Within a week or two, 58 motoring journalists in 22 countries around Europe will decide which of seven finalist cars, from an eligible crop of 30-odd, most deserves to be Europe’s Car of the Year (COTY) for 2014.
Six of the jurors in this 50-year-old competition are British-based (I’m one) and every year with the help of cooperative motor manufacturers we get the final seven together at Silverstone to drive them on tough surrounding roads, and punt them on the circuit to investigate quirks at the limit of grip.
Trouble is, this isn’t ordinary car testing. For the rest of the year you play the role of a potential car buyer, judging a new product against existing rivals. Even that is complex: you must juggle the priorities in a car’s make-up before reaching a judgement. To what degree is a big boot more important than great steering?
For COTY, it’s more complex still. This year’s field has extremities that extend from the BMW i3 electric car to the more traditional Mercedes S-class, via a Citroën MPV and a Peugeot 308 C-segment hatch. The only sensible course is to make a 'fitness for purpose' judgement: which of these cars best fulfils its creators intentions?