THIS IS WHAT WE LOOK FOR WHEN PICKING THE WINNER
The objective is to assess every aspect of a car’s function, taking into account its intended role. Put simply, we’re seeking complete satisfaction. Scores therefore reflect the presence, or absence, of excellence in a multitude of areas. Every aspect of design is considered, always in relation to purpose and price: vehicle packaging efficiency; all-round user-friendliness, especially interior layout, flexibility and ergonomics; quality of materials and assembly; visual and tactile pleasure. Driving dynamics take into account all handling characteristics and their fitness for the car’s role. We’re looking for sweet harmony in the interaction between tyres, suspension, steering and brakes. Comfort is crucial: quality of ride on varied surfaces is a major factor, but seating and spaciousness, plus overall smoothness, quietness and quality of noise are also important. The assessment of drivetrain encompasses every aspect of engine performance and transmission behaviour. In the case of models with multiple drivetrains, special attention is always paid to those offered in the most popular variants.
Today’s state of the art is tomorrow’s ordinary. Important innovations are not common, but are recognised at COTY when a car maker does deliver. Incremental improvements rate only incremental adjustments to a vehicle’s score against this criterion. Technical advances in all spheres should be assessed: innovative materials and engineering; core vehicle system enhancements; all-new features. We ignore the hype and excitement that often comes with novelty; the question here is whether a new technology can deliver genuine improvement in the driving or ownership experience. In cases where a manufacturer fails to equip a car with a widely adopted and worthwhile technology, its score against this criterion reflects the omission.
Our primary concern here is energy efficiency, be it fossil fuel or electricity. The real-world results gathered over the course of the COTY program and earlier road tests are given greater weight than the results of official, government-mandated tests. Fuel is a significant portion of the running cost of any conventional car or hybrid. For any type of fossil fuel there’s a directly proportional relationship between the amount burned and CO2 emitted. So there’s a very strong link between a car’s fuel consumption and its output of the gas that’s the main cause of climate change. The exception here is electric cars, which are inherently much more energy efficient, and which offer at least the opportunity to utilise zero- or low-emission energy sources. Their efficiency also translates to low running costs. Judges can also fine-tune scores for efficiency upwards in recognition of measures made to boost the use of recycled materials.
Passive and active safety are assessed separately and an overall score is given against this criterion. In both categories it’s imperative to reward the fitment of advanced and effective safety technology. The efficacy of some active safety systems, notably ABS and ESC, are assessed by judges during the COTY test program. Passive safety scores are based, where possible, on published data from independent testing. In cases where none is available, we take into account a vehicle’s array of standard and optional passive safety equipment and the manufacturer’s achievements in this field. For both passive and active safety, our focus is on vehicle occupant protection technologies that work. Only in the absence of any independent information are manufacturer’s claims taken into account. As well as the car’s occupants, other road users and pedestrians are considered.
Affordability is the big thing here. But we’re seeking excellence, even at the lowest prices, and above average engineering and design at any price. A bad car may be very cheap, but never cheap enough to be good value. And an expensive car that’s not extremely good is even worse. Secondly, we assess how the car compares with its marketplace peers for space, quality, equipment, refinement, comfort and competence. We also take into account running costs, including predicted depreciation and maintenance. Finally, we weight the price of any special efficiency tech against the degree of cost reduction it brings and adjust scores accordingly.