South African Car of the Year announces testing days

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Twelve exceptional vehicles hailing from Japan, Italy, Korea, France, Sweden and Germany, will be put to the test on 11 and 12 March 2019 at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, as part of the AutoTrader SA Car of the Year testing days.

The vehicles will be driven by a panel of 25 expert judges, all of whom have been voted to judge by their peers within the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.

“Collectively, the judges have amassed decades of knowledge and experience in a broad spectrum of motoring fields. They are the best people in the country to subjectively judge these market-leading vehicles,” commented George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO and sponsor of the awards.

So just who are the judges?

The 25 judges who make up the panel are:

Carl Wepener

Charleen Clarke

Colin Windell

Derek Watts

Dirk Galawitch

Egmont Sippel

Ferdi de Vos

Francisco Nwamba

Gerrie Smit

Hannes Visser

Janine van der Post

Jason Woosey

Jeanette Kok-Kritzinger

Justus Visagie

Lerato Matebese

Mabuyane Kekana

Marnus Hattingh

Pritesh Ruthun

Ray Leathern

Roger McCleery

Reuben van Niekerk

Rubin Van Niekerk

Sean Nurse

Stuart Johnson

Wynter Murdoch

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How are the vehicles judged?

Each vehicle will be tested by all 25 judges who will score them against their direct class competitors in the current market on aspects such as exterior and interior design, engine and transmission performance, ride and handling, braking, safety features, overall excellence and affordability.

Who are the twelve finalists?

The list of finalists includes three hatchbacks (the Nissan Micra, Suzuki Swift and Mercedes-Benz A-Class) as well as one hot hatch (the Honda Civic Type R).

There is one sedan in the Iine-up (the Lexus ES), one small 4×4 (the Suzuki Jimny) and one crossover (the Renault Duster). Then, in keeping with the global popularity of sports utility vehicles (SUVs), the balance of the list is made up of SUVs – the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Hyundai Kona, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC40.

“The judges will have their work cut out for them when it comes to evaluating the SUVs,” says Rubin van Niekerk, Chairman of the Guild.

“They represent the crème de la crème of the SUV crop. The Stelvio, Alfa’s first SUV, is a good looking car while the Hyundai Kona has a bold and bespoke design, which is also sure to turn heads. The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is very capable off-road while the Porsche Cayenne is at the top end of the SUV game and the Volvo XC40 has already garnered countless awards, which is a testament to its credentials,” Van Niekerk adds.

The full list:

Alfa Romeo, Stelvio

Honda, Civic Type R

Hyundai, Kona

Lexus, ES

Mercedes-Benz, A-Class

Mitsubishi, Pajero Sport

Nissan, Micra

Porsche, Cayenne

Renault, Duster

Suzuki, Jimny

Suzuki, Swift

Volvo, XC40

What’s new?

For the first time in the 34-year history of the contest, categories have been introduced.

The five categories in the 2019 event are:

Urban Compact (small hatch and sedan).

Medium Family (hatchback/medium sedan and MPV).

Premium (executive and premium sedans).

Leisure SUVs and crossovers.

Lifestyle Utility (bakkies, 4x4s and bakkie-derived sports utility vehicles).

All entrants must meet one major requirement in order to win a category: they must finish in the top six out of the 12 finalists in terms of overall scoring.

Can you watch the test days?

Although the testing days are exclusive, look out for the branded cars on the 12 March as the judges’ test drive the cars on the road.

The winner for the 2019 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year will be announced early in April 2019.

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