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Korean and German brands dominate AJAC’s 2012 competition

The AJAC’s TestFest 2012 just wrapped up last week and you’ll notice that Korean and German brands dominate.

The envelope please.

No, not that one. It’s from Parking Tag Operations and I don’t need to see it. Yes, the other one, which reveals the “Best New” vehicles for 2012, as adjudicated by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

Hopefully by now everyone is already well aware of AJAC’s annual TestFest — one of the most unique and thorough “car of the year” evaluation programs on the planet. The 2012 model-year edition just wrapped up last week in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and if you scan the list of category winners, you’ll notice that Korean and German brands dominate.

But there were many close races…

In Small Car Over $21K, winner Hyundai Elantra beat out second-place Ford Focus by only five points (695 vs. 690). Focus beat Elantra on several counts, notably cargo, acceleration and safety, but with an as-tested price several thousands of dollars above the Elantra, it couldn’t overcome the price factor.

AJAC applies a price factor to each vehicle, on the assumption that a higher-priced vehicle should be better. The price factor is different for each category; it plays a bigger role in price-sensitive categories like compact, and less so in categories like luxury and prestige, etc.

On the podium for Family Car Over $30K were two hybrids, Optima and Sonata, and the electric Chevrolet Volt. The Volt garnered an almost perfect fuel score, and huge marks for engine smoothness, but with an as-tested price of $44,673, it was thousands more than both Korean hybrids.

Chrysler 300S trailed the Luxury winner, Mercedes-Benz C-Class C350 4Matic, by only four points. The 300S was surprisingly sporty, but so was the C350, which was also super solid in every other parameter.

Mercedes-Benz also won in Prestige (S Class S350 BlueTEC). But many journalists were mesmerized by third-place finisher, Jaguar XKR-S — the fastest and most powerful production sports car ever produced by Jaguar. Too narrowly focused and pricey, to prevail this year, but my goodness she flies and is easy on the eyes.

BMW I Series M Coupe had the biggest margin of victory of any category winner this year (16 points).

There were only three entries in the SUV Under $35 category this year, and all of them came from Chrysler. But Dodge Journey’s win over Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Compass is not a shallow one — it achieved a relatively high SUV score (652).

In the SUV $35-$60K category, voters were clearly smitten with the styling and capability of the Range Rover Evoque, but the VW Touareg TDI prevailed with better cargo capacity and its super-stellar diesel powertrain.

Over in SUV Over $60K, BMW X3 beat out its next closest rival, Mercedes-Benz M Class, by only two points.

Two points was the same slim margin of victory for Hyundai Accent over Kia Rio5 in Small Car Under $21K.

They share a platform so we shouldn’t be surprised that if one did well, the other would too.

 
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