20th September 2013

Features: Irish Motoring Writers Association

What does it mean to read a car review, of a motoring report from a member of the Irish Motoring Writers Association (IMWA)?

I thought I knew about cars and motorcycles. My previous years had involved me in all matters of motoring, cars, vans, 4x4’s, Mini-buses and motorcycles, the latter taking me all over Europe on many occassions – yep, I avoided walking at every opportunity.

My writing began when asked to contribute to The Irish Times on motorcycling some 20 years ago. Having supplied multiple internal reports on vehicles and safety apparel, it was with a high level of absolute intimidation that I placed pen to paper for public consumption. Almost immediately I found that being an enthusiast, while providing me with product knowledge, it was nowhere near to meeting the content to produce good copy.

Shortly after my venture into writing on single-tracks, I naturally spread my wings into commenting on cars and vans.

Right at the beginning, I discovered major gaps in my knowledge and that my own evaluation process was somewhat flawed. At this time I also became aware of The Irish Motoring Writers Association, a group of independent motoring journalists, from all parts of Ireland, who voted on Irish Car of the Year and Irish Van of the Year. Their criteria encompassed many aspects the consumer may overlook, was thorough and importantly, contained little emotion, a factor often large in the choice of buyers.

Since being formed back in 1978, the IMWA have commented and cautioned on every new car coming to the Irish market. Their annual vote of Car and Van of the Year is a motoring highlight and has been supported for many years by the Continental Tyre Group, Semperit initially and then from 2009 all categories carried Continental in the award since.

Made up of men and women, members of The Irish Motoring Writers Association come from diverse backgrounds and write for equally diverse audiences, across every genre of media and social network. They bring their influences, socialisation and road experience to every article they write and opinion they form. The combined result is one that may sometimes surprise, but can always be justified.

With the sheer diversity of cars available to the Irish buyer, the IMWA introduced segment categories back in 2008, which gives due acknowledgement to those who might otherwise lose out in a single winner competition.

The 5 categories are:

  • Continental Irish Small Car of the Year
  • Continental Irish Compact Family Car of the Year
  • Continental Irish Family Car of the Year
  • Continental Irish Executive / Luxury Car of the Year
  • Continental Irish Performance Car of the Year

Some of the essential ingredients on judging a new car are;

  • How does it compare to the model it replaces
  • How does it compare to its segment competitors
  • What are its Safety Factors, Passive & Active – Euro NCAP rating
  • Fuel economy and Co2 emission ratings - recyclability
  • What does it bring to the segment via technology and/or innovation
  • Driving experience – Is it functional, dynamic or disconnected
  • Engine range and driveability
  • Build Quality, outside and in
  • Ergonomics - Interior Space – Comfort – Air Conditioning/Climate Control
  • Feel-good Factor
  • Price – Value for Money
  • Warranty – Dealer Network – After Sales Service
  • Residual Value

With an average of over 50 new cars launched in Ireland every year, the Irish Motoring Writers test drive them in all their formats, hatchback, saloon and estate/touring and in their manner of propulsion, petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric, EV.

From my first days to now, my road education has been ongoing, every new car bringing its own flavour to our nation’s streets and my book of knowledge. As we ready for our November vote on Car of the Year and Van of the Year 2015, my note pad is full of facts, figures and some final opinion.

All 29 members of the IMWA have a hectic number of weeks ahead, where new cars launched, registered and on sale before October 31st will have to be evaluated prior to our final votes. This is on top of refreshing their opinion on those cars driven earlier this year on a dedicated day in early October, prior to ticking their category winner.  

The winners will be announced at a gala function in late November. The results will reflect many thousands of miles and years of experienced opinion, one of which is proudly mine.

Only members of The Irish Motoring Writers vote on Continental Irish Car of the Year and Continental Irish Van of the Year juries, so it is worth including a review by an IMWA journalist when doing your research.

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