Judges put 12 Car of the Year finalists through their paces

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Judges put 12 Car of the Year finalists through their paces


The 12 finalists for the JoongAng Ilbo’s Car of the Year 2015, including BMW i3, Hyundai LF Sonata and Jaguar F-Type Coupe, line up on the track at the Korea Transportation Safety Authority in Gyeonggi. The awards ceremony is scheduled for early next month. By Kang Jung-hyun

On the track at the Korea Transportation Safety Authority in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, the sound of engines roaring and smell of hot rubber is everywhere.

The car on the track was the Infiniti Q50 hybrid, showing off its performance and acceleration at full speed on the curvy course.

“There is nothing to worry about, I just wanted to see Q50’s maximum performance,” said Jang Jin-taek, head of Car Media and one of judges for the JoongAng Ilbo’s Car of the Year 2015 (COTY).

This is the award’s sixth year.

After announcing the sweet 16 from among 66 candidates earlier this month, the list was narrowed to 12 that were in the driving test on Saturday.

The test was held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and all 14 judges, including Yu Ji-soo, president of Kookmin University, got behind the wheel of each car on three different courses.

Acceleration, braking and obstacle avoidance were involved in the first test. In order to check the performance of each vehicle’s power, judges accelerated the cars to full speed in the first 280-meter (919-foot) straight section then braked.

Then there was a slalom test, driving the cars between small cones, to assess obstacle avoidance.

With these driving tests, the judges also tried to evaluate cars from a consumer perspective.

They checked each car’s trunk, even removing rugs to check how efficiently the interior space was designed. In the first round of evaluations, cars were scored based on documents submitted by each company, but actually experiencing the cars made many judges think differently.

They said so-called brand power didn’t affect their evaluations as much as performance and design.

“Nissan’s Qashqai is a small SUV, but the series of safety and smart technology options, including the lane departure warning system, was unique,” said judge Kang Byung-huee, a car racer and official at Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles Korea. “Since it has many safety options, women can easily drive the car.”

Judge Park Sang-won, manager of the strategic planning department of UL Korea, said, “The Jaguar F-Type Coupe is a true car that has the best basic features, including explosive acceleration and driving performance. The sports car’s sharp exterior design is also a huge plus.”

Professor Lee Nam-suk, from ChungAng University’s business department, said, “The Mercedes-Benz’s new C-Class had the best driving balance even at speeds above 220 kilometers per hour (136 miles per hour). The model’s sleek exterior design also perfectly reflected the current auto trend.”

Jang from Car Media gave two thumbs up for BMW’s i3 electric vehicle. “The car’s compact design will definitely attract consumers,” he said.

When the vehicles were evaluated by price, Korean cars were considered competitive.

“Hyundai Motor’s LF Sonata sedan is the best car in the price range,” said Na Yoon-suk, a former executive of Forza Motors Korea, the official importer of Ferraris. “Compared to its predecessor, the YF Sonata, the LF is much safer, and it looks like it is one of the best family sedans in the [Korean] market.”

The COTY winner will be announced in the JoongAng Ilbo and the award ceremony will be held March 4 at Hotel Shilla.

Judges will pick the domestic and import Car of the Year and winners in seven categories: best SUV, performance, environmental friendliness, domestic and import design, driver convenience and innovation.

In the first COTY award in 2010, Hyundai Motor’s YF Sonata took the honor, followed by Kia’s K5 sedan. Audi’s A6 became the first import car to win the next year, followed by the Peugeot 208 and Hyundai’s Genesis.

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