That it Should Have Come to This: European Car of The Year 2023

With mere hours to go before the announcement of the winner in Brussels, the author finds little to cheer or celebrate in the 2023 ECoTY shortlist.

Image: Irish Times

2022 was a hard year. Pestilence was far from conquered when war added to the world’s tribulations. An energy crisis followed and, for almost every human endeavour, raw materials shortages and supply chain problems. Europe’s automotive industry was particularly hard-hit, with the continent’s carmaking conglomerates pleading to governments and the EU to delay upcoming emissions standards and restrict imports from China.

For consumers, the consequences have taken an unexpected and unwelcome turn. Once, the merest hint of an energy crisis would result in sales of sub-1,300cc cars rocketing and anything larger being hard to sell, either new or used. This time round, the top-ten lists are headed by large, heavy and expensive vehicles, by no means all electrically-powered, while time has been called on once big-selling frugal favourites like the Fiesta and Polo. Car sales now reflect not the products people want to buy, but the ones manufacturers choose to make available.

This new centre of gravity is reflected in the European Car of the Year shortlist. This year’s chosen seven are, but for one, of the crossover / SUV genre. All have some form of electrified traction – in the European heartland you cannot do otherwise. All but one has, or will have(1), the option of a full battery-electric version. Three of these are also available with internal combustion hybrid powertrains. One is so polyvalent that it covers un-hybridised internal combustion, self-charging and plug-in hybrid drive, and full battery-electric traction.

The longlist makes rather more interesting reading. Perhaps there are good reasons why not even one or two of the Chinese contenders; the BAIC EU5, BYD Tang, DFSK Series 5, Hongqi E-HS9, MG4 and MG5, Nio ES7 and ES8, Ora Cat and XPeng P5, made it to the final seven, but these days the mega-nation is making vehicles which the rest of the world can no longer ignore or deride.

In terms of conglomerate representation, the breakdown of the shortlist is:

Hyundai Motor Company: 1
Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance: 2
Stellantis: 2
Toyota: 1
VAG: 1

And so to the contenders, with the winner to be announced on 13 January at 12:00 CET at the Brussels Motor show.

Image: Stellantis Media

Jeep Avenger

British readers of a certain age may quietly rejoice at the durability and versatility of the name, previously chosen for the last true Hillman. Without the benefit of seeing the latest Avenger in three-dimensional reality, I’d say it was more restrained in its presentation than the quirky Melfi-built Renegade. The visual appearance is the work of  Fiat’s Centro Stile in Turin but is very much design in the style of recent Jeep compacts, particularly the Compass. The jerrycan motifs continue to feature, and the Avenger 4×4 EV Concept revealed in Paris in October played strongly on the ruggedness factor.

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As of January 2023, production Avengers are still some way off and the cars featured in the media images look like well-groomed city-dwellers. Nevertheless, much is made of optimised approach and departure angles, Selec-Terrain drive mode control, and a ground clearance exceeding 200mm(2).

In terms of Stellantis’s direction, the Avenger provides several interesting pointers. Its production base is Tychy, the former FSM works in Silesia, but it sits on the Peugeot-originated STLA Small platform and uses a 158bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder IC engine from the Peugeot PureTech family, abetted by the inevitable mild-hybrid system. However, the first Avengers will be battery-electric with a 158bhp traction motor combined with 54kWh battery giving a range of 244 miles. All wheel drive is on the to-do list: it’s not clear if the IC engined Avenger’s system will be mechanical or electric.

We can reasonably expect that the future Lancia mini-SUV and sub-Tonale Alfa crossover will use the same component set and come from the same factory.

Stellantis will be pleased that the Avenger has made the ECoTY shortlist, as Brand Jeep has underperformed in Europe(3), while surging ahead in all other major territories. The newcomer will be a Europe-only product, with an annual sales target of 110,000. In the current turmoil, anything can happen, but the Avenger will have to be competitively priced if that number doesn’t become the stuff of The (irrepressible) Fiat Charter®(4).

Image: Kia Media

Kia Niro

Can it really be six years since the original Kia Niro arrived? The rather plain platform-mate of the sleek and multi-talented Hyundai Ioniq has lived in the shadow of a car so successful that it became a sub-brand, but has been enough of a sales success for Kia to resist varying the formula too much for the second generation.

The new Niro’s styling partly echoes that of the taller Sportage, with a few bold differentiating flourishes. The most striking element of the design is the contrastingly coloured C-pillar and rear wing. It certainly livens up a design which is otherwise rather hard to differentiate from other Far Eastern new-technology crossovers. Almost all the launch photographs show Niros with the Steel Grey or Black Pearl contrast panels, but they turn out to be a £150 optional extra, only available with the top (Level 4) equipment specification.

The new Niro is a little longer and wider than the first generation, exactly matching the footprint of the sector benchmark Qashqai, but around 80mm lower than the Nissan. The self-charging hybrid / plug-in hybrid / BEV hierarchy continues, and Kia have an admirably clear set of equipment levels, for the UK simply numbered 2, 3 and 4. In level 2 specification prices are: self-charging hybrid £28,295 / plug-in hybrid £34,075 / BEV £36,795.

The full battery-electric Niros have a 201kW motor with a 64kWh battery giving a range of 285 miles; this looks to be a carry-over from the higher output previous model e-Niro.

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Look deeply enough and there is some real technological interest. In the new generation hybrids the Gamma-family 1.6 litre engine is replaced by the Smartstream G1.6T, a longer stroke hybrid-optimised in-line four with continuously variable valve duration technology on the inlet camshaft combined with conventional cam-phasing actuators working on both the exhaust and inlet camshafts. Parent company Hyundai claim it is a world first, but the principles appear very similar to Rover’s VVC system first seen in the 1995 MGF, albeit without the supplementary cam-phasing actuators.

Image: Stellantis Media

Peugeot 408

Four, even more than two, is a magic number for Peugeot. There’s a feeling conveyed that the new 408 – not even the first to carry the numerical designation – is the kind of car which would appeal to discerning European middle-class solid citizen customers who in previous generations would have gravitated easily to a 403, 404, 405 or 406. Although it has a strong affinity with its Chengdu built Citroën C5x platform-mate, it’s fitting that the 408 is produced at Mulhouse, in Peugeot’s Alsace heartland.

All of the 403 to 406 cars mixed good proportions with restrained surface treatments and refined detailing to achieve a strong, yet continually evolving, Peugeot identity. The 408 is a described as a coupe-crossover but, at 1480mm high, is a particularly low-slung example of the genre(5). The height-to-width ratio helps its proportions, and there is a fashionably sinuous surface treatment. In profile and rear three-quarter view it’s a looker. Out front, the current Peugeot big face is more divisive. Stellantis really need to create a stronger and less fragmented frontal identity to set Peugeot apart amongst their welter(6) of competing brands.

The 408 uses the same EMP2 v.3 platform as the Peugeot 308, but with a 112mm wheelbase stretch.  The current 408 engine offering can be summarised as:

1.2 litre 130bhp PureTech triple – unusually, not a hybrid, that will arrive in late 2023.
Plug-in hybrids with 1.6 litre THP fours, and a choice of 150bhp or 180bhp outputs. In either case the electric motor provides 110bhp.
1.6 litre THP four with 215bhp and no hybrid drive, for markets where Euro 6d emissions standards do not apply.

There will be an e-408, either late this year or early in 2024. As far as the ECotY jury are concerned it’s an IOU, not an assessable entity.

Image: Renault Media

Renault Austral

New model name notwithstanding, the Austral follows the formula of its Kadjar predecessor – a Renaultised re-work of its Alliance stablemate the Nissan Qashqai. Alarm bells might ring at the proclamation of a new design vocabulary – Sensual Tech(7) – but visually, the Austral is innocuous; a little bit more utilitarian than the Nissan, and burdened by an unfortunate adoption of the present huge grille fashion.

Dimensions are near-identical to the Nissan but for the Austral’s 85mm greater length.  Both use the Alliance’s latest CMF-CD platform. There is some technical variation: Both Qashqai and Austral have torsion beam rear suspension for lower end models, and a multi-link rear set up higher up the ranges, but the Renault adds 4CONTROL electronically actuated four-wheel steering to the high-end suspension. There are no 4WD Australs at present.

The class divide continues with the powertrains. The low-end mild hybrids use the same HR13DDT 1,332cc 140bhp or 160bhp four-cylinder engines as the Qashqai, assisted by a similar 12-volt hybridisation package. The Alliance Jatco JF022E CVT is an option. Further up, the engine story is new, with the first outing of HR12DDV, an engine of the same family, but this time a 130bhp and 150bhp 1,199cc triple operating on a Miller thermodynamic cycle. There are two Hybrid options with the new engine. Mild Hybrid Advanced is a 48-volt system paired with a six speed manual gearbox, and no electric-only drive mode. The automatic-only E-Tech Full Hybrid uses a 400-volt architecture, with a 2kWh battery and 68bhp traction motor, giving the ability to operate on electric traction only where charge level and conditions allow.

There are no diesels, and no prospect of a plug-in hybrid, or full electric Austral.

Image: L’Argus

There is some light distraction in the inclusion of a top-end ‘Esprit Alpine’ version with a special colour range and the stylised italic ‘A’ featuring inside and out. It’s a trim level only, with no performance enhancement. Both Mild Advanced and Full Hybrid Australs claim a top speed of 175km/h (109mph)(8) and a 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds.

Toyota bZ4X / Subaru Solterra

Image: Toyota UK Media

Toyota’s first volume produced battery-electric vehicle has the mark of a vehicle created under sufferance(9). The company’s lateness to the EV party has led to its reputation going from hero to zero in the environmental responsibility charts, at least in the eyes of the mass media and some major shareholders. That’s an unthinkingly binary view which ignores Toyota’s determined and impressive progress in hydrogen fuel-cell technology, and their introduction of the Dynamic Force powertrain range, which is based around the most thermally efficient internal combustion engines ever mass-produced. Toyota Chief Scientist Gill Pratt makes an eloquent and convincing case(10) against the “EV mono-culture”, citing in particular the environmental cost of battery production.

And so to the bZ4x itself. I might like it rather more if its maker had given it a catchy, alluring name, rather than something which looks like a temporary website password. It is close to Nissan’s Ariya in size, 95mm longer and near identical in height and width. Front and four-wheel-drive are available, the AWD version getting a 10bhp boost over the 2WD’s 208bhp. Clamed range is around 317 miles (277 for AWD), and top speed is limited to 100mph. 0-62 mph acceleration is in the range of 6.9 to 7.5 seconds. UK pricing is close to the Ariya. It’s a competitive product, but no more than that.

Image: Toyota UK Media
Image: Toyota UK Media

The Toyota brand will increase the bZ4x’s appeal, but its styling is either challenging or just downright awkward. The profile suffers from the endemic EV crossover blight of deep, heavy flanks and a shallow DLO. Toyota’s artifices to disguise the high-waistedness include wheel arch filler mouldings so large that they form almost the entire front wing.

This design curiosity reminds me of the rubber-winged Post Office specification Morris Minor van, or the first-generation Honda Element, a quirky, amusing and practical vehicle which applied the patchwork quilt idea far more effectively than the po-faced Toyota EV.

2022 Nissan Ariya Image: Nissan Europe

Nissan Ariya

Unlike Toyota, Nissan were early and committed participants in the battery-electric revolution, and it shows with the Ariya. Its technology has been largely previewed in last year’s ECotY runner-up, the Renault Megane E-Tech. For the Ariya, the Alliance CMF EV platform gains a 90mm wheelbase stretch, four-wheel-drive capability, and considerably gutsier traction motors, with 215 and 239bhp in a front-wheel-drive configuration, and total outputs of 272, 302, and 389bhp for the twin-motor AWD versions. Ranges vary from 220 to 310 miles. Top speeds are limited to 99mph for 2WD Ariyas, increasing to 124mph with AWD. The range-topping AWD Performance powertrain gives a 0-62mph acceleration time of 5.1 seconds.

The Ariya is a convincing package, hindered only by an entry-level price of £46K in the UK. That puts it into direct contention with the Kia EV6 GT and Hyundai Ioniq 5, which are larger, more highly specified and have the advantage of faster charging 800-volt architectures.

Image: VW Media

Volkswagen ID. Buzz

Volkswagen’s ID. series vehicles continue to perplex me, not least for how long they take to reach production. The ID Buzz was first shown as a concept at the January 2017 Detroit Auto Show, but the first production van only came off the line at Hannover in November 2022. That’s nearly a full model cycle for most manufacturers. The design has changed little in nearly six years, and is arguably the best looking of the ID. series, mainly because boxes on wheels have high waistlines and slab sides anyway. There’s also some retro charm, through reference to the 1949 Type 2 Transporter. That bit is well handled and appealing. Without it, the Buzz would be a dull old bus.

Like the Type 2, the Buzz is at present rear-wheel-drive, although VW is dropping tacit hints that an all-wheel drive GTX version will be offered eventually.

Is the Buzz a car, MPV, bus or van? The distinctions still hold, but have been blurred by the near-extinction of the MPV or minivan in Europe and North America. There is a true van variant, the Buzz Cargo, identical to the passenger version but for glazing and interior appointments, and also a longer wheelbase version arriving later this year.

The Buzz as presented to the ECotY jury is a five-seater, and a generous one at that. For comparison, although it sits on the MEB platform shared with the ID. passenger cars, it is wider and higher than the commercial T6 Transporter, and only 192mm shorter in SWB form. A big beast then, and expensive with a starting price of £56,000 in the UK.

My burning regret is that the so-called Buzz wasn’t smaller and more affordable, and more joyful in its retro cartoonishness. I see a missed opportunity to create a modern iteration of the quirky family MPVs of the late ‘90s – Scenic, Picasso, Multipla. I’d like to think that all of these were fondly remembered as fixtures in a happy childhood by people now in middle age .

Instead, the ID. Buzz is more likely to join the vehicle portfolios of moneyed man-children (who will pay a lot more than £56,000 for theirs), joining the Californias, heavily-accessorised Defenders (original and L663), Tesla or Taycan, limited edition 911s or BMW M cars, and the obligatory Harley Davidson and BMW adventure bike(11).

So to conclude, a shortlist with nothing which advances the state of the automotive art, nor lights the flame of desire. I’ve resisted speculating on the winning prospects of the seven contenders, and leave that matter to the DTW commentariat. I’m just hoping for better times ahead.

(1) These supply problems have led to many IOUs and declarations of intent from manufacturers. They have also caused a relaxation of the ECotY rules about entrants having to be on sale by a certain date in order to be judged.

(2) That high ground clearance will be just as great a benefit in the UK’s rapidly disintegrating urban road infrastructure.

(3) Except in chauvinistic Italy, where it is seen as a domestic product, with the Renegade and Compass built at Melfi, Potenza.

(4) If it struggles, perhaps Stellantis could introduce a cost-cut short wheelbase version.  Jeep Sunbeam, anybody? Jeep Hunter is, of course, rather more plausible.

(5) The 408 is only about 60mm taller than the 508, a liftback saloon very similar to the 408 in its wheelbase and footprint.

(6) See what I did there.

(7) Oo-er.

(8) A range-wide limitation for Renault and Dacia since 2021.

(9) The bZ4x is not even available for outright purchase in Japan, although it can be leased from a Toyota subsidiary.  The near-identical Subaru Solterra re-badge is however available to buy in its domestic market.

(10) https://www.wardsauto.com/vehicles/toyota-s-chief-scientist-avoid-mono-culture-evs.

(11) It’s always amusing to observe how these fellows consistently express their individuality by buying almost exactly the same toys as their neighbours and peers.

61 thoughts on “That it Should Have Come to This: European Car of The Year 2023”

  1. Good morning, Robertas. We have a bunch of crossovers and SUV’s and a van. The crossovers and SUV’s leave me cold, apart from the CVVD system which appeals to the traditionalist in me.

    I had high hopes for the ID. Buzz. So far I’ve seen it in two different versions: the first being White over yellow and the second being dark blue. My overriding impression is there’s a lot of bulk that is only masked by the two tone paint scheme. Too bad, I had high hopes for this one, but ultimately it’s disappointing.

    1. My favourites were the Honda Civic, the Toyota Aygo and the Opel Astra.
      Maybe i am too conservative by avoiding SUVs and electric cars, but both are not making sense here in Germany.

      It was a boring year for car and design enthusiasts. Anyway, the Avenger is a surprise for me – i would have put my money on the fat VW Buzz.

  2. Good evening Robertas. Oh dear, that’s not an inspiring shortlist, certainly nothing to match the Hyundai Ionic 5 or Kia EV6 from last year, so I shan’t be holding my breath for the winner. I still look forward to reading your take in the result.

    I am, however, rather taken by the Jeep Avenger, especially in this colour scheme:

    Irrationally, I have more time for SUV/Crossover type vehicles from marques historically associated with such vehicles. I could even forgive the Avenger for its ‘hidden’ rear door handle.

    1. I share the same irrationallity, Daniel: I have more time for Jeeps and Range Rovers than any other SUV (SUV delenda est, etc.). I like the Avenger as well. Stellantis seems to be particularly adept at turning out sufficiently distinct models off one platform for their dizzying variety of brands. Frankly, they seem better at it than VW.

      Shame the Honda Civic didn’t make it. As usual with Honda, it’s quietly competent (especially now that the styling department has stopped watching early morning cartoons), seems technically interesting and gets good reviews for its driving and ambiance. As with the others, though, it doesn’t really push the game forward.

      The Kia is the most convincing candidate to me, but it too isn’t new. I like that they’re still offered with different drivetrains and that, for all the talk of the need to develop a bespoke architecture to get the most out of a BEV, it’s entirely competitive in its BEV guise.

      Apart from the Honda (whixh is also a personal preference), I think it’s a shame that the Jogger and the MG4 or 5 didn’t make the shortlist. This way it really does rather look like the jury is fully on board with (or lobbied into) – as Robertas points out – the push from manufacturers to simply sell what they have on offer instead of what the market wants (or would benefit from). The Jogger is simple and practical, the MGs 4 and 5 are almost affordable for BEVs – and aren’t SUV’s.

      I keep wanting VW’s ID products to be good.

      PS: I do emplore the commentariat NOT to post pictures of the Chrysler Avenger…

    2. Sorry, Tom, I missed that last bit…

      What did you say again?

    3. I said… oh, never mind… thankfully I meant to say Dodge Avenger.

      Oh dear… what have I done… 😬

      The seventies Avenger-of-many-marques (as opposed to the current Avenger-with-many-siblings) is not THAT bad, though it has the beginnings of that lumpen seventies look that I dislike.

      The Avenger-with-many-siblings even won. Congrats, I guess?

    4. Daniel, that is a really lovely Hillman Avenger you have pictured. Well Done !

    5. My personal favorite of the long list is the Civic, which sadly didn’t make the short list. I’m very much surprised the Jeep won.

    6. Good morning all. I posted a picture of the Hillman rather than Chrysler (Talbot) Avenger because I preferred the original front end, and those cappings over the corners of the rear wings where the original hockey-stick tail lights had been were unforgivable. Here’s the full story of the Avenger:

      Contrasting Fortunes (Part One)

  3. The Toyota bZ4X has to be the dumbest name for a car in quite some time. I love the reference to a web password, haha!

    I think the Nissan Ariya looks nice and clean, but I hold my judgement until I see one in person. I did see in person both the Jeep Avenger (1) and Peugeot 408 this past October at the Paris Motor Show. The Jeep looks quite sweet and compact; friendly, even. The Peugeot, on the other hand, looks impressive and sophisticated. I like it a lot, although it’s too large for my tastes and needs (I always think of parking in our crowded Spanish streets and narrow garages).

    (1) There was a modern-era Chrysler Avenger too, back in the dark, dark, Chrysler/Cerberus years. Better to keep that one locked up in the dark automotive memories drawer.

    1. I have seen an Ariya in the metal and it is a handsome and smoothly finished bit of work. The interior is not that interesting. Mazda are out in front here but nobody on planet Earth has noticed.

  4. The final scores:

    Jeep Avenger: 328
    Volkswagen ID.Buzz: 241
    Nissan Ariya: 211
    Kia Niro: 200
    Renault Austral: 162
    Peugeot 408: 149
    Toyota bZ4x / Subaru Solterra: 133

    So a landslide for the Jeep Avenger, the first ever ECotY winner for the brand.

    The ID.Buzz had strong support from its homeland jury, and also the Nordic countries. The French jurors seemed to favour the Austral at the expense of the 408. The six UK jurors – last to declare – gave the Avenger a whacking 48 points, but it was already a clear winner.

    The positive view I take from it is a revolt against big heavy SUVs and formulaic EVs as dull as domestic appliances. None of the 2023 BEV contenders were up to the standards set by the Kia EV6 GT and Hyundai Ioniq 5, which took first and third places in the 2022 ECotY ranking.

  5. For clarification, I believe that the Ora Cat sold in Europe is the Funky Cat (a.k.a. Good Cat) so not the Black Cat, White Cat, Punk Cat (a.k.a. Ballet Cat), nor Lightning Cat.

    and it’s not a F)*^€‹›g CUV.

    Play that funky music…

    1. Given the chance, I’d have given the Cat maximum votes for the names alone.

      Likewise – despite its enormousness – the Mazda CX-60, for flying in the face of current orthodoxy, with its longitudinal straight sixes, RWD or AWD with no front drive only option, and “lean supercharging”.

    2. Of course, gooddog pays close attention to the goings-on of the Ora Funky Cat 😉

  6. The Avenger is yet another off-roadery thing I would not look twice at. Some of the entrants I needed to Google. The Renault in particular surprised my by existing.

  7. Wow. It’s not a bad choice and would have been in my ‘top 3’ of the shortlist – others being the KIA and Ariya.

    How the Renault and 408 even made the shortlist, I have no idea.

    Excellent article and the best coverage of this year’s ECoTY I have read, anywhere. Fabulous, thank you!

    1. Couldn’t agree more on Robertas’ coverage of ECoTY. Far better researched and more intelligent than what comes from the journalists paid to write this stuff. Chapeau, Robertas. 👍

  8. On a sour note, sad to read that Renault, no doubt following the lead of BMW with M-Sport and Mercedes-Benz with AMG-line, has decided to debase the Alpine marque by using it as a mere trim level designation.

    1. This is the First Law of Sub-Brands. Remember when Zetec meant a type of engine for Fords? SEAT have gone the other way, turning Cupra into a full-on brand (with horrible graphics).

    2. Yes, that’s pretty sad. Before, when you saw a BMW with the M badge, or a MB AMG, you knew you were looking at something special. Now it’s just a trim level.

      On a similar note I’d like to point to the effects of the SUV-ization of exotic brands. It started with the Porsche Cayenne and it hasn’t stopped yet. It’s not the SUVs themselves, it’s the impression they make on me. Whenever I see a 911 parked in the street, it’s still an event. A Cayenne, even if it’s about as expensive as a 911, feels just pedestrian to look at. Same with the Maserati Levante, compared with walking past, say, a Maserati Granturismo.

    1. Points of view are not rendered more compelling by the use of capital letters.
      Rather more convincing would be some reasoned arguments instead of a blank statement of contradiction, please.

    2. Nothing inherently wrong with EVs – the problem lies with the batteries. You can power an EV with a hydrogen fuel cell – and you can run internal combustion engines on hydrogen – and you could potentially run your central heating boiler on hydrogen…

    3. Yes, but even though hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it is not often found in its free state. Synthetic fuels, which are virtually zero-emission and would be able to use existing fuel infrastructure, are a far more elegant solution.

    4. Hello rulesoflogic, I don’t see synthetic fuels being promoted as any sort of reasonable solution to help reduce harmful emissions or to reduce costs in coal and natural gas power plants, likewise for home/industrial heating, so how and why would they make economic or ecological sense for vehicles?

    5. Their only application is as fuel for the 1+ billion vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, which–by the way–only account for 20% of global CO2 emissions. I am entitled to my view, even if it differs from yours. No one has a monopoly on truth, wisdom or good judgment.

    6. How? Why? At what cost? Who would benefit?

      I don’t dislike the idea of further developments in ICE technology, but if it has reached the apex of its evolution, and if there aren’t any significant efficiency gains yet to be wrought, then it is probably time to move onward.

      Sadly, the very impressive and advanced Koenigsegg Gemera won’t be eligible for ECOTY (production is expected to start in 2024) as they won’t be producing the minimum required number of units (5000). Yet it does demonstrate a technology (Freevalve) that could vastly increase the efficiency of ICE. If only it were widely available, and affordable, or will ever be.

      I admire Christian Von Koenigsegg, but perhaps it’s sensible that VW Group have chosen to partner with Rimac rather than Koenigsegg.

  9. Sorry, am I missing something here ? 2022 is barely out the door ( the Christmas decorations went back up the attic less than a week ago) and already they are awarding COTY 2023 ? To a vehicle that is “still some way off” being in production ? Surely it should be awarded to something that one might be able to buy ?

    1. I am forced to agree with this statement.

      Apart from that.
      It is somehow fascinating how the range of cars on offer is becoming ever more distant from my needs and wishes.
      Whereas the earlier award winners were vehicles that were technologically, practically or whatever else outstanding, now it’s just “yawn”.
      None of the nominated vehicles would tempt me to sign a purchase contract, and certainly not the prize winner.
      Have I moved away from the range, or am I – for whatever reason – simply no longer a target group. I don’t know. But the offer leaves me cold.
      And just how times have changed for me as a potential customer is shown by a vehicle from China: the Funky Punky Freaky Cat.
      Two doors less and I could really be tempted. (If I had uttered this sentence a few years ago, those around me would have called an emergency doctor. SO times have changed).

      Thank you Daniel for getting the message wrong, the green Avenger is a beautiful piece of motoring.

    2. Based on a trawl of semi-official information, Avenger deliveries will commence in the second quarter of this year. The order book opened in mid-October 2022, with early production concentrated on a high-spec electric “First Edition” version priced at €39,500 and still front wheel drive only. There’s also a ‘Summit’ version at €42,500. So far, petrol mild hybrid sales have only been confirmed for Spain and Italy.

      Its not clear how that €39,500 relates to national vehicle tax and subsidies. If its based on VAT at rated close to the UK’s 20%, it’s only slightly higher than the top-spec e-208 and Corsa Electric.

      I still hold to my comment that price will be the key to the Avenger’s success. When the Renegade was launched there were very good PCP deals as well as highly competitive list prices. At least in the UK, it quickly became a common sight, but sales dropped as the novelty wore off and newer competitors arrived. Going by that ‘First Edition’ price, EV buyers can get get more car for less money elsewhere.

      As for that 110,000 per year target, we can only hope that Jeep do better than Alfa Romeo, who seem to have fallen well short of their – not officially confirmed – 60,000 per year target for the Tonale. European sales from June to November 2022 have been 8055, according to carsalesbase.com. They’d better have a good excuse…

    3. Will their excuse be that you can’t get the parts?

      I looked up the Jeep and it’s got some good reviews. That’s too expensive for a Polo-sized car, though.

    4. Yes. How can they judge the merit of a vehicle which is not yet available? It kind of makes the whole award almost meaningless if they get to include prototypes and manufacturers’ promises, not what the customer actually gets. If it’s not going to be available for a few months yet, its consideration should have been held over to the end of this year.
      And yes, it does seem a rather uninspiring final seven.

  10. Crikey – that came around quickly. I was going to say what a boring load of entries, but some of them aren’t bad. I’d even go as far as to say that some of the Chinese ones are interesting / impressive.

    I’m deeply suspicious of the ‘limited supply’ situation, which coincidentally allows manufacturers and dealers to make a tonne of cash. I’m getting cynical in my old age.

    1. All down to the cancellation – yet again – of the Geneva International Motor Show.

      The organisers of the mid-January Brussels Motor Show stepped in, moving the announcement forwards by 6-7 weeks. There’s a lot happening at the start of the year these days, with the CES in Las Vegas, and the Delhi Motor Show immediately afterwards.

  11. The Avenger is clearly the one most fulfilling of the “people’s car” title on the short list after all – it gets as close to the psychological 20.000 € lower price limit as possible – and is competitive on the budget EV spectrum as well. The design seems to be based on a Panda-Renegade crossbreeding project, though I was surprised to learn how heavy it is for just 4 meters of car which leads me to believe Stellantis would need an A-segment platform which so far isn’t mentioned anywhere in their business plans.

  12. Here’s a short video of the 45 vehicle long-list, for those (like me) who can’t immediately call to mind what each one looks like.

    The fact that a Vietnamese brand such as Vinfast was included shows how things are changing. The Nio ET7, the Smart, the Ferrari 296, the Subaru and the Hongqi all stand out to me, for different reasons. I think the Jeep isn’t a bad choice, though.

    1. These Mercedes – all three of them – John 11:35!

    2. Ditto the BMW’s, Robertas.

      The visual aid is helpful. Thanks Charles. Looking at the video, I’m somewhat surprised the Range Rover, the Smart and the Benz EQE didn’t make the shortlist. I registered my disappointment about the Honda Civic and to a lesser extent, the Dacia Jogger and the MG4 in an earlier comment. Picking at least one Chinese car for the shortlist might have sent a signal as well: these cars are getting serious (except the Ora Cat, which is all the better for it)

    1. Ford was upset when their ‘All Australian XD Falcon’ didn’t win, only seven years after Leyland’s P76 did.
      Maybe because the seven years newer Falcon was less roomy, worse handling, thirstier, slower, and technically not as advanced as the P76, which by then had met it’s maker along with the company that birthed it.

      The Falcon was better looking, though.

    2. The P76… now that’s quite some ‘what might have been’.

      That’s some wind deflector on the Ford’s side window, by the way.

    3. BMC/BLMC/Rover Group is full of them. The wind deflectors or ‘monsoon shields’ are not really seen nowadays, every car has A/C. The headlight covers have gone now we have plastic headlights

    4. Very true, but the P76 stands out to me for some reason. Probably because most of BLMC’s ‘might have beens’ were domestic and either never materialised or were so compromised upon introduction that they didn’t stand a chance. The P76 was fully realised. It could have been better and better looking, but it was – as I understand it, being far removed temporally and geographically from the actual thing – convincing enough. BLMC simply pulled the plug on the entire Australian operation.

      Wind deflectors are still common in Italy and Japan, amongst others, but they’re never this big.

  13. Award withheld! Somehow very Australian – a point made bluntly, and without fear or favour.

    Much love for the P76. Not perfect, but far less awkward than the parent company’s early 70’s offerings. Michelotti’s input was minimal; looking over Romand Rodbergh’s drawings and making a few superficial suggestions. In retrospect all it needed was wider tracks, but circumstances denied it a future.

    In my temporary home in northern NSW in the early ’90s there were quite a few cherished examples running around – a day without seeing a P76 or X6 was like a day without sunshine.

    1. Wider tracks or less flared wheel arches, and a little more taper in plan view at the extremities.
      David Bentley showed his proposal in Wheels Magazine.

  14. The Toyota bZ4X just needs a few non-alphanumeric characters to be a web password. Hope the vehicle’s computers can’t be hacked as easily as the its password – sorry, modelname – suggests.

  15. Exactly what is the official criteria for judging CotY? We all know the reality is corruption one way or the other. And the only issue I have with corruption is not being part of it.

    Now that LJKS has been promoted (and was forcibly kicked off the eCotY panel some years before that) we have no independent insiders to help us understand the mindset of the judges and the direction they were coerced into taking.

    The award is a complete irrelevance now the event doesn’t involve the organisers getting me pleasantly pissed in a Geneva basement.

    1. I think you are unfoundedly skeptical about the award, the ECotY is actually rather transparent. All jury members must submit not just the points awarded to each car, but also a summary on how they came up with their choice. These are all published along with the winner, so you can easily look up why Vicky Parrott and Mark Tisshaw both awarded maximum points for the Jeep Avenger, the journalists are sort of held responsible for their choices.
      The official criteria – quoted from the regulations:
      “The main criteria on which a car should be judged are the following: general design, comfort, safety, economy, handling and general roadworthiness, performance, functionality, general environmental requirements, driver satisfaction and price. Technical innovation and value for money are major factors.”
      The fitting word is national bias rather than corruption – it is self-evident that the French journalists believe that the Renault Austral is a relevant car, they won’t need monetary convincing about that, they live in a French bubble which tells them that. But the same applies for their German, Italian or British colleagues. The Jaguar I-Pace wouldn’t have been anywhere near the CoTY title without the favourable British reviews for example – but that’s why it’s a pan-European award, so these biases sort of balance out each other. It’s not just with brands, as the wealthier Nordic countries will prefer bigger vehicles with more technical innovation in their voting, whereas the Mediterraneans tend to vote for smaller budget cars that fit narrow roads. Some even noted that older jury members tend to be more conservative with their scoring than younger ones. Given that we’ve had all types of cars as CotY in the past decade it’s difficult to argue that the overall decision would lean either way.

  16. In addition to cats, I try to keep an eye on developments and improvements to electric vehicle powertrains. While current differences in battery design and chemistry can amount to small gains in efficiency, more significant innovations can be found in motor design. Advances in this area are exemplified by two of this year’s ECOTY candidates which the jury neglected to promote.

    – The Lucid Air features a proprietary motor containing innovations such as its unique continuous “hairpin” winding, which significantly reduces internal electrical resistance yielding class leading power to weight ratio and efficiency. It also has an internal differential, which acts before torque to the driveshafts is multiplied by gearing, therefore it is light and compact. It is integrated with the motor’s hub, further contributing to the car’s space efficiency.

    – The McLaren Artura uses an Axial flow motor, which turns the windings 90° to produce a magnetic field that is parallel to the rotating axis. McLaren claims a 33% improvement in efficiency compared with the P1’s radial flux motor*.

    * https://www.motortrend.com/features/2022-mclaren-artura-hybrid-powertrain-tech/

  17. National Bias, xenophobic corruption by any other name, is only partly responsible for why the award is so irrelevant.
    The ‘journalists’ who make-up the jurors feel obliged to vote for whatever car they feel they should be voting for, for the public cannot be wholly trusted to buy what they should be buying and definitely can’t be trusted to not desire what they shouldn’t desire. None of the jurors would put their money where their mouth is. Even if they had the money.
    Its a shame the jurors cannot feel free to vote for the car they feel is truly the best car or the one they’d choose to drive home in (on expenses, naturally). Setright was particularly vocal on this and alone in doing so. Do negatives or concerns ever make it onto the reasoning for the scoring? No, they don’t.
    And lets be honest, aside from their voting cards being made apparent, they’re hardly accountable. Do they list the grace and favour they’ve had from the manufacturer they’re voting for? No. They’re not even present at the event itself to question about their scoring. If the jurors were held to account, for that would be hugely amusing. There would be some serious questions asked the following year regarding the mediocracy or the commercial failure that the previous winner succumbed to, quite expectedly to the layman, I’d wager. In all honesty any half decent motor trader would make a better juror than a commercial writer flown to a test track to ‘shake down’ some of the chosen few.
    Questions this year should have been asked about availability. Just in time parts stocking and delivery shouldn’t involve 747s flying around the world to deliver ‘green’ widgets to assembly lines. But no. We get a car nobody will desire and few will buy and which moves the motoring game on not one iota. Even the TV footage detailing the previous winners on the build up to the event itself is woefully inaccurate. Still, nice work if you can get it.

  18. Here’s the thing – are we convinced COTY is fairly chosen, or could there be a “fix” like in so many other arenas ? I’m pretty sure Motor Racing is straight, as is Premiership football, and most horse racing – but Olympic medals, professional boxing, even Irish Dancing competition I have doubts about.

  19. Selection criteria, from ECOTY’s website (“Statutes”):
    “The main criteria on which a car should be judged are the following: general design, comfort, safety, economy, handling and general roadworthiness, performance, functionality, general environmental requirements, driver satisfaction and price. Technical innovation and value for money are major factors.” Which could be prioritised and interpreted in various ways by each judge, I suppose.

    The Solterra surely represents the last roll of the dice for Subaru in Europe? Best I can find is January to June 2022, but 40th best-seller (7950 cars) of 50 brands does not seem good; those below are either intentionally low-volume, or new entrants. Subaru is between SsangYong* and Abarth. A surprise in that table is DR Automobiles (37th, 9821), which appears to be Chinese brand Chery, rebadged just for Italy. Lancia (written as ‘spear’) is 31st (21516) for comparison.
    https://www.actualidadmotor.com/en/matriculaciones-coches-europa-enero-junio-2022/

    *which is likely to become known as DG Mobility this year

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