► Backstage at the Car of the Year awards
► How the editor of CAR voted
► Astra scoops Europe's top gong
CAR magazine's editor Phil McNamara is one of 58 judges from across Europe who votes for the Car of the Year. Here he reveals how he voted. Read our full story here to find out how the Vauxhall Astra won the top prize this year.
Audi A4: 2 points
Anyone buying the commendably light A4 will delight in its superbly built cabin, refinement and excellent engines, including the smooth, punchy Miller cycle petrol, with its efficiency advantage over rivals’ fours. Pay £1250 for an autonomous driving bundle, including Traffic Jam Assist and Predictive Efficiency Assistant, which tackles a weak link in the efficiency chain – the driver – through coaching, but irritates with repeated demands to lift off. Maybe let the cruise control take over, because the driving experience left me a bit cold.
Click here for our Audi A4 reviews.
BMW 7-series: 2 points
Limousine meets Tamiya, thanks to the part-carbon 7-series’ clever remote parking capabilities. And its self-driving capability allows you to navigate motorway congestion with only an occasional touch of the wheel: hugely satisfying. The rear tablet is a must, but Gesture Control is a limited gimmick for now. Drivetrains are potent and hushed, and I prefer the tauter body control compared with an S-class. Roll on the roll out of some of this tech to the next 5-series.
Click here for our BMW 7-series reviews.
Jaguar XE: 3 points
Aside from the MX-5, no other shortlisted car is so overtly sporty. Flick the steering wheel, and the XE’s nose dances to your commands. With its 50:50 weight distribution, firm but supple ride and low-set driving position, it’s my favourite car to drive in its class. But there are demerits too: the diesel engine is raucous, the cockpit feels a generation behind the Audi’s, and rear space is tight. Euro NCAP rates its active safety equipment; automatic braking is standard.
Click here for our Jaguar XE reviews.
Mazda MX-5: 4 points
Lighter and smaller than before. Fantastic value, starting at £18,495 and less than £300 a month to lease. The 1.5-litre engine sings to the redline, and every gearchange with that precise six-speed ‘box is fabulous. The rear end feels a bit unruly at times, so drivers need to be on their game. You don’t even have to compromise on gadgetry, with Mazda’s excellent infotainment system. It’s terrific fun: who needs a supercar?
Click here for our Mazda MX-5 reviews.
Skoda Superb: 6 points
For £90 more than the MX-5, you can have a base Skoda Superb. This car packs as much rear space as the 7-series, and comes as a supremely capacious wagon too: that’s the practicality box ticked. It handles tidily, and cruises with very little road or wind noise. Adaptive damping is a £700 option that offers a good range of character, sharpening up the handling in Sport or becoming a blissfully pillowy barge in Comfort. The Superb is around £5000 cheaper than the equivalent VW Passat, yet it doesn’t lack for technology: TV tuner, cellphone Smartlink (Apple CarPlay works more intuitively on Skoda’s touchscreen than in the Audi or Volvo), heated rear seats, dual-clutch gearboxes and all-wheel drive. It is genuinely Superb, in a very rational way, and it’s my Car of the Year.
Click here for our Skoda Superb reviews.
Vauxhall Astra: 5 points
The Astra is a stepchange for Vauxhall: a new architecture that sheds 130kg, out with fripperies like adaptive damping for a properly sorted suspension providing splendid ride quality and refinement, and a pretty engaging steer too. Carbon emissions are low and build quality high. An intuitive touchscreen with crisp graphics, DAB radio, Bluetooth and CarPlay/Android Auto is standard, the second trim level (still under £16k) includes sat-nav, and options are competitively priced. Buyers will feel like they’ve got a great car at great value, and amen to that.
Click here for our Vauxhall Astra reviews.
Volvo XC90: 3 points
The XC90 has become very large and cumbersome, cornering with noticeable roll, and at times afflicted by a fidgety secondary ride. The mandatory four cylinders haven’t neutered performance, although they can get a little stressed when extended. Regardless, the XC90 is a loveable car, and provides the shortlist’s most welcoming family environment. The airy, seven seat cabin is tastefully designed and beautifully trimmed, and largely decluttered thanks to the handsome but at times fiddly touchscreen. It was also the safest car Euro NCAP tested in 2015.
Click here for our Volvo XC90 reviews.