As I write, the 2017 European Car of the Year (CotY) shortlist has been announced. CotY is a pan-European contest of which Autocar is a sponsoring member. I’m Autocar’s representative and one of six UK judges.
It works like this: if a car is on sale in enough places in Europe in 2016, then it goes onto the long list, which totalled 30 cars this year. Cars have to be sufficiently new – so a facelift usually doesn’t make it.
There are 58 judges from around Europe, and they pick their seven top cars from the long list at the end of November. The seven cars with the most votes make the shortlist.
It’s a decent enough shortlist. Some jury members I’ve spoken to would rather the Skoda Kodiaq had found its way on there. Some, including me, felt the Jaguar F-Pace deserved a shot, too, especially as CotY has been slow to identify with a market that has shifted so far towards SUVs and crossovers. None has won the contest.
Perhaps it’s a pity that there are no boundary pushers, either – no Toyota Mirai or Tesla Model X, for instance. But this is a contest that has given the gong to the Nissan Leaf and Opel Ampera in the past, so it can’t be accused of looking backwards.
Anyway, all the shortlisted cars come together early next yearin France, where the jury can drive them back to back, but your UK judges tend to get right-hand-drive cars together on decent roads we know well, too.
We’ll do that in January or February. Then there’s a slightly complex scoring system by which we all rank our choices, all the results are totted up and the winner is announced in March on the eve of the Geneva motor show.
This year’s winner was the Vauxhall/Opel Astra, which is a pretty decent car, although I’d have preferred, among others, the Volvo XC90 and Mazda MX-5. Most of the 2017 contenders have impressed me on previous acquaintance, but I will always prefer an interesting car to ‘just another’ car. I’ll let you know how we get on this time.
More thoughts on autonomy...
You know that thing where, on a motorway, you’re waiting to pull out to overtake something, but the car behind you pulls out and blocks your path before you’ve managed it – even though, technically, you were there ‘first’? And how sometimes you’ll be generous and let someone in front of you pull out, but if you’re in a rush or are grumpy, you don’t?
Well, I was talking to a colleague the other day, and he said: “What will happen when you’ve got an autonomous car in that situation? Is it courteous? Will it care? Or do you think you’ll be able to set your own level of aggression and courtesy?”
There are a thousand or more instances like that: when you don’t want to block a T-junction or roundabout; when you spot a car hoping to move out of a slip road in 30 seconds’ time. Presumably, one day, self-driven and human-driven vehicles will have to manage all this, at the same time, in the same space. Which will be interesting…