► Discussing CAR of the Year winners
► Audi A4, Jag XE and MX-5 all on shortlist
► Opel/Vauxhall Astra took Car of the Year 2016
What do the Porsche 928, NSU Ro 80 and Citroën CX have in common with the Peugeot 307, Vauxhall Insignia and Fiat Brava? You guessed it: these cars – ranging from bastions of innovation to the depths of mediocrity – have all won Europe’s Car of the Year award.
Of course, any democratically decided commendation, from the Oscars to the Eurovision Song Contest to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, runs the risk of producing tragic results. Every year, 58 journalists from 22 different European countries vote for their favourite cars. I’m one of the jurors, as is CAR’s European editor Georg Kacher. On 29 February, we were both in Geneva, to hear the winner announced.
Each juror nominates their favourite seven cars of the past 12 months, which creates a shortlist of the most popular cars. We then convene near Paris, to spend two days driving the contenders back-to-back – unlike some other car awards that are theoretical. The final stage is to distribute 25 points among the seven.
This year’s shortlist? Audi A4, BMW 7-series, Jaguar XE, Mazda MX-5, Skoda Superb, Vauxhall Astra, Volvo XC90. Picking your winner is a mind-bending intellectual exercise. I look for cars that are best in class, and innovative, driving the industry forward. And I try to put myself in punters’ shoes, mulling factors like safety, equipment levels, value and efficiency, while still rewarding engaging dynamics.
My top dog was the Skoda Superb, which I awarded six points. A very rational decision: it’s spacious, refined, well-built, packed with technology and costs around £5000 less than the equivalent Passat. It would make a splendid family car, as would my second pick with five points, the Vauxhall Astra. Again, the value argument was compelling, and it has intuitive touchscreen infotainment which will delight owners. I gave the fun MX-5 four points, the XC90 and XE three points each, with the 7-series and A4 awarded two.
That’s how I voted, but I’m one voice among 58. The Brits gave the third-placed MX-5 the most points (cue much friendly ribbing from Jaguar’s PRs), while the three Swedish jurors – proudly backing the home team – awarded the XC90 29 out of a possible 30 points. But no matter: the 2016 Car of the Year, scoring 15 more than the second-placed XC90, was the Opel/Vauxhall Astra. A decision I endorse, and an example of transparent democracy working nicely.
Will we be voting for this issue’s cover stars, the amazing DB11 and Chiron, in 2017? As ground-breaking as they are, cars have to sell more than 5000 units a year to qualify. And despite the blissful prospect of two days driving a Bugatti and Aston back-to- back, that sadly rules them out! Enjoy the issue.
Read more from the April 2016 issue of CAR magazine