A distinguishing feature of the AJAC Canadian Car of the Year awards is that not all vehicles available on the market are tested each year. Instead, the program tests vehicles that are either all-new versions of existing models (this year an example would be the Honda Accord, with its new body, drivetrain and interior), or all-new vehicles on the market (this year, the Ford C-Max, for instance, or the Chevrolet Trax).

Why not test every vehicle each year? Logistics, basically. In order to maintain the rigourous procedures used by AJAC’s Canadian Car of the Year program, it’s not realistic to test the 250-plus models available on the market each year. But because the program’s procedures remain fundamentally consistent from year to year, consumers can easily compare this year’s all-new Accord with last year’s all new Kia Optima, for instance, using comparative tools available at ajac.ca.

The vehicles entered are grouped into categories, not all of which are contested each year. For example, there were no all-new pickup trucks this model year, nor were there any all-new minivans, so those categories were not included. There were lots of SUV/CUVs, however, and they were divided into sub-categories by price.

Again, an argument could be made that all SUV/CUVs or all small cars should compete each in a single category. That way you’d theoretically arrive at the overall best SUV/CUV or best small car. But because the AJAC program is consumer oriented, it creates categories based on real-world purchasing behaviour. For consumers, price is a huge factor, so announcing that the Best Small Car is a $50,000 Audi A3 is not helpful to the much larger portion of people whose budget is under $20,000. Consequently, vehicle types are grouped by pricing that realistically reflects how people buy vehicles.

Similarly, all of the mainstream cars (as opposed to sports/performance cars) are entered and tested with automatic transmissions. While a manual transmission vehicle would be less expensive, or preferred by a car enthusiast, the fact is that in Canada a very small percentage of cars are ordered with manual transmissions. Furthermore, because all vehicles tested have automatic transmissions, no vehicle gains advantage by having a manual transmission. This is especially relevant when comparing acceleration times (although some of the newer double-clutch automatics may outperform manuals).

Do the testers play favourites? In my experience, no. Typically, you fill out your ballots as you drive the vehicles, enter them into the online database and let the system crunch the numbers.

What all this means to consumers is that AJAC’s Canadian Car of the Year testing procedures are about as comprehensive, unbiased, and fundamentally sound as they can be at this point in time. Yes, there are other programs, and consumers are advised to consult those when considering a vehicle purchase, along with reading reviews from a range of sources.

But in a sea of opinions—not all of them informed—it’s good to know that data generated at the AJAC Canadian Car of the Year awards program is based on the experience of professionally accredited journalists and on test results founded on sound engineering principles.

Along with the quality vehicle reviews at Autos.ca, don’t forget to check out ajac.ca for additional performance data and vehicle comparisons.

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