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SA COTY 2014: What does the jury do?

2014-01-27 07:10


WHO WILL IT BE? Just a few more weeks to go before the 2014 SA Car of the Year is named. Will Porsche cause huge controversy again if it should win with its Cayman S? Image: QUICKPIC

The annual Car of the Year competition always brings some sort of controversy. That's because, usually, nobody is ever really happy about the outcome.

In 2013 all hell broke loose when the Porsche Boxster won the title. And it doesn't help much that the posh brand has another model, the Cayman S, as a finalist in the current running. And then there's also the Jaguar F-Type.

2014 Coty finalists GALLERY

There's a whole process as to how the finalists are chosen. Read about it HERE.

You're probably thinking it's a bunch of motoring hacks driving the crap out of each car. Well, to some extent yes, but it's hard work and quite exhausting.


So what does 30-member jury actually do doing the test days? And, is it really necessary? As one of the judges of the 2014 Coty competition, I can say yes, it most certainly is.

There are nine finalists for the 2014 title of which each jury member has either attended the launch or driven the car on test during 2013. Things evolve every year and the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists committee constantly tries to refine the process and make it as fair and streamlined as possible.

Day 1 of Coty testing this year included each manufacturer giving a brief presentation of its entrant. The rest of the day was spent on static evaluation, which includes checking everything from boot space, ease of access, the owner's manual, ease of checking oil and water... and much, much more. Jury members are also then given designated routes for on-road driving. That means driving it through suburban areas and on the highway as the average Joe Soap would experience the car.

The funny thing is, before heading to these test days - and I think I can speak for the rest of the jury here too - you have a slight inclination of one your top three cars that would probably be crowned as the winner. But then you're re-acquainted with each finalist and after driving and thoroughly cross-examining every aspect, your thought process is altered.

Even more so on Day 2 which is spent entirely at the Gerotek testing facility west of Pretoria. The cars you might think were in your bottom three or four suddenly have brand new personalities in a different environment.

And that's why the South African Car of the year competition is unique across the world. We're the only country which has such an extensive programme to determine the annual winner. Most counties make their choice on paper, or even a show of hands.


The jury was divided into three groups to test the finalists in three modules simultaneously and then rotating. I was in Group B so we started with the dynamic handling track where each car was driven for three laps around the special, short circuit to push the car to showcase its handling abilities around several twisty bends. That's 27 continuous laps.

Next up was the high-speed oval. This is fun the first few times but driving all nine cars for another 27 laps makes even the experienced driver want to take a five-minute break.

The last module included three tests: skid pan, suspension test and a stretch of straight road to test acceleration. The skid pan had a little gymkhana track set out - in the wet of course to experience over- and under-steer. Gerotek has a dedicated suspension track which has various road surfaces to test the car's suspension capabilities.

Now that the physical testing is done, each jury member has 50 points to allocate to our choice of top seven cars in the next few days . And, the car with the most points will be announced as the winner at the banquet in Johannesburg on February 19.


Who do I think is going to win? I honestly have no idea. The opinions are so split up and by Friday morning several judges couldn't give a straight answer as to which they thought the winner might be. We have our work cut out for us and have to sit and seriously think about where our individual points will go.

Only once the winner has been announced will we see how our peers have decided to distribute their points.

The 2014 SA Coty finalists are (in no particular order)
 • 2013 Audi A3 Sportback 1.4T FSI Manual
 • 2013 Jaguar F-TYPE 3.0 V6 S
 • 2013 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport
 • 2013 Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG
 • 2013 Peugeot 208 GTI
 • 2013 Porsche Cayman S
 • 2013 Renault Clio4 66kW Turbo Dynamique
 • 2013 Volkswagen Golf 7 1.4 TSI 90kW Comfortline DSG
 • 2013 Volvo V40 D3 Geartronic Excel

I went into the testing days thinking how was I going to fault the Cayman and the F-Type. How does one fault cars that are so exhilarating to drive, which are value for money? But then the big cat disappointed me somewhat during one of the handling tests. Then there's also that beaut, the Lexus F-Sport, and though its a stunner all round, the interior could be a bit better and its a gas guzzler of note.

Wheels24 readers also voted the Volvo as it's choice in a poll on our website - by a huge margin - and I had hoped it would impress me again. But it did not perform as well as I had expected and its price made me really check if it was value for money, or not.

The Renault Clio presented some niggles to which I had not paid much attention before the testing but, it's 1.0-litre engine wasn't too shabby. And although it didn't score many brown points for me, it pleasantly surprised me on the suspension track.

The Golf and the A3 we tried to test back-to-back as much as possible since it's the same engine in both cars and they're practically direct rivals. It's a tough choice but I'm leaning towards the Audi. It's a more refined car all round and I love the minimalistic interior. The Peugeot 208 GTi put a serious smile on my dial and took me by surprise, several times. And, I ended up liking the Mercedes A 45 AMG even when I thought I wouldn't.

I'm still undecided about my top three choices. Right now, it's the Peugeot, Audi, Merc... And the Lexus and Porsche. Oy vey, tough thinking ahead!
Read more on:    south africa  |  johannesburg

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