The European Car of the Year shortlist for 2014 has been announced.
An initial list of 32 nominees has been whittled down to leave just seven cars in the frame to take the title. The jury, which consists of representatives from 23 countries, is looking for "the most outstanding new car to go on sale in the [last] 12 months".
The shortlist for the European Car of the Year 2014 consists of:
BMW i3 - We've been impressed by the new i3, which forms the first entry in a new range of electric and hybrid vehicles from BMW. In both its pure EV and range-extender forms, the stylish rear-wheel-drive city car aims to appeal to both the environmentally conscious and car enthusiasts. With its impressive economy figures (up to 100 miles of real-world range in the EV model) and contemporary feel, the i3 should be able to do just that.
Citroën C4 Picasso - We may have only given the new C4 Picasso 3.5 stars in our review, but this second-generation MPV is still a worthy contender on the European Car of the Year shortlist. With the aim of moving the Citroën brand upmarket, the company has endowed the C4 Picasso with plenty of style, and more than enough practicality to take the MPV fight to rivals like the Ford C-Max and Renault Scenic.
Mazda 3 - If both the CX-5 and new 6 were warm up acts for Mazda, the latest 3 is the main event. Manufactured using the strong and versatile SkyActiv platform, the Mazda 3 is versatile, well balanced and economical enough to rival the best in the hatchback class. In fact, the only downsides we could find in our review were the diminutive boot and the somewhat dull interior.
Mercedes-Benz S-class - Is the latest Mercedes S-class still the self-proclaimed "best car in the world"? It's certainly close, acheiving a coveted five-star rating in our road test. The new S-class has an excellent ride, one of the best interiors we've come across and glides along with all the quietness and serenity you'd expect from a flagship Mercedes. It's the classic S-class limousine, expertly realised in its latest form.
Peugeot 308 - The second-generation Peugeot 308 is both bigger and better than the car it replaces. It may lack the more astute handling of its peers, but this is still a very capable family hatchback. From its upmarket cabin to its new strut/torsion beam suspension setup, the new 308 has reduced the gap between itself and the hatchback class leaders to a point where it might present a serious challenge for class supremacy.
Skoda Octavia - The already spacious and practical Octavia has taken a step up in size for its latest generation, and while it may lack in dynamic appeal the amily Skoda makes up for it with large amounts of space and excellent interior quality. It's a good value car, too, offering plenty of metal for its £15,990 asking price.
Tesla Model S - The all-electric Tesla Model S is a landmark car in every sense. Its looks alone prove that this is another step forward for electric cars, but can it be easy to live with, too? Absolutely, the Model S gives practical real-world range alongside enough comfort and ease of use to rival others in the luxury saloon class. Perhaps the success of the Model S comes in the fact that of the electic cars we've tested, only two have managed to complete our full set of track tests, photo shoots and assessments without the assistance of a trailer. Both of those cars have been made by Tesla.
Models on the shortlist will now be subjected to an intensive test drive regime, before the overall winner is announced at the Geneva motor show in March.