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These are the 13 best cars in SA

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The 2016/17 Cars.co.za Consumer Awards program recently concluded with the announcement of the thirteen best-considered new purchases in their respective categories of the South African new vehicle market.

Established to be the most prestigious, credible and influential awards programme in the South African motor industry, the second iteration of Cars.co.za Consumer Awards was distinguished by two significant factors: it was backed by the biggest provider of vehicle finance in South Africa and, in conjunction with the 13 judges’ scores, the findings of the Cars.co.za‘s Owner Satisfaction Survey (in association with Lightstone Consumer) had a substantial (50%) weighting on the final results, excluding the Brand of the Year award, which was based entirely on the Survey data.

The winners are:

Premium Hatchback of the Year      Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG

First Class Car of the Year              BMW 750Li Design Pure Excellence

Leisure Double-cab of the Year       Ford Ranger 3.2 Wildtrak 4×4 Auto

Executive Sedan of the Year           Jaguar XF 25t Portfolio

Premium SUV of the Year              Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Inscription

Business Class of the Year             Audi A4 2.0T FSI Sport S tronic

Compact Family Car of the Year      Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+

Fun Car of the Year                        Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport DSG

Lifestyle SUV of the Year                Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 S

Compact Hatchback of the Year      Opel Corsa 1.0T Enjoy

Budget Car of the Year                  Suzuki Celerio 1.0 GL

Performance Car of the Year           BMW M2 M-DCT

Family Car of the Year                    Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI Comfortline DSG

Brand of the Year                           Suzuki

Cars.co.za‘s awards programme has a multi-faceted judging process, based on inputs from seven members of the experienced editorial team and six respected guest jurors drawn from specialist fields. The combined jury allocated scores to the three finalists in each category based on their assessments from two test days (on which available vehicles were compared back-to-back).

Once the judges’ scores were tallied and audited, the brand-specific data from the Cars.co.za Owner Satisfaction Survey, which incorporates feedback from thousands of South African new vehicle owners, based on their experiences of their vehicles (must be less than five years old and serviced through franchised outlets), was factored in for the purpose of calculating of the final results.

The prestigious Brand of the Year award, however, was determined solely by brands’ ratings in the Cars.co.za‘s Owner Satisfaction Survey (in association with Lightstone Consumer), which was compiled from thousands of surveys completed between September 2015 and December 2016. Consumers rated the brands in terms of: after-sales service, overall ownership experience and sales processes of its dealerships. Changes in market share were also factored into the final standings.

Highlights from the 2016/17 Cars.co.za Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank

  • Volkswagen dominated with 3 category wins: Premium Hatchback, Family Car and Fun Car
  • BMW and Suzuki won two categories each; it was the first awards garnered by the Japanese brand, which also succeeded Toyota as the overall Brand of the Year for 2016/17.
  • The Cars.co.za Owner Satisfaction Survey had a big impact on the programme; it determined the final results in three of the categories
  • The Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Volvo XC90 defended their titles, although the latter two won with different derivatives than in 2015/16.
  • Certificates of merit were awarded to other brands that finished in the Top Five rankings of the Cars.co.za Owner Satisfaction Survey: Audi, BMW, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota.

 

Complete list of winners:

Premium Hatchback of the Year

Volkswagen Golf GTI DSG

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: had to be a C-segment hatchback/crossover with a list price of between R350 000 and R500 000at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): electronic stability control, dual front, side and curtain airbags. The most important judging factors were: a balance of efficiency and performance, practicality, brand strength, design and quality appeal, ride/handling, safety, as well as in-car entertainment systems and connectivity.

“I’m not surprised the GTI defended its title. Given its blend of occupant comfort, premium features and finishes, plus driving enjoyment, it has a maturity that other hot hatches lack.” – David Taylor

Runners-up: BMW 120i 5-dr M Sport Auto, Mercedes-Benz A220d Style Auto

 

First Class Car of the Year

BMW 750Li Design Pure Excellence

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of more than R1 million at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016). The most important judging factors were: powertrain technology, luxury features, brand prestige and exclusivity, design and quality appeal, driving dynamics, ride comfort and overall refinement.

“The BMW 750Li Pure Design Excellence was a more than worthy winner in a category filled with equally impressive machines. The new age technology found in the car, coupled with its dashing good looks and presidential appeal, set it apart.” – Francisco Nwamba

Runners-up: Mercedes-Benz S500e L, Range Rover SDV8 LWB Autobiography

Leisure Double-cab of the Year

Ford Ranger 3.2 Wildtrak 4×4 Auto

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: had to be a double-cab bakkie with a turbodiesel engine and four-wheel drive, with a list price in excess of R450 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016). The most important judging factors were performance, space and practicality, occupant comfort, all-surface ability and safety.

“The Ford Ranger 3.2 Wildtrak 4×4 Auto features attractive styling and excellent off-road capability that’s tough to beat in the leisure double cab segment.” – Gero Lilleike

Runners-up: Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD-6 Raider 4×4 Auto, Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 BiTDI Highline 4Motion

Executive Sedan of the Year

Jaguar XF 25t Portfolio

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a D/E-segment sedan (or so-called four-door “coupé”) with a list price of between R750 000 and R1 000 000at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016). The most important judging factors were: powertrain technology, brand strength, design and quality appeal, driving dynamics, technological features and occupant comfort.

“The Jaguar has an intrinsic elegance to it, which is reflected in its performance and driving experience. Its comfortable, refined cabin underlines its executive sedan status.” – Kojo Baffoe

Runners-up: Mercedes-Benz E220d Avantgarde, Lexus GS 350 F-Sport

Note: The Mercedes-Benz E220d Avantgarde received a zero score from the judges as a test vehicle was not provided for the evaluation days. The brand concerned accepts the decision as fair.

Premium SUV of the Year

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Inscription

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R750 000 and R1 200 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016) and it had to be a large SUV (or its crossover derivative) with all-wheel drive as a standard feature. The most important judging factors were powertrain technology, luxury features, brand strength, design and quality appeal, driving dynamics, space and practicality.

“The XC90 was a clear winner in this category. I loved its infotainment system and plethora of on-board technological features; the Volvo embodies a premium driving experience.” – Nafisa Akabor

Runners-up: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI quattro, Jaguar F-PACE 30d R-Sport

Business Class of the Year

Audi A4 2.0T FSI Sport S tronic

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R500 000 and R750 000at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): at least six airbags, as well as electronic stability control. The most important judging factors were powertrain technology, luxury, brand strength, design and quality appeal, driving dynamics and technological features.

“With the new A4, Audi has done the unexpected: it has turned the A4 into something that rivals its competitors in the bends. The newcomer’s interior quality is unrivalled in its class.” – Ashley Oldfield

Runners-up: BMW 330d M Sport sports-auto, Mercedes-Benz C250 AMG Line

Note: The Mercedes-Benz C250 AMG Line received a zero score from the judges as a test vehicle was not provided for the evaluation days. The brand concerned accepts the decision as fair.

Compact Family Car of the Year

Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GL+

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R250 000 and R350 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): ABS, electronic stability control, a minimum of four airbags, air-conditioning, split/folding rear seats and a service plan. The most important judging factors were: balance of fuel economy and performance, space and practicality, design and quality appeal, occupant comfort and safety features.

“The Vitara is an excellent all-rounder, with a level of practicality that you’d expect from a bigger SUV, as well as a smooth engine which delivers excellent fuel economy.” – Ciro de Siena

Runners-up: Nissan Qashqai 1.2 Visia, Renault Captur 1.5 dCi Dynamique

Fun Car of the Year

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport DSG

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of less than R600 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016) to ensure that this category isn’t dominated by extravagant exotic vehicles. The most important judging factors were drivetrain engagement, entertaining handling, sensory appeal and the number of standard features.

“The Clubsport made me feel like I was at the wheel of ‘a racing car’. I loved its responsiveness, the exact reactions to driver inputs and, especially, the overall composure of the car.” – Khutso Theledi

Runners-up: Mazda MX-5, Mini John Cooper Works sports-auto

Lifestyle SUV of the Year

Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 SE

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of less of between R500 000 and R750 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): electronic stability control, at least six airbags, split/folding rear seats, a minimum ground clearance of 180 mm and all-wheel drive capability.  The most important judging factors in this category were performance, space and practicality, in-car entertainment systems, cabin comfort and all-surface ability.

“The Discovery Sport seems to have it all – a desirable badge, genuine off-road ability, a luxurious and well-made cabin and even excellent performance/efficiency.” – Hannes Oosthuizen

Runners-up: Ford Everest 3.2 4WD Limited, Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4×4 Auto

Compact Hatchback of the Year

Opel Corsa 1.0T Enjoy

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R160 000 and R250 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): ABS, electronic stability control, dual front airbags, air-conditioning, USB/Aux audio support and a service plan. The most important judging factors were balance of fuel economy and power/performance, value for money, practicality, brand strength, design and quality appeal, ride/handling prowess and safety.

“The Corsa is just beautiful: It rides comfortably, yet it’s dynamic, corners confidently and is anything but sluggish. There is definitely an element of fun to the car; I could not fault it.”– Wendy Knowler

Runners-up: Honda Jazz 1.2 Comfort, Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TSI Comfortline

Budget Car of the Year

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 GL

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of R160 000 or lessat the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): ABS and dual front airbags. The most important judging factors were: fuel economy, value for money, practicality and brand strength.

“Although the Celerio is not the most spacious car in its segment, its standard specification list is long, the engine feels surprisingly perky and Suzuki’s reputation counts for a lot.” – Mike Fourie

Runners-up: Renault Sandero Expression, Toyota Aygo 1.0 X-Play

Performance Car of the Year

BMW M2 M-DCT

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: a list price of between R600 000 and R1 000 000 at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016) to ensure that the category isn’t dominated by exorbitantly expensive exotic cars. The most important judging factors were: driving engagement, handling, sensory appeal and standard features.

“The M2 is excellent. It’s so powerful that you’d expect it to become easily unhinged, but it’s beautifully composed. It’s certainly engaging to drive. it keeps a driver on their toes.” – Eddie Kalili

Runners-up: Ford Focus RS, Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic

Note: The Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic received a zero score from the judges as a test vehicle was not provided for the evaluation days. The brand concerned accepts the decision as fair.

Family Car of the Year

Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TSI Comfortline DSG

In order to have been eligible for this category, contenders had to meet the following criteria: an automatic-transmission vehicle with a list price of between R350 000 and R500 000at the time of semi-finalist voting (September 1 2016), including the cost of any of the following features (if they were optional): ABS, electronic stability control, a minimum of six airbags, split/folding rear seats, air-conditioning and a service plan. The most important judging factors were: engine flexibility, fuel economy, space and practicality, design/quality appeal, comfort, safety and in-car entertainment.

“I favour practical cars and there’s so much to like about the Tiguan that I am tempted to buy one for myself. The Volkswagen exudes quality from design to finish and looks fantastic.” – Juliet McGuire

Runners-up: Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Elite Automatic, Nissan X-Trail 2.5 SE CVT AWD!

Brand of the Year

Suzuki

The prestigious Brand of the Year was determined solely by the manufacturers’ ratings in the Cars.co.za‘s Owner Satisfaction Survey, allied with market share change and resale value statistics per vehicle brand (supplied by Lightstone Auto). This recognition of Suzuki Auto South Africa, parallels the feat achieved by its British counterpart, which was recognised as the “most improved organisation’ in The Institute of Customer Service’s annual UK Customer Satisfaction Index in 2016.

Cars.co.za (in conjunction with Lightstone Consumer) has developed the fairest and most credible formula for determining the winner in this category. It is entirely data-driven, and entirely determined by what consumers and the market believe to be happening in South Africa. Although this result may come as a surprise, it mirrors Suzuki’s achievements in other markets.” – Hannes Oosthuizen

 

 

 

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Project Bloodhound saved

The British project to break the world landspeed record at a site in the Northern Cape has been saved by a new backer, after it went into bankruptcy proceedings in October.

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Two weeks ago,  and two months after entering voluntary administration, the Bloodhound Programme Limited announced it was shutting down. This week it announced that its assets, including the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC), had been acquired by an enthusiastic – and wealthy – supporter.

“We are absolutely delighted that on Monday 17th December, the business and assets were bought, allowing the Project to continue,” the team said in a statement.

“The acquisition was made by Yorkshire-based entrepreneur Ian Warhurst. Ian is a mechanical engineer by training, with a strong background in managing a highly successful business in the automotive engineering sector, so he will bring a lot of expertise to the Project.”

Warhurst and his family, says the team, have been enthusiastic Bloodhound supporters for many years, and this inspired his new involvement with the Project.

“I am delighted to have been able to safeguard the business and assets preventing the project breakup,” he said. “I know how important it is to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and maths, and I want to ensure Bloodhound can continue doing that into the future.

“It’s clear how much this unique British project means to people and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of thanks I have received in the last few days.”

The record attempt was due to be made late next year at Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari Desert, where retired pilot Andy Green planned to beat the 1228km/h land-speed record he set in the United States in 1997. The target is for Bloodhound to become the first car to reach 1000mph (1610km/h). A track 19km long and 500 metres wide has been prepared, with members of the local community hired to clear 16 000 tons of rock and stone to smooth the surface.

The team said in its announcement this week: “Although it has been a frustrating few months for Bloodhound, we are thrilled that Ian has saved Bloodhound SSC from closure for the country and the many supporters around the world who have been inspired by the Project. We now have a lot of planning to do for 2019 and beyond.”

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Motor Racing meets Machine Learning

The futuristic car technology of tomorrow is being built today in both racing cars and
toys, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The car of tomorrow, most of us imagine, is being built by the great automobile manufacturers of the world. More and more, however, we are seeing information technology companies joining the race to power the autonomous vehicle future.

Last year, chip-maker Intel paid $15.3-billion to acquire Israeli company Mobileye, a leader in computer vision for autonomous driving technology. Google’s autonomous taxi division, Waymo, has been valued at $45-billion.

Now there’s a new name to add to the roster of technology giants driving the future.

DeepRacer on the inside

Amazon Web Services, the world’s biggest cloud computing service and a subsidiary of Amazon.com,  last month unveiled a scale model autonomous racing car for developers to build new artificial intelligence applications. Almost in the same breath, at its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, it showcased the work being done with machine learning in Formula 1 racing.

AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale fully autonomous race car, designed to incorporate the features and behaviour of a full-sized vehicle. It boasts all-wheel drive, monster truck tires, an HD video camera, and on-board computing power. In short, everything a kid would want of a self-driving toy car.

But then, it also adds everything a developer would need to make the car autonomous in ways that, for now, can only be imagined. It uses a new form of machine learning (ML), the technology that allows computer systems to improve their functions progressively as they receive feedback from their activities. ML is at the heart of artificial intelligence (AI), and will be core to autonomous, self-driving vehicles.

AWS has taken ML a step further, with an approach called reinforcement learning. This allows for quicker development of ML models and applications, and DeepRacer is designed to allow developers to experiment with and hone their skill in this area. It is built on top of another AWS platform, called Amazon SageMaker, which enables developers and data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine learning quickly and easily.

Along with DeepRacer, AWS also announced the DeepRacer League, the world’s first global autonomous racing league, open to anyone who orders the scale model from AWS.

DeepRacer on the outside

As if to prove that DeepRacer is not just a quirky entry into the world of motor racing, AWS also showcased the work it is doing with the Formula One Group. Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of Motor Sports, joined AWS CEO Andy Jassy during the keynote address at the re:Invent conference, to demonstrate how motor racing meets machine learning.

“More than a million data points a second are transmitted between car and team during a Formula 1 race,” he said. “From this data, we can make predictions about what we expect to happen in a wheel-to-wheel situation, overtaking advantage, and pit stop advantage. ML can help us apply a proper analysis of a situation, and also bring it to fans.

“Formula 1 is a complete team contest. If you look at a video of tyre-changing in a pit stop – it takes 1.6 seconds to change four wheels and tyres – blink and you will miss it. Imagine the training that goes into it? It’s also a contest of innovative minds.”

AWS CEO Andy Jassy unveils DeepRacer

Formula 1 racing has more than 500 million global fans and generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2017. As a result, there are massive demands on performance, analysis and information. 

During a race, up to 120 sensors on each car generate up to 3GB of data and 1 500 data points – every second. It is impossible to analyse this data on the fly without an ML platform like Amazon SageMaker. It has a further advantage: the data scientists are able to incorporate 65 years of historical race data to compare performance, make predictions, and provide insights into the teams’ and drivers’ split-second decisions and strategies.

This means Formula 1 can pinpoint how a driver is performing and whether or not drivers have pushed themselves over the limit.

“By leveraging Amazon SageMaker and AWS’s machine-learning services, we are able to deliver these powerful insights and predictions to fans in real time,” said Pete Samara, director of innovation and digital technology at Formula 1.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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