In the Full Current of Human Life: European Car of the Year 2022

A coming of age in Geneva.

Image: archyewsy

Now in its 59th year, the earnestly intentioned but often derided European Car of the Year contest has been a hostage to fortune over the past three years. This time pestilence has yet again denied the media attendance at the live announcement on the eve of the Geneva Salon, but minds have been far more concentrated on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rightly described by the ECotY organisation as “this terrible war.”

In a darkened arena in Geneva, ECotY president Frank Janssen stated his organisation’s response to the invasion: no Russian flag on display at the presentation and the two Russian jurors’ votes would be excluded from the count. I’m sure Vadim Ovsiankin and Sergey Znaemsky are decent fellows, but needs must in these times. Their votes won’t count this year, but they retain their jury places.

Image: European Car of the Year

In the usual gloomy  arena in the depths of Palexpo, sombre at the best of times, it’s business as usual. There’s a new moderator this year, Eurosport World Touring Car Championship presenter Alexandra Legouix, upbeat, well-informed and enthusiastic.

Sandro Mesquita, representing the Geneva International Motor Show, gives a short and gracious introduction. He promises that the 2023 show will return stronger than ever, regaining its crown as the automobile industry’s foremost gathering. I wish I shared his optimism, but that patient is going to take some time to recover.

Image: European Car of the Year

The fast-paced video reviews can be enlightening. Testing in northern Finland showed the effect of cold temperatures on EV battery ranges. There was quite a bit of Mustang-love, and the different characters of the platform-sharing  Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 were noted. The Hyundai is a coolly-appointed lounge on wheels, while the Kia is a sporty driver’s car to match its four-door supercar visual pretensions.

And so to the voting. Three close front runners quickly emerged, the two Korean EVs and the Mégane E-Tech. Many national juries, notably the Germans with no home-branded(1) contender, divided votes in an even spread rather than backing a single outright winner. The UK, always last to declare, gave the Mégane a storming 38 points, but it wasn’t enough to topple the Kia EV6 from the top of the podium.

Image: European Car of the Year

The November ECotY shortlist showed that the contest belonged to the battery electric future. The near-dominance of the Kia and Hyundai in the final count showed how far and fast South Korea’s semi-detached automakers have moved forward(2).

There was only one setback. All attempts to contact a representative of Kia failed. The individual was ready and waiting, but the masters of infotainment and the connected world could not establish the necessary link. Let’s just hope that the designers of the EV6 have made sure it is free from such fallibilities.

Au revoir from Geneva, with the prize unclaimed. Image: ECotY

I’ll conclude with a couple of asides, from the perennial ECotY through the years video, a staple of these events.

The ‘Simca Horizon’ is nothing of the sort, but actually Linwood’s finest stop-gap, the Chrysler Sunbeam. This has never been corrected. Is it an ECotY in-joke?

Image: European Car of the Year

And (Richard, look away now) the video emulated a Top Gear caper by driving a Kadett E into the sea for unexplained reasons.

Image: European Car of the Year

 

(1) The nominally Spanish Cupra Born is built at the Zwickau-Mosel plant in Saxony.

(2) Previously, the only South Korean ECotY shortlist appearances have been the Kia Ceed (4th in 2008, 3rd in 2019) and Stinger (4th in 2018).

17 thoughts on “In the Full Current of Human Life: European Car of the Year 2022”

  1. Incredible result when you think about it – Hyundai group coming 1st and 3rd with its EV platformed cars, something the mighty VW Group has not got close to achieving with its MEB platform. I could argue that the Renault should not have been there this year as it can barely have sold in any numbers. Those voting clearly went for the more sportingly mien and interesting look of the KIA, of which I see a lot given the franchise based 5 minutes walk from where I live. Personally, I am still hooked by the design of the Ioniq 5 – how they managed to make such a large car appear so compact I still don’t really understand.

  2. Good morning Robertas. Thank you for your timely report. I think Kia and Hyundai are worthy winners. Their rate of progress has been astonishing. As you say, they have really come of age with the EV6 and Ioniq 5. Like S.V., I would choose the latter as I love its ‘XL Lancia Delta Mk1’ looks, to the extent that I could even live with the silly ‘eyelashes’ around the wheel arches:

    The Renault is a complete surprise. I wasn’t even aware of its existence! Here it is, for anyone else who missed its arrival:

    1. I still can’t get over the size of the Ioniq 5 relative to its design. Something designed like a Delta (or Pony, to reference its ‘official’ inspiration) should be sized like one. Dogmatic, I know. Seeing one in the flesh just emphasizes the acres of sheet metal on the thing. Ironic that the C and D segments get infused with new life in the EV blitz, since it’s a lot easier to make large EV than a small one. Unfortunately.

      The Renault is remarkable for its unremarkable entrance: it’s the not-quite-entirely-replacement of the ICE Megane (which as I understand it will still be sold). It should be a landmark event: Renault’s first truly mainstream EV ánd the replacement of (or addition to) one of its mainstay model lines, but it’s flown in under the radar. I mean that in a positive sense, by the way. I’m not wholly convinced by the styling, but the fact that it gets introduced in such a ‘normal’ way, eschewing the hubbub (and disappointment) of VW’s efforts – laudable as they are in principle – or the almost apologetic way in which the (quite excellent, I gather) Fiat 500 electric was introduced, impresses me somehow. The 500 was not helped by the chaos perennially surrounding Fiat, even more so during its absorption into Stellantis.

      The KIA and Hyundai are another example, by the way, like the Espace and Touareg, of a manufacturer finding a new, untraditional, niche to move its brand upmarket. In Europe at least, D-segment KIAs never stood much chance.

    2. Good afternoon. I agree with you Tom. The Ioniq 5 looks way too big in all directions. It might be OK in isolation, but I have seen a lot of these in different colors in different situations and quite frankly I think the size ruins it. When you see it up close next to other cars it is very obvious. The other day I saw one drive pastthe other side of the canal in front of a row of houses, quite far away. It makes the houses look too small, almost ridiculous.

      All cars presented here leave me cold, quite frankly. I must be getting old.

  3. I fear I shall never come to terms with the squashed roof look which I would have thought must by now be so passé – and therefore so very un-French. Combined with the offensive wheels, the Renault is, for me, a complete turn-off.

    The Ioniq 5, on the other hand, is a delight. And I never thought I’d say that about a current era motor car. The Delta link is spot-on and there is cohesion to the styling details so rarely found elsewhere. Maybe all is not gloom & doom after all.

  4. Well, the two Korean cars almost eliminated each other, but in the end it looks like the slightly better ergonomics in the KIA’s interior was decisive. In the jury reasoning I see a lot of complaints about the difficulty of adjusting climate controls and menu systems being counter-intuitive – let’s hope the designers have their ears open as well.
    Not sure if the Russian jury members could have turned the tide for the Renault, but it’s a 5.000 € cheaper car as compared to the Hyundai and has almost 10.000 € lower price tag than the KIA, so it’s not hard to see why it came 2nd as an unexpected dark horse – it offers incredible value for the money.
    The Peugeot 308 scored as good as an ICE car can nowadays, though there were comments that it’s more like a massive refresh rather than a completely new car? Not sure how accurate those observations were, but maybe Peugeot could really skip to x09 naming by now as we are on the 3rd generation of the 308 which is slightly confusing.
    A good thing is price still matters and in that context the Mustang Mach-E has no chance as even though it’s ‘just’ a 50.000 € car, the real good trim levels start at around 65-70k € which explains the low scores.
    Which is also bad news for VW as both it’s models should be competitive in terms of pricing, but the fact that the Cupra Born still came last signals that the gigantic investments in the ID.3 platform and the media campaign surrounding the VW-metamorphosis (or the early results of it) didn’t really convince auto-journalists so far. And even if it were a success the latest news is that (along with Toyota) VW is forced to stop it’s manufacturing lines, so one can expect more price hikes & shortages in the near future.

  5. Doesn’t the Hyundai look so much fresher than the Renault? The latter is overloaded with tedious, if currently popular, design tropes.

    1. exactly what I was thinking! off topic, but considering how much has been spilled here regarding the misleading styling of the Hyundai belying its larger size, I just wanted to mention that I saw my first EV6 this weekend and was astonished at how small it was! I dunno, with all this vitriol surrounding the Hyundai I was expecting something the size of a Nissan Murano, yet it was dwarfed by a Ford Kuga. Proof that styling makes all the difference, I suppose.

    2. Hi Alexander. That’s interesting because the EV6 is actually longer (4,695mm vs 4,635mm) than the Ioniq 5. I’ve seen an Ioniq 5 locally and I didn’t think it it was excessively large. I think its size surprises people because its styling and proportions make it look like a traditional C-segment hatchback in photos, but it’s scaled up in all dimensions by about 20%.

  6. If the Chrysler Sunbeam were not a Horizon, then the Cupra Born wouldn’t be an ID.3. Aha!

  7. I have to admit I don’t ‘get’ the Kia EV6. I had a look at one this afternoon at my local EV multi-franchise outlet and still find it odd. Somebody has suggested that there’s a Lotus reference in that floating roof, but it’s lost on me.

    It looks to me as if they had already ordered the doors and realised there wasn’t enough headroom. It’s kyboshed the notion of making an affordable Taycan or E-tron GT – I see hints of first generation Nissan Leaf and Mazda 323F.

    Am I missing some hidden subtleties? This looks a weak and unresolved design – at odds with many well-styled products from the company over the last ten years.

    1. According to its designers, the EV6 is Lancia Stratos-inspired; it reminds me strongly of the second-generation Mazda 323F and I think this is due to the same inspiration:





    2. Hah! I knew I saw Stratos in the EV6, turns out I wasn’t dreaming! I overall quite like the looks of the EV6. It’s far from perfect, and I do prefer the Ioniq 5’s neoclassicism, but it exudes modernity without the fussy lines and gigantic wheels that Renault insist on. My biggest issue is that the front bumper treatment on the lower trims is shaped a bit silly, but I overall think it’s a well-done shape that offers excellent differentiation between platform members (Ioniq 5, GV60). It’s basically a case study in how different you can make EVs on the same platform (ahem, VAG take note).

    3. It’s an odd shape, the EV6, but it could grow on me. The front is very reminiscent of something from the Volkswagen Group (Scirocco, Capra Born), but the mid section and glasshouse reminds me of a SAAB 99 – the way the glass rises to the rear.

      I think I make an effort to like / read positive things in to designs from brands I already like. I bet if SAAB had produced this, I’d be much more excited. The fact that previously relatively bland / worthy marques such as KIA and Hyundai can come up with these designs is very positive. There’s also the fact that I’m judging them purely on what they look like in pictures; I’ve never driven an EV and I suspect it’d be a great experience.

  8. And then there’s the matter of the blank panels where the the eye expects to find tail-lights:

    Turns out that one of them is a charging port cover flap:

  9. The Mégane is interesting and, to my taste, is being undersold. I haven’t seen any publicity and there aren’t many reviews, which makes me uncomfortable.

    The design was allegedly originally meant for a sporty model, but was adopted for this one (sounds like marketing rubbish, to me). It’s heavy-looking, to me, and the windows are half the area of the doors; in the past, that ratio would have been much more even. I don’t think battleship grey does any design any favours, though.

    In reality, however, Renault have done well to keep its weight down – to 1.6 tones. It uses aluminum in its body and has lighter batteries. Range is okay. Overall, it seems to be a good car. Here’s a short review – I quite like the reviewer, Vicky Parrott, as she gets to the point.

    I saw an Ioniq 5 in the supermarket car park and it struck me as being weirdly huge. Conversely, I also saw Aston Martin’s SUV and it was surprisingly small. I think a vehicle’s format biases one’s expectations (hatchback = small, SUV = large).

  10. I see that in Co Kerry the Ioniq 5 is selling in similar numbers to the T-Roc (the best-selling VW) and the Kuga. The EV6 is less prolific, but has not been as available as the Hyundai

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