The South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) announced the finalists for the 2009 South African Car of the Year (COTY) late in 2008; this year honouring nine vehicles with a nomination. As a keen follower of the contest and the industry in general, picking the cars apart to find the one that offers the most has always been relatively easy… until this year.

The contest has, for the first time in many years, left me stumped when it comes to predicting a winner. After serious thinking, lots of driving and even more debating, the bottom line remained that all nine cars vying for the crown this year have a chance of winning. The first three models we’re looking at are cars Mamba Motoring has not yet evaluated first hand.


In the past few years Mazda has come a very long way, with a car like the Mazda2 not only winning the SA COTY in 2008, but also the World COTY. The new Mazda6 is no different. All indications are that it’s a wonderfully solid car that sets new standards for the Mazda brand, with the styling doing wonders for the new generation Mazdas (also keep an eye out for the new Mazda3, due later in 2009).

On paper the Mazda6 is hard to fault, with the Individual model offering standard specification, fit and finish on par with the best in its class. The Mazda6’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t offer anything that particularly stands out. In this contest it also faces two very, very competent competitors from the same class – the new Honda Accord and Audi A4… So while the Mazda6 is certainly a more than competent car in many ways, it might not be COTY material just yet. I would probably put it in last place to take prize.

PRICE: R284 600.00

COMPETITORS: Honda Accord, Audi A4, BMW 3, Mercedes Benz C, Lexus IS250


After numerous attempts over the past three years to get our hands on test vehicles from Volkswagen, we’re still coming up empty handed. The gentleman who manages VW’s media affairs has not responded to one single e-mail sent to him, and as such we’ve not been able to comment on any of the (ridiculously) popular peoples’ cars.

While we’d certainly appreciate a better relationship with one of SA’s biggest selling vehicle manufacturers, it’s only logical that VW must be doing something right with their products (the whole SEAT debacle excluded, of course). However, I have never managed to shake the feeling that the much-hyped Tiguan is missing something.

I have narrowed it down to its styling. While it’s certainly handsome, it could have been considerably more rugged. On paper the Tiguan impresses though, with its different specifications and trims combining with VW’s renowned 4Motion 4X4 system and legendary build quality to create a knock-out package.

However, the Tiguan is unfortunately though one of the first models I would eliminate. Because each vehicle is compared to its competitors and value for money plays such an important role, the Tiguan loses out to some of its fellow finalists. However, if this were the compact SUV of the year contest, I’d undoubtedly put it in the top three. Now if only VW would let us prove our point…

PRICE: R265 500.00

COMPETITORS: Suzuki Grand Vitara, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, Subaru Forester


The new Honda Jazz has some enormous shoes to fill, as the previous generation was arguably the best small car you could buy. It was priced well, speced well, and offered immense space and practicality, plus Honda’s legendary reputation for quality and durability. It was a COTY finalist a few years back (along with the previous generation Accord), which acknowledged the amazing package it was.

Personally I am not sold on the new model’s styling, and while I know that the design will ‘grow’ on me, I have a suspicion that it won’t age quite as well as its predecessor (which in certain colours still looks very good). That said, the new Jazz appears to actually improve on the recipe that made its predecessor such a hit, with its practicality and general functionality appearing to be even better.

It’s therefore a pity that I have not yet had an opportunity to test it. However, I am confident that there will be little fault with the Jazz. In this contest it has competition from both Ford and Suzuki, and it will therefore be a very tough call to predict how the Jazz will score. I will not be surprised however if it (finally) walks away victorious.

PRICE: R162 000.00

COMPETITORS: Suzuki Swift, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Opel Corsa, Volkswagen Polo

In the next instalment of our COTY spotlight, Mambaonline will look at the finalists we’ve driven in 2008.

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