Once again the Geneva Salon is a no-show, but in the depths of the empty halls of Palexpo, the 57th European Car of the Year announcement goes out to the world. Robertas Parazitas reports, from a virtual Grand-Saconnex.
Last year’s hasty but not unexpected cancellation of the Geneva International Motor Show established the template for the virtual ECotY presentation. No free fizz, no famous faces, but it worked, so why change?
Swiss television presenter Mélanie Freymond opened the proceedings, introducing GIMS CEO Sandro Mesquita. He almost answers everyone’s inevitable question. Will there be a show in 2022? The answer is that negotiations with their partner are nearing conclusion and he is hopeful of some “good news” in the next few weeks.
Then it’s over to ECotY President Frank Janssen, soon to retire from his motoring correspondency at Stern, while remaining a prime mover at EC0tY. Much is made of the independence of the contest, and the rigour of the assessment, and the pan-European award’s primacy amongst similar contests worldwide.
The jury is present by the magic of Zoom, or something similar, galleried on a large screen. Their votes – I think – were cast on Sunday, but we are not denied the drama, with each nation declaring in (English) alphabetical order.
The full scores were not available at the time of writing, but the national first choices make interesting reading:
Citroën C4: No first places
Cupra Formentor: Belgium, Slovenia, Spain
Fiat New 500: Germany (joint first with VW ID.3), Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland
Land Rover Defender: Russia, UK
Škoda Octavia: Austria, Sweden
Toyota Yaris: France, Hungary, Poland, Portugal (joint first with VW ID.3), Turkey
Volkswagen ID.3: Denmark, Germany (joint first with Fiat 500), Greece, Ireland, Norway, Portugal (joint first with Toyota Yaris)
Despite the Cupra Formentor remaining in sight of victory almost to the end, the Toyota Yaris won decisively.
Winner: Toyota Yaris XP210: 266 points
2. Fiat 500 Electric: 240 points
3. Cupra Formentor: 239 points
4. Volkswagen ID.3: 224 points
5. Skoda Octavia: 199 points
6. Land Rover Defender L663: 164 points
7. Citroën C4: 143 points
Should we be surprised? I think not. For British observers the Yaris is marginalised by Toyota’s hybrid-only policy, with a starting price of just under £20,000. Elsewhere in Europe, even in RHD Ireland, the range is broader-based, with the non-hybrid options of the 1.0 litre triple from the Aygo, and the far more appealing M15A-FKS – a 122bhp 1.5 litre NA triple based on the 2.0 Dynamic Force in-line four. In Ireland the 1.5 with a six speed gearbox costs a mere €535 more than the 1.0.
Herr Janssen was not slow to note the joker in the Yaris pack – the extraordinary 257bhp 4WD GR built in Motomachi, which shares only headlights, tail lights and door mirrors with the Valenciennes-built mainstream Yarises.
Technical difficulties prevented Matt Harrison, executive vice president of Toyota Europe from accepting the trophy even virtually, but he later stated: “This is a great honour for Toyota and I’d like to thank the jury for their consideration and recognition. I’d also like to take this opportunity to recognise the passion of our development teams in Europe and Japan. This is the best ever Yaris, and just as Akio Toyoda intended, it is already putting a smile on the face of our customers.”
Perhaps the real upset of ECotY 2021 is the poor showing of the Volkswagen ID.3. Even the home jury only placed it equal with the Fiat 500 Electric, the only other electric-only contender. The ID.3 already looks a model cycle old, and VAG’s problems with production readiness and its user interface are widely known. At Wolfsburg they must be wishing for a more auspicious start to their “Third Era”.
Others are doing the same thing far better, and with far more flair – for example Hyundai with their Ioniq 5 which should be in contention for ECotY 2022.
This was not an outstanding ECotY; a truly innovative winner or a victorious left-field underdog would have brightened these bleak times. Let’s hope for better things to come in 2022.