ECOTY 2019 is soon to be upon us. Who will learn to accept their reward this coming March?
As November slips silently from our grasp, and the season of good cheer has not yet fully broken upon us, we find ourselves at Driven to Write already looking ahead to March. But neither time, news agendas nor indeed my senior editor are known for qualities of patience or mercy, meaning I’m bound at least occasionally to report on the stories (as they say), that matter. The shortlist for the 2019 European Car of the Year award was officially announced this week, so let us take this opportunity to consider the seven finalists’ chances of tearful acceptance at Geneva in the Spring.
The international COTY jury, consisting of 60 representatives from the countries of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, having cast their first vote, saw the initial 38 potential nominees whittled down to the seven finalists now vying for Car of the Year 2019 trophy.
As you will no doubt recall, this year’s award was something of a landslide for Volvo’s XC40 crossover, amassing 325 points and 24 individual top votes ahead of the Seat Ibiza (242 points) and the BMW 5-series (226 points) among the seven finalists. “Quality, looks, ruggedness and, of course, safety are among the aspects appreciated by Jury members for this SUV of surely high acceptance,” ECOTY said of the Tonka-Swede. And with Global sales of 58,111* in the year to October, they can scarcely churn them out fast enough at Ghent.
The first and perhaps most surprising finalist is Renault-owned Alpine, with the pert and critically acclaimed A110. Overt sports machines such as this have not typically fared well at ECOTY, so for Alpine to take home the trophy would be unprecedented. But stranger things have happened and these are indeed, interesting times.
Second of France’s three finalists and the first of PSA’s two entrants is Citroën’s C5 Aircross CUV. Currently the largest car model to bear the double chevron, much is made of the Citroën’s emphasis on passenger comfort and value. And while it’s likely the C5 will score well, with the home jury at least, the fact that Peugeot’s architecturally related 3008 took the honours two years ago is surely likely to militate against it.
The first of three mainstream C-sector hatchbacks in contention is Ford’s current Focus model. Bigger, more tech-laden and anodyne in appearance than any car to bear the Focus nameplate since its inception 20 years ago, the mid-sized Ford has nevertheless been critically well received, and stands a strong chance of a top-three finish, maybe even the top spot. Which would undoubtedly go down well at Köln-Merkenich.
Having rejected its less than impressive junior CUV sibling, the sole UK-developed vehicle to make this year’s shortlist is JLR’s Jaguar’s I-Pace. Electric vehicles have won here in the past – Nissan’s Leaf taking the gong in 2011, (not to mention Tesla’s Model S third position in 2014) so there is a precedent. If the jurors can ignore the Jaguar’s withering price-tag, it could conceivably be favourite to take the win.
Kia’s Ceed has not only lost its once-defining apostrophe, but also a good deal of styling distinctiveness in its second generation. Nevertheless, it remains a sober-suited, finely honed consumer durable of broad ability and strong appeal, which will ensure it scores highly. What it lacks is an indefinable sparkle, but that quality (or indeed its lack) has not necessarily troubled the ECOTY jury in the past.
Coming immediately after the Ceed could prove confusing for the jurors, such are the physical resemblances between the Korean contender and Sindelfingen’s latest C-segment entrant. Expected to score highly on its ‘Flash Gorden’ cabin ambience and up to the minute tech, the Mercedes A-Class is otherwise as normative a choice as the Ford or Kia that precede it. A top three position seems likely, but a win would surely be something of a travesty.
The final contender is Peugeot’s 508, the latest in what is billed as a return to form from the Lion of Belfort. Strong on visual appeal, however Socheaux’s current flagship appears to have left some critics wanting on more substantive matters. There is likely to be a groundswell of support for this sole representative of a traditional, now fading format, but the top spot nevertheless seems fanciful.
And there you have it. Seven finalists, but only one in their midst with a winning hand. The final vote will take place in March, with each juror apportioning 25 points amongst their selected five nominees. The car of the year will be revealed on the eve of the Geneva Motorshow on March 4th 2019.
Driven to Write will as ever, do our utmost to bring you the result live from the Palexpo – assuming we get our metaphorical ducks in a row. Meanwhile, like the rest of us, the very least you can do is speculate.