The 2023 South African Car of the Year Winners Announced

The highly anticipated Old Mutual Insure South African Car of the Year (COTY) competition culminated in an electrifying event held in Johannesburg, where, after months of meticulous evaluation, the overall champion and category winners were revealed as the shining stars among the impressive field of 21 finalists.

For the first time in the 37-year history of the COTY competition, a leisure double cab 4x4 bakkie was crowned South Africa's Car of the Year for 2023: The Ford Ranger.

Mabuyane Mabuza, Chairperson of the 2023 COTY Competition, said that this remarkable achievement is a testament to the automotive industry's commitment to producing high-quality double cabs that offer unrivalled performance while seamlessly blending comfort, safety, and cutting-edge technology.

"Over the past decade, the popularity of SUVs and Double Cabs has skyrocketed at the expense of sedans. Double cab bakkies have become a common choice for everyday commuting, family adventures and various work applications, providing a popular solution for South Africans' mobility demands," says Mabuza.

Old Mutual Insure, as the COTY sponsor, one of the most established insurers in South Africa and a leading provider of vehicle insurance solutions, also applauded the winners. 

"Well done to the Ford Ranger 4x4 and the category winners of the 2023 COTY contest," said Garth Napier, Managing Director of Old Mutual Insure. "We are proud to align with their commitment to excellence and congratulate them on their well-deserved success." 

"The Ford Ranger's triumph represents a milestone for the industry, setting a new benchmark and symbolising a noteworthy accomplishment for one of South Africa's primary export products. Proudly representing our nation across global markets, this victory showcases the ingenuity and craftsmanship of South African automotive manufacturers," adds Mabuza. 

This year's COTY competition was particularly exciting, with 21 finalists carefully selected from an impressive pool of 55 qualifying vehicles representing various fiercely contested categories. The competition featured Budget, Compact, Compact Family, Midsize, Premium, Adventure SUV, 4x4 Double Cab, Luxury, Performance, and New Energy categories. However, the Budget category had no contenders on this year's finalist list. Although the entrant in the Compact category was commendable, it did not meet the required percentage to secure a category win.

The deserving category winners for this year's COTY competition are:

Compact Family Category:       BAIC Beijing X55

Midsize Category:                         KIA Sportage          

Premium Category:                      KIA Sorento

Adventure SUV Category:           Ford Everest

Double Cab 4x4 Category:        Ford Ranger

Luxury Category:                           Mercedes Benz S-Class

Performance Category:              Audi RS 3

New-energy Category:               Volvo XC 40 P8 Recharge

2023 SA Car of the Year:             Ford Ranger Double Cab 4x4

"The eight category winners highlight the industry's fierce rivalry and manufacturers' commitment to exceptional products across all price ranges, especially in a new world that has seen the automotive market change drastically post-COVID-19," commented Napier. 

While acknowledging the intense competition, Mabuza highlighted the remarkable distinction of the category winners, who emerged from an impressive selection of 55 entries in the 2023 COTY competition. 

The Mercedes Benz S-Class also won the coveted COTY Jurors Excellence Award, which recognises the unparalleled driving experience of an extraordinary vehicle and represents the jurors' raw scores, acknowledging exceptional vehicle quality and craftsmanship. 

The absence of any finalists in the Budget category this year can be attributed to the product lifecycle timing of key competitors; however, the category remains an important entry point into the market. Mabuza urges the automotive industry to persist in its innovation efforts, aiming to create vehicles that cater to the diverse requirements of the South African public.

To this end, the competition also saw the first Chinese winner. The BAIC Beijing X55 won the hotly contested Compact Family category, a sign that automotive brands from China are taking the world by storm, as it is also evident on South African roads. 

The Chery Tiggo 8 Pro won the "Motor Enthusiasts Choice", voted for by the public via a social media campaign driven by Old Mutual Insure. This category was added three years ago to reflect how integral the public has become to the COTY scoring and voting process. 

For those interested in the technical nature of the COTY competition, Mabuza said that the overall and category winners' evaluations included scoring criteria like design, technology, engineering, powertrain, handling, ingenuity and safety, but that the process is much more than just juror scoring.

"Once the expert panel concluded scoring, the automated scoring factors that cover sales performance, segment share and value for money are applied. COTY competition partner, Lightstone Auto, provides the automated scoring information, including data-driven insights, online market intelligence and new vehicle sales data."

The diverse group of jurors for this year's competition comprises esteemed South African Guild of Mobility Journalists (SAGMJ) members, with their peers choosing potential and trainee jurors based on specific requirements. Trainees undergo a two-year apprenticeship under the guidance of a juror mentor, ensuring a continuous supply of newly trained jurors ready to contribute to the jury team.

"The selection and training of jurors for this year's competition remained as stringent as ever," said Mabuza. "Our group of 29 jurors and 4 trainee jurors represents all car buyers in the country, ensuring a fair and comprehensive evaluation process." 

Additional honours instituted at the SAGMJ's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 2021 were the Most Admired OEM and the Best PR in the industry. The winners of this year's awards will be announced at the Guild's AGM later in June. Although these two awards are not officially part of the COTY competition, they are just as prestigious.

"We would like to thank all the OEMs participating in the 2023 COTY competition. We also extend our heartfelt appreciation to our sponsors, partners, hardworking jurors, and dedicated Guild members who tirelessly uphold the esteemed reputation of our nation's premier car competition," says Mabuza. "It is also an honour to recognise the exceptional jurors who take immense pride in their involvement with COTY."

Since its inception in 1986, the South African Car of the Year (COTY) competition, hosted by the SAGMJ, has maintained its unrivalled reputation as the country's most respected and coveted motoring event.