With the 2017 SA Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) / Wesbank Car of the Year evaluation days done and dusted, IOL's jury member Jason Woosey picks his top Coty contenders.

Pretoria - SA's Car of the Year contest has finally entered its home stretch, with the 28 jury members having put this year's nine finalists through their paces over two rather busy days in Gauteng last week.

The first part took the form of various track courses designed to test the finalists’ grip, stability, steering action and manoeuvrability. The second day gave us a chance to experience the finalists on a route of our own choice, and I made a point of finding some rough dirt roads close to the base venue near Erasmia, which would give the many SUVs in the contest a chance to prove themselves in an environment that they were ultimately designed for.

It was also a day of tyre-kicking, touch-screen fiddling, squeezing into the back seat and lifting tailgates to suss out boot space, while inputting scores on each vehicle for 12 factors that cover exterior design, interior materials, layout, technology, engine, gearbox, engineering, ride, steering/handling, affordability, value and overall excellence. The jury also voted to determine which five of these factors would receive additional weighting when the scores were tallied up.

To keep things fair, jury members must not compare the finalists to each other while scoring, but rather to each entrant’s direct market rivals.

So which one’s gonna win?

We’ll have to wait for the big announcement on the evening of March 15, but having served two days of jury duty there are five cars which I feel stand the best shot of winning, arranged in alphabetical order. Bear in mind that this is based on my own sentiments those of my fellow jurors could differ.

Audi A4

With its royal palace of a cabin and ultra-sophisticated road manners, the latest Audi A4 is rather hard to fault. It’s just a bit on the pricey side, perhaps, and is lacking in emotive appeal.

Hyundai Tucson

Silent, impeccably engineered and really good to drive by SUV standards, the Tucson is another top contender, with little standing between it and the title except perhaps the steep asking price that albeit also applies to most of the top contenders.

Opel Astra

A firm favourite from the start, Opel’s Astra ticks most boxes, with an added dash of style, and offers a solid range of engines as well as a wide and well-equipped range with well-priced entry derivatives and high-tech range-toppers. It handled brilliantly on the track, but was a bit rattly on the dirt sections. A very solid all-rounder though.

Volkswagen Passat

Like its Audi A4 cousin, VW’s Passat just does everything really brilliantly, but it’s overall vibe is perhaps just a little too vanilla. A true wolf in sheep’s clothing, the Passat’s engine, gearbox and handling were truly sublime – it’s like a GTI in a business suit.

Volkswagen Tiguan

This may just be the dark horse of this competition. The Tiguan got top marks both on tar and off of it but the average buyer in this growing segment is surely going to appreciate its combination of classy looks inside and out, smooth ride quality and hugely practical interior. It does come at a premium though.

IOL Motoring

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