This year, eight candidates (up from the normal seven) have been nominated finalists for Car of the Year 2013. The final election will find the single winner early in March of next year.
Here, in no particular order, are the full list of contestants for Car of the Year 2013.
Once abandoned the clever sandwich structure of previous A/B-class cars, Mercedes Benz gives a more conventional substance to its new models with those nameplates. Also a much more dynamic personality. The A-class is not a MPV any more, even if cabin roominess is better than its sleek silhouette suggests. It is a hot hatch instead, rivalling with other premium models. Driving pleasure is high in the list of requests. Consequently, a quick steering and good handling are provided. Turbocharged petrol and diesel engines, combined with a 6-gear manual transmission, unite reasonable performance and fuel efficiency. The automated 7-speed double clutch ‘box with its lever by the steering wheel is even more pleasant.
Innovative B-Max has a new role in the Ford Europe range: a practical and nice-looking mini-MPV derived from Fiesta. Kind of a reply to Opel Meriva, B-Max also offers very good access to its cabin. In this case, the sliding rear doors and the pillarless body sides give an ample entry to the cosy interior. In the other hand, there is more than adequate passive protection in the sides, once the reinforced doors return to the closed position. The small MPV also holds the road and has a good ride. Fuel efficient powertrains include the 3-cylinder 1.0 Ecoboost petrol engine; suitable for much bigger cars, it excels here. In the rich equipment, the voice-activated Sync communication system stars, as the Active City Stop does in the safety department.
Hyundai has connected well with European automotive preferences in recent times. And the original i30 was the first Hyundai car made in Europe. New generation is a good follow-up on that approach. Looks are much more refined than before; aerodynamics too. The 5-door hatch cabin is roomy and the boot bigger, despite keeping the same wheelbase. Inside, perceived quality also improves and the noise is well damped. Hyundai sticks to a multilink suspension for the rear axle and it positively shows in ride and handling. There is a 3-door version with almost equal dimensions, while the practical estate body style is bigger in length and wheelbase. Performance and fuel economy go together, especially with the 1.6 CRDi engine.
The nice saga of small Peugeots goes on, now with a stylish car that is shorter than its predecessor, and at the same time reasonably roomy and with a slightly bigger boot. The carry-over floorpan has been extensively re-worked, so the new Peugeot has a more refined ride and better handling too. Weight has been saved here and there, so to offer a nimbler handling and better fuel efficiency. The engine line includes new 3-cylinder 1.0/1.2 petrol units, with fuel economy not so far from the sparing diesel engines. The cockpit, with a good driving position, is unique in the fact that the tiny steering wheel lies so low that the driver has to read the instrumentation over the rim, instead of through the wheel spokes.
Award-winning Clio has had a love affair with CotY in its first and third generations. Now the fourth one comes with renovated ambitions. Due to the trends of the market and the diminishing demand for 3-door cars, there will just be one 5-door body to begin with; then a Grand Tour estate version will come. Aesthetically new Clio follows inside and out the traits laid down by the concept car DeZir, one new direction in looks to also be seen in future production models. Wider, longer and with more cargo capacity, but less tall, the new Renault has also a lower weight to emphasize its fuel efficiency and handling. Its refined 1.5 diesel undergoes a further evolution, while a new turbocharged 3-cylinder 0.9 petrol engine announces very good fuel economy.
Subaru BRZ / Toyota GT86
The partnership of Subaru with Toyota group is materialized in this twin project of sports 2+2 seater. Subaru and Toyota affordable and engaging coupes are not totally identical, but more than close enough to obtain synergy in a low-volume model. The 4-cylinder boxer engine layout is typically Subaru, even if the cars are not 4×4. Front 2-liter engine, with 200 hp, sends power to the rear wheels through a conventional prop shaft. Either vehicle is entertaining and suggests an inexpensive and sporty driving, even if the grip and braking power are not outstanding. Toyota TRD division sees to that with kits to enhance chassis, tyres and brakes so to even envisage track driving.
The Golf, now in its 7th generation since 1974, has had such a global acceptance its current production record nears 30 million units. Despite some criticism for lack of visual originality and boldness, most of potential buyers love that continuity of trademark image embodied in the new model. Just launched in 3/5-door body style, the Golf will know later the customary derivatives: estate, Plus, cabrio… Driving impressions on the new car have generally been very favourable in the motoring press because of its dynamic balance, good equipment, safety and ease of use. New engines increase their performance, smoothness and fuel efficiency, including a 1.4 TSI petrol unit with ACT cylinder deactivation.
First entirely new model under Chinese control, the V40 mixes classicism, outstanding design and faithfulness to core Volvo values. It is a true premium compact for elegance, comfort and dynamics. One single 5-door body style caters for everything. The silhouette looks almost as an estate car; the classy cabin and boot are not so generous. In top of its City Safety active braking, the V40 offers the first pedestrian airbag of the industry. A whole range of turbo engines covers the needs of many kinds of customers, from the thrifty 1.6 D2 diesel to the lively 1.6 T4 with 180 hp. Anyone looking for more muscular performance will find it in the 2.5 T5 five-cylinder with 250 hp, double-clutch gearbox and sports chassis and trim.