Judges put cars through their paces, even on racing track

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Judges put cars through their paces, even on racing track

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The judges for the JoongAng Ilbo’s Car of the Year awards gather at a conference hall in the newspaper’s headquarters to make their final evaluations. By Kim Seong-ryong

The JoongAng Ilbo Car of the Year awards remains the most prestigious event of its kind in Korea five years after its launch in 2007.

The 16 judges have each worked in fields related to the automotive industry for over a decade. The judges consisted of journalists, professors and company executives, all of whom worked effortlessly to try and make the evaluation process as objective as possible.

The first evaluation was based on the cars’ designs and automakers’ presentations. The judges selected 15 of 53 cars from 22 domestic and foreign brands. The second evaluation mainly involved test-driving the cars at a track in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, last month.

As it turned out, Audi’s A6 luxury sedan, the winner of the 2012 Car of the Year award, impressed the judges the most as they took it around the track. The A6 finished way ahead of its Korean rivals in the final scores, posting an average of 55 points from all the judges.

In the Domestic Car of the Year category, Kia Motor’s box car Ray and Hyundai Motor’s i40 station wagon were selected as joint winners with an average of 38.6 points each.

In the final evaluation, judges looked at the ride quality, driver satisfaction, price, design, new technology, performance and how environmentally friendly the 15 vehicles were.

“Many automakers are copying Audi in terms of design these days,” said Yoon Jung-ho, the former vice president of Renault Samsung Motors. “Like other Audi models, the A6 also has a well-designed interior and exterior, as well as exceptional performance.”

The car received high marks for its interior design and finish, but some described the dashboard as being overly complicated.

“Audi wanted to show too much in one place, so the interior was too complex,” said Lee Nam-seok, a business administration professor at Chung-Ang University.

The i40 was named the joint-best domestic car despite the fact that Hyundai did not give a presentation on it.

“I thought Korean automakers were far behind their European counterparts in making diesel-powered cars, but I changed my mind after seeing the i40,” said Yoon Dae-sung, executive director of the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (Kaida). Yoon served as an advisor during the evaluation process.

But judges considered its price tag a little too steep at between 27.8 million won ($24,800) and 30.1 million won.

The Ray, which received the COTY Design Award last month, was also named Domestic Car of the Year. The judges said it would have collected an even a higher score, but it suffered when being test driven on the high-speed track because of its boxy shape.

“Although the car is high off the ground with lots of headroom, it's quite stable,” said Jang Jin-taek, who writes for Car Media. “The more I drove it, the better it handled.”

The second-generation BMW X3 scored points for offering a higher rate of fuel efficiency and a simpler interior than its predecessor. It is quite roomy for a small SUV and offers four-wheel drive. “Among European cars, the X3 and Volkswagen Tiguan showed a significant improvement in fuel efficiency, but were still able to maintain their dynamic quality,” said journalist Jang Jin-taek.

The Lexus CT200h, winner of the Technological Award, obtained high scores in both its technology and environmental friendliness. It received the highest score in the latter category, but was unable to collect this award as each vehicle was only permitted to be honored once under the judge’s rules. The Environmental Award went instead to the Peugeot 308.

“Previously, hybrid vehicles did not show such a dynamic performance due to their emphasis on fuel efficiency and being environmentally friendly, but the CT200h managed to overcome this,” said Lee Dae-un, a former head researcher at Hyundai Motor.

“Although it was a hybrid car, it was fun to drive,” said Kim Bang-shin of Hyosung. “It added a sports mode to install a sense of dynamism, which has been missing from hybrid cars.”

Regarding the Peugeot 308, Kim Ki-beom, a JoongAng Sunday reporter, said, “Even though it didn’t show much in the way of innovation from its predecessor, it was able to improve its fuel efficiency while also reducing its carbon dioxide emission with its stop-and-start system.”

By Moon Byung-joo [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

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