This year’s Car of the Year shortlist strikes me as one of the most interesting for years, because of the variety.
The seven-strong list of finalists for Europe’s most important “best car” competition — by virtue of the fact that it garners the opinions of 59 jurors from 22 countries — is often sometimes regarded as rather prosaic by critics.
This is because said “experts” tend to choose cars they can be sure will work well in practice, which don’t have much “premium” money in their prices, and are thus affordable to own and operate. Last year’s Vauxhall Insignia (which narrowly beat the Ford Fiesta) was a good case in point. This year, though, there are some welcome rule-breakers. Principal among them is the Toyota iQ, which gets far further in this competition than the Smart City Coupe ever did.
The Mercedes E-class, perceived as a car that achieves useful things on the long road to reinstating M-B’s “Engineered Like No Other Car” reputation, is another.
The Skoda Yeti is a rare SUV finalist in the competition that usually ignores the type (can’t think of a recent 4x4 winner) mainly because of its sweet nature and compact dimensions. After that you’re into more conventional territory.
The VW Polo deserves praise for its terrific refinement, its quality, its excellence as an ownership proposition and the sophistication of some of its powertrain bits, including the grunty little 1.2-litre TSI engine and seven-speed double-clutch gearbox.
The Vauxhall/Opel Astra is a good all-round effort, despite its conventional spec and comparative enormity in the class. The Peugeot 3008, nice enough, looks no better than a sixth or a seventh to me. Picking the outright winner is tough. Haven’t even decided how my own votes will go (jurors have 25 points to distribute, must pick a clear winner and give it no more than 10) so it’s a bit rich trying to predict how 58 others will call the competition.
The Toyota looks good, if people are happy with the price, size, styling and function. All are that bit controversial. The Polo is probably the best to own. But then there’s the C3 Picasso, interesting for its charm, versatility and fresh styling.
And I wish the Merc well, because I’d like to see one of Europe’s grand marques fare well in this competition for a change. All will be revealed at the very end of this month, but nobody will know anything in advance, because we jurors don’t have to reveal our scores until a day or two before the grand tot-up.
So though one-fifty-eighth of the votes will be mine, I’ll be as fascinated as anyone to see who takes the big prize.