As one miserable individual among 58 European Car of the Year jurors from 22 countries, I always find it a bit nerve-wracking at this time of the year to compare my choice of seven finalists for the latest competition with those of my peers.
Most years I disagree with the combined judgement to some degree, but this year I’ve set a personal record by getting only three out of seven finalists 'right', as it were. You’ll have seen the combined choice by now: Ford B-Max, Hyundai i30, Mercedes A-class, Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ, Volkswagen Golf and Volvo V40. There are actually eight of them – a rare occurrence, because two seventh-placed cars (whose identity we’re not allowed to know) scored an identical number of nominations.
This year I only agreed with my peers over their choice of the Clio, GT86/BRZ and Golf. My four that didn’t make it were the BMW 3-series, Mazda 6, Renault Zoe and Range Rover. 'Their' five that did are the B-Max, i30, A-class, 208 and V40 – yet I have to say the final list still looks pretty good, apart from what I see as a normal COTY preoccupation with low-value cars.
In particular, I’m sorry about the Range Rover. It is such a special vehicle that it richly deserved recognition. Ditto the 3-series, which so brilliantly combines efficiency with performance. Nothing at the money delivers the way the latest 320d does. It’s also a shame about the Zoe, given that COTY has been pretty good at recognising hybrid and electric cars (Nissan’s Leaf was last year’s winner) and the Zoe takes the breed somewhere new. And the Mazda 6 – another highly efficient big car courtesy of SkyActiv technology – is the first-ever Mazda that feels honest-to-God sophisticated.
The winner? Strikes me the shoe-in is the Golf, a brilliant yet entirely mainstream car that is practically all things to practically all men. But don’t take any notice of me. So far in this competition I’ve only been 42.9 per cent right. So it’s probably still pretty open. We’ll know for real on 4 March, the day before the Geneva motor show starts.