The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) has announced the finalists in the 2016 edition of its Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) contest. There are a whole lot of “well, yeah!” cars and trucks that have made the list from which the overall Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year will be chosen, as well as a few “Seriously?!” moments involving vehicles we were sure would be up for the top prizes.
Read on for the top three vehicles in each of this year’s nine categories.
Starting from the bottom of the auto industry pecking order, finalists in the Best New Small Car group are the Honda Civic, Toyota Yaris sedan, and Volkswagen Jetta 1.4TSI. That leaves out the Scion iM (it couldn’t have missed the cut by much), and the Smart Fortwo, which never stood a chance in this crowd. Normally, vehicles as small as the Smart fall under the ‘City Car’ banner, but a lack of other, similar, entries meant it was pitted against much stiffer competition. In our Testfest predictions piece, Jonathan, Jacob, and Tom all bet on the iM, so now we know how little they know. Peter thinks the Jetta will take the prize here, while Justin Pritchard is rooting for the Mazda-built, Toyota-badged Yaris. Paul, Jeff, Greg, Michael and myself all continue to believe the new Civic is going all the way in this category; Honda’s well-conceived redesign of one of Canada’s most significant vehicles makes it a very strong contender for Canadian Car of the Year.
There are no surprises in Best New Family Car: there were only three cars here to begin with, so the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, VW Golf Sportwagen and Chevrolet Volt all remain potential winners. Going in, Peter, Paul, Jacob and I thought the Sonata Hybrid had what it takes, but having driven these cars back-to-back, I’m throwing my vote to the Golf wagon for its nice drive and huge cargo area. Jeff had put his money behind the Volt.
Things have changed in the Sports/Performance (Under $50,000) category since the contenders were announced. Chevrolet had originally planned to put the Camaro SS V8 in this group, but they couldn’t get the cars in time, and had to substitute a V6-powered model. We heard decent things about it all the same, but it apparently wasn’t enough, as the car failed to make the top three. The other car sent home was the Hyundai Veloster Rallye Turbo. That leaves the Mazda MX-5, Mini John Cooper Works three-door, and Volkswagen’s Golf R. Michael Bettencourt’s Camaro vote is now no good, while the rest of us were more prescient in our choices: Jeff, Tom, Justin and I remain in love with the MX-5, while Jacob, Peter, Paul, Greg, and Jonathan think the Golf R’s distinctly Teutonic performance will earn it the nod in this category.
In the Sports/Performance (Over $50,000) group, the Cadillac ATS-V, Ford Shelby GT350, and Mercedes-Benz C 63 made the top three, leaving the Chevrolet Corvette and Lexus RC 350 out of the running. It’s me who’s wrong now, as I had chosen the Corvette; having driven a few of these cars, I now side with Jacob, Peter, and Tom, who had all chosen the GT350 off the bat. Michael and Justin chose the Caddy, and Paul and Greg feel the Benz will prevail.
Prestige/Performance (Over $75,000) was a four-car field, and Lexus was left out in the cold here as well, as its RC F wasn’t good enough for a top-three spot. Instead, the Porsche Cayman GT4, Cadillac CTS-V, and Mercedes-AMG GT S made the cut. None of us predicted the RC F as a potential winner, however: Peter, Tom, Jeff, and Jonathan favoured the Benz; Paul, Greg, and I like the Cayman; and Jacob, Justin, and Michael think the CTS-V is the car to beat.
Five vehicles were competing for small crossover honours in the SUV/CUV (Under $35,000) category, but the three that move on are the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and Jeep Renegade. One hundred engineering changes weren’t enough to put the Mitsubishi Outlander on the podium, even though Jonathan thought those improvements would ensure success. On the other hand, Justin was the only one to back the Renegade; maybe he’s not as weird as we thought. Jacob, Peter, Greg, Jeff, and Tom dig the HR-V, and Michael, Paul, and I all prefer the CX-3. Back-to-back drives make me want to change my prediction to the HR-V, for a smart interior design that gives it the edge for utility. Also, the CX-3 proved unsuited to off-road use, with limited ground clearance.
Hyundai as much as told us it didn’t expect its Tucson fuel cell EV (FCEV) to win here, which is good, because it’s gone from the SUV/CUV ($35,000-$60,000), as are the Ford Edge, BMW X1, and Lexus NX 200t. That leaves the Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento, and the all-new Hyundai Tucson on the podium. We suspect the Edge missed third place by a very small margin, but to be fair, it was the oldest design here. Paul and Peter are now backing away from the Edge, but Jacob, Tom, Jeff, Michael, Justin, and Jonathan (who chose the Pilot), and Greg and I (both of us liked the new Tucson) all remain confident we chose well.
Porsche’s “green” crossover, the Cayenne E-Hybrid, was the only one cut from the SUV/CUV (Over $60,000) lineup, leaving the Lincoln MKX, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, and Volvo XC90. Greg favoured the Cayenne going in, with the rest of us, save for Paul, backing the Volvo. I felt the Volvo failed to live up to the hype, so Paul might have something in his having chosen the Lincoln.
We end on an anti-climactic note, with a three-entry Pick-up field in which the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Canyon diesel, and Toyota Tacoma all end up finalists. All of us but Greg and Michael had bet on the Canyon; those two put their money on the Silverado. The Canyon is quite good, but the Silverado might win for its extra capability combined with more interior space.