In our final 2008 COTY spotlight, Christo Valentyn looks at the last three finalists in the running: Fiat’s gorgeous Bravo, Toyota’s Corolla and Mazda’s little bombshell, the 2.


Toyota’s Corolla has been South-Africa’s best-selling car for more years than I care to remember, and with good reason. With the Corolla, Toyota has succeeded in creating a truly South African peoples’ car. It’s designed to appeal to the broadest segment of the market, and comes standard with more peace of mind than any other manufacturer can really offer.

It’s relatively cheap (or competitive, at least, in today’s world) and offers the most important features required from a car. Corolla has won the SA COTY before, albeit decades ago, and as such this year’s nomination is interesting to look at.

This year’s nomination proves that Corolla has not lost its relevance in the modern world. Back in the day, when there weren’t so many cars to choose from, Corolla was not only the safest bet, but also one of the best cars around. Times have however changed, and it has been a battle for Toyota to hold on to that pole position. New Corolla is in my opinion not the best-looking car on the market – the front looks like a blown-up Yaris sedan, and while I’m sure the rear is supposed to resemble that of a Lexus IS250, it has an uncanny similarity to Hyundai’s latest Elantra.

New Corolla is however a major improvement on the previous model and it is still competitively priced and still comes with the peace of mind that’s standard with a Toyota. In all respects then, the Corolla is an excellent car.

Is it better than Honda’s Civic though, the current SA COTY and a direct competitor against which the Corolla will be pitted in this contest? That I am not so sure of: while there is really nothing wrong with it, the Corolla is just utterly bland and middle-of-the road. It certainly has a chance to take the title, but it faces some very stiff competition!


Fiat’s new Bravo is a remarkable car. In a record-breaking development time of only 18 months, Fiat has created a car that is undeniably beautiful – the kind of beautiful that only the Italians can create. But its beauty is not only skin-deep. Our COTY nominated derivative is fitted with Fiat’s equally remarkable 1.4-litre T-Jet engine. A 1.4-litre engine? In a car this size? Yes, indeed!

The beauty of the T-jet engine is that it develops the same kind of power with its miniscule displacement as a top-of-the-line 2.0-litre engine. In this case, 110kw of power and 230Nm of torque at 5 500 r/min and 3 000r/min respectively.

This alone makes the Bravo revolutionary enough to warrant a COTY nomination. Add to that a standard features list that is unheard of at this price level (hill hold, stability control, cornering lights), the fact that it has very decent fuel consumption and a five-year service plan, and the inclusion of the Bravo on the COTY list makes all the more sense.

Fiat is also going to great lengths to better its after-sales service and parts availability, which adds to extra peace of mind. Resale value will not be class-leading, but if that is your only concern, it’s perhaps better you stick with a Toyota or Volkswagen anyway.

Yes, Fiat’s new Bravo is quite remarkable. Is it remarkable enough to win? I believe that it has an excellent chance: It will certainly score high in most categories. The Bravo is a remarkable car that is certainly worthy of the title. It is definitely my favourite dark horse in this year’s contest.


The old adage states that dynamite comes in small packages, and never has this been truer than with the Mazda2, the last finalist in the 2008 SA COTY contest and, in my opinion, the car that should walk away with the title.

As I previously noted when looking at the Mazda5, Mazda’s cars are solid and reliable, and with the gorgeous little 2 now also (finally!) available in SA, the brand is sure to see their brand appeal rise to new levels in the local market. Together with the CX7 SUV, Mazda’s range is now not only complete, but even more appealing.

The Mazda2 is in essence Mazda’s answer to Ford’s Fiesta. It’s common knowledge that the manufacturers share platforms, but Mazda deserves kudos for taking the same platform and creating a car that is visually dramatic, trendy and funky, has the interior to match (in looks and quality) and handles better than anyone would expect from a small hatchback. But you don’t have to believe me: if the number of Mazda2s on the road doesn’t convince you, go read up about it – every motoring publication in South Africa is in agreement.

The Mazda2 therefore brings a whole new kind of cool to the small car market. It is undoubtedly one of the best-looking little hatchbacks available, and has a features list that is mighty impressive. Add to that the roomy interior, sporty handling and that inherent Mazda reliability and it becomes clear that the Mazda2 really is one of the best cars in its segment. It scores big on value for money as well, and all this combines into a package that must be very close to, if not at, the top of the list. If I had to put my money on a winner, I’d put it on the Mazda2.

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