By this time next week, a number of your favourite contributors will have cast ballots to name the best 2016 model-year cars, crossovers, and trucks in a variety of categories, en route to choosing two overall winners: Canadian Car of the Year, and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

It may not be as important a task as electing a new federal government, but it’s one your favourite contributors take very seriously, and we’ll be taking it to a new venue this year: the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) committee behind the Canadian Car of the Year contest has been hard at work for the past 12 months to move “Testfest” from the Niagara region of southern Ontario to the booming metropolis of Ajax, ON, a bedroom community on the eastern fringes of greater Toronto.

The need for a new home base came about thanks to the lack of a proper performance testing facility in Niagara. Now, however, we’ve got one we’d call ideal: all high-speed evaluations will be done at Bowmanville, Ontario’s Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP), the Track Formerly Known as Mosport.

Beyond the new digs, the process remains the same. Over four days next week, we’ll do back-to-back drives of vehicles split into classes based on price and body type to choose the best of each group. (Check out last year’s category winners here.)

For now, here’s a rundown of the vehicles competing for this year’s top prizes, and predictions from nine contributors and editors for which ones will finish on top in each of nine categories.

No matter whether our picks end up being conservative, liberal, or green, you can count on the end result to be democratic.

Small Car

An all-new Honda Civic takes on Scion’s iM, the Smart Fortwo, Toyota Yaris sedan, and a Volkswagen Jetta powered by the brand’s new 1.4L turbocharged engine. Normally, small cars would be split into two groups based on price, but a smaller-than-usual field of entries puts a couple of these cars at a disadvantage.

Jonathan Yarkony, Jacob Black, and Tom Sedens all predict the Scion iM will be best small car, while Paul Williams, Jeff Wilson, Greg Wilson, Michael Bettencourt, and myself all think Honda will make as large a leap with its new Civic as it did with the Accord a few years ago. All alone in their choices are Peter Bleakney, who thinks VW’s thrifty new 1.4L turbo four will be enough to put the Jetta on top, and Justin Pritchard, who figures the Mazda2-based Yaris will outgun the field.

Family Car

This is a three-vehicle field that comprises the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen (1.8 TSI), and Chevrolet’s Volt.

Peter gets with the program here, throwing his vote to the Sonata Hybrid, along with me, Paul, and Jacob. Jeff likes the Chevy Volt’s chances, and the Golf Sportwagen get the nod from VW fanboy Jonathan, Bettencourt, Pritchard, Greg, and Tom, who’s German and can’t help favouring cars from die Vaterland.

Sports/Performance (under $50,000)

The Chevrolet Camaro V8 SS stands out (just a little) against the likes of the Hyundai Veloster Turbo Rally Edition, Mazda MX-5, Mini John Cooper Works three-door, and VW’s Golf R.

Jeff, Tom, Justin, and I are all smitten with the new MX-5’s lightweight tossability, while Jacob, Peter, Paul, Greg, and Jonathan prefer the Golf R’s turbocharged torque and all-wheel traction.

Bettencourt alone can’t resist the Camaro’s smokeshow potential.

Sports/Performance (over $50,000)

It’s a more fair fight in the Sports/Performance (Over $50,000) group, in which the Cadillac ATS-V, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Ford (Mustang) Shelby GT350, Lexus RC 350 AWD, and the Mercedes-AMG C 63 go head-to-head.

Jacob, Peter, and Tom like the GT350’s chances here, Jeff, Jonathan and I prefer the Corvette Z06, Michael and Justin like the ATS-V, and Paul and Greg dig the Benz.

Prestige/Performance (over $75,000)

More big power here, in a category that pits the Cadillac CTS-V against the Lexus RC F, Mercedes-AMG GT S, and Porsche Cayman GT4.

Peter, Tom, Jeff and Jonathan favour the Benz AMG GT S, while Paul, Greg, and I like the Cayman GT4, and Jacob, Justin, and Michael are rooting for the CTS-V.

SUV/CUV (under $35,000)

Taking the pricetag down a notch is the first of three SUV/CUV categories, in which the Mitsubishi Outlander takes the fight to the Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, and Mazda CX-3.

Jonathan puts his weight behind the underdog here, having evidently been wowed by the 100 changes Mitsu made to its Outlander. Meanwhile, Jacob, Peter, Greg, Jeff, and Tom prefer the HR-V, while Michael, Paul and I think the CX-3 is the best thing to happen to the compact crossover class for 2016. Pritchard likes the Renegade’s chances (we think he might have inhaled too much country air when he made his picks).

SUV/CUV ($35,000-$60,000)

A diverse field will hug it out in a group that pits compacts like the Hyundai Tucson and the upscale BMW X1 and Lexus NX 200t against mid-sizers from Ford (Edge), Honda (Pilot), and Kia (Sorento). The outlier is a fuel cell electric version of the Tucson that’s based on the previous-generation platform.

Jacob, Tom, Jeff, Michael, Justin, and Jonathan all choose the Pilot here, while Paul and Peter stand closer to the Edge. I and Greg think the Tucson is going to take this one.

SUV/CUV (over $60,000)

The Lincoln MKX, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, and Volvo XC90 will try to out-coddle test drivers in the big-bucks crossover category.

All but one of us think the Volvo XC90 is the winner of this group, while Greg thinks the Cayenne is hottest among this group. That leaves Paul lonely as a Lincoln salesman trying to convince people the MKX is worth the extra cash over the too-similar Ford Edge.


Finally, the full-size Chevrolet Silverado lines up against the mid-size GMC Canyon diesel, and Toyota Tacoma.

The vote here is likewise almost unanimous: seven of us think the GMC Canyon’s addition of a diesel option will put it over the top, Justin wants the Taco to win, while Greg and Michael Bettencourt figure the big Silverado will walk all over the smaller trucks.

Testfest kicks off Tuesday, October 27, and wraps on Friday, October 30. Category winners will be announced by the end of November, and overall Canadian Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year winners will be announced in February, at Toronto’s Canadian International Auto Show, and we’ll have the results for you as soon as they’re made public.

A person takes a photo of the Fiat Abarth at The 2013 Canadian Car of the Year Awards TestFest event in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Monday, October 22, 2012.

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