The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) just wrapped up the organization’s “TestFest” event this past weekend in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
TestFest is a week-long event held annually by AJAC to allow them to evaluate all the new models of cars, trucks, and SUVs in an effort to determine the Canadian Car-of-the-Year, as well as the Canadian Truck-of-the-Year.
This year there was a total of 49 cars competing in 15 categories.
• smart fortwo electric drive
• Kia Soul EV
Small Car (under $21,000)
• Honda Fit
• Nissan Micra SV
Small Car (over $21,000)
• Kia Forte5 LX+
• Mini Cooper
• Volkswagen Golf
Family Car (Under $30,000)
• Toyota Camry XSE
• Chrysler 200
• Subaru Legacy
Family Car (Over $30,000)
• Toyota Camry Hybrid
• Hyundai Sonata
• Subaru WRX
Luxury Car (Under $50,000)
• Acura TLX
• Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic
• Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E
Luxury Car (Over $50,000)
• Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
• Cadillac ATS Coupe
• Hyundai Genesis
• Kia K900 V8 Elite
Sports-Performance (Under $50,000)
• BMW M235i
• Ford Mustang EcoBoost
• Kia Forte Koup SX
• Subaru WRX STi
• Volkswagen Golf GTI
Sports-Performance (Over $50,000)
• Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
• Ford Mustang GT
• Volvo V60 Polestar
Prestige (Over $75,000)
• Cadillac ELR
• Cadillac Escalade
• Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe
Prestige Performance (Over $75,000)
• BMW M4 Coupe
• Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible
• Jaguar F-Type R Coupe
• Porsche 911 Turbo S
SUV-CUV (Under $35,000)
• Honda CR-V
• Nissan Rogue SL AWD
• Subaru Outback
• Chevrolet Tahoe
• Toyota Highlander AWD XLE
• Lincoln MKC
• Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic
SUV-CUV (Over $60,000)
• GMC Yukon XL Denali
• Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG 4Matic
• Porsche Macan S
• Chevrolet Colorado
• Ford F-150
• GMC Canyon
• RAM 1500
I was the only voting journalist to manage to drive every model during the event, so I am going to make a few predictions and attempt to pick the category winners.
City Car- The two cars in this category are electric models. I think the KIA Soul EV will win this category as it offers more utility than the smart. Build quality and cabin comfort are very good in both cars, but the KIA offers huge passenger space in a small package.
Small Car (Under $21,000) will be the Honda Fit. This venerable Canadian favourite offers too much value and a host of innovative features. The budget-friendly Micra just feels too dated, and while the informational materials provided with each test vehicle stressed its status as the lowest priced car in Canada ($9,998), the test unit was almost $16,000.
Small Car (Over $21,000) will be the Volkswagen Golf. The car performed well in all departments, and represents a very practical package that will attract a lot of consumers.
Family Car (Under $30,000) is a tough call, as the Chrysler 200 is a classy machine for the money, but the Toyota Camry XSE is a real bargain when it comes to overall quality and performance.
Family Car (Over $30,000) – The Hyundai Sonata is my choice here, and one that I would make all day long. The Sonata is such a tremendous value and a superior quality automobile. The Subaru WRX loses its way this time around due to its horrible CVT transmission.
Luxury Car (Under $50,000) is going to be the Acura TLX. This is the car that Honda hopes will reinvigorate the brand and help attract more people to Honda’s luxury division. It is also very pretty.
Luxury Car (Over $50,000) – The Hyundai Genesis is a fabulous car, with impressive performance, luxurious appointments, and unsurpassed reliability. But the Kia K900 is a close call too. I am pretty sure that Korea will own this category.
Sports-Performance (Under $50,000) – BMW’s M235i is a true enthusiast machine, with rear-wheel-drive and a superb transmission, but Subaru’s WRX STi is a true four-season performance icon that is more refined than ever. Too close to call.
Sports-Performance (Over $50,000) – This category may only have three cars, but all three are standouts. The Volvo is practical and peppy, but the all-new Mustang GT and the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat are modern muscle cars that deliver impressive performance. My heart wants the Hellcat to win due to its 707-horsepower brashness, but bolting a supercharger to a car doesn’t compare to the substantial re-design of the venerable Mustang. I suspect that the Mustang GT will win this category, and in fact, could take the Car-of-the-Year title as well.
The Prestige category is likely going to be awarded to the Mercedes-Benz S550 Coupe, despite the fact that Cadillac has stacked the deck by entering two cars in this group. The S550 is gorgeous, drives like a dream, and features styling that will move Mercedes-Benz into the future.
Prestige Performance is another tight one, as the M4 and 911 Turbo S are performance icons that feature new levels of refinement and improved efficiency. The Corvette Stingray has lots of upswing, including a relatively low price, but the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe is the perfect mix of sexy styling, luxurious appointments, and tire shredding performance. F-Type for the win!
SUV-CUV (Under $35,000) is one hotly contested category. The Subaru Outback has the appeal of a wagon and Subaru’s proven all-wheel-drive, but the Honda CR-V has long been a Canadian favourite and is now even better in all departments. The CR-V takes this one.
SUV-CUV ($35,000-$60,000) is going to Toyota. The Highlander has been totally redesigned and seemed to offer the best combination of power, ride and utility for the money in this class. Plus it will no doubt, be the most reliable.
SUV-CUV (Over $60,000) is an interesting category. Although the Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG is a blast to drive, it is a niche vehicle. The Denali will sell in huge numbers for GM, but it still feels too much like a truck. The Porsche Macan S will be victorious as it offers sports sedan handling in a luxurious five-passenger utility vehicle that is a city-friendly size, and comes with a prestige label that will impress your friends and colleagues.
Pickup – This category sees the arrival of General Motors’ new mid-size offerings, the GMC Canyon and the Chevrolet Colorado. While both seemed to be capable trucks, the Ford F-150 and the RAM 1400 Eco Diesel were getting most of the attention. While the all-aluminum F-150 seems well put together, I suspect the allure of the extended range and healthy torque offered by the diesel-powered RAM will help Chrysler take the win in this category.
The ballots are in, and the results are being tabulated with the help of KPMG. On Tuesday, December 2, 2015 AJAC will hold a press conference in Toronto to announce the Canadian Car of the Year category winners.
On Thursday, January 15, 2015, the organization will announce the 2015 Best New Technology award at the Montreal International Auto Show.
Thursday, February 12, 2015 will see the announcement of the 2015 Canadian and Utility Vehicle of the Year at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto.
And finally, on Tuesday, March 24, 2015, AJAC will announce the winner of the 2015 Canadian Green Car of the Year award at the Vancouver International Auto Show.