Johannesburg - The Mercedes-Benz A-Class has won the 2019 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year competition.
The contest is now sponsored by AutoTrader but is still organised and judged by the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists as it has been for the past 34 years.
The Merc beat off 11 other finalists, which were recently put through their paces at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit as well as some country roads (including dirt sections) in the Centurion area.
The finalists were: 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 and Volvo XC40.
2019 also brought some welcome changes, with category awards being introduced for the first time. Five categories were initially planned for the competition - Urban Compact, Medium Family, Premium, Leisure SUV/Crossover and Lifestyle Utility.
Without further ado, these are the category winners for 2019:
Urban Compact: Suzuki Swift
Family Sedan/Hatch: Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Premium Sedan: Lexus ES
Leisure Crossover: Porsche Cayenne
Lifestyle Utility: Suzuki Jimny
The organisers also handed out trophies for the second and third overall places in the competition, which went to the Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC40 respectively.
The winners were announced at a gala event in Linksfield on Thursday evening, April 4.
AutoTrader CEO George Mienie believes that the A-Class is a truly deserving winner. “The AutoTrader South African Car of the Year has to represent innovation and ingenuity, while setting new benchmarks in its market segment. There is absolutely no doubt that the A-Class does this,” he notes.
It certainly wasn’t unexpected though; the jury members were full of praise for the A-Class during the test days. “The judges were particularly impressed with its interior comfort, stunning design, innovative technology, terrific road manners and exemplary safety features. Furthermore, the advanced engine offers the optimal blend of efficiency, performance and driving fun,” confirms Rubin van Niekerk, chairman of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ).
The awards event was the culmination of an intense evaluation process that started with SA Guild of Motoring Journalists members voting for semi-finalists late last year, after which the 24-strong jury (including IOL's Jason Woosey and Pritesh Ruthun) voted for the 12 finalists, before putting them through their paces in March this year, in a variety of road and track modules. Jurors also filled out a comprehensive score sheet for each vehicle.
While it may on the surface seem unjust to pitch a Porsche Cayenne against a Suzuki Swift for the overall award, judges are in fact required to score the finalists against their natural rivals rather than each other. Thus when filling in the score sheet for the Swift, the juror must consider how it stacks up against the Toyota Etios and Ford Figo, for instance.
This is why it is important that the jury consists of experienced motoring journalists who have driven most of the new vehicles that are available on the market.
The winners are also partially determined by a new automated system with algorithms designed to reward vehicles that are well priced in relation to their rivals, and which also takes sales figures into consideration.