The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is the 2019 AutoTrader South African Car of the Year and won by a healthy margin! The sought-after award was presented at a spectacular function at Shepstone Gardens in Johannesburg on April 4.
Much like the actual venue (which was top secret, guests were shuttled there at the very last minute), the identity of the winner was a closely-guarded secret. So too were the runners-up, namely the Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC40.
The victory was an extremely momentous occasion for Mercedes-Benz, which last won the South African Car of the Year in 1987 with the Mercedes-Benz 260E. Porsche last won in 2018 winner was with the Panamera, while Volvo’s XC90 wore the crown in 2016.
It certainly wasn’t unexpected though; the jury members were full of praise for the A-Class during the test days.
"The judges were particularly impressed with its interior comfort, stunning design, innovative technology, terrific road manners and exemplary safety features. Furthermore, the advanced engine offers the optimal blend of efficiency, performance and driving fun," confirms Rubin van Niekerk, chairman of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ).
Incredibly, members of the public reached the same conclusion as the highly qualified jury members, who collectively have 584 years of experience in the motor industry.
For the first time in the competition’s 34-year-long history, members of the public could cast a vote via the AutoTrader website – and pick a car that they believed most deserving of the South African Car of the Year title.
George Mienie, AutorTrader CEO, said: "After 55 000 consumer votes, I am delighted to reveal that the public vote yielded exactly the same result: they also chose the Mercedes-Benz A-Class."
The Porsche Cayenne which placed second, also scored highly during the evaluation days.
"The jury were particularly intrigued by the fact that this is a sports utility vehicle (SUV) which is as impressive to drive as most sports cars. Furthermore, they commented on the fact that the vehicle is well engineered while the driveline is simply faultless," Van Niekerk explains.
The vehicle that came third – the Volvo XC40 – also attracted widespread praise from the judges. This vehicle has notched up award after award – most notably Women’s World Car of the Year and European Car of the Year. The jury members were unanimous in their praise for Volvo’s smallest SUV.
Judges particularly liked its minimalistic dashboard design and they commented favourably on the build quality, which is the best in the business.
In a historic first for the AutoTrader South African Car of the Year, categories were introduced. These were the category winners:
Urban Compact Category Winner: Suzuki Swift
Sedan/Hatch Category Winner: Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Sedan Category Winner: Lexus ES
Utility Category Winner: Suzuki Jimny
Crossover Category Winner: Porsche Cayenne
Furthermore the category awards were hosted by current and past motoring greats such as Ian Scheckter, Tamsin Pepper (now competitor in the W Series), and included a tribute to the late Gugu Zulu, who was honoured on the night.
Zulu’s wife Letshego Zulu attended the event to hand over the last helmet Zulu used to race, in the South African National Rally Championship in 2015. The memorabilia will go on display at the SA Hall of Fame exhibition in Sun City.