At a gala event held at the Kyalami Racecourse on Tuesday night, The South African Guild of Motoring Journalists announced that Honda’s new Civic VXI-sedan is the 2007 South African Car of the Year.

It is the first time in the history of the contest that Honda has walked away with the title. The Civic VXI sedan take the title from the Audi A3 Sportback, last year’s winner. Honda’s new Civic was previously awarded the authoritative Motor Trend magazine’s American Car of the Year title, and the hybrid version of the Civic was voted last year’s Green Car of the Year in the annual World Car of the Year contest.

“The Honda Civic was a firm favourite of mine and a deserved winner,” says Jason Woosey, Editor of Cars In Action, SA’s leading independent motoring magazine. “While not exactly the enthusiast’s choice, its brilliant overall package is what won the day as it offers large doses of practicality, specification, quality and comfort for a very good price,” he says.

“The only downside is that its engine needs to be worked rather hard to extract good performance from it, which is something you’d expect from a hot hatch rather than a sensible family sedan like the Civic. The Honda is a great all-rounder nonetheless,” he concludes.

In Mambaonline’s annual look at the COTY finalists, the Civic topped our list of cars to watch out for in the contest. “I find the Honda Civic to be a rather bland-looking car, even for a family car,” says Christo Valentyn, Mambaonline’s motoring correspondent. “It is however a class leader in terms of quality and provides a value for money package that not many can beat.”

The local version of the Car of the Year contest is often referred to in international publications as it is one of the most scientific and stringent contests of its kind in the world. Another unique characteristic is that all finalists are physically tested to compile scores, as opposed to other parts of the world, such as Europe and the USA, where a winner is announced after members simply vote for their favourite car and the votes are tallied.

Some members of the motoring media are however not so positive about the Guild or the COTY contest. Michele Lupini, a legend in the South African motoring world and publisher of Cars In Action, said that he had nothing to do with COTY. “And they call it the SA COTY?,” he asked.

Jaco Kirsten, Assistant Editor for topCar and topMotor, also declined comment because neither magazine is a member of the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists.

“The Lexus IS250 remains my personal choice for a winner,” says Christo adding that, “The Accord and the Jazz were equally suitable winners for Honda a year or so back, but I am very happy for Honda that the Civic was the car that finally won them the title.”

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