The Car of the Year shortlist has been announced. It's a piece of news I would normally register with a sigh, before returning to more important work.
This year, though, it matters more to me than usual because I’ve been appointed as one of the competition’s 58 judges. This august institution currently considers the Peugeot 308 to be at the industry’s apogee and it has never anointed a BMW.
The shortlisting works as follows: all of the new cars that went on sale in at least five European markets during 2014 and that are likely to sell in volumes of more than 5000 a year automatically make the longlist.
Each judge nominates their preferred seven from those, and the most-nominated models make the shortlist.
From these seven cars the winner will be chosen, but a rather more complicated scoring system exists hereon. Each judge is allocated 25 points to distribute, largely as they choose, with a 10-point maximum allowed on any one car.
And, as Brucie used to say, what do points make? During the past five years, points have made the Peugeot 308, the Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera, the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen Polo and Opel/Vauxhall Insignia the winners.
The judging criteria are those you’d probably expect: design, comfort, safety, economy, handling, performance, functionality, environmental requirements, driver satisfaction and price. Particular importance is apparently placed on technical innovation and value for money.
It also requires a judge to assess a car “against its market rivals”. Which, for me, means that a car must bring something to its class that no car has before. My shortlist, then, consisted of the BMW 2-Series coupé, Ford Mondeo, Mini, Nissan Qashqai, Porsche Macan, Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Passat.
Of those on the official shortlist that weren’t on mine? They’re okay. The C4 Cactus and Twingo are at least interesting, if not ultimately as accomplished as they should be. More accomplished but less interesting is the 2-Series Active Tourer. And if you get the right specification C-class it too is okay, but in no specification would I consider it a class leader. Still, that's democracy for you.
None of the above obviously shouts ‘winner’ particularly strongly at me, but that is the way of things. There are some pretty competitive cars on the list. Which one picks up the gong is announced in March.