The following is an exact copy of what Phil wrote in his judging form for Europe’s 2009 Car of the Year.
Let’s start by dismissing Renault’s Megane – its maximum NCAP rating is its sole outstanding quality.
Citroen’s C5 sneaks a single point, because it’s so wonderfully refined and has a design that strikes the perfect balance between extrovert and handsome. But it’s no better value than rivals and has bizarre, off-kilter steering.
Like the Citroen, Alfa Romeo’s Mito appeals to the heart rather than the head. At last, the Mini has a welcome, premium brand rival, with cheeky looks and a fine leather/ faux carbonfibre cabin. I applaud its vibrant dynamics – edgy steering, taut ride, plentiful torquesteer – which may prove too wild for some customers. Ultimately, it lacks the Mini’s finesse.
It’s pretty much a dead heat between the Skoda Superb and Opel/Vauxhall Insignia. Both have different virtues, the Skoda’s being more prosaic: punters get a lot of car for their cash. Rear accommodation is peerless at this price, and the hatch/saloon versatility will benefit those oddballs that deem a practical five-door downmarket. The interior design, though plain, is impeccably finished. But it lacks refinement – the ride is jolty, the PD diesels are gruff, and wind noise can be noticeable – and it lacks driver engagement.
That’s where the Opel Insignia has the edge, with nicely weighted steering and an eager gearchange, a supple ride, decent refinement and a good spread of performance from the engines. The cabin is inspired, with a prow like a speedboat’s, and quality switchgear. Unlike its predecessor, the Insignia is a desirable car, which should excite its fleet customer base.
My silver medalist is Volkswagen’s Golf Mk6. This is close to the ideal family car: excellent to drive, quiet and comfortable, well built and with technology that shames others on the shortlist. A fast, frugal double-clutch gearbox, rear parking camera, adaptive damping and downsized twincharger engines all figure. However, its boring exterior and cabin designs are an absolute turn-off.
In contrast, Ford’s Fiesta has so much flair, it will attract funky youngsters and older design progressives. Inside there’s plenty of space and MP3 players and cellphones are easily integrated. There’s substance too, with Ford’s rigorous weight loss programme reducing the Fiesta’s environmental impact. Every aspect feels thoroughly engineered. The Fiesta has many virtues, but one stands out: it’s just about the best car to drive on this shortlist.
How Phil McNamara voted:
• Ford Fiesta, 7 points
• Volkswagen Golf, 6 points
• Opel/Vauxhall Insignia , 4 points
• Skoda Superb, 4 points
• Alfa Romeo Mito, 3 points
• Citroen C5, 1 points
• Renault Mégane, 0 points
>> Click here to see the full Car of the Year 2009 results