The 2024 South African Car of the Year Competition is ready to enter its final stages with the announcement of 18 finalists.
Spread through eight categories, these finalists will be put through their paces by the competition’s jury in early March in a combination of road, track and, where applicable, off-road test modules over two days.
This year’s competition, once again sponsored by Old Mutual Insure, sees strong representation across many walks of automotive life, from the R236,900 Citroen C3 in the Budget and Compact category right through to the 2.8-million Mercedes EQS.
This year sees strong representation in the Compact Family category where the striking new Omoda C5 goes up against the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Urban Cruiser twins.
But perhaps the most hotly contested category is Performance, where we see the latest hot hatches from Honda and Toyota go up against the BMW M2 as well as a wild-card entry in the form of Ford’s Ranger Raptor, the performance version of last year’s winner.
This is the only category in which a new “derivative” of a model range is permitted to enter, thus the Raptor would not have qualified in the 4x4 Double Cab segment.
Entry to the competition is restricted to vehicles that were launched in the preceding year and in order to quality they must be significantly new beneath the skin, and not just a cosmetic facelift.
It’s also worth noting that the South African Car of the Year competition is an excellence award rather than an outright consumer award, and the vehicles are not compared directly against one another, nor against others in their categories.
Instead juries are instructed to compare each vehicle to their most direct rivals, which are not usually present in the competition, using their experience gained as motoring journalists doing frequent test drives.
"Congratulations to the finalists selected from the highly competitive semi-finalist group across all eight COTY categories," says Mabuyane Mabuza, Chairperson of the 2023 and 2024 COTY Committee and Vice-Chairperson of the SAGMJ.
"Rapid technological advances intensify the annual competition, with innovative features becoming commonplace, even in entry-level vehicles, showcasing the evolution of automotive technology."
Apart from the aforementioned physical testing, which is relatively unique for COTY competitions around the world, the finalists will also be subject to a final round of automated scoring that incorporates value-based data from Lightstone Auto.
The COTY contest also has a public vote, wherein the vehicle with the most social media likes wins the Motor Enthusiast’s Choice award.
The overall winner of the competition as well as the category victors, will be announced in May. Those vehicles alone in their categories will not necessarily scoop an award as a high scoring threshold needs to be surpassed, just as it would if there were other cars in the category.