What’s best at Test­Fest?

Kelly Tay­lor and Haney Louka pre­dict top picks for 2016

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - AUTOS - By Kelly Tay­lor and Haney Louka

CANA­DIAN TIRE MO­TOR­SPORT PARK, Ont. — Test­Fest re­turned to an ac­tual race­track for the first time since 2005 and the tim­ing couldn’t have been bet­ter. While we didn’t use the Grand Prix track, the smaller, tighter driver de­vel­op­ment track was a far bet­ter test of ac­cel­er­a­tion, han­dling, brak­ing and steer­ing than Test­Fest has pro­vided since that last race­track, which was Shan­nonville.

Just off the Grand Prix track, the de­vel­op­ment track was cre­ated specif­i­cally to at­tract ride-and-drive pro­grams from a va­ri­ety of car­mak­ers. In ad­di­tion there was also an ex­cel­lent off-road course to eval­u­ate trucks and SUVs.

Car­mak­ers pro­vided a short­ened, but wor­thy list of en­tries for both cour­ses. Some of the off-road stars in­cluded the Jeep Rene­gade, Volvo XC90 and even, most un­ex­pect­edly, the new Honda HR-V.

On the race­track, the Mercedes AMG GT S, Mazda MX-5, Chevro­let Corvette Z06, Cadil­lac CTS-V and Ford Shelby 350 GT all earned high praise.

The win­ners of the in­di­vid­ual cat­e­gories will be an­nounced in early De­cem­ber. For now, fel­low Free Press Au­tos writer (and 2015 AJAC Cana­dian Au­to­mo­bile Jour­nal­ist of the Year Kelly Tay­lor) are go­ing to give you our pre­dic­tions. Try not to take th­ese pre­dic­tions too much to heart, they are only par­tially based on what we thought was the best car. We also have to try to hand­i­cap how the other jour­nal­ists vote, as well as take into con­sid­er­a­tion the hard per­for­mance data.

Small car

Honda Civic, Smart Fortwo, Scion iM, Toy­ota Yaris Sedan, Volk­swa­gen Jetta 1.4 TSI

This is a hard-fought cat­e­gory, with all en­trants mak­ing strong cases for them­selves. The car that im­pressed me the most, given how vastly im­proved it is, was the Honda Civic. But, per­haps due to very tight avail­abil­ity of a car launched just the week be­fore, it was also the best-equipped car in the cat­e­gory, but also the prici­est. In a class that at­tracts the most price­sen­si­tive buy­ers in the mar­ket, a high price is go­ing to hurt a car’s chances more than heated seats will help. The VW Jetta 1.4 TSI has the best com­bi­na­tion of per­for­mance, price and fea­tures, with 184 pound-feet of torque on tap from the 1.4-litre turbo.

KELLY: VW Jetta TSI, and not just be­cause VW could use some good news about now.

HANEY: While it’s dif­fi­cult to ar­gue with Kelly’s prog­nos­ti­ca­tion, I think the new Civic is sig­nif­i­cant enough it will over­come its high price to take the cat­e­gory. It sets a new bench­mark for the class and in­stantly makes the VW look 15 years old when parked next to it.

Fam­ily car

Chevro­let Volt, Hyundai Sonata Hy­brid, Volk­swa­gen Golf Sport­wagon 1.8 TSI

An­other hard-fought cat­e­gory, with two cars that are also Cana­dian Green Car of the Year nom­i­nees in the Sonata hy­brid and Volt. Kelly found the Sonata Hy­brid just didn’t han­dle tran­si­tions from brak­ing to power well, with the gas en­gine revving be­fore the hy­brid cou­pling sys­tem dumped its power to the wheels with a dis­con­cert­ing amount of chirp. In all other re­spects, the Sonata Hy­brid is ev­ery bit as good as the non-hy­brid. So it seems this cat­e­gory comes to the Volt and the Golf. The Volt, which is al­most al­ways an elec­tric ve­hi­cle (the gas range ex­ten­der pri­mar­ily only charges the bat­tery, with gas power reach­ing the wheels only in rare limp-home or hard-driv­ing con­di­tions), has the most torque, the best fuel econ­omy and is com­pet­i­tive in all other re­spects. But the Volt is $15,000 pricier than the Golf.

KELLY: VW Golf Sport­wagon 1.8 TSI. Price is the killer here.

HANEY: VW Golf Sport­wagon 1.8 TSI, and not just be­cause I have a Golf wagon of my own.

Sports per­for­mance un­der $50K

Mini Cooper JCW, Chevro­let Ca­maro RS, Hyundai Veloster Turbo

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