The Mazda2 1.5 Individual is the South Africa Guild of Motoring Journalists? Car of the Year for 2008 marking the inaugural win for the Japanese brand in the competition. The announcement was made on Tuesday 18 March at a gala dinner held at Kyalami, near Johannesburg, attended by nearly 800 representatives of South Africa?s motoring industry.
The winning model was one of two Mazda derivatives nominated to take part in the 23rd running of the Wesbank-sponsored competition the other being the Mazda5 2.0 Active. In all, nine cars were chosen to vie for top honours the highest number of vehicles yet to be nominated as participants in the annual competition.
In deciding the winner, each finalist was subject to a rigorous, three-day evaluation session at the hands of a 28-member jury at Gerotek?s vehicle testing facility near Pretoria, the models put through their paces in a series of assessments to determine the benchmarks they set for the vehicle classes in which they compete in the market.
Dynamic ability, performance, safety, engineering quality, technological innovation, styling and comfort were among the factors considered, along with value for money, running costs, fuel economy and emission standards.
The Mazda2 unveiled in March last year at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland before making its debut in South Africa in October came home ahead of Fiat?s Bravo 1.4 T-Jet Sport; Honda?s CR-V 2.2 I-CTDI; Land Rover?s Freelander 2.2 TD4 HSE; Lexus? LS 460; the Mazda5 2.0 Active; Mercedes-Benz?s C220 CDI Elegance; Nissan?s Qashqai 2.0 Acenta and Toyota?s Corolla 1.8 Exclusive.
The SAGMJ said in a statement that while all of the models in the competition were deemed to represent examples of outstanding automotive technology and engineering, the winner was the vehicle that, in the eyes of the jury, set the example for class rivals in terms of quality, all-round excellence and value for money.
?The Mazda2 1.5 Individual bears all the hallmarks of an exemplary automotive product ? it sets benchmarks for its class, has been awarded a five-star safety rating, incorporates a broad range of impressive features and represents excellent value. It is truly a worthy winner, a performer beyond expectation,? said Car of the Year chairman Steve Dlamini-Kabini.
The Mazda2 joins models from Alfa Romeo (156 2.0 T-Spark, 1999); Audi (A4 1.8, 1996; A4 1.9 TDI, 2002; Sportback 2.0T FSI, 2006); BMW (735i, 1988; 316i, 1993; 528i, 1997; 320D, 2001); Ford (Fiesta Fun, 1998); Honda (Civic 1.8 VXi Sedan, 2007); Mercedes-Benz (260E, 1987); Nissan (Maxima 300 SE, 1992); Opel (Monza 160 GSI, 1991; Kadett 140, 1994; Astra 160iS, 1995); Renault (Clio RT 1.4, 2000; Megane 1.9 dCi, 2004;) Toyota (Corolla Twin Cam Sprinter, 1986; Corolla GLi, 1989; Corolla Sprinter, 1990); Volkswagen (Polo 1.4 TDI, 2002) and Volvo (S40 2.4i, 2005) in the Car of the Year Winner?s Circle.
Doreen Mashinini, marketing manager of Mazda South Africa, said before the announcement that the brand was proud to be the only manufacturer in the competition with two models to be nominated as finalists. ?Both the Mazda2 and Mazda5 are worthy contestants and we hope that one of the two will bring home the title,? she said.