Here's how the 12 finalist fared during the 2019 SA Car of the Year testing
It's almost time for the 2019 SA Autotrader Car of the Year to be crowned in April.
The jury members of the SA Coty competition have completed their final evaluations and testing of the 12 finalists in Midrand earlier in March as the 25 judges and five trainee members put the cars through strenuous obstacles and driving tests over two days.
Usually, I can tell which car has a good chance at winning after the testing days, but this year it isn't the case at all. Everyone has been mum about their decisions, and because all the finalists were such good offerings, it really is a tough call to make.
READ: 2019 SA Car of the Year - Which top model should grab the coveted title? - Part 1
Wheels24's Janine Van der Post is one of the judges and this is what she has to say of each of the vehicles, in no particular order.
1. Alfa Romeo Stelvio
This Italian could come out as the dark horse of the competition. Besides the fact that this car is absolutely beautiful, it drives a dream too. It's smooth and agile on the road, and performed unexpectedly well on the dynamic handling track.
There are a few quirks like the steering wheel being situated a bit too far back, but other than that, it's extremely charming in more ways than one. Sales volumes could also possibly count against it.
Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids
2. Nissan Micra
The Nissan Micra is a cheeky little car. It's aesthetically appealing and is such a great city slicker.
It's ideal for puttering along and also makes a wonderful choice for young families or go-getters. It's even a treat on the long road.
While it fared well on the on-road driving, just like the Suzuki Jimny, it's on-track performance is naturally not its forte. It still makes a great choice though.
3. Suzuki Jimny
A firm favourite among the jury and the public, the little Jimny is incredibly delightful.
It proved an absolute boon on the off-road course and chomped up all the exercises with total ease.
Of course one can't compare it on the handling track for performance because that's not what the little fella is built for. Other than that, it also makes a great city car and it's more than big enough for single folk, along with a friend or partner, on the adventurous move.
There's not much boot space, but for those buying this car, that doesn't even matter.
4. Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Going into the competition I didn't find the A-Class very practical, but that's not what it's about.
The A200 showed its true colours both on the open roads and during the track testing.
It's no longer the bland mommy-car it used to be, now it's a car for millennials on the move representing status and success. It ticks a lot of boxes, but also lacks in other areas where it might matter most to others.
5. Lexus ES
Lexus is known for its attention to detail and craftsmanship when it comes to building cars. The ES is a strong rival in its segment.
Driving it is as smooth as sailing into paradise; it's lush and superbly comfortable. It holds its own on the track, but that facia on the console feels a bit outdated too, despite the luxurious trimmings and inserts.
6. Volvo XC40
The Volvo XC40 was another one of the top cars being favoured, and while its technologically advanced, striking, and drives very well, I still would have preferred seeing the XC60 rather in its place. That said, the XC40 also still stands a good shot at winning the title.
7. Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
One of my top five cars without a doubt. I have often said that the Pajero Sport is highly underrated in the local market and is such good value for money.
It proved itself better than some of the other finalists at the off-road section, soaking up those feats like it was born for it.
It glided through the deep, soft sand like someone eating a vanilla ice cream cone on a sunny day. It didn't do poorly on the track either, which was a big surprise too.
8. Porsche Cayenne S
How does one fault an almost perfect car? With Porsche winning three titles in the last four years, the public is sceptical that any other car would stand a chance at coming close to winning.
It's near impossible to mark the striking Cayenne S down at any task whether its (unbelievably good and leaves your heart in palpitations) on track, on the road, or even through the challenging off-road obstacles.
As beautiful as it is, it's almost clinically too good, and it's interior came across just a tiny tad outdated compared to other new cars.
As good as what the Cayenne S is, and however much value for money it is, its chances at winning this year's title might be a lot slimmer than what it has been in recent years.
9. Renault Duster
I wasn't expecting the Duster to perform as well as what it did on the track testing. The new version from Renault has a more appealing look in terms of styling and there aren't m any cars, especially its rivals, that can beat its incredible fuel consumption.
It's a peoples' car and would make for a great Car of the Year.
10. Honda Civic Type R
I finally understand why most of my peers have been so in love with this Civic.
It felt totally natural on the track and leaves a permanent smile on your face after driving it on the road too. But is it worthy of the Car of the Year title? Does it reflect the people?
It might just be a bit too boy-racer for that. And, is it a better car than the VW Golf R, BMW M140i or the Renault Megane IV RS 280 Cup?
11. Hyundai Kona
The Hyundai Kona has its strong points, and also less so, just like all the other cars.
It's fit purpose, and has an outstanding maintenance and warranty plan. It also has fresh styling which makes it a breath of fresh air in Hyundai's already good-looking range of cars.
Not that it wasn't good in any of the test modules, it's just that other cars in its segment are stronger offerings.
12. Suzuki Swift
Another one of the "underdogs" on my list.
The little Japanese offering is well-loved and an extremely good value-for-money option in its segment.
Styling is simplistic, but that's what works for the Swift. It's quick and lovely to drive. One of those cars that just make you feel happy. Another great car for the people.
I'm hoping it gets into the top 3, or perhaps even take the title of the new SA Car of the Year.
Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids