The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is the 2019 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year and won by a healthy margin! The sought-after award was presented at a spectacular function at Shepstone Gardens in Johannesburg on April 4.
Much like the actual venue (which was top secret, guests were shuttled there at the very last minute), the identity of the winner was a closely-guarded secret.
So too were the runners-up, namely the Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC40. George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO, believes that the A-Class is a truly deserving winner. “The AutoTrader South African Car of the Year has to represent innovation and ingenuity, while setting new benchmarks in its market segment. There is absolutely no doubt that the A-Class does this,” he notes.
The win was an extremely momentous occasion for Mercedes-Benz, which last won the South African Car of the Year in 1987 with the Mercedes-Benz 260E. Porsche last won in 2018 winner was with the Panamera, while Volvo’s XC90 wore the crown in 2016. It certainly wasn’t unexpected though; the jury members were full of praise for the A-Class during the test days. “The judges were particularly impressed with its interior comfort, stunning design, innovative technology, terrific road manners and exemplary safety features.
Furthermore, the advanced engine offers the optimal blend of efficiency, performance and driving fun,” confirms Rubin van Niekerk, chairman of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ). Incredibly, members of the public reached the same conclusion as the highly qualified jury members, who collectively have 584 years of experience in the motor industry. For the first time in the competition’s 34-year-long history, members of the public could cast a vote via the AutoTrader website – and pick a car that they believed most deserving of the AutoTrader South African Car of the Year title. “After 55 000 consumer votes, I am delighted to reveal that the public vote yielded exactly the same result: they also chose the Mercedes-Benz A-Class,” Mienie reveals.
The Porsche Cayenne which placed second, also scored highly during the evaluation days. “The jury were particularly intrigued by the fact that this is a sports utility vehicle (SUV) which is as impressive to drive as most sports cars. Furthermore, they commented on the fact that the vehicle is well engineered while the driveline is simply faultless,” Van Niekerk explains. The vehicle that came third – the Volvo XC40 – also attracted widespread praise from the judges. This vehicle has notched up award after award – most notably Women’s World Car of the Year and European Car of the Year.
The jury members were unanimous in their praise for Volvo’s smallest SUV. Judges particularily liked its minimalistic dashboard design and they commented favourably on the build quality, which is the best in the business. “Naturally, being a Volvo, the safety features are exemplary too,” Mienie points out. In a historic first for the AutoTrader South African Car of the Year, categories were introduced.
These were the category winners:
Urban Compact Category Winner: Suzuki Swift
Medium Sedan/Hatch Category Winner: Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Premium Sedan Category Winner: Lexus ES 250
Lifestyle Utility Category Winner: Suzuki Jimny
Leisure SUV/Crossover Category Winner: Porsche Cayenne
Mienie says that he is delighted with AutoTrader’s inaugural year as title sponsor. “The AutoTrader South African Car of the Year has scaled to new heights and we’re very proud to be part of this change. The motor industry has become more sophisticated and evolved than ever before. This competition combines the immense experience of the jury, with the demands of the modern consumer, to produce a competition that is on par with the crème de la crème of Car of the Year contests around the globe. We are proud and privileged to be associated with this incredible programme,” he comments.
Over 200 guests were treated to an enchanted motoring experience hosted by AutoTrader, when Shepstone Garden’s was brought to life with stunning audio visual acrobatics. The grounds were lit in multi-coloured uplighters, digital light projections were cast on water curtains, elaborate Oscar-style tributes to finalists were played on screens around the venue. Furthermore the category awards were hosted by current and past motoring greats such as Ian Scheckter, Tamsin Pepper (now competitor in the W Series), and included a tribute to the late Gugu Zulu, who was honoured on the night. Zulu’s wife, Letshego Zulu, attended the event to hand over the last helmet Zulu used to race in the South African National Rally Championship in 2015. The memorabilia will go on display at the SA Hall of Fame exhibition in Sun City.