The 27th annual WesBank / South African Guild of Motoring Journalists Car of the Year (COTY) competition avoided the controversy of last year as it crowned one deserving winner during a glittering event held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Johannesburg on 14 March.
The result is groundbreaking for Hyundai Automotive South Africa, as it became the first Korean car manufacturer to win the competition thanks to the efforts of its Elantra 1.8 GLS sedan. German manufacturers have dominated the results since the competitions’ inception producing 16 past victors. Japanese marques place a distant second with six, while the French, Swede’s and Italians have had a handful of successes between them.
Hyundai Automotive, with its ever improving products, have won Car of the Year accolades around the world in the past, but have not been so lucky in South Africa. This year marked a change in fortunes, with Hyundai finally prevailing with its fifth COTY finalist in as many years.
The Hyundai Elantra 1.8 GLS entered the competition as a strong contender for the title, having wrestled industry perception away from the proverbial favourite Toyota Corolla in the Best Compact Saloon segment. The changing of the guard was confirmed earlier in the year when the Elantra was named one of CAR magazine’s 12 Best Buys for 2012. In January, the Elantra was named the North American Car of the Year and it also won the overall prize in the Canadian Car of the Year competition.
CAR said of the Elantra in its March 2012 issue: “In its latest iteration the Elantra throws down the gauntlet to the market leaders’ meat-and-potatoes offerings and trumps them with a sense of style, class-leading interior (in terms of build quality, trim finishes and standard equipment), overall refinement and, in some cases, even performance and fuel economy”.
All the finalists are comprehensively put through their paces at the world-renowned Gerotek vehicle testing facility outside Pretoria. A number of modules are designed to properly test each and every vehicle within a controlled and safe environment.
This ensures that the country’s top full time motoring journalists whom comprise the COTY Jury, are given ample opportunity to evaluate and fine-tune their thoughts before allocating points to their preferred contestants.
Jury members are given 25 points in total to allocate to no more than five of the finalists and no less than three as is done in the European competition. These scores and the judge’s justifications are open to scrutiny from the moment the winner is announced in the interest of understanding the responsibility of the task at hand and to ensure and demonstrate complete transparency in determining the winner.
The WesBank / SAGMJ COTY competition is about automotive excellence and the winning vehicle must score highly in its own class, not against each other as is often thought, across a variety of categories including those which reflect value for money, safety, dynamics, technology and aesthetics to name but a few.
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