Ray, Cube among 15 contenders short-listed for Car of the Year

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Ray, Cube among 15 contenders short-listed for Car of the Year

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Left to right: Best Designed Imported Car Mercedes-Benz CLS; Best Designed Domestic Car Kia Ray ;Best Designed Imported Car Nissan Cube

Fifteen candidates have been whittled down from the 53 domestic and imported cars launched in the country last year for consideration at the JoongAng Ilbo’s annual “Car of the Year” (COTY) awards, with the winner to be named next month.

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Six domestic vehicles and nine imported cars are competing for the COTY awards, meaning that the number of locally produced vehicles among the finalists has doubled from last year.

Among a number of awards to be dished out, one is reserved for the leading SUV, while two separate gongs will be handed out to the top-ranked foreign-made and domestic passenger cars.

The candidates are: the Kia Ray, i30 compact hatchback, i40 midsize wagon, Grandeur HG full-size sedan, all from Hyundai Motor; the A6 sedan and Audi A7 four-door coupe from Audi; the Lexus CT200h hybrid sedan; the Nissan Cube; Peugeot’s 308 compact hatchback; the Mercedes-Benz C-Class; the Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan; the Mini Countryman SUV; BMW’s X3 compact SUV; Volkswagen’s Tiguan compact SUV; and the Ssangyong Korando C, also an SUV.

The COTY design awards have already been dished out to Kia Motors’ box car Ray, Mercedes’ CLS luxury coupe and Nissan’s boxy Cube, the newspaper announced. In the imported car category, the Cube tied with the CLS.

Currently, the Ray is shaping up as the leading contender to win one of the COTY prizes as it received the highest score among passenger cars in the first round. Hyundai’s i30 and the Audi A6 were tied for second place, followed by the CT200h, Cube, Grandeur and Malibu in that order.

The JoongAng Ilbo initially intended to choose 10 passenger car finalists but extended this to 11 due to the number of ties. The Audi A7, Peugeot 308 and Mercedes C-Class were all tied at ninth place.

Among the four SUVs to make the final list, the Tiguan came first followed by the X3, Mini Countryman and Korando C.

What is notable about this year’s awards is the huge level of interest in box cars, with the two design award winners both slotting into this category.

The Ray obtained high scores in a number of categories, including characteristic design and price competitiveness. In December, the month of its launch, 4,107 units were sold in the country, a number that rose to 4,496 last month.

Now, it is driving the country’s city car market. The car is equipped with a 1.0-liter gasoline engine that can produce 78 horsepower and gives 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) to the liter. It has sliding doors and a generous amount of storage space. Although it is a city car, it has features that are usually only seen in high-end vehicles, such as a heated steering wheel and six air bags.

As it is equipped with a small engine, owners can enjoy a range of benefits such as acquisition tax exemptions and discounts on expressway toll fees and public parking.

The Cube, one of the top 10 imported cars last year by sales, was also highly regarded. “Nissan created a new genre with its box car, which shows a creative and asymmetric design,” said one reviewer.

Another reviewer found the “strong but aerodynamic exterior and luxurious interior” of the Mercedes CLS a winning combination.

Meanwhile, Hyundai’s i30, which received the second-highest score in the first evaluation, has picked up the moniker of “Golf-killer” as it is directly competing with Volkswagen’s best-selling small family car.

The i30 features a hexagonal grill and “fluidic sculpture” that is seen in many Hyundai vehicles designed for the European market. It is equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission and a 1.6-liter direct-injection engine that can produce 140 horsepower. It is also the first Korean vehicle in its segment fitted with seven air bags and has a hidden rear camera to help with parking.

Among imports, the Cube caused a sensation in the country last year. According to Nissan Korea, over 1,000 people signed up to buy the 1.8-liter vehicle since the company started taking reservations on July.

Its popularity is attributed to its boxy shape and affordability. The Cube sold for between 21.9 million won ($19,640) and 24.9 million won when it was first introduced, although the price has risen by 700,000 won this year. Yet it remains one of the most affordable imported vehicles in the country.

In the SUV category, the Tiguan was the clear winner in the first round of consideration. Since it was introduced in 2007, over 700,000 units have been sold worldwide. The second-generation version was released last September and has proven popular in Korea with its modern design, affordability and advanced features, including a parking assist system.

VW redesigned the front of the vehicle to bring it in line with the carmaker’s new family, characterized by square-shaped and LED-powered bi-xenon headlights. Its panoramic sunroof is also 30 percent wider than usual. The four-wheel drive vehicle is equipped with a 2.0-TDI engine that can produce 140 horsepower while delivering up to 18.1 kilometers per liter.

The finalists and design award winners will be displayed at COEX in southern Seoul from Feb. 18-24. The second evaluation is due at the end of this month or in early March, and the winner will be announced on March 15. Other prizes include “SUV of the Year,” “Performance of the Year” and “Technology of the Year.”


By Limb Jae-un [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

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