Voting in the Top 12 online competition proved that South Africans are fiercely loyal and prepared to sacrifice their chances of prizes to support their cars.

The rules were clear and simple. Predict what cars would be rated best in their respective categories by the CAR magazine editors, and walk away with a handy selection of Makita power tools. But, judging by the vote-accompanying comments in this year’s CARtoday.com on-line competition, South African motoring enthusiasts have a great sense of humour and are fiercely loyal.

This must be why a vehicle like the Lada Niva got more than one per cent of the total vote, even though it clearly never had snowball’s chance of winning. And it proves that some people will sacrifice expensive prizes to support their car.

They certainly supported the reigning champion in the budget car category, Toyota’s Tazz, which had almost 50 per cent of the votes. “You can’t make a mistake buying one” and “Excellent reputation, bullet-proof mechanicals and reasonably priced” pretty much summed up feelings about this car. The Opel Corsa Lite finished second in both the magazine awards and the voting, one voter commenting that it has “the longevity of a Tazz and the spunk of a Seicento”. Of the CitiGolf, a fan said: “Much better than the Tazzzzzzzz.” Already, things were hotting up…

If Top 12 voting is anything to go by, Volkswagen’s new

Polo has certainly been well accepted. “The absolute benchmark in quality, TDI is a major technological breakthrough. Some other exciting new models in this bracket, but no real competition.” No surprise then that it got around 40 per cent of the vote and CAR magazine voted it the best light car.

DaimlerChrysler products were again well supported this year, and, although the A-Class was nowhere to be seen on the Top 12 tables, it got plenty of votes. From the amusing “Whatta Winna!!!” to “This is a beautiful car for women!”

Volkswagen’s “sexy and mature” Golf/Jetta has been a long-time winner, and held on to the best sub-compact title again this year. But, with 37 per cent of the on-line votes, the Toyota Corolla streaked ahead on CARtoday.com, much to the dismay of Volkswagen

supporters: “Toyota is not a better car than a VW. People are blinded by the ‘Everything keeps going right’ thing.” But the Corolla fans were emphatic: “Never has a car improved so much from one generation to the next,” one said.

The next three categories proved that the more expensive the car, the more emotional the criticism hurled at the competition.

CAR Magazine’s best compact car, the C-Class, got 18 per cent of the on-line votes, compared with arch-rival BMW 3-Series’s 29 per cent. One voter said the 3-Series was “The best car yet” and another “The 3-Series just can’t be beaten. Merc, Audi and now Jag have tried, and just can’t get the mix right.”

While BMW fans were shouting “boring!” and Mercedes-Benz drivers replied with “arrogant!”, Audi enthusiasts punched in both directions with “If you’re not ‘windgat’ enough for a BMW and not old enough for a Merc, the Audi is your choice”.

The battle between the three German brands continued in the executive saloon segment, where the E-Class was voted tops by CAR magazine. Readers’ comments included “Best car ever. Beats the socks off BMW!” and “This is without doubt the best saloon. If you say the 5-Series is better than this then you are biased”.

But the greatest war of words raged in the grand saloon category, where CAR rated the Mercedes-Benz S-Class tops, followed by the Lexus LS430, with the BMW 7-Series in third place.

The Beemer’s dramatic new styling was a hot topic of discussion. “The BMW might be on a par technologically, but who could live with those looks?” asked an S-Class supporter. Even staunch BMW fans had trouble getting to grips with the new Seven, but still voted for it: “Extremely ugly, but compared with its competition, the new

7-Series cannot be overlooked.” Other voters hated the Chris Bangle-styled newcomer. “The new 7-Series is a joke. Hard to admit as a BMW stalwart, but it is a fact. Styling is atrocious, the iDrive thingy is ill-conceived and, well, the old one was just sooooo much better.” Ouch!

The allure of the Porsche brand is as strong as ever, with about 20 per cent of online voters correctly predicting the 911’s win. “Who needs practicality when you paint the tarmac in any shade of black with such ease?” Voters were also spot-on with the

BMW M3, CAR magazine giving it second place, and 16 per cent of the online votes going to this hot coupé. “Long live the king” and “M3 über alles” were two of the comments.

Other favourites were the Mercedes-Benz SL (“One headbutt of a machine!!!”) and Subaru Impreza WRX STi (“The fastest car from A to B”). CAR magazine went for a second helping of Stuttgart’s finest, in the shape of the Boxster.

It was clear that style is increasingly important in both the compact and large station wagon/MPV categories, with the luxury German brands attracting a large portion of the votes. “Audi has done it again. No need to be ashamed of driving a SW, if it has this much power, class, refinement...,” was said about the top compact station wagon, Audi’s A4. Predictably, the BMW corner did not agree: “BMW takes the cake amongst this group of bores...”

Among the larger vehicles, the Chrysler Voyager (eventual category winner) had attracted a massive 36 per cent of the votes. “The grand daddy of MPVs”, it was called.

CAR’s choice in the compact SUV segment was the new Subaru Forester, while 24 per cent of online votes went to last year’s winner, the Jeep Cherokee, and 27 per cent to the Toyota RAV4. And the Forester? A paltry four per cent…well, that narrows down the list of potential Makita power tool winners, doesn’t it…?

Last year’s top SUV, BMW’s X5, ruled the roost again this year. But CARtoday.com voters thought the Toyota Prado would take the crown from the “king of Sandton”.

There was more mudslinging in the double-cab/pick-up segment. Toyota’s Hilux eventually won the award, but the online voting was fierce, with four distinct camps joining in, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Isuzu. Isuzu’s KB ads have kept the oldest of the foursome in the eye of the public: “Daardie bl***ie bakkie is die beste!” But Nissan supporters had other ideas, saying the revamped Hardbody “puts the bl***ie bakkie in its place”.

So there you have it. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Criticising another person’s choice of wheels can still raise hackles. And one man’s poison is still another’s, well, erm, Lada Niva …But that’s loyalty for you.