Tuesday, November 20, 2012

AJAC Best New Sports/Performance Car under $50,000

ford focus st
Ford Focus ST
Fast and fun doesn’t mean expensive

Hotly contested and drenched with anticipation by the assembled experts, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Best New Sports Performance Car under $50,000 is a rare grouping so many cars could easily win.


The surprise winner, for some but not for me, was the 2013 Ford Focus ST. Ford is on a roll and this car is proof it also knows how to tweak the fun into an affordable, racy sports car.

The margin of victory for the Ford Focus ST was a single point. In fact, 3rd place was a mere three points behind. Where the Focus ST gained ground was in the one area you would expect when considering Sports Performance cars- sporty performance. It may seem simple, but not all cars entered in the category showed us the fun side of the driving equation. Engine, transmission, steering and braking were all strong suits for the Focus ST.

A close second was the Scion FR-S; a near twin to another category contender, the Subaru BRZ. Refinement and typical parent company Toyota quality is what makes this a better car than the BRZ (which finished just a point out of third, and therefore three behind its FR-S twin), in my opinion. Driving both cars back-to-back on the track, the Scion FR-S feels more complete and stylish. Rear-wheel drive is unique in today’s market and I must say it is a welcome sign to see both Scion and Subaru embrace the idea. Exterior design, driver position, transmission, steering and handling all scored high.

Third place was taken by the Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Hyundai has quickly become the darling of the Asian auto market and for good reason. It builds solid vehicles, with flair, value and reliability. Lower by nearly $4,000 than the Focus ST, the Genesis Coupe scored high marks in exterior style, quality and handling. Where it lagged a little was in the subjective performance category. While the numbers for 0-100 km/h are identical to the Focus ST at 6.9 seconds, those judging this group felt the Genesis Coupe was a little behind the curve with regards to throttle response, engine smoothness and transmission.

Several surprises caught me off guard during the voting, one in particular being the Volkswagen Golf R. A joy to drive on the track in Niagara as well as on the road, I expected it to place higher. It’s downfall in my opinion is simply price. The most expensive car in the group at just under $40K, it scored in the middle of the class. Not that Volkswagen is probably too concerned, knowing every Golf R making it to Canada will be sold regardless.

Notables finishing out of the top five were the Honda Accord Coupe and Mini Roadster. The areas of quality, quietness, throttle response and ride comfort were all given high marks for the new Accord Coupe. This bodes well for Honda as it’s desperate for a winning Accord with consumers looking for a midsize coupe or sedan. Mini is still a favourite for me to drive, but roominess is a factor and overall performance is less aggressive than you would think given the racy outward appearance. Consolation prizes conclude with the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, Chevrolet Sonic RS five-door and Fiat 500 Abarth. A hotly contested category, it’s good to know there are many quality choices in sports performance cars for those on a budget.

source: autonet