News that the VW Polo has narrowly won the 2010 Car of the Year strikes me as good news for Europe’s highest-achieving car company, but I don’t believe it does all that much credit to the 59 jurors from 23 countries, of which I’m one.

We’ve chosen a safe little car - plainly the most refined supermini on the market - but it’s very much a “steady as she goes” car, usefully improved in every respect but essentially predictable and familiar, from the looks to the powertrains. There are some lovely bits - the 1.2 TSI engine with twin-clutch gearbox ranks highest for me - but the essential car is efficient but no surprise. The Polo scored 347 votes, all 59 jurors gave it votes, and 25 of them made it their winner.

VW Polo is Car of the Year 2010

Still, the thing was close. This year’s COTY returning officer says the whole thing was decided by the last vote he counted: until then, the competition might have been won by Toyota’s more revolutionary iQ, which scored 10 points fewer and was given top billing by 20 jurors.

After that, it was a fairly low-level competition. The Opel/Vauxhall Astra was a creditable third with 221 points, a kind of “pretty good” rating, but only five jurors gave it top billing.

The Skoda Yeti did well for an SUV with 158 points, leading a tight rump that consisted of Mercedes E-class (155) and Peugeot 3008 (144). But the Citroen C3 Picasso’s wooden-spoon score - 113 points - rather belied the enthusiasm of its initial reception. What have we learned? That conventional design still rules with Europe’s car critics, but that the iQ is viewed as a more serious and capable car than the Smart ever was.

I was surprised that the Astra did quite so well (it’s good-looking, but big and heavy) and I was disappointed that the E-class (the best Merc for decades) didn’t do better.

I agree with the general verdict on the Yeti, 3008 and C3 Picasso. All were worthy finalists, but not really COTY material.