The shortlist for European Car of the Year 2014 has been made public. These seven cars still have a shot at the ultimate prize:
Among those who didn’t make the cut, the most surprising is the Renault Zoe EV, especially considering a couple of average-Joe midsized vehicles that don’t really offer anything new did make it through. Yes, Octavia and 308, I am talking about you.
Is the Zoe not revolutionary enough? It is basically an evolution of the 2011 winner Nissan Leaf, without offering any groundbreaking new technologies. But then what is the Skoda Octavia doing on this shortlist? This is exactly the same vehicle as last year’s winner Volkswagen Golf, but with a different skin. It offers absolutely nothing new compared to the Golf, and to call its design groundbreaking would be the exaggeration of the century.
Previous surprising and not-so surprising winners
We cannot look into the future without remembering the past. The past teaches us there have been some surprising winners of the Car of the Year trophy, for example:
- 1977: Rover 3500 (SD1)
- 1978: Porsche 928
- 1979: Simca/Chrysler/Talbot Horizon
The Rover SD1 was one of the prime examples of what was wrong with British Leyland, as despite it was one of Britain’s greatest design, it was also Britain’s worst built car, with parts falling off, paint flaking and electronics that would go on strike more often than the unmotivated union worker that had put it together. They must have stayed together long enough to convince the jurors that this would be the best car 1978 money could buy.
The Porsche 928 remains the only sports car to ever win the Car of the Year trophy, something the hugely popular 911, the car it was supposed to replace, has never been able to do. It didn’t help the 928 though, as we all know the 911 just refused to be replaced. The 911 probably never won because it has just evolved slowly but steadily and was never a revolution from the outgoing model
The Horizon was much better at convincing the COTY jurors than it was at convincing the press and the public of its perceived qualities. It would be the last model Simca/Talbot would produce, as its successor was marketed as the Peugeot 309.
More unsurprising winners have been:
- 1964: Rover 2000 (P6)
- 1966: Renault 16
- 1967: Fiat 124
- 1968: NSU Ro80
- 1975: Citroën CX
- 1997: Renault Megane Scenic
- 2005: Toyota Prius
- 2011: Nissan Leaf
- 2012: Opel Ampera/Chevrolet Volt
Which were game-changers in their respective time periods, offering either new technology or groundbreaking design.
History of Car of the Year
The winner by the largest margin over the number 2 was in 1970, when the Fiat 128 scored almost 2,5 times as many points as the Autobianchi A112 (235 vs.96, with a different voting system then). More recently, in 2013 the Volkswagen Golf scored more than double the number of points than the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ twins (414 vs. 202).
The closest race was in 2001, when the Alfa Romeo 147 beat the Ford Mondeo by a single point, and the first generation Toyota Prius was in third place also not very far behind (238 vs. 237 vs. 229). In 2009 the Opel Insignia also won by the smallest possible margin, edging out the Ford Fiesta (321 vs. 320).
The most successful Car of the Year winners, measured by their production numbers, are:
- Fiat 124 with almost 20 million units (including Lada Zhiguli and other derivatives) from 1966 till 2012
- Fiat 127 with almost 6,5 million units from 1971 till 1995
- Fiat Uno, with over 6,2 million units and counting (it is still produced in South-America) since 1983
- Peugeot 405 with over 4,6 million units and counting (it is still produced in Iran) since 1987
But winning the Car of the Year trophy is not a guarantee for success. Of the NSU Ro80, only 37.395 units have been produced from 1967 till 1977 and around 61.000 units of the Porsche 928 from 1977 till 1995.
And four brands that no longer exist today have won a combined 6 trophies since the first election in 1964:
- 1964: Rover P6
- 1965: Austin 1800
- 1968: NSU Ro80
- 1976: Simca 1307/1308
- 1977: Rover 3500 (SD1)
- 1979: Simca Horizon
Of those that have survived, Fiat is the clear leader, with 9 trophies, compared to Renault’s 6 and Ford’s 5 and Opel’s 4, but none of those will chalk up another victory to their records this year. On the other side: BMW, Mazda, Skoda and Tesla all have a shot at their first Car of the Year award.
BMW has had five podiums:
- 1967: BMW 1600, second place
- 1969: BMW 2500/2800, second place
- 1976: BMW 3-series, second place
- 1978: BMW 7-series , second place
- 1987: BMW 7-series, third place
Mazda has had three podiums:
- 2003: Mazda 6, second place
- 2004: Mazda 3, second place
- 2008: Mazda 2, second place
While Skoda and Tesla have never even been on the podium before.
Of the other contestants, Citroën has won three times before:
- 1971: Citroën GS
- 1975: Citroën CX
- 1990: Citroën XM
Peugeot also has three victories:
- 1969: Peugeot 504
- 1988: Peugeot 405
- 2002: Peugeot 307
and Mercedes-Benz has won once before, also with the S-class, back in 1974.
So which car will have the best shot at the 2014 Car of the Year title?
In selecting the car of the year, the jurors use the following criteria: design, comfort, safety, economy, handling, performance, functionality, environmental requirements, driver satisfaction, and price. Technical innovation and value for money are particularly important factors.
My bet would be the Tesla Model S, because despite its relatively high price point, it does offer great value for money and it ticks all the other boxes perfectly. The only hurdle on its way to victory could be that most of Tesla’s sales have been in Norway, The Netherlands and Denmark, thanks to government subsidies on EVs in those countries. Since the jurors come from 22 different European countries, some may be too short-sighted to see enough sales potential in their country for the Model S.
The winner will be announced at the Geneva Autoshow, March 3rd 2014.
|Year||Winner||Second place||Third place|
|2013||Volkswagen Golf||Toyota GT-86/Subaru BRZ||Volvo V40|
|2012||Chevrolet Volt/Opel Ampera||Volkswagen up!||Ford Focus|
|2011||Nissan Leaf||Alfa Romeo Giulietta||Opel/Vauxhall Meriva|
|2010||Volkswagen Polo||Toyota iQ||Opel/Vauxhall Astra|
|2009||Opel/Vauxhall Insignia||Ford Fiesta||Volkswagen Golf|
|2008||Fiat 500||Mazda2||Ford Mondeo|
|2007||Ford S-Max||Opel/Vauxhall Corsa||Citron C4 Picasso|
|2006||Renault Clio||Volkswagen Passat||Alfa Romeo 159|
|2005||Toyota Prius||Citron C4||Ford Focus|
|2004||Fiat Panda||Mazda 3||Volkswagen Golf|
|2003||Renault Mgane||Mazda 6||Citron C3|
|2002||Peugeot 307||Renault Laguna||Fiat Stilo|
|2001||Alfa Romeo 147||Ford Mondeo||Toyota Prius|
|2000||Toyota Yaris||Fiat Multipla||Opel/Vauxhall Zafira|
|1999||Ford Focus||Opel/Vauxhall Astra||Peugeot 206|
|1998||Alfa Romeo 156||Volkswagen Golf||Audi A6|
|1997||Renault Mgane Scnic||Ford Ka||Volkswagen Passat|
|1996||Fiat Bravo/Brava||Peugeot 406||Audi A4|
|1995||Fiat Punto||Volkswagen Polo||Opel/Vauxhall Omega|
|1994||Ford Mondeo||Citron Xantia||Mercedes-Benz C|
|1993||Nissan Micra||Fiat Cinquecento||Renault Safrane|
|1992||Volkswagen Golf||Opel/Vauxhall Astra||Citron ZX|
|1991||Renault Clio||Nissan Primera||Opel/Vauxhall Calibra|
|1990||Citron XM||Mercedes-Benz SL||Ford Fiesta|
|1989||Fiat Tipo||Opel Vectra/Vauxhall Cavalier||Volkswagen Passat|
|1988||Peugeot 405||Citron AX||Honda Prelude|
|1987||Opel Omega/Vauxhall Carlton||Audi 80||BMW 7-series|
|1986||Ford Scorpio/Granada Mk.III||Lancia Y10||Mercedes-Benz W124|
|1985||Opel Kadett/Vauxhall Astra||Renault 25||Lancia Thema|
|1984||Fiat Uno||Peugeot 205||Volkswagen Golf|
|1983||Audi 100||Ford Sierra||Volvo 760|
|1982||Renault 9||Opel Ascona/Vauxhall Cavalier||Volkswagen Polo|
|1981||Ford Escort Mk.III||Fiat Panda||Austin Metro|
|1980||Lancia Delta||Opel Kadett/Vauxhall Astra||Peugeot 505|
|1979||Simca/Chrysler Horizon||Fiat Ritmo||Audi 80|
|1978||Porsche 928||BMW 7-series||Ford Granada|
|1977||Rover 3500||Audi 100||Ford Fiesta|
|1976||Simca 1307-1308||BMW 3-series||Renault 30 TS|
|1975||Citron CX||Volkswagen Golf||Audi 50|
|1974||Mercedes S-Class W116||Fiat X1/9||Honda Civic|
|1973||Audi 80||Renault 5||Alfa Romeo Alfetta|
|1972||Fiat 127||Renault 15/17||Mercedes 350SL|
|1971||Citron GS||Volkswagen K70||Citron SM|
|1970||Fiat 128||Autobianchi A112||Renault 12|
|1969||Peugeot 504||BMW 2500/2800||Alfa Romeo 1750|
|1968||NSU Ro 80||Fiat 125||Simca 1100|
|1967||Fiat 124||BMW 1600||Jensen FF|
|1966||Renault 16||Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow||Oldsmobile Toronado|
|1965||Austin 1800||Autobianchi Primula||Ford Mustang|
|1964||Rover 2000||Mercedes 600||Hillman Imp|