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South African Car of the Year 2024

BMW 7 Series

Established in 1986 by the doyens of motoring journalists, the South African Car of the Year’s (COTY) mission is to recognise and reward automotive excellence.

The COTY jurors test drive and evaluate vehicles daily and are well-respected members of the Guild. COTY boasts a process entirely unique – it is the only national competition where their peers select the jurors through a voting process within the SAGMJ. In addition, COTY jurors are required to complete a two-year trainee programme before being eligible to be placed on the juror voting roll. The only exception is a formal invitation from the COTY Committee to serve as an industry expert on the jury panel.

Thirty-eight years of unrivalled knowledge and experience have led to a comprehensive scoring system that includes the SAGMJ’s ongoing online scoring platform, allowing members to use the same juror scoring matrix for any newly launched vehicle. This unique feature enables jurors to compare actual scores based on the same criteria for competitor vehicles – a procedure no other national competition can claim.

2024: BMW 7 Series

May 8, 2024

The new 7 Series redefines luxury with groundbreaking technology beneath its sleek exterior. While retaining leadership in the business limousine category, it emphasises the “mobile lounge” concept. Executive Drive Pro suspension control and Integral Active Steering ensure superb driving dynamics. Additions like automatic closing doors, executive lounge seating, a 31″ Theatre Screen, and BMW Connected Drive enhance the luxury experience.

2023: Ford Ranger

June 2, 2023

The Ford Ranger, proudly built in South Africa, marks a design revolution at the Silverton-based production plant. This latest model embodies the epitome of versatility and cutting-edge technology. Its cabin sets new benchmarks for design, layout, and craftsmanship. With a larger, wider frame and powerful V6 diesel and petrol engines, the new Ranger conquers both off-road terrains and

2022: Toyota Corolla Cross

June 8, 2022

The all-new locally built Toyota Corolla Cross is proof of exceptional craftmanship and affirmation of what can be done by South Africans. Through innovation and leading technology, it outperformed its competitors and all of the finalists to get the coveted COTY 2022 Award. The Toyota Corolla Cross is also a leader in the new energy (hybrid) field. The challenge the Toyota Corolla Cross put forward will not be easily matched.

2021: Peugeot 2008 SUV

November 18, 2021

Experience the wonderful affirmation of design and differentiation through innovation and technology. The Peugeot 2008 SUV confirms its ultra-modern looks through its innovative design philosophy. A genuinely elegant SUV with a creative, powerful and distinctive style. With its new-generation PEUGEOT i-Cockpit® 3D, it challenges its competitors with equipment and driving aids.

2020: Jaguar I-PACE

February 6, 2020

Jaguar was the first manufacturer to win South Africa’s COTY title with a fully electrically-powered vehicle – a pioneering, premium-styled, aluminum-bodied SUV capable of a zero to 100 km/h time of around 4.8 secs and a top speed of about 200 km/h. Power is provided by two electric motors – one at each axle – with transmission through a single-speed, epicyclic gearbox.

2019: Mercedes Benz A250

February 6, 2019

Mercedes-Benz’s luxury compact car – deemed strong on design, quality and technology – was lauded for its impressive performance. Powered by a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder petrol engine with transmission through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the model was said to offer a sporty ride, its minimalist fascia design and digital instruments contributing to the cabin’s high-class feel.

2018: Porsche Panamera

February 6, 2018

Authoritative acceleration, sports car-like handling, a refined interior incorporating the latest technology, plus a large boot, all served to give the four-seat, sumptuously comfortable Panamera an edge over class rivals. Redesigned from the ground up a year previously, the sleek, new-look exterior was regarded as a vast improvement compared to the bulbous, jelly-mould look that had characterised the predecessor.

2017: Opel Astra

February 21, 2017

An efficient but responsive engine, a well-furnished cabin and competitive levels of technology gave Opel’s Astra winning status as an affordable, comfortable, compact car capable of meeting driver demands competently and confidently. Introducing the brand’s ‘sculptural artistry meets German precision’ styling concepts, the model was regarded as benchmark-setting on multiple fronts.

2016: Volvo XC90

February 21, 2016

A comprehensive redesign that resulted in a sharper look and improved interior space – along with adopting the latest safety features plus a new, four-cylinder engine that featured turbocharging and supercharging – was perceived to give Volvo’s luxury XC90 an edge over class rivals. Features included shock-absorbing seat cushions and self-tightening seatbelts, plus an array of connectivity options.

2015: Porsche Macan

February 21, 2015

Perceived by many to be a junior Porsche Cayenne, the Macan – built on a Volkswagen Group platform that underpins the Audi Q5 – is one of the sportiest SUVs in the Stuttgart brand stable, delivering an immersive driving experience. It is supremely refined and quick, and it has the feel of a

2014: Porsche Cayman

February 21, 2014

Criticised for being a fixed roof copy of the Boxster – winner of the previous year’s COTY competition – Porsche’s Cayman was, in fact, different even though it was built off a similar platform. Sporting a newly introduced 3.4-litre, six-cylinder engine, the car was longer than the Boxster and featured styling changes at the front, rear and along the flanks. Further, it was perceived to set benchmarks for performance and dynamics.

2013: Porsche Boxster

February 21, 2013

The Boxster was the first Porsche model to share much of its development with the 996-generation 911 and was an immediate hit with sports car fans. In winning the 2013 COTY competition, the jury found that the car mixed confident handling with serious performance – and had redefined its market segment by raising the bar in terms of dynamic ability, quality, value and desirability.

2012: Hyundai Elantra GLS

February 21, 2012

So far, the only Korean-manufactured vehicle to win South Africa’s COTY title, Hyundai’s 2012 Elantra, was powered by a 1.8-litre engine that delivered 110 kW and 178 Nm – power and torque outputs usually associated with 2.0-litre engines – enabling the car to punch well above its weight while returning excellent fuel economy figures. Other attributes included sleek, aero-efficient bodywork, a well-appointed cabin and a refined ride.

2011: BMW 530d/ VW Polo 1.6 TDI 77 kW Comfortline

February 21, 2011

For the first – and so far only – time in the history of the COTY competition, two vehicles tied for first place: BMW’s 530d and Volkswagen’s Polo 1.6 TDI. Though the models were separated by more than R400,000 in retail price, they were deemed superior to their class rivals in terms of overall excellence, value for money, safety, dynamics and technology.

2010: VW Golf VI 1.4 TSI 90 kW Comfortline

February 21, 2010

Volkswagen’s Golf 6 was lauded for bringing new levels of refinement, safety and practicality to its class, with good parts backup and decent resale value. Equipped with a responsive yet fuel-efficient, diesel-powered engine, the model helped to popularise in South Africa the concept of downsizing in the years following its victory, maintaining its best-seller status in the new vehicle sales charts.

2009: Honda Accord 2.4 Executive

February 21, 2009

Honda’s Accord was perceived to represent luxury, innovation and engineering excellence. Equipped with a drive-by-wire throttle, the model was deemed to be quick but comfortable. Top speed was pegged at around the 230 km/h mark, with the zero to 100km/h time listed as 7.8 seconds. Exterior and interior features – along with safety systems and many driver aids – were regarded as pioneering for the class.

2008: Mazda2 1.5 Individual

February 21, 2008

Stylish, practical and entertaining to drive, Mazda’s top of the range, family-orientated urban runabout was powered by a peppy, normally aspirated, 1.5-litre petrol engine that developed 76 kW and 135 Nm. Nippy in town yet comfortable as a cruiser, the model returned fuel economy figures in the region of 6.4 litres/100 km. Also, it offered a good amount of cargo space – 450 litres – and a well-crafted cabin.

2007: Honda Civic 1.8VXi Sedan

February 21, 2007

The Honda’s modern look offered a rakish take on traditional three-box sedan designs, the model’s generous wheelbase paying dividends in terms of cabin space and comfort. Equally, the dashboard design was perceived to set benchmarks with a two-tier layout incorporating a digital speed readout placed high up to be closer to the driver’s line of sight. Outstanding build quality and a refined four-cylinder VTEC engine added appeal.

2006: Audi A3 Sportback 2.0T

February 21, 2006

The Honda’s modern look offered a rakish take on traditional three-box sedan designs, the model’s generous wheelbase paying dividends in terms of cabin space and comfort. Equally, the dashboard design was perceived to set benchmarks with a two-tier layout incorporating a digital speed readout placed high up to be closer to the driver’s line of sight. Outstanding build quality and a refined four-cylinder VTEC engine added appeal.

2005: Volvo S40 2.4i

February 21, 2005

Sharp handling, quick acceleration, a well-crafted interior, and a long list of safety features contributed to Volvo’s S40 winning the COTY title in South Africa and Canada. Then part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, the model – built at a Volvo factory in Ghent, Belgium – shared many of its components with the Japanese-built Mazda3, another brand in Ford’s stable, as well as with the Focus.

2004: Renault Megane 1.9 dCi

February 21, 2004

Fresh from its win as Europe’s Car of the Year in 2003, Renault’s Mégane II took the local COTY title, marking the second time the French brand had achieved top honours in the competition. Its credentials were impressive – it was the first compact family car to win a five-star rating in EuroNCAP tests, and its cabin was stacked with innovative technology that has since been widely imitated by other manufacturers.

2003: VW Polo TDI

February 21, 2003

Volkswagen’s Polo was deemed to represent admirable value for money with a highly responsive but fuel-efficient diesel-powered engine, solid build quality, good stability at speed, and a well-appointed, comfortable cabin boasting finishes usually found in more expensive cars. All new compared to the Mark III/F it replaced, another point in the model’s favour was its resemblance to a larger sibling – the Golf Mark 4.

2002: Audi A4 1.9 TDI

February 21, 2002

In upgrading its A4 range, Audi used the Volkswagen Group’s B6 (PL46) platform with revised body styling designed by Peter Schreyer. The latter was said to have been inspired by the Bauhaus look of the second-generation A6, released earlier. Equally, the model’s turbocharged, diesel-fuelled, 1.9-litre engine had been upgraded, tuned to produce 96 kW, helped by then-revolutionary Pumpe Düse fuel-injector technology.

2001: BMW 320d

June 6, 2001

As a member of BMW’s E46 range of compact executive sedans, the 320d was judged to be a fast but fuel-efficient performer, returning around 5.5 litres/100 km in combined cycle tests. Capable of reaching a top speed of 220 km/h, the model featured a body shell that was 70% more rigid than the predecessor, with aluminium used in increased quantity in suspension components to decrease unsprung mass.

2000: Renault Clio 1.4 RT

February 21, 2000

Renault’s Clio was perceived to be among the most stylish small hatchbacks on the market. Oozing French chic, it impressed with a spacious, airy and light interior, a comfortable ride, and courtesy of its curvaceous front wings, an impression of extra width in its track. Similar to the larger Mégane layout, the model offered good fuel consumption, an array of safety features, and a sophisticated suspension system.

1999: Alfa Romeo 156 T-S

February 21, 1999

Alfa Romeo’s 156 Twin Spark remains the only model from the Italian manufacturer to have won South Africa’s COTY title. Powered by a 1.6-litre, 16-valve naturally aspirated petrol engine; the four-door sedan drew praise from the jury for its dynamic ability, as well as its comfortable ride. Performance-wise, the car was capable of a top speed of 200 km/h, with its zero to 100 km/h time measured at 10.5 seconds.

1998: Ford Fiesta Fun

February 21, 1998

Despite humble beginnings in 1976 as a fuel-efficient runabout introduced in response to the global energy crisis, Ford’s Fiesta went on to become one of the world’s most popular sellers. In fourth-generation guise, it sported a re-styled, three-door body that was deemed to be aerodynamically superior to the predecessor’s, as well as new interior styling and upgraded suspension that improved handling

1997: BMW 528i

February 21, 1997

BMW’s E39 designated 528i represented an evolution of the E34 it replaced, styling-wise appearing sleeker and, in terms of ride comfort, adding refinement but retaining dynamic agility. Powered by a silky-smooth, six-cylinder engine that produced 142 kW and 280 Nm, the Executive Express blended a luxurious interior with rock-solid build quality and a sports-car-like ability to create an exhilarating driving experience.

1996: Audi A4 1.8

February 21, 1996

The Audi A4 was the first model in the Volkswagen Group to utilise the brand’s new 1.8-litre engine. Featuring five valves per cylinder, the mill was based on a unit Audi Sport had developed for a SuperTouring race car. Additionally, the A4 represented a significant step forward for Audi in terms of build quality, the model winning accolades from the jury for setting an array of benchmarks.

1995: Opel Astra 160iS

February 21, 1995

Following the Kadett’s victory in the previous year’s COTY competition, the model’s sedan-styled sibling, the just-introduced, closely-related Astra sedan, scooped the 1995 award to mark the first time in the competition’s history that the same manufacturer had won the title twice in succession. The jury commended the three-box version for its responsive engine, family-friendliness and safety upgrades.

1994: Opel Kadett 140

February 21, 1994

Though billed as a family-styled hatchback, the popularity of Opel’s Kadett had its roots in the motorsport success of derivatives such as the Boss and Superboss in South Africa’s Group N Championships. In 140 form, the model was deemed attractive for its fuel efficiency – rated at 7.0 litres/100 km – comfort and practicality rather

1993: BMW 316i

February 21, 1993

Equipped with a naturally-aspirated, four-cylinder engine that produced 75 kW and 150 Nm, the E36-version of BMW’s rear-wheel driven compact sedan was regarded as a spirited family car that returned good fuel consumption figures. Top speed was rated at 195 km/h, with the zero to 100 km/h time measured at 12.7 secs. The suspension was by way of MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link Z-axle at the rear.

1992: Nissan Maxima 300 SE

February 21, 1992

Representing the third generation of the Japanese-built model, Nissan’s 1992 Maxima 300 SE arrived in South Africa with a reputation for being akin to a four-door sports car – the way it was marketed in the United States. Seen as a well-appointed, powerful cruiser, the V6-propelled sedan featured a driver’s side airbag among its safety features – along with

1991: Opel Monza 160 GSi

February 21, 1991

Manufactured in Port Elizabeth by Delta Motor Corporation following General Motors’ disinvestment from South Africa in 1986, the Opel’s Monza was based on a Kadett chassis and marketed as replacing the brand’s Ascona. In 160 GSi form, it was powered by a 1.6-litre engine that produced 74 kW. The car was billed as a value-for-money, four-door family sedan that offered good comfort and economy.

1990: BMW 525i

February 21, 1990

Featuring styling cues borrowed from the larger 7-Series, BMW’s 525i was deemed more comfortable and spacious than the previous version of the model – and safer, too, in that it was equipped with anti-lock brakes and a driver’s side airbag. Rear-wheel-driven, it was propelled by a 2,5-litre, six-cylinder engine that produced 125 kW. In all, the car was rated as a highly capable all-round performer.

1989: Corolla GLi Executive

February 21, 1989

With front-wheel-drive replacing the rear-wheel-drive system of previous generation Toyota Corollas, the GLi Executive – a four-door sedan powered by a twin-cam engine that developed 100 kW – was regarded as having introduced to the nameplate a new era of performance and opulent, executive-style features. A sporty, five-door hatchback version that bore an RSi badge was also brought to market.

1988: BMW 735i

February 21, 1988

The 735i represented the second generation of BMW’s luxurious 7-Series. Powered by a straight-six petrol-fuelled engine – a V12 and later a V8 was optional – the model was considered to be among the most technologically advanced vehicles of its type, introducing electronic damper control and traction control systems to the Brand and setting standards for performance that lasted until well into the 1990s.

1987: Mercedes 260E

February 21, 1987

The Mercedes-Benz 260E was seen to break new ground as a compact, executive-style four-door saloon. Powered by a six-cylinder engine that displaced 2,6 litres and delivered 122 kW and 228 Nm, the model offered a five-speed manual or four-speed auto transmission. It was acclaimed for its comfort, engineering integrity and performance capability.

1986: Corolla Twin-Cam

May 7, 1986

Toyota’s Corolla Twin Cam had the distinction of being declared the inaugural winner of South Africa’s first official Car of the Year competition. A popular, compact car that later established itself as a top choice for competitors in motorsport events, the model’s combination of a powerful engine, lightweight chassis, engineering quality and reputation for dependability were perceived to give it an edge over rivals.