Taking the Current When It Serves.

European Car of the Year shortlist 2022: Consumers’ companion or cleverly controlled chauvinism? 


The worth of the European Car of the Year contest has often been questioned, but at least it gives a regular snapshot of what’s been happening in the automotive world over the preceding 12 months.  2021 has been surprisingly fecund, despite Covid-19 and the chip crisis, but has not been without casualties.

The earnest ECotY jurors were presented with a provisional list of 65 vehicles, reduced to 39 for the longlist, despite the late inclusion of three Chinese EVs (Aiways U5, MG EHS and Marvel R). Most drop-outs were the result of delayed launches, but for the provisional listed Jaguar XJ and J-Pace it was the end of the road, with both projects terminated and – it would seem – erased from JLR’s corporate memory.

The ECotY shortlist was announced on Monday 29 November:

  • Cupra Born
  • Ford Mustang Mach-E
  • Hyundai Ioniq 5
  • Kia EV6
  • Peugeot 308
  • Renault Mégane E-Tech
  • Škoda Enyaq iV

Should we be surprised that six of the seven are battery-electric vehicles? Not when 25 of the 65 on the first list were BEVs, not including hybrids nor IC vehicles with not yet available fully-electric variants.

Amongst the BEV phalanx, the Peugeot 308’s inclusion looks like tokenism. To the Peugeot’s credit, it made the shortlist while other new-generation big-sellers missed out; Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Nissan Qashqai, and Skoda Fabia.

The 308 does feature some electric innovation with a pair of PHEV range-toppers with 180 and 225PS combined outputs and a claimed 37 mile range on battery power. The 308’s EMP2 platform is known to have the capability to accommodate a full EV powertrain, and this is expected to be offered in the 308, and closely related Astra L, in 2023. Lower down the 308 range the ubiquitous PureTech 1.2 litre triple is offered with 130bhp, along with a 1.5 litre diesel giving the same output.

The so-called Mustang, straight outta Cuautitlán Izcalli, courted controversy with its appropriation of the name and some superficial features of the revered and occasionally muscular coupé for a five-door compact crossover. The nomenclature is unlikely to have put potential purchasers off, as the newcomer has strong appeal all of its own – the 480bhp AWD Mach E-GT Performance Edition is very firmly in the fast and sexy category of EVs, a positive and optimistic introduction from a company which seems to be struggling to define its place in the industry.

The Kia EV6 and Ioniq 5 share the Hyundai Motor Group E-GMP platform but are distinctly different in their presentations. There’s something of the four-door supercar about the Kia, although I’d need to see one in real life to judge how well the EV6’s designers have accomplished fast and sexy. Hyundai is purported to pay tribute to Guigiaro’s first generation Pony, which sounds like a misguided piece of historical revisionism.

Pony-hommage or not, it’s the Ioniq which stands out for a styling inside and out which looks uncontrived and pure. Even the diagonal ‘slash’ looks right, and they HAVE done it on both sides.  Anyone involved in design will understand that an object which looks natural and effortless is usually the product of a great deal of hard work. Despite looking like a C-sector hatchback, the Ioniq 5 is a big, rangy beast with a 3.0 metre wheelbase, and thereby a spacious and happily uncluttered interior .

The VAG pair are both sprung from the MEB platform. It’s a mystery why the Cupra Born (née SEAT el-Born) made it to the shortlist, unlike the longlisted Audi Q4 E-tron/Q4 E-tron Sportback, Audi E-tron GT, and VW ID.4. In essence the Cupra is the familiar ID.3 with some questionable lipstick and jewellery, built on the same lines at the VW at Mosel, near Zwickau.

The Mlada Boleslav-built Enyaq iV deviates far more from its VW platform-mates, and is much the better for it.  Styling is tidy and normal, the crossover interior is spacious, and a wide range of battery capacities is offered, along with the option of all-wheel drive.

The Mégane E-Tech is closest in its underpinnings to the Nissan Ariya, which missed the longlist. The alliance’s new scalable CMF-EV platform is used, with the Mégane dimensioned at the more compact end of its capabilities, slightly smaller than a VW ID.3.

To conclude – new game, but same old rules. I’ve resisted speculating on the winning prospects of the seven contenders, and leave that matter to the DTW commentariat.

Composite provisional list and longlist. Longlisters in bold, drop-outs in italics.

Aiways U5
1. Audi Q4 E-tron/Q4 E-tron Sportspack
2. Audi E-tron GT/RS E-tron GT

3. Audi A8
4. BMW 2 Series Coupé
5. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

6. BMW 4 Gran’s Coupé
7. BMW i4
8. BMW iX

9. Citroën C5 X
10. Cupra Born
11. Dacia Spring
12. DS 4
13. DS 9
Ferrari Purosangue
15. Ford Mustang Mach-E

16. Genesis G70
17. Genesis GV70
18. Genesis G80
19. Genesis GV80
20. Honda Civic
21. Honda HR-V
22. Hyundai Bayon
23. Hyundai Ioniq
24. Jaguar XJ
25. Jaguar J-Pace
26. Jeep Grand Cherokee
27. Kia EV6
28. Kia Sportage
29. Lexus NX
30. Lynk&Co 01

31. Maserati Grecale
32. Maserati MC20
33. Mercedes-Benz C Class
34. Mercedes-Benz EQA
35. Mercedes-Benz EQB
36. Mercedes-Benz EQS
37. Mercedes-Benz EQE
38. Mercedes-AMG SL
39. Mercedes-AMG One
40. Mercedes-Benz T Class
MG Marvel R
41. Nissan Qashqai

42. Nissan Ariya
43. Nissan X-Trail
44. Nissan 400Z
45. Opel Mokka
46. Opel Astra
47. Peugeot 308
48. Range Rover
49. Renault Arkana
50. Renault Kangoo
51. Renault Mégane
52. Škoda Fabia
53. Škoda Enyaq

54. Subaru Grovel
55. Subaru Outback
56. Subaru BRZ/Toyota GT86
57. Tesla Model Y
58. Toyota Yaris Cross
59. Toyota Highlander

60. Toyota bZ
61. Volkswagen ID.4
62. Volkswagen ID.5
63. Volkswagen Caddy
64. Volkswagen T7 Multivan

65. Volvo XC90

35 thoughts on “Taking the Current When It Serves.”

  1. The Ioniq 5 is a curious contender for Car of The Year. Probably one of the most distinctive new cars and to me quite a coherent and good looking thing. It encapsulates the current 80s nostalgia, so in a way it is a car of our time though perhaps that aesthetic can be something of a dead end.
    Some may argue it is too aggressive and dystopian, speaking of – oh boy we do need a DTW article on that BMW XM concept.

  2. My money would be on the Ioniq 5, so it probably won’t be that. That Subaru at 54 – if it’s a 4×4, it presumably comes with a special type of deferential. I’ll get my coat.

  3. A good analysis, thank you Robertas. Attempting to pick a winner is a mug’s game, however, as it won’t be based on merit, but on an unpleasant mix of politics and chauvinism.

  4. There has been some strange selection process here even getting it down to the last 7. I mean, how does the Born get to this point of proceedings?

    I suspect it will be between the Ioniq, EV6 and Mégane. My preference would be the Hyundai.

    1. I guess the BMW team had never even heard of the XM before nicking the name. The one good thing is that BMW have fixed the grille so it is clearly composed of two closed loops. Apart from that it´s not very pleasing.

    2. The ECOTY’s independence was questioned on many occasions before – since historically the core jury consisted of German, French, British and Italian members – all citizens of countries with big automotive industries, earning the accusation that the voting might be a bit manipulated. To counter this prejudice in the last 10 years they started including more journalists from countries like Poland, Russia, Turkey and mainly Spain. Now this seems to have made it only worse as Spanish jurors simply aim to maximize the points for Seat and Cupra and seem to have a relatively poor understanding of the unwritten rules that even if they have preferences for their national brand, they should keep it modest in their evaluation. Last year the Cupra Formentor scored an average of 7,2/10 amongst Spanish voters, while in the average of non-Spanish voters it earned only 3,8/10.
      Now this of course means one thing: the Škoda can’t win as the Spanish will opt for their own Škoda immediately reducing the number of potential winners to 5. Can the same happen between the KIA and the Hyundai and the two French cars? Maybe, thus my ECOTY prediction is the dark horse Mustang Mach-E. There seems to be a pattern that the Car of The Year award loves to help out struggling historic manufacturers by it’s marketing value (Rover 3500, Fiat Uno, or lately the Opel Astra K).

  5. Difficult to pick a favourite, both personally and “predictionally”. The Hyundai could be a shoe-in, but I have a feeling the Skoda could be a dark horse (or just end up at the bottom) as the most “normal” looking, yet progressive with its electric drive train.

    I’ve seen the Ioniq just once, and not even in the Netherlands (EV heaven, usually) but in Antwerp. I like the design, but the size makes it feel disjointed. It’s styled (competently) like a hatchback, but it dwarfed the BMW X3 (or X1, I’m not that interested in these cars) parked ahead of it, so it has the girth of a mid size SUV. I’ve also seen an EV6, but it was dark, so I couldn’t tell that much. Its rear lights looked like a success, but the headlights seemed a bit large and spaced too far apart for the rest of the silhouette. The Mustang is more common and looks like a success to me, but I’d be somewhat surprised to see it win, given Hyundai/Kia’s continuing ascendancy (and probably rising political clout) and VAG’s pre-eminence. I’d be very surprised to see the 308 win, since I suspect the ECotY jury will want to be perceived as forward-looking (meaning EV minded).

    I’m slightly surprised not to see the Fiat 500e amongst the contenders, was it introduced too late for this round? I think its compact size (compare the Ioniq) combined with its range makes it one of the cleverer designs out there. I certainly hope Stellantis (i.e. PSA controlling Fiat) can find it in their hearts to give that platform space next to PSA’s own one (underpinning the 208 et al).

    The BMW XM (that name…). Well, it’s a bold design statement. I suppose it takes the i8 esthetic of floating, seemingly disjointed surfaces and molds it to BMW’s current design language.

    Such an approach can be spectacularly successful, or a dismal failure. Guess where the XM lands.

    1. Hi Tom. Ah, yes, the BMW XM Concept. Doubtless coming soon to a dystopian future sci-fi movie.

      ADVISORY: those of a nervous disposition, DO NOT scroll down:
      You’ve been warned…

      Still here? Serves you right then! 😁

    2. The Fiat 500e appeared in last year’s ECOTY and scored relatively well, though as you can see the jury member’s nowadays hugely favour big cars, I don’t think an A-segment vehicle can win anymore – or it has to be really revolutionary.

    3. I was under the (obviously wrong) assumption that at the last meeting in the DTW ivory tower it was decided not to post any more offensive pictures. It may well be that this was lost in the subsequent sherry tasting rounds, but you could look up the minutes again – minutes were taken, weren’t they?

      Well, I’ll just pour myself a tequila or 15 to get over the shock. Thank you, Daniel, because of you I now have to listen to my wife say “you drink too much” – and once again she doesn’t understand the medical necessity.

      XM, hmm. Now I’m just waiting for Stellantis to say “my lawyer is better than your lawyer”.

    4. Either that, or we can look forward to the DS M3, and M5

      I think you can see (and you can never unsee…) that they were going for more or less the same surface treatment as the i8, but it looks like the XM was designed by an intern who happened past Fred’s house just as a row was happening, saw the bottles of tequila on the pavement and thought “this is exactly the liquid courage I need!” (Sorry Fred, no disrespect.)

      Maybe this car looks normal with beer goggles? Like Daniel, I strongly advise… well anyone not to look.

    5. Hi Fred. The minutes to which you refer were lost in the police raid and ensuing fracas, during which punches were thrown, which was all a bit unfortunate. Recollections of the evening are regrettably rather hazy, and further meetings are, for now at least, not possible following the issuance of a number of ASBOs.

      Tom, have you really altered the inage of the XM? I’m not sure I can spot the difference.

    6. The BMW XM concept is just horrific. Presumably the production model will be much the same but with larger headlamps.

      How bad is it going to get at that company before they realise their design department needs a change of direction?

    7. to be fair to all, BMW has seemingly only badged it X///M, so perhaps the historic Citroen nameplate can be saved, just yet!

  6. All the modern cars sport a menacing, austere face. In my opinion, as always spoken, I feel not attracted by them. High bumper line, huge air vents in front of the front wheels, and the worst of all, small oblong headlights that seem like the eyes of an angry animal. I am looking around for an alternative design.

    1. With you on all that.
      The BM XM is an instant emetic, like my experience of Tripe à la Mode de Caen.

  7. I guess the BMW XM is what it takes to get noticed in today’s clamorous world. That said, they’ve done this sort of thing before and like male newsreaders dressing in fishnet stockings and miming to the Time Warp for charity, it’s less shocking each time they do it.

    I think it’s also meant to be a statement in the Lulu Lytle wallpaper sense; yes, this is over-the-top and migraine-inducing, but one can afford to have it for a while and then get something else. And it’s a hybrid and therefore must be environmentally friendly, of course.

    It’s all a bit wearing, but things will calm down, eventually.

    1. Thanks for the heads-up on Christopher’s DFT piece, Eóin. It’s a very worthwhile read.

      Even Car Magazine has described the XM concept as “brutish and excessive”.

    2. My view is that it´s not even worth bothering to discuss BMW´s design any more. When they start doing things that have some merit then I´ll spend some time on their output. I´d rather discuss people doing it right like Kia´s EV6 or Honda´s EV. BMW are out to lunch and until they come back energy would be better directed elsewhere.

    3. Maybach wants to join the dystopian future party with this:

      Very Mad Max…

    4. When I see the pictures of the XM and especially the Maybach, a quote from Warren Buffett spontaneously comes to mind: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
      Both look like war vehicles for the rich.

    5. Christopher’s knocked it out the park, once again. The car that broke BMW.

      British Leyland/Austin/Rover, etc. failed because of mismanagement, but also “honestly” misreading the market. Fiat is failing because it seems unable to organise its product development in any meaningful way, leaving it with half baked product (and the occasional gem), but again: “honest” inability. BMW seems hellbent on actively destroying the huge amount of credibility it has. There’s a Trumpian quality to it, in that the post-Trump GOP has turned into nihilistic performance theatre, much like BMW.

  8. I’ve been dismissive of Renault-Nissan’s EV efforts, I think for legitimate technical reasons, but I’ve read one review of the Mégane E-Tech which states quite bluntly that while it is not superlative in any way, it is slightly above average in every metric while offering more value for the money than the VW ID.3. Maybe this is all that is needed right now.

    A notable point of reference is the synchronous AC motor which eschews the use of rare earth magnets. The battery, supplied by LG Chem is LMC (lithium nickel manganese cobalt), similar to that in the Leaf, Zoe, and BMW i3, but uses revised chemistry which claims to use less cobalt.

    1. The Renault has had quite favourable reviews. Initial reports suggest it’s a better resolved product than the ID3.

      I like the images of the cabin. VW seems to have abandoned its leadership in interior design (why do companies so willingly throw away their advantages like this?) so Renault is aiming at an open goal here.

    2. Jacomo, VW hasn’t abandoned its leadership position by choice. This chart makes the situation clear.

    3. If you recall VW also had a spat with its main interior trim supplier a few years ago which resulted in quite a nasty finger pointing in the automotive media and is still considered a very mysterious story. Worth reading up on it, it’s the classic VW scandal of the mid-2010s with leaks, anti-competitive practices and ultimately managers committing suicide under strange circumstances – it goes under the name “Project 1” in the press. They were trying to use their corporate power to push prices below rock bottom, but that not-so-fair treatement of business partners resulted in a backslash with production disruptions.

    4. Hi Lazlo, That story is intriguing, and very dark, and perhaps it is worth further scrutiny here.

      A few days back I kind of slagged off the Enyaq, but upon reflection and further research, I realize I was too quick to condemn it without considering that it has attributes which should advantage well informed consumers who might be attracted to the ID.4. Though chastened and regretful about my hasty condemnation, I am left mystified as to why its interior is much more inviting than the supposedly mechanically identical ID.4’s†, yet its price is lower.

      Your reference is a possible clue toward making sense of this, assuming VW Group’s suppliers are willing to overlook that the Skoda is basically a VW, but it is built in Mlada Boleslav rather than in Zwickau-Mosel.

      The debt chart I posted is of course not just for the VW brand, so the puzzle pieces still don’t quite fall into place. My search for information on “VW Project 1” has been fruitless thus far. Could you or anyone can shed further light on the apparent* price/quality/value discrepancy between the Enyaq and ID.4 which could be related to the particular scandal you have referenced (or not)?

      † According to https://www.osv.ltd.uk/skoda-reliability/ “The Telegraph placed Skoda at the top of their dependability table in 2016 and 2017. ” That data doesn’t necessarily apply to the Enyaq.

      * It’s not unusual for dealers to sell in-demand vehicles for well above their advertised price.

    5. @gooddog,

      Thanks. Presumably a lot of that debt is borrowing against the MEB platform though, no?

      VW have been here before. They didn’t invent the platform strategy, but they embraced it and – with MQB – took it to a whole new level. At the time there were doubters, but the approach was vindicated by sales and, on the whole, pretty convincing product.

      In other words, this is a company that has recent history of making a huge upfront investment in a new platform that can be shared amongst many different models. The pay off is the lower unit cost of each subsequent car.

      I think they’ve simply dropped the ball. My guess would be that – alongside tetchy supplier relationships – the huge investment in electric put too much strain on their in house engineering teams, so they sub contracted too much of the development and didn’t have strong enough leadership to get everyone to deliver a great result.

      Here’s a small but important detail: the lack of any front luggage space in the ID3 etc. Not only is this useful for cables (which can be dirty and need to be accessed at any time, so best kept away from the rest of your luggage), the opportunity to create an emotional connection to the Beetle is just so obvious, isn’t it?

  9. “They were trying to use their corporate power to push prices below rock bottom,” Some years ago another manufacturer insisted on an open-books policy to see what kind of profits their supplier were making. Rather than ask if the price was low enough the manufacturer wanted to see if the profits were too high. Such a practice eventually puts the supplier out of business as they can´t re-invest in new technology, train staff, retain staff or ultimately make goods of sufficient quality. Where the manufacturer is very big, they often have a near monopoly position and can use that to bully the supplier. A chain store in Ireland is notorious for taking 100% of a firm´s production and then demanding harsh price cuts. Who can say no to that when doing so means suddenly having to find a new set of customers (and that could mean 3 to 6 months of cashflow crisis).

    1. Lazlo, I cannot find any reference to “Project 1”, further information might prove enlightening.

      Richard, I have heard of such practices in general. Some have suggested that “Tier 1” suppliers will vanish, which I think means suppliers that provide the entire instrument panel, or entire HVAC systems? And this will become a crises for auto makers, I’ll try and research that more and report if I find anything.

      Jacomo, I don’t know. But I do know that the entire under-bonnet area of the ID.4 is occupied by HVAC and thermal management plumbing as well as the inverter. The HVAC is usually behind the dashboard but allowing it to be less compact would be cheaper. The cost to miniaturize is a reason why sub-B class cars for the European market like the Toyota iQ, Smart ForTwo, or even the Up! are expensive relative to their size.

      Now a real mystery is that despite the fact that I slagged off the Enyaq a few days ago for being an unadventurous non-progressive design, I’ve learned that it has a significantly more upmarket looking and feeling interior than the ID.4, yet it is priced lower. I can’t explain that.

    2. gooddog, apologies for not providing enough information for the first time: it seems like the term “Project 1” was only popularized in German media, not so much internationally, but the codename was used for VW’s internal efforts on trying to ruin the supplier’s (Prevent Group) credibility and trying to convince BMW & Daimler to stop using their parts, Deutsche Welle link: https://www.dw.com/en/volkswagen-hunts-for-informer-who-leaked-secret-talks/a-54326158
      The efforts were headed by Ralf Brandstätter (still a high-ranking VW executive). The manager likely leaking the talks, loosing his job and then committing suicide – in a car fire, after his house already burned down a year before – was called Christian Minkley: https://www.bild.de/regional/hannover/hannover-aktuell/ermittler-sicher-raetsel-um-tod-des-vw-managers-geloest-77104300.bild.html
      There is still a lawsuit against VW in the US under the Prevent USA Corp. v. Volkswagen AG name, so the dispute is far from settled.

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