Car of the year 2017

Opel’s Astra claims COTY crown

In what has surely been one of the closest Car of the Year competitions in recent memory, the Opel Astra has emerged victorious as the 2017 Wesbank SAGMJ Car of the Year winner. The announcement took place at the recently upgrade Kyalami International Motorsport Circuit and Conference Centre.

Key automotive industry stakeholders were in attendance as the evening got underway at 7pm sharp with an address by the COTY Convenor and Chairman of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) Bernard Hellberg Jr. Mr Hellberg shared some insightful information about the automotive and media businesses respectively before the traditional Wesbank vehicle sales forecast speech got underway. With the news of moderate growth within the automotive sphere ringing through everyone’s ears it was time for the introduction of the nine finalists.

After the room had been introduced to each car it was time to reveal to the first and second runners-up. In third position was the Volkswagen Passat, a big luxurious sedan that showed the jury that the Passat is not longer a car for the older gentleman, but one that is ready to take on its segment with cutting-edge design, dynamics and technology.

In second position was the Audi A4, a car that was a bit late to the party in terms of its segment however the wait was most certainly worth it. The A4 ushers in a lever of quality, driving dynamics, technology and desirability that is impressive, even for a brand a well-established as Audi.

Then it was time for the big announcement, the winner of the competition. After a dramatic countdown, the covers were lifted from the winner in the middle of the room. The Opel Astra was victorious for the second time in the history of this prestigious competition after its predecessor took the crown back in 1995.

In retrospect it’s quite easy to see why the Astra won, with a range of new 1.0-, 1.4- and 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engines, exceptional handling and build quality while remaining affordable, it is simply a good all-rounder. As the SAGMJ said in its press release  “This year’s Jury selected the Astra as overall winner with 2,370.25 points, and most impressively, 94.8% of its points were awarded in the 5 to 10 scoring range.”

“By virtually unanimously approving of the Opel Astra as the 2017 WesBank South African Car of the Year, the COTY Jury has again proven that experience is the key to the success of the COTY competition,” says Hellberg. “The Opel Astra, a multiple award-winning car, perfectly embodies much of the spirit of the competition by combining engineering excellence, driving pleasure and value for money in a worthy winner of South Africa’s ultimate motoring accolade.” he concludes.


Audi A4 Sedan

I am a big fan of the new A4, the step-up in terms of quality, design, drivetrain and ride quality is steep when compared to the car it replaces. With a range of efficient engines, a supple ride quality, one of the most solid platforms in the business at the moment as well as a modern interior, this is one to watch.

Honda Civic

The latest Civic was a bit late to the party and just crept in to be eligible for voting. The latest car to wear the rather iconic Civic badge is a refreshing return to form for the brand. With a solid powertrain combination, improved design ethos and a product that is altogether more grown up, yet more exciting at the same time.

Hyundai Tucson

The Tucson which replaced the popular ix35 has been a great success story for the brand who has embraced downsizing with this new model. The Tucson ticks all of the modern SUV boxes while adding in that value-for-money proposition that the brand is renowned for.

Jaguar F-Pace

I didn’t anticipate the introduction of a Jaguar SUV, but when I caught wind of the concept all those years back some scepticism crept in. After sampling the car briefly at its local launch I remember feeling impressed with the engineering, styling and quality. It is definitely a desirable car in the current automotive market.

Opel Astra

The latest Astra already has a number of awards from overseas markets, making its place in this competition more than warranted. The latest model from Rüsselsheim brings in a new premium nature to the Astra, which now has the drive quality, technology and Germanic design prowess to take on the best in its segment.

Renault Kadjar

The Kadjar makes use of a great recipe for success, it combines a solid Nissan platform, to which Renault added a sleek, highly stylised body along with an interesting interior and improved powertrain options. The Kadjar simply feels like a complete product, impressive in many areas and worthy of its place in the final.

Toyota Fortuner

The quantum leap (if you’ll excuse the pun) from the previous generation model to this latest Fortuner was indeed impressive. Despite the fact that the Hilux was excluded from the list the Fortuner can certainly speak for the brand, much like the sales figures for this model, which appears to be liked by jury member and the public alike.

Volkswagen Passat

The latest Passat has made what has always been seen as an older persons car appear desirable to a younger audience while still maintaining the grown-up appeal that the car has always held. The ride quality, tangible interior quality, ergonomics and efficient powertrain options make the Passat one of the most under-rated cars currently on sale locally.

Volkswagen Tiguan

The latest Tiguan was also late to the party in terms of eligibility and joins its Passat relative as Volkswagen celebrates two finalists in this year’s competition. The new Tiguan is quite something, in addition to having the right design inside and out, it is also a supremely comfortable and efficient. Couple these factors with that fact that it is a Volkswagen and an SUV in our ride height-mad market and you have a deserving finalist.


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