Our Ratings Explained

In October 2017, Drive launched the third version of its scoring system. The change brought a move from five categories to ten, while also introducing a more specific decimal system for each category’s score.

In September 2022 we gave it a minor update to keep pace with automotive developments.

We renamed Safety to Safety Technology and removed this criterion’s ANCAP over-reliance because it was obscuring a vehicle’s true ANCAP performance while also marginalising the impact of the ever-expanding Safety Technology suite of systems.

Don’t worry, a car’s ANCAP rating is still covered, and in fact our coverage of this has been expanded. See below.

We renamed Fuel Efficiency to Energy Efficiency so it encompasses electric vehicle efficiency – and any future fuels.

To learn more about how we rate cars, read on.

Rating      What it means
9.0 – 10This is one of, or indeed, the best in its class. A car you can buy sight-unseen, without regret.
8.0 – 8.9Well above average in its class. A car you should absolutely have on your consideration list.
7.0 – 7.9Average to above average, and well worth considering.
6.0 – 6.9Below average in its class. Buy on price or if a deal presents itself.
5.0 – 5.9Well below average in its class. Buy something else, unless there is a bargain too good to ignore – and even then, think carefully.
0.0 – 4.9Don’t. Just don’t.

Now, you may be asking why we have set the average at 7, rather than 5.

Apart from the mathematical application of normal distribution (bell curve), which would see the gap between a car scoring 1 and 10 far too big to fill if the average was 5, the other argument for this is that a 5 out of 10 carries the connotation that the car is only barely a ‘pass’.

This is simply not the case for average cars, because an average car is still a very good proposition for the right person.

For example, a current-generation 2022 Kia Sportage SX scores 7.5 out of 10. That is not a barely passable car; it is better than average for its class and an excellent choice for certain buyers.

Now, to the categories, which are all weighted equally.


The assessment of performance depends very much on the car’s intended purpose. It is basically an inclusion of all linear motion – acceleration and braking. This will include the whole drivetrain, from the engine to gearbox, to their coupling and the relative performance they provide for the vehicle.

Don’t think that a car needs to be powerful to score well. A vehicle with minimal engine power may score well because it may offer excellent performance both in its category and for its intended purpose.

Ride Quality

We rate the car’s ability to cope with a variety of roads both in terms of comfort for occupants, and the levels of noise vibration and harshness produced for its intended purpose.

We will include small and large bump absorption (where appropriate), body control, plushness and adaptability of suspension (either manual or continuously adaptive). 

Handling & Dynamics

This is where we judge a car’s dynamic capability separate to ride comfort. This includes steering feel, grip on multiple surfaces, traction, suitability of the supplied tyres, driver feedback, friendliness and neutrality (understeer/oversteer), predictability/progressiveness, playfulness (where appropriate), fun factor (where appropriate), surefootedness (AWD/4WD) and more.

Driver Technology

Separate to Infotainment & Connectivity and Active Safety, this is about the technology a car has to make driving easier or more effective. From adaptive headlights and rain-sensing wipers to chassis control systems, active suspension, self-parking, and even slip mitigation and traction enhancement technologies in so far as they don’t directly address safety.

Infotainment & Connectivity

This category focuses on the multimedia/infotainment and connectivity systems of cars. From design and ease of use to the feature list (e.g. smartphone mirroring technologies such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) to common features accessible via steering wheel. Useability is important, as is legibility, audio fidelity, ease of Bluetooth pairing, and sound quality both for telephony and audio streaming.

We also take into consideration features like wifi hotspots, inductive phone charging, the number of USB ports and 12V outlets, availability of telemetry data, app support and also the manufacturer’s willingness to future-proof its software via over-the-air updates.

Interior Comfort & Packaging

This assesses a vehicle’s interior in so far as it applies to practicality, quality and versatility. Factors such as cabin design, fit and finish, seat comfort and features (seat memory, remote dropping second row etc) are considered, as is cargo space relative to category, cargo aperture size and intrusions, cabin space, overall packaging, ergonomics, entry and egress angles, ambient lighting and overall suitability of interior for intended purpose.

Safety Technology

In 2022, we updated our Safety rating to focus on Safety Technology. Our written reports on new cars will now contain two sections dealing with Safety:

  • How safe is this car?
  • What safety technology does this car have? 

The first, “How safe is this car”, is a specific rundown of a vehicle’s ANCAP rating. The Australasian New Car Assessment Program primarily tests crash protection. ANCAP also rates vehicles on a predetermined list of collision avoidance inclusions and their efficacy. 

ANCAP is an extremely valuable new car buyer resource, so we will increase our coverage of ANCAP’s findings. But, as we already provide ANCAP’s scoring in our reviews, we will confine our Safety Technology rating to our interpretation of a vehicle’s safety inclusions, and how well they worked during our road test.   

Energy Efficiency

This is self-explanatory. We compare the claimed energy consumption figure (fuel or electricity) of the vehicle against the class and rate it accordingly. 

Where available we will also disclose a vehicle’s official ADR fuel economy or WLTP energy efficiency rating to give the reader all available information.

Value For Money

How well does a vehicle’s feature list compare to segment rivals? In addition, how affordable is a car to own, not just purchase. This includes warranty terms, servicing costs, energy consumption, insurance quotes, resale value and anything else that relates to money evaporating from an owner’s wallet.

It’s important to note that an expensive car may score well here if it offers excellent value for money against its competitors. This is not a score about actual price, but relative value for the money spent.

Fit for Purpose

As it says on the tin, this is a category that reflects the vehicle’s suitability for its intended purpose.

As an example, a Lamborghini Aventador may not be great value for money (even in its own segment), but it is definitely fit for purpose in its segment. Or, a Toyota LandCruiser, which may not be segment-leading when it comes to technology in general, is very much fit for its intended purpose.