All Together, All Alone : Car of the Year 2020

Geneva has been cancelled, but in some respects at least, the show goes on. There is after all, a car of the year to be decided. Robertas Parazitas reports, from the comfort of home. 

image: radical-mag.com

Surreal is a word both over and mis-used, but it could apply to the 2020 European Car of the Year ceremony, delivered in the usual room in Palexpo, but with the rest of the exhibition complex near deserted, with dismantling and demobilisation already underway even before the first official press day. This time there’s no free fizz and media camaraderie, but by the grace of YouTube, the show goes on.

I’m delivering this from my desk at home, 1500km from Geneva, owing to the vigorous spread of “Novel Coronavirus Covid-19“. Dare one say it is a lot more ‘novel’ than some of the seven shortlisted contenders. Which are, let us remind ourselves:

Image (c) : Car of the Year

BMW 1-Series

Ford Puma

Peugeot 208

Porsche Taycan

Renault Clio

Tesla Model 3

Toyota Corolla

All praise to the fearless jurors in the tiered rows, awaiting the result in the conference room. Other media and manufacturers are excluded, for their own wellbeing.

As I write this at 2:54 CET, nobody knows which car the votes will favour. Chauvinism and prejudice still play their part, but there’s also an electric vs. internal combustion dichotomy. And of course there’s also the hard-headed consumer advisers against red-blooded enthusiasts divide.

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Swiss television presenter Mélanie Freymond opens the proceedings, introducing outgoing GIMS Director Olivier Rihs. There’s a stoic air to the conversation. Around them great effort has come to nothing, but let’s look forward to next year. It’s noted that the ECotY winner will be the only announcement coming out of the Geneva Show this year.

Then it’s over to ECotY President Frank Janssen. Not too much solemnity, much is made of the independence of the contest, and the rigour of the assessment.

Image: Car of the Year

We are shown the customary short film of the 60 jurors from 23 European nations in action at the Mortefontaine test track, and then the votes are called.

3:24 CET

Austria’s jurors give the Puma 18 points and the Porsche 16. Interesting. The Puma has been tipped as a possible left-field winner.

Belgium’s highest scorer is the Clio with 16 points. A return to normality?

The Czech Republic’s voter spreads the votes widely, but the Corolla scores highest with 6 points.

Denmark puts the Tesla first. Much as expected, markets with big EV tax incentives are likely to favour the Tesla, Taycan and 208.

3:25 CET

Finland puts the Puma first. The 208 is ahead, but Clio, Taycan, and Tesla are still in the running.

France gives the Clio 42 points and the 208 36 points. Should anyone be surprised?

3:26 CET

Germany. Another big voting block. Taycan first with 38 points, BMW and Puma follow.

There’s a quick round-up of the placings. Peugeot, Porsche, and Tesla are top three. The Clio is not far behind. Most jurors are not giving their maximum permitted 10 points to one contender. Second and third choices are clearly beginning to matter.

3:30 CET

Portugal puts the 208 first, with 13 points.

Russia favours electric: Tesla 15, Porsche 11.

Slovenia rewards the Puma with 10 points.

Spain gives the 208 a whopping 43 points. It’s now way ahead on 237 points, but the UK block is big enough to swing a win in Tesla or Porsche’s favour.

Switzerland gives 11 points each to the 208 and Taycan.

Turkey’s juror gives the Tesla 8 points.

3:34 CET

The UK declares: Taycan 38, Tesla 35.

Image: Car of the Year

The Peugeot 208 wins with a decisive 281 points.

Long serving Peugeot chief Jean-Philippe Imparato is in the UK, but clearly awaiting the call. His acceptance is gracious and genial. He must be used to this by now, having accepted the trophies for the 308 and 3008 previously.  At least – unlike sorry JLR last year – PSA have a sound excuse in Covid-19 for not having their chief on hand in Geneva.

Image: Car of the Year

So certainly not business as usual at the ceremony, but ECotY has returned to some sort of normality, with the prize going to a mass market car from a middle-ground brand. The electric option must have helped, PSA’s approach of integrating EV powertrains into their mainstream range differs from what other carmakers are doing.

We might regret that there has been no high drama at the count, as happened in 2019, but ECotY has given the industry’s decision makers something to think about in the slack fortnight they unexpectedly face.

Image: Car of the Year

Final order:

Peugeot 208 – 281 points

Tesla Model 3 – 242 points

Porsche Taycan – 222 points

Renault Clio – 211

Ford Puma – 209

Toyota Corolla – 152

BMW 1-Series – 133

15 thoughts on “All Together, All Alone : Car of the Year 2020”

  1. I suppose the EV option was the deciding factor – otherwise, the 208 is a very under whelming choice.

    It will be interesting to see how the technology battle plays out. Logic suggests that EVs demand an entirely new approach, and VW agrees, spending billions of Euros on an entirely new ‘skateboard’ architecture for its new ID family.

    However, both the 208 and forthcoming BMW i4 EVs (essentially, sharing platforms with ICE range mates) seem to deliver just as much, save for the loss of a frunk. The i4 in particular gives nothing away to the Tesla 3 on paper… will it deliver in real life?

  2. Thanks for bringing this to us, Robertas. I have to agree with Jacomo that the new 208 is a somewhat underwhelming winner, but I suppose that PSA is on a bit of a roll lately. I hope it hasn’t bitten too much off with its acquisition of FCA.

    I would have put the Tesla Model 3 on the top step of the podium, but I guess politics and vested interests in the automotive industry militated against an “outsider” winning. I’m pleased to see the Puma doing well, but cannot decide whether it’s good in absolute terms, or just so much better than the excerable Ecosport.

    As we’re dipping into news today, I have to report that BMW apparently wasn’t joking with its recent 4 Series concept’s grille. Here’s the i4 saloon, still a concept, but supposedly close to production form:

    That grille will look just lovely with a number plate slapped across it. Alternatively, maybe BMW will go for an Alfa-style offset look? While it’s hard to get beyond that enormous gob, take a look at the intersection of shut-lines at base of the A-pillar. Lovely work!

    1. The front of that car is not very consistent with the rest of it. You could put a conventional front end on that car and it would stil work – probably work better visually. Do you sens they sorted the sides and then agonised about the front? That front end does not suggest what comes behind it.

    2. ‘But boss, won’t registration plates somewhat ruin the aesthetic impact of our new bloated kidneys?’

      ‘You fool! We simply make the registration plate see through!’

      ‘But, er, boss…’

  3. Thanks for this report, Robertas.

    The final ranking of the cars is quite close to what would have been my own. I’m not sure, probably I’d have swapped 208 and Tesla, and maybe the Corolla could have climbed one or two steps on the ladder. I welcome its return to form, regarding shape and name likewise.

  4. Daniel, I’d have liked to be able to give an informed opinion on the i4 as it appears in three dimensions under the Palexpo spotlights but it was not to be. Going by press conference video, it looks rather fine, but for these two open coffins upfront.

    For those who want to experience ‘what might have been’ at Geneva today, there are some ‘virtual conferences’ available online.

    https://www.gimsvirtualpressday.ch/pressday

    A mixed bag. Porsche had Mark Webber as moderator, but failed to transmit sound on the live feed. VW’s was in German, without subtitles – this despite VAG having adopted English as their official company language some years ago. An Alfa Romeo presentation was on the list, but then dropped out.

    Hyundai’s supposedly matey chat is hilariously stilted, and Luc Donckerwolke talks entirely in International Arts English. Pininfarina’s presentation of the Battista Anniversario takes a mere three minutes.

    There seems to be a bit of a head of steam building up about the way GIMS management handled the cancellation of the show:

    https://europe.autonews.com/blogs/geneva-shows-cancelation-was-poorly-handled

    Christiaan certainly doesn’t pull any punches…

  5. Hi Robertas, and thanks for the link to the press conferences.

    Once you do get past the grille, there’s a germ of a good design in the i4, but the clumsy detailing really lets it down. There’s the “open coffins” (a brilliant description!) up front, and the rear diffuser is so crude, angular and amateurish that if looks like it was knocked up by an apprentice engineering student.

    Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has just facelifted the E-Class and I’m surprised to find myself writing this, but it’s actually quite handsome:

    I could do without the fussy valances front and rear, but otherwise it’s a commendably clean design.

    1. I can’t agree, Daniel. This just looks like Mercedes have decided to make the E-class look like a bigger A-Class saloon rather than the current car, which looks like a bigger C-Class. I prefer the pre-facelift car. Also, it looks like this is another significant facelift for the E-Class relatively early on in its generation; this is becoming a habit.

      Talking of junior saloons from premium German manufacturers, I had the misfortune to see the rear of the current BMW 2-series saloon the other day, which was one of the most unpleasant automotive sights I’ve seen in a long time!

    2. Hi John. Maybe my expectations of current Mercedes-Benz design is so low that I appreciate anything that isn’t downright repellent! Speaking of which, is this the 2 Series you’re thinking about?

      The rear view is incredibly busy. There’s five different horizontal layers between the valance and top of the boot lid.

    3. I also prefer the current E class.

      In fact, I have had a quiet admiration for Mercedes design. The core C, E, and S sedans look very similar, but are subtly and satisfyingly different from one another. The upright rear lamps suggested a certain formality to the design, with the estates and SUVs getting horizontal lamps instead.

      However, it seems I was reading too much into it… ‘Sensual Purity’ obliterates everything in its path.

      I still think the current A class is a bit of a minor triumph, however… certainly considering its ugly and cheap-looking predecessor.

  6. Yes, that’s the one! I would have posted a photo myself, but was commenting from my phone. Anyway, it just looks so incredibly heavy-handed and overwrought.

    1. I agree with John, I prefer the pre face lift design, the E-class is a representative car, not a sports car that has to be agile and aggressive.

      For the previous series, on the other hand, facelifting had done well, especially on the side, on the front, I cannot express myself.

  7. The 208 may be underwhelming in details, but yellow is the standard colour, so I approve. Otherwise it feels like the 206 all over again: a stunning, aggressive design language paired with disappointing engines, spartan suspension and impractical interior. I doubt the electric version will sell in huge numbers. But credit must be given to the 206 that it broke the monotony of streets dominated by boring Escorts, Kadetts and ’80s-’90s Japanese cars no one remembers. Those cars started feeling very old in a blink of an eye once a new 206 parked next to them. So if all its successor does is to step up the tempo in making lively looking cars once again, it will deserve a spot in automotive history no matter how unflattering its product life going to be (a good old Roland Gaross special edition would be nice, but alas – Peugeot is a bit lazy nowadays with using proven marketing strategies).
    As for other competitors: I’m a bit surprised by the continuous unfolding of the Porsche – Tesla battle, as part of the jury (mostly from German speaking countries) favourised the Taycan over the Model 3 by a huge gap:
    Porsche – Tesla
    Austria: 18 – 5
    Germany: 38 – 7
    Switzerland: 11 – 8
    I mean a bit of “national characteristics” showing in the results is always expected, but that’s somewhat extreme. Elon Musk should start practicing his German skills, as circa 40 points were lost there (the rest of the field voted 222 – 155 to Tesla).

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