers, with a spacious 438 litre boot.

Under the bonnet a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine showcases Mazda’s SKYACTIVE fuel saving technologies, resulting in an ADR combined fuel average of 6.6 litres/100km. While not designed specifically as a sporty car, the Mazda 6 is nimble with plenty of power and a smooth six speed auto.

Criteria for the Judges Award were that it required a 5-star ANCAP safety score, low fuel consumption and a green vehicle guide rating of 3.5 stars or more, and it had to be priced below the luxury car tax threshold. A typical drive-away price for the new Mazda6 is $41,200 so that’s a good reason to consider an option of getting an Aussie car loan if required!

The Australia’s Best Cars Awards were introduced in 2000 by the nation’s motoring clubs, including the RACQ, to assist motorists with their car buying choices and to advocate for safer and more affordable vehicles.

The Holden Commodore Acclaim took out Best Family Car for the first two years and the Ford Falcon Futura BA model in 2002 and the XT model in both the following two years. The Hyundai Accent took the Best Small Car Award in the 2000 and 2001 with the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Fiesta models also winning twice since the awards began.

This year’s awards included a category for 4×4 dual cab utes for the first time. Used as workhorses by some and showponies by others, dual cab utes represented the third largest-selling vehicle category in Australia last year (behind small and light). Sales grew 25 percent over 2011, and they now outsell any of the popular SUV categories.

The Ford Ranger XL won the category, ahead of the Mazda BT-50 XTR and the VW Amarok Highline TDi 420, with a redesigned, more integrated and accommodating cabin and a 3.2 litre, five cylinder turbo diesel engine.

The category has come a long way in a short time, offering the comfort, space and safety many motorists are looking for in a crossover vehicle that meets both work and family requirements. A few years ago the dual cab utes were low on safety features, and didn’t even have anchor points for child seats. Now many vehicles in this category really do offer the power, space and safety features required to double as both off-road workhorses and the weekend family runabout.