02/14/2013 08:57 EST | Updated 04/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Car Of The Year Canada: Honda Accord, Hyundai Santa Fe Win Top Car Honours

TORONTO - The Honda Accord has won the coveted 2013 car of the year award from Canadian automobile journalists.

The mid-sized family sedan beat out finalists the Porsche Boxster and Hyundai Elantra GT to pick up the top prize, awarded Thursday by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada in Toronto.

Honda Canada President Takashi Sekiguchi credited the victory to the Japanese automaker's push to improve the Accord.

"The challenging spirit is what motivated us to make the Honda Accord the very best mid-sized car in Canada," he said in an acceptance speech at a media preview day for the Canadian International Auto Show.

The Accord wasn't the only vehicle to win a best-of-2013 award from the automobile writers' group Thursday.

The Hyundai Sante Fe beat out rival the Ford Escape to grab the best utility vehicle award, while the sleek Porsche 911 Carrera S netted best design honours.

The Accord was one of 180 vehicles that underwent close scrutiny during a four day "test fest" at a Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., airport, where 80 leading Canadian automotive scribes put the automobiles through their paces.

A massive 40,000 data points were gathered in the process, while the writers also chipped in with more subjective opinions on how the vehicles compared.

The top-secret results of the tests were then gathered and tabulated by accounting firm KPMG.

Award program chairman Richard Russell said the Accord's big win marks something of a comeback for Honda, which has faced a run of production problems in recent years.

"The Accord had grown old and some new competitors had come along that were much more modern. (But) this new Accord had a lot of 'new' about it, and I think there's a tendency for people to like family cars that become fun," he said.

"And that's what this one has done."

The auto show opens Friday and will mark its 40th anniversary with the Canadian debut of more than 40 cars, SUVs, trucks and concept vehicles.

Among the concept cars ready to turn heads at the show is the Toyota Fun-Vii, which features an interactive outer surface drivers can dynamically adjust to show images or digitally paint through a slick tablet-style interface.