Sweet 16 finalists vie for Car of the Year honors

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Sweet 16 finalists vie for Car of the Year honors

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Five Korean models are among 16 finalists for the JungAng Ilbo 2015 Car of the Year that were announced Tuesday.

The award is in its sixth year. Through 2014, the award had categories for passenger cars and SUVs, but they have been combined.

A total of 66 cars released last year were evaluated in the first round by a panel of 15 judges from the auto industry and academia based on performance, design, price and convenience features.

The final round will consist of test drives by judges on March 14 at the Korea Automobile Testing and Research Institute track in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi.

In choosing the finalists, judges said they prioitized technological innovation, design and humanity.

In technological innovation, judges liked Kia Motors’ premium Sorento SUV, in which the company invested 450 billion ($414 million). “We were able to see innovation of the SUV, particularly from the vehicle’s frame,” said Heo Seung-jin, head of Kookmin University’s automotive engineering department.

Foreign automakers also caught judges’ eyes. Regarding BMW’s electric vehicle i3, Hwang Soon-ha, head of UL Korea auto parts company, said, “The vehicle certainly is leading the market in the segment with most advanced technology.”

Volkswagen’s best-selling Golf GTI hatchback, a favorite of buyers in their 20s and 30s, also is a finalist.

Hyundai Motor’s best-selling midsize sedan, the Sonata LF, impressed judges with its design and convenience features features, along with Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class and Nissan’s new Qashqai SUV. “The Qashqai’s long, wide and low body is very unique,” said Prof. Lee Dae-woon of Seoul National University.

In the humanity feature, Kia Motor’s new Carnival van received high marks for wide passenger seats and good utilization of space.

Volvo S60’s anticollision system, which is designed to protect occupants even at speeds of less than 50 kilometers per hour, attracted the attention of judges.

Along with these cars, Renault Samsung’s midsize SM5 D sedan made the cut with money-saving characteristices such as its low price and fuel efficiency. General Motors Korea also found a place on the list with its Chevrolet Malibu Diesel.

The JoongAng Ilbo said the nation’s leading mobile SMS service, Daum Kakao, will participate in the final round voting.

With an online service provided by Daum Kakao, consumers will be able to vote for their favorite car. 

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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