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Car of The Year - 
Part 1 - how it works

Broadcast dates : 30th January 2005
3rd February 2005

The Car of the Year Competition carries an enormous amount of prestige amongst the country’s motor manufacturers.

Held annually by the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists and sponsored by Wesbank, this year saw eight finalists being put through their paces over varying roads in the Vaal Triangle area.

The Car Torque team was there to bring you all the action.

What are the criteria for Car of the Year? First and foremost the car that ultimately becomes "the chosen one" has to set new standards of motoring excellence.

It must be good in all areas of dynamics, ergonomics, performance, and yes, fashion appeal plays its part too.

You don’t want to be driving the automotive equivalent of Miss Daisy!

It was interesting this year that the eight finalists ranged in price from just under R100 000 to R474 000.

That’s a wide price and market-segment spectrum, and for this reason the journalists constantly had to place each car’s performance in its context.

With an unlimited budget, most half-way competent manufacturers could make any car handle like a Porsche, look like a Ferrari and have all the comfort features of a Rolls Royce.

There are the tactile considerations… such as steering-wheel-feel… and for the gizmo orientated, the amount of equipment fitted, such as airbags and audio… leather versus plastic.

Function or form? That’s the primary focus in the static evaluation, and the score book accommodates both approaches.

The questions in the score sheet have been finely honed over the past 20 years and motoring journalists welcome this unique opportunity to sharpen up their analytical skills.

There is nothing quite like a back-to-back test to bring a car into focus.

The fun bit of the Car if the Year event is obviously on the Wesbank raceway circuit, where the corners are a mix of fast sweeps and tight tyre twisters.

Most cars are set up as under-steerers – where the front tyres break traction before the rears.

This is the easiest type of skid for the driver to deal with.

Merely back off the throttle and the front tyres regain grip

City driving exposes an entirely different aspect of a car’s character.

Clutch action, the ease or lack thereof of the gearshift, rearward vision through the main mirror and the wing mirrors… these are important in town driving.

Out on the highway, other aspects come into focus. How busy is the motor at the hundred-and-twenty kilometres-per-hour speed limit? How comfortable are the seats on a long haul?

How communicative is the car in the relatively passive freeway environment?

This has an important safety aspect too. An involving car means that the driver stays alert on the freeway.

Part 1 - How it works
Part 2 - the cars
Part 3 - more cars
Part 4 - and finally

The contenders
Volvo S40 2.4i
Audi A6 3.0 Quattro Tiptronic
Volkswagen Golf 5 2.0 TDi Sportline
Peugeot 407 2.2 ST Sport
BMW 120i Manual
Opel Astra 1.8i Sport

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