2015 AJAC Canadian Car of the Year recap

AJAC representatives (from left) Beth Rhind, Justin Pritchard and Gary Grant at the 2015 Canadian Car of the Year awards program held in Ontario. Photos by Benjamin Yong.

Last week, seventy-three journalists wheeled in to Niagara Falls, ON for the 27th annual Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Canadian Car of the Year awards (CCOTY).

Dubbed “TestFest,” this year the journalists evaluated 49 of the newest vehicles produced by over 20 brands placed in several key categories such as best family car under (and over) $21,000, luxury car under/over $50,000 and sports performance under/over $50,000. Bigger vehicles like crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks joined the fun as well with their own respective sections.

“TestFest is the most intensive new vehicle evaluation process on the planet,” said CCOTY co-chair, Gary Grant, in a news release. “No other organization employs such stringent testing methods to determine their car of year award winners.”

As part of the evaluation procedures, participating vehicles are driven back-to-back on a prescribed route involving mainly public roads and highways, mimicking the conditions a consumer would typically experience in everyday ownership. There is also a small parking lot slalom-type course where handling characteristics are gauged, and a long windy stretch of a closed two-lane road where some of the faster cars can get up to higher speeds.

Following the drive, journalists then score the entries on value, fit, finish, performance, comfort and so on. Approximately 106,405 data points were collected via 1,640 test drives at this year’s Test Fest, which took place from Oct. 20 to 24. The information is collected and tabulated by international accounting firm KPMG, and category winners announced in December.

Here are a few of our favourite standout models at the 2015 CCOTY.

• MINI Cooper (Small Car over $21k)

Now in its third generation, the new MINI Cooper features a three-cylinder engine with a peak output of 134 horsepower. Slightly larger than before, the extra room results in 211-litres of cargo space, or 1,076 L with the rear seats folded down. A six-speed manual is standard with the option of a similarly-geared automatic.

• Volkswagen Golf GTI (Sports – Performance under $50k)

Also redesigned for the 2015MY, the GTI’s exterior changes are modest but that is probably a good thing. The headlights are a little more streamlined, the grille a little narrower, and the bumpers more aggressive. Horsepower is bumped up to 210 and torque to 258 lb-ft, and there’s a choice between a six-speed manual or DSG automatic transmission.

• Jaguar F-TYPE R Coupé (Prestige – Performance over $75k)

Following the splashy debut of Jaguar’s F-TYPE Convertible, it was inevitable that the Coupé would quickly follow. The R is the range topper with a massive 5.0-litre, 550 hp engine that, with help from its lightweight aluminum construction, goes from 0 to 100 km/h in merely four seconds.

• Porsche Macan S (SUV – CUV over $60k)

If you think the 911 is too small and the Cayenne too big, the Macan compact luxury crossover might be the ticket. Striking a good balance between performance and utility, the Macan is offered in both an S and Turbo trim with the former sporting a high-revving 3.0-litre V6 twin turbo powerplant making 340 hp.

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights