16 November 2004

The Toyota Prius was crowned 2005 Car of the Year at the Autocar Awards ceremony in London yesterday, after beating off stiff competition from the Citroën C4 and Ford Focus.

The petrol-electric hybrid becomes only the second Toyota to win the award, following on from the Yaris in 2000, and was the most comprehensive victor since the first-generation Focus waltzed to a mammoth 172 point victory over the Vauxhall Astra in 1999. The Prius only just qualified for this year’s competition, having not been on sale in a sufficient number of countries to qualify for last year’s award. Launched in the UK last January, the Prius is the most successful hybrid car to date, with 1380 finding homes in Britain and 120,000 worldwide this year. America is a particular sales stronghold, with a number of Hollywood stars taking up Prius ownership.

Of the 58 jury members (including Autocar’s own Steve Cropley), 37 gave the Prius top spot, compared with 10 choosing the C4 and five picking the Focus. BMW’s 1-series was the only one of the final seven not to pick up a single highest score, although only one of the 58 gave a top score to either the Renault Modus or Peugeot 407.

The only other Japanese car to win the award is the British-built Nissan Micra in 1993, with French and Italian manufacturers traditionally dominating. Japan also chose its Car of the Year last week, with the Honda Legend taking the honours. The Legend will be launched in the UK late next year.

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