AJAC TestFest highlights the best new vehicles

Every year, members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) from across the country converge at TestFest to select the Canadian Car of the Year and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year

  • TestFest

Every year, members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) from across the country converge at TestFest to select the Canadian Car of the Year and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. This year’s TestFest was held in Niagara Falls from Oct. 20-24.

What is AJAC?

The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) is an association of professional writers, photographers and editors who focus on the automobile and the automotive industry. Most of the journalists test drive new cars and trucks on a daily basis and write about them in various media across the country.

What is TestFest?

TestFest is the annual event where AJAC members come together to drive, evaluate and vote on new model vehicles over a five-day period. It is part of the Canadian Car of the Year Awards (CCOTY) program that has been developed over the past 27 years to provide consumers with sound, comparative information on which to base their automotive buying decisions.

AJAC member evaluates a 2015 MINI at TestFest

A journalist returns from evaluating a Mini Cooper in the Small Car over $21k category at TestFest, held in Niagara Falls from Oct. 20-24.

What cars are entered?

For the 2015 CCOTY program, a total of 50 vehicles were entered, however the Dodge Charger was not available, leaving 49 cars to be judged and evaluated in a total of 15 categories.

In May, the manufacturers select the cars they wish to enter and then the CCOTY organizers and AJAC members have their say before the final list is tabulated. Vehicles must be “significantly” different from the previously year’s model to be eligible.

Here are the categories and eligible vehicles.

1. Best City Car

a) Kia Soul EV

b) Smart ForTwo electric

2. Best Small Car Under $21k

a) Honda Fit

b) Nissan Micra

3. Best Small Car Over $21k

a) MINI Cooper

b) Kia Forte5

c) Volkswagen Golf

4. Best Family Car Under $30k

a) Chrysler 200

b) Subaru Legacy 2.5i

c) Toyota Camry XSE

5. Best Family Car Over $30k

a) Hyundai Sonata

b) Subaru WRX

c) Toyota Camry Hybrid

6. Best Luxury Car Under $50k

a) Acura TLX

b) Mercedes-Benz C-Class

c) Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E

7. Best Luxury Car Over $50k

a) Acura RLX Hybrid

b) Cadillac ATS Coupe

c) Hyundai Genesis

d) Kia K900

8. Best Sports/Performance Car Under $50k

a) Ford Mustang (EcoBoost)

b) Kia Forte Koup

c) Subaru WRX STI

d) Volkswagen Golf GTI

9. Best Sports/Performance Car Over $50k

a) Dodge Challenger Hellcat

b) Ford Mustang GT

c) Volvo V60 (T6 Polestar)

10. Best Prestige Car Over $75k

a) Cadillac ELR

b) Cadillac Escalade

c) Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe

11. Best Prestige/Performance Over $75k

a) BMW M4

b) Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

c) Jaguar F-Type Coupe S

d) Porsche 911 Turbo S

12. Best SUV/CUV Under $35k

a) Honda CR-V

b) Nissan Rogue

c) Subaru Outback 2.5i


13. Best SUV/CUV $35k-$60k

a) Chevrolet Tahoe

b) Lincoln MKC

c) Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

d) Toyota Highlander

14. Best SUV/CUV Over $60k

a) GMC Yukon

b) Mercedes-Benz GLA (AMG)

c) Porsche Macan

15. Best Pickup

a) Chevrolet Colorado

b) Ford F-150

c) GMC Canyon

d) Ram 1500


How does it work?

The aim of TestFest is really quite simple— give professional automotive journalists the keys to a bunch of new cars and set them loose to determine the best of the best. However, there is much more to it than that.

Only journalist members of AJAC who do test-drives on a regular basis are invited to take part in TestFest and vote on some or all of the vehicles. (AJAC members who do not do regular test-drives are invited to Open Days on Thursday and Friday of TestFest week, however they are not eligible to vote.)

Voting members are divided into teams to judge each category. Once a judge has driven all the vehicles in his/her category for between 30-40 minutes each, they are able to move on to another category.

However, the vehicles must be driven back-to-back on the same roads and on the same day to help them compare “apples to apples.” If only two out of three cars in a particular category are driven in a particular day, the votes will not be counted.

This year the journalists evaluated the 49 new cars, trucks and SUVs on 21 different attributes ranging from interior and exterior styling to handling, braking, performance, noise/vibration/harshness, ergonomics, roominess, safety and even perceived quality.

Behind the scenes aAJAC TestFest

Where is the testing done?

Road-tests at TestFest are done on public roads, the same roads that consumers would use themselves in evaluating a new vehicle.

There is also a closed handling/braking course for cars and an off-road course for SUVs and CUVs.

How are the winners chosen?

The journalist scores are entered online and then a number of other scores are factored in including acceleration, braking, cargo capacity numbers and even a price factor.

The accounting firm of KPMG tabulates the results and those results are kept confidential until the category winners are announced on Dec. 2 in Toronto. The overall Car of the Year and Utility Vehicle of the Year for 2015 will be announced at the Toronto International Auto Show in February.

Why does it matter?

“TestFest is the most intensive new vehicle evaluation process on the planet,” said CCOTY Co‐Chair, Gary Grant.

“No other organization employs such stringent testing methods to determine their car of year award winners.”

And the results do matter, according to consumer surveys carried out for AJAC.

Maritz Research surveyed buyers of 2013 Canadian Car of the Year Honda Accord and found that 100 per cent of the survey respondents knew the Accord had been named Canadian Car of the Year. Furthermore, 56 per cent said the Car of the Year award influenced their decision to buy the car.


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