Volkswagen's new Passat has won the prestigious car of the year title in Europe. The German family saloon was awarded 340 points by the panel of international motoring journalists, well ahead of its nearest rivals, the Citroën C4 Cactus with 248 points and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class on 221 points. Other finalists in this year's competition were the Ford Mondeo (203 points), Nissan Qashqai (160 points), BMW 2 Series Active Tourer (154 points) and the Renault Twingo (124 points).
In comparison with many other car awards the Coty voting is made public, with judges setting out the reasons for their votes. After various testing sessions throughout the year culminating in a week long test event in the autumn with all the elegible cars, a shortlist of seven finalist is voted on.
Then after another test event at the Ceram test centre in France, each of the 58 jury members from 22 countries gets a total of 25 points to distribute between the seven finalists. A maximum of 10 points can be awarded to any car.
Here is a brief summary of how I voted and why.
BMW 2-Series Active Tourer - 7 points
In a tightly run race with no stand-out winner, the BMW takes my top points for mixing family functionality and premium appeal in a segment that lately seemed to be losing its lustre. This new car epitomises the move by premium brands into the mainstream market and demonstrates how it can be done well. The Gran Tourer version will answer a lot of family needs.
Mercedes C-Class - 6 points
Smart looks, a proper premium-grade interior and a portfolio of engines ranging from the frugal to the fire-breathing marks the arrival of the first C-Class in some time that is just as good as anything from Audi or BMW.
Ford Mondeo - 5
This part of the competition comes down to a battle between the Ford and the VW. It’s a close call and both have flaws. The Ford wins out with a more engaging driving dynamic, more impressive entry-level engine range and a more eye-catching look. Downsides include a low-grade interior and a hybrid version that seems to have been an afterthought.
Volkswagen Passat - 4
The refinement of a premium car, quality fit and finish throughout and some truly innovative engines and technology at the upper end of its range mark the Passat out as an impressive offering. However, the design is too conservative, while the smaller engines lack pep. The upcoming GTE is very impressive, but a likely high price will limit sales.
Nissan Qashqai - 2 points
Perhaps the real innovation happened in the last generation with a model that defined the crossover craze. This is a well-executed evolution on the original theme. Build quality is strong, the car delivers in terms of functionality and it is worthy of its place outside the traditional market segment categories, luring buyers out of family hatchbacks and premium saloons.
Citroën C4 Cactus - 1
I like the way Citroen has created a car that evokes its strong design heritage with a modern look. In the midst of financial crisis at the French firm it turned to its designers to redefine the brand. Alexandre Malval and his team have delivered with aplomb. Simplicity, individuality and style with practicality to boot. Beneath the skin, however, the actual underpinnings are not as innovative, and the touchscreen infotainment system is terribly imprecise.
Renault Twingo - 0
A great concept, smart and innovative in its delivery, and great fun to drive provided you opt for the right engine. Unfortunately, the difference between the lacklustre 70bhp 1-litre and the peppy 90bhp 900cc is enormous and, as the latter is significantly more expensive, the Twingo loses out.