Winner: Skoda OctaviaFinalist: Toyota CamryFinalist: Hyundai Sonata N LineFinalist: Volkswagen Passat

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Winner: Skoda Octavia

Finalist: Toyota Camry

Finalist: Hyundai Sonata N Line

Finalist: Volkswagen Passat

SUVs now dominate the family car market in lieu of traditional sedans and wagons, but the segment still holds some hidden gems.

While hardly a new phenomenon, Australian new car buyers now vastly prefer medium and large SUVs over medium and large sedans. The appeal is obvious, too, but there’s still a lot to like in this category.

After a period of relative inactivity, the 2022 Drive Car of the Year Best Medium to Large Car class has had a real shot in the arm, with two all-new models, one updated model, and – of course – a returning winner.

Sales tell a somewhat similar story, with a dip in both the medium and large car sectors, albeit off the back of a rocky year of sales disrupted by coronavirus lockdowns and supply shortages.

During 2021, the segment saw long-running models like the Ford Mondeo and Subaru Liberty quietly depart showrooms, while the Toyota Camry, last year’s segment winner, continues its segment dominance with a nearly 70 per cent share of the medium segment.

It fronts up again for the 2022 award having taken home the segment prize in 2021, 2020, and both the segment and overall award in 2019. To say the Camry is a formidable challenger is putting things lightly.

It lines up this year alongside the revised Volkswagen Passat range, and two newcomers in the shape of the all-new Skoda Octavia and Hyundai Sonata – though whereas the Octavia range offers a range of models for a range of buyers, the Sonata takes a far more targeted approach.

In any case, medium to large segment finalists must offer space, refinement, and a level of equipment to help them both stay safe and easy to drive, and also to ensure they feel just a little bit special for family buyers.

autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car

Winner: Skoda Octavia

What we love

  • Innovative interior inclusions
  • So much cargo and passenger space
  • Even the base engine feels more than up to the task

What we don’t

  • Too many functions buried in infotainment
  • Road noise in some situations
  • High load lip

When it first arrived in Australia in 2007, the Skoda Octavia was a bit of a dark horse. Smaller than most mid-size rivals, from a barely known brand at the time, but sharply priced and packed with features. It didn’t take long to win critical acclaim.

Fast-forward to 2021 and the new third-generation Octavia to be sold in Australia (the fourth internationally) has grown in size and features. It’s also developed a robust reputation as stellar family transport.

As clichéd as it may sound, the inbuilt Skoda-isms – things like tablet holders on the seatbacks, bag hooks in the boot, rear window blinds, and more – make the Octavia an ideal companion for any situation.

Judges were in agreement on features like the digital driver’s display described as “everything a modern dash should be – easy to read with information configured to taste”.

More important than the bells and whistles, though, under the skin the Octavia offers a range of engines, from an efficient 110kW 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol with a hybrid-like 5.7L/100km fuel claim, up to a more menacing 180kW 2.0-litre turbo in the performance-focused Octavia RS. There’s also a 140kW 2.0-litre model in between – so there’s something for everyone.

Similarly, a choice of liftback sedan and traditional wagon offers a cargo solution just right for your needs. Drive-away pricing from $36,490 drive-away up to $55,490 drive-away puts the Octavia range within reach of a broad spread of buyers.

Buying even the base model doesn’t mean missing out, with a minimum of seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, 10.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, wireless phone charging, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, and more.

The buyer protection of a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and available pre-paid servicing from as little as $1550 for five years (or $2000 on Octavia RS models) also helps.

If anything, we’d like to see a few more interior and car control functions have dedicated buttons instead of being buried in the infotainment. Wagon versions betray a little too much road rumble on some surfaces and have a slightly high load lip too. Relatively minor grumbles, all told.

On-road fluidity is hard to fault. The torque-rich engine and snappy transmission response make the Octavia a delight around town, as does the stable roadholding on the open road. 

Read all our recent Skoda Octavia reviews

Visit the Skoda Octavia Showroom

Buying now? View new Skoda Octavia models in stock

Read about all the other 2022 Drive Car of the Year categories and winners

autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car

Finalist: Toyota Camry

What we love

  • Excellent rough-road comfort
  • Super cheap to run and maintain
  • Excellent value

What we don’t

  • Interior packaging hides some compromises
  • Updates didn’t provide much of a lift
  • Dated infotainment interface

With a cabinet full of silverware already, the Toyota Camry looked like the strongest challenger here, but in the face of newer competitors it just didn’t have what it needed to win again.

Still, the Camry put up a mighty fight. It’s still roomy, still frugal – especially now that most of the range is offered only with a hybrid powertrain – and still comes as the cheapest mid-size car available.

Pricing from $30,990 to $46,990 plus on-road costs across a five-variant range holds up, as does claimed consumption as low as 4.7L/100km on hybrid models. Not to mention service pricing at a low $220 per visit ($1100 over five years).

While ownership costs are certainly thrifty, the interior is starting to feel that way too. Despite an update during 2021, Toyota hasn’t really gone the extra mile to keep the Camry feeling fresh inside.

It’s practical and durable, certainly, but there’s no real wow factor. The infotainment system isn’t the sharpest, nor most modern to interact with, despite plenty of inbuilt features.

In some situations, it’s even a little compromised – rear headroom in the SL version is compromised by the sunroof, and all models lack front passenger knee room. Not ideal in a car aimed at growing families and rideshare operators. 

Still, on-road refinement and comfort rank highly. Rural buyers in particular are sure to love the floaty ease with which the Camry can sort out raggedy road surfaces underneath. In 2022, though, that wasn’t quite enough to see the Camry relive its past success.

Read all our recent Toyota Camry reviews

Visit the Toyota Camry Showroom

Buying now? View new Toyota Camry models in stock

Read about all the other 2022 Drive Car of the Year categories and winners

autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car

Finalist: Hyundai Sonata N Line

What we love

  • Fully stacked with standard equipment
  • Exciting on-road dynamics
  • Class-leading engine outputs

What we don’t

  • Narrow range limits access to some
  • Interior presentation
  • Higher ongoing costs

In something of a stark contrast to the rest of this year’s Best Medium to Large Car finalists, which offer a range of price points, engines and specifications to attract a wide band of buyers, Hyundai has narrowed its focus with the new Sonata.

Offered only in Sonata N Line trim, the brand’s new mid-sizer blends bold styling with the spiciest engine here – at 213kW and 422Nm it just edges out the 206kW/350Nm Passat and leaves the others in its dust.

The move to a single specification also sees the Sonata N Line fully loaded. Seat and steering wheel heating, cooled front seats, a panoramic sunroof, 360-degree camera, rear sun blinds with a powered rear windscreen cover, nappa leather and suede-look trim, dual 10.25-inch screens, Bose audio – the list goes on.

The comprehensive equipment impressed the judges, but the price of entry proved a barrier. At $50,990 plus on-road costs there’s no doubting the value for the included equipment, but it’s also a price point that might be a stretch too far for families who need to drive their budget further.

We reckon there’s room for a slightly decontented version to make the model more accessible. 

The judges noted plenty of good things: “Like a hot hatch for grown-ups, the Sonata manages to blend an eager turbo engine and sharp dual-clutch auto with big car comfort and lots of luxury touches”.

They also tempered their enthusiasm slightly, “felt the sportiest to drive of all the finalists, although was let down by its interior, which doesn’t look or feel like a $50K interior”. A remark made all the more poignant when comparing the Sonata alongside the rather luxe look and feel of the Octavia and Passat.

Ownership, too, came in for scrutiny. While the five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty is sound, the ongoing costs could stack up, with 8.1L/100km fuel consumption (though on 91-octane regular unleaded) and $1750 for the first five services.

The latter isn’t bank-breaking, but with 10,000km service intervals, plenty of families will need to squeeze in a sixth service in five years, pushing maintenance costs up.

Read all our recent Hyundai Sonata reviews

Visit the Hyundai Sonata Showroom

Buying now? View new Hyundai Sonata models in stock

Read about all the other 2022 Drive Car of the Year categories and winners

autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car
autos, cars, best medium to large car

Finalist: Volkswagen Passat

What we love

  • By far the most spacious
  • Mature and upmarket interior
  • Surprisingly sporty drive

What we don’t

  • Firm ride
  • High servicing costs
  • Not as fully featured as the cheaper Octavia

In terms of audience targeting, it feels like the Volkswagen Passat sits somewhere between the something-for-everyone Octavia and the more pointed Sonata. There’s a range of engines to choose from, along with sedan or wagon options – but Volkswagen’s upmarket targeting means all carry a price premium.

For that, though, you get a car that feels very much like a bridge between mainstream mid-size cars and prestige models like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

If the Octavia is the top choice for new families, with its range of adaptable features, then the Passat fits families with bigger kids to accommodate. There’s less to keep the young’uns busy, but much more space inside – the Passat feels palatial front and rear.

The range includes 140kW, 162kW and 206kW 2.0-litre turbo petrol, and depending on the model front- or all-wheel drive – the only contender available with all-paw traction this year.

That size and all-weather capability certainly helped the Passat’s chances, but with pricing from $47,690 to $64,890 plus on-road costs, the Passat isn’t able to find its way into a wide array of Aussie driveways.

With a sprightly and sporting feel from behind the wheel, the Passat displays real competence; however, the firm ride isn’t an ideal companion for extended road trips.

Buyers cross-shopping the Passat and its Octavia cousin may also find things like sleeper headrests, iPad holders, and the configurable boot missing – all while paying more for the privilege.

Ownership, like the others, includes a five-year warranty with no kilometre limit, but servicing from $2100–$2500 pre-paid, more if you pay as you go depending on the engine, adds up quickly over five years. 

Read all our recent Volkswagen Passat reviews

Visit the Volkswagen Passat Showroom

Buying now? View new Volkswagen Passat models in stock

Read about all the other 2022 Drive Car of the Year categories and winners

Keyword: Best Medium to Large Car

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