PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 12:00am

Hong Kong car executives attended the inaugural South China Morning Post Car of the Year awards at the newspaper's Quarry Bay offices last week.

BMW Concessionaires (HK) marketing manager Newman Tsang received the plaque for the Post's Car of the Year, the BMW Mini Cooper, from the paper's motoring editor, William Wadsworth. Tsang also took home the best four-wheel drive award, for the BMW X5. Reliance Motors' senior manager Jacky Lai also needed strong arms, with the Honda Jazz winning the best compact saloon and the the Acura RSX topping the best performance saloon category. Mercedes-Benz China public relations and communications manager Irene Lo lifted a couple of Post plaques too; the German marque's S-Class took the best executive saloon award while its 500SL was voted best convertible. Jebsen Motors general manager Mike Rushworth received the best family saloon award for the Renault Laguna II, while Alex Yip, Italian Motors' general manager for China, took the plaque honouring the Ferrari 360 Modena as best exotic car.

Wadsworth congratulated the winners and thanked the Post's panel of eight judges 'for making some tough calls' in their respective categories and in the SCMP Car of the Year's second-place play-off and final rounds. The BMW Mini Cooper, he said, 'was a fast, stylish, nippy little mover for Hong Kong and a worthy winner'. 'Its victory highlights the quality of BMW's engineering, the excellence of its local distributors' service and also the checks and balances of the Post's first car awards,' Wadsworth said. The Mini Cooper, he explained, was pipped to the best compact car award by the Honda Jazz, but earned a second chance for contention in the 'play-off' under the scrutiny of all judges for the best second-placed model in the Car of the Year final. 'Like Germany in the 2002 World Cup, the Mini seized this 'play-off' chance against formidable opposition, such as the BMW 7-Series, Bentley Arnage T and Maserati Spyder, and then went one better and won the most hearts in a very tightly fought final.'

Foot Down reckons the 2003 Car of the Year awards will be even more competitive, with the Porsche Cayenne, the new Range Rover, Volkswagen Touareg and Volvo XC90 entering the 4WD category; DaimlerChrysler's smart car joins the tiny Hyundai Atos in the compacts; while Audi's TT 3.2, S4 and RS6 and 5-Series promise new performance and technology. The limousine category could be white hot with the new Rolls-Royce head to head with the Maybach and the Volkswagen Phaeton; the BMW Z4 is squaring up against Porsche's new Boxsters among the convertibles, and a new range of Fords and the new Renault Megane should stir the saloon market. The Lancer Evolution VIII, the Mazda 8 and the Porsche 913 GT3 should turn heads among the fasties, while the Peugeot 307cc, Ford StreetKa and the Volkswagen Beetle cabrio already look strong contenders for next year's best convertible.

Motoring has its work cut out. 'Our men and women are going to be even busier in 2003,' said Wadsworth. 'They are already testing motors . . . you could say the judging for the next awards has already begun.'

Which cars would you have voted for in the following categories: limousine; executive saloon; performance saloon; compact saloon; family saloon; exotic car; convertible and 4WD? Tell us on or fax 2562 2485.