This year’s seven-strong shortlist was as good a list of new cars as I can remember for this venerable competition, but when you look back over past winners, they’re not always the bravest of choices. Today’s was a good one.
Premium cars are usually notable by their absence from the top of Car of the Year’s prize lists. Yes, there was the Porsche 928 of 1978, but no BMW in this annual prize’s history, which extends back to 1964, has ever won it, no Mercedes-Benz since 1974 and, until today, no Volvo.
With the XC40, Volvo’s fortune changes, what with its score of 325 points comprehensively beating the Seat Ibiza (242pts), BMW 5-Series (226), Kia Stinger (204), Citroën C3 Aircross (171), Audi A8 (169) and Alfa Romeo Stelvio (163).
The way the voting works is thus: 60 journalists (I’m one, because Autocar is one of seven organising members) from 23 European countries get 25 points each to allocate across the seven shortlisted cars, as we see fit (hence the combined totals add up to 1500 points). But we can give no equal first, no car more than 10 points, and we must give at least five of the seven nominated cars some points.
We don’t always agree. I placed the 5 Series first (9 points) and XC40 second (7), with the Stinger third (5), Ibiza fourth (2), A8 and Aircross fifth (a point apiece) and left the Stelvio unscored.
But I’m far from unhappy that the XC40 pinched it from all of the others. This chunky, funky little compact SUV has a sense of fun about it, is decent to drive and is sweetly designed. It’s yet another step in Volvo’s impressive resurgence.
One of the tenets of Car of the Year is its transparency. You can see, or you will be able to shortly see, every single judge’s score, and their closing remarks about each car, on caroftheyear.org. When I check it, it’ll be with a sense of contentment that we’ve chosen a decent set of wheels.