/ 18 May 2024

The SA Car of the Year is crowned

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The BMW 7 Series drove off with the overall trophy in this year’s edition

Now in its 38th year, the SA Car of the Year is the country’s oldest and most prestigious automotive competition. It honours the vehicles that have represented excellence in their respective segments. 

In a nutshell, those that represent progress and have moved the proverbial goalposts within various disciplines and perimeters. These include market relevance about volume share, and the value for money of the product, relative to its closest competitors. 

This year’s competition comprised 18 finalists judged by a jury of 28 jurors from the South African Guild of Mobility Journalists, including yours truly. 

After two days of rigorous testing in March, and the tallying of audited scores from the jurors, detailed market share statistics and customer feedback from Lightstone Auto, the official automotive industry data aggregator, the results are finally in. 

The latest BMW 7 Series emerged as the victor, taking not only the Luxury and Juror Excellence Award categories but also the overall title. 

This year’s competition featured Budget/Compact, Compact Family, Family, Premium, Adventure SUV, 4×4 Double Cab, Luxury and Performance categories. 

With the greater representation of EVs across the different categories, the New Energy category was dropped for this year’s competition. 

BMW’s 7 Series is a tour de force in its luxury segment, showing a clean pair of heels to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class that was a contender in last year’s competition. 

Now, there has been outcry from some corners regarding the BMW 7 Series’ win.

The fact that it costs upwards of R2 million, which makes it unattainable for the average person, was among the criticisms. 

But here is the crux — one of the fundamentals of the competition is to recognise automotive excellence where the vehicle is way ahead of anything else in its segment and the BMW 7 Series has unequivocally, thoroughly, licked that aspect. 

This was BMW’s seventh win in the competition, with the first in 1988 with, incidentally, the 735i. So, yes, this marks the second outright win for the 7 Series. 

That said, the 7 Series might not have charted on my voting sheets but the results are the outcome of the collective jury’s voting data. 

Facts are facts and it would be outright irresponsible for us to discount a vehicle’s excellence, simply because its price puts it out of the reach of the majority of people. 

Aspiration value is something that remains a large part of the automotive space, so reading up on a vehicle that you cannot own, but would like to, plants that seed. 

Suzuki’s Fronx came in a commendable second spot in the competition. The fact that it was only a few points behind the 7 Series is testament to the breadth of its talents. 

If there’s any criticism of the package, it is of the normally aspirated powertrain, which is behind the curve of the segment standard’s turbo-charged offerings that give superior performance, particularly at the rarified altitude of Gauteng and the like. 

Another noteworthy category winner was the Mahindra Scorpio N, which came out trumps in the Adventure SUV category and is a far cry from the Scorpio model that made windfall here around 2006. 

This is a display of the progress that the Indian manufacturer continues to show. 

BMW’s M2 won the Performance category, and while my bets were on the Honda Civic Type R, based on its capabilities, practicality and value for money, the M2 is a unique proposition of a rear-wheel drive sports coupé with immense power and dynamics. 

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The BMW M2 was victorious in the Performance category of the competition.

The fact that it is wrapped in an eye-catching package means it has a great deal of appeal. 

Not stopping there, BMW also won the Family category with the X1, which remains a stellar offering at a starting price of R780 000. 

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz took the Premium category with its accomplished GLC. 

Compact Family went to the Toyota Urban Cruiser, while the 4×4 Double Cab trophy was bestowed on the Volkswagen Amarok. 

While the overall result might seem strange, considering the depressed economic climate, the competition’s audited outcome tracks true to awarding automotive excellence as voted by the jurors of the guild of mobility journalists. 

Congratulations to all the winners. Well deserved! 

Category winners of this year’s competition


BMW 7 Series





Adventure SUV:

Mahindra Scorpio-N


Mercedes-Benz GLC


Suzuki Fronx

Compact Family:

Toyota Urban Cruiser

4×4 Double Cab:

Volkswagen Amarok