Johannesburg - The winner of the 2018 South African Car of the Year competition, sponsored by WesBank and organised by the South African Guild of Motoring journalists, is set to be announced at a cocktail banquet in Midrand on Tuesday night.
The final scores have been tallied up, following two intensive test days that saw 26 jury members, including our own Denis Droppa and Jason Woosey, put the 10 finalists through their paces, both on the Kyalami circuit and various public roads.
Bear in mind, that jurors are required to compare the various finalists with their natural rivals within their own price context - rather than the other finalists - thus theoretically the Kia Picanto is not really being compared to the Porsche Panamera. It's about finding the car that moves the boundaries the furthest within its own class.
But which one’s gonna win this year?
Let’s take a brief look at the finalists in alphabetical order:
Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.0 Base
This was an unlikely protagonists that emerged as one of the overall favourites during the test days.
With its sublime steering and handling, responsive engine, comfy ride, smart interior and decent practicality, it combines that Alfa emotion with more rationality than you’d have expected.
Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 140kW quattro S tronic Sport
Audis are becoming renowned for their elegant, high-tech cabins and the new Q5 doesn’t disappoint, and it’s really practical to boot.
However, the decidedly average ride and road holding, and high sticker price could count against it in this competition.
BMW 520d Steptronic
Another all-rounder that impresses with its engineering excellence and cutting-edge tech, this one is certainly in with a shot.
But with such strong contention in its segment, does the new Five stand out enough to make it a clear winner?
KIA Picanto 1.0 Smart
Definitely among the top contenders in this contest, the new Kia Picanto impressed with its modern, classy-looking cabin and impressive overall refinement.
It’s a small car with a big-car feel about it.
Land Rover Discovery Td6 HSE
The new Discovery has edged closer than ever to the Range Rover in terms of luxury and sophistication.
It’ll go just about anywhere, while pampering seven occupants in first-class comfort, but all this means the price has also crept past the million rand mark.
Peugeot 3008 1.6 THP GT Line+ auto
With its stunningly-finished interior and quirky styling, the Peugeot 3008 was always going to be a dark horse in this competition.
Range-toppers are packed with luxury features, although it can get quite expensive at that end of the line-up.
Porsche Panamera 4
A far prettier exterior, high-tech interior and unflappable dynamics - on paper Porsche’s latest Panamera is the epitome of excellence.
But as subjective as this may seem, there is a certain sense of drama, and characteristic Porsche charm that’s missing from this car, particularly in base form.
Suzuki Ignis 1.2 GLX
The other ‘little car’ in this contest is one with a huge heart. Its lean price tag and practical cabin tick the rational boxes, while its charismatic styling inside and out tugs at the heartstrings.
The perceived cabin quality is perhaps a bit wanting in some places, but otherwise a small blot on an excellent package that could easily take this contest.
Toyota C-HR PLUS 1.2T 6MT
It’s the Toyota that’s so daring you’d almost wonder if its existence was the result of the Japanese company losing a bet.
A solid yet charismatic product let down by the poor interior packaging that its radical styling imposes.
Volvo S90 D5 Inscription AWD Geartronic
Will Volvo take it again in 2018? Essentially the sedan relative of the XC90 that won Coty back in 2016, the S90 is a stylish alternative to 5 Series and company.
Dynamically it is a bit average, however, and we can’t help but wish the ride was cushier. But that cabin is to die for.