I’m slightly surprised, especially by the margin of victory, but not disappointed; the Passat took most votes from me. But I had expected the Citroën C4 Cactus to win, because at least it’s an interesting car.
The voting, then. All judges have to apportion 25 points across the seven shortlisted cars and must give some points to at least five. They can’t name an equal winner and can award no more than 10 points to any car.
This scoring system couldn’t be more committee-like if it tried, so it’s no wonder that, in past years, cars (like the BMW i3 or Tesla Model S) that some judges think are brilliant yet others think are not give way for a car everyone thinks is ‘fine’.
In ascending order of points, this is how my scores went. (You’re able to view all judges’ points and comments online.)
I gave the Ford Mondeo and Mercedes-Benz C-Class a point each. The Ford is satisfying to drive, but there’s no overlooking just how far off the pace of Europe’s best its interior feels, especially given how much time Mondeo drivers will spend inside one. The C-Class almost manages to be the opposite, combining a near class-leading cabin with some of the most mediocre dynamics in the class.
I gave both the Nissan Qashqai and the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer three points. The Qashqai is good at everything it does. It’s well designed, drives well enough and seats occupants in sufficient comfort, but for me it doesn’t reach ‘outstanding’ in any key area.
It would have been ironic if the only BMW to win Car of the Year had been the least interesting BMW launched in a generation. But the Active Tourer is designed to do entirely conventional things and does them well, with a reasonably sophisticated driving experience and cabin feel.
Despite the Renault Twingo’s failings, it won four marks from me for the innovative idea that gives it its sweet design and some pleasing driving characteristics. I wish it were better, but at least I care about it.
The C4 Cactus also takes advantage of the fact that none of its rivals is outstanding, so I gave it five marks, mostly for the fact that it is an interesting and likeable car, even though it, too, could be a better one.
Which leaves the Passat, which won most points from me (eight) not because it’s interesting, but because it’s the only car here that I’d without hesitation place at the top of its market segment. Ultimately, I think a winner ought to do at least that – and I wasn’t alone.