European Car of the Year
The European Car of the Year award was established in 1964 by a collective of automobile magazines from different countries in Europe. The current organisers of the award are Auto (Italy), Autocar (UK), Autopista (Spain), Autovisie (Netherlands), L'Automobile Magazine (France), Stern (Germany) and Vi Bilägare (Sweden).
The voting jury consists of motoring journalists from publications throughout Europe. Representation from each country is based on the size of the country's car market and car manufacturing industry. The jury for 2006 consisted of 58 members from 22 countries.
There are no categories or class winners — the stated objective is to find a "single, decisive winner" among all competing cars.
Eligible cars are new models released in the twelve months prior to the award. The award is not restricted to European cars, but nominees must be available in at least five European countries, and have expected sales of 5,000 a year.
Nominees are judged on the following criteria: design, comfort, safety, economy, handling, performance, functionality, environmental requirements, driver satisfaction, and price.
A shortlist of seven cars is selected by a simple vote. For the final round of voting, each jury member has 25 points to distribute among the finalists. The points must be distributed to at least five cars, with no more than ten to any one car, and no joint top marks. The voting is open, and each jury member provides published justification for their vote distribution.
Under these rules, the decisiveness of the victory has varied greatly. For example, in 2005, the Toyota Prius won by a clear 139 points, received maximum points from twelve jurors, and was the top choice of 37. The next year, the Renault Clio won by a mere 5 points, received maximum points from only one juror, and was the top choice of 11.
|Winners sorted by Manufacturer|
|Alfa Romeo||2||156 (1998)||147 (2001)|
|Audi||2||80 (1973)||100 (1983)|
|Chrysler/Simca||2||Alpine/1307-1308 (1976)||Horizon (1979)|
|Citroën||3||GS (1971)||CX (1975)||XM (1990)|
|Fiat||9||124 (1967)||128 (1970)||127 (1972)||Uno (1984)|
|Tipo (1989)||Punto (1995)||Bravo/Brava (1996)||Panda (2004)|
|Ford||5||Escort (1981)||Granada/Scorpio (1986)||Mondeo (1994)||Focus (1999)|
|NSU||1||Ro 80 (1968)|
|Opel/Vauxhall||3||Kadett/Astra (1985)||Omega/Carlton (1987)||Insignia (2009)|
|Peugeot||3||504 (1969)||405 (1988)||307 (2002)|
|Renault||6||16 (1966)||9 (1982)||Clio (1991)||Scénic (1997)|
|Mégane (2003)||Clio (2006)|
|Rover Company||2||P6 (1964)||SD1 (1977)|
|Toyota||2||Yaris (2000)||Prius (2005)|
Comments on each winner
Rover P6 (1964)
As the last new Rover before the creation of the British Leyland group, the distinctive looking P6 was a massive hit with wealthier buyers in the British market thanks to its excellent ride and handling, upmarket image and an excellent top-of-the-range 3.5 V8 engine. Comfort and value for money were good too. It continued until 1976 when it was replaced by the all-new SD1, which also collected the European Car of the Year award.
Austin 1800 (1965)
After the success of the Mini and Austin 1100/1300, BMC launched another successful family car in the form of the large 1800 saloon. It won plaudits for its practicality and comfort, and was a strong competitor for the likes of the Ford Cortina. Sales began to fall at the turn of the 1970s following the launch of the Maxi hatchback, but the 1800 held on until 1975 when the wedge-shaped 18-22 range went on sale.
Renault 16 (1966)
Renault went out on its own limb by launching the world's first-ever production hatchback - the Renault 16. It would be very popular — especially in its homeland of France — for many years, thanks largely to its versatility, comfort, ride quality and equipment levels. It remained popular until it was replaced by the R20 range in 1979.
Fiat 124 (1967)
Fiat's rejuvenation began with the launch of the medium sized 124 saloon. This practical range of saloons and estates had cavernous boot space and a roomy interior which contributed to its position as one of Europe's most popular family cars in the late 1960s. Production halted in 1978 after the Mirafiori went on sale, but the car lived on for more than 20 years after that date as the Russian-built Lada.
NSU Ro80 (1968)
The slick styling of this German saloon housed an innovative 115bhp rotary engine with a three-speed semi-automatic gearbox driving the rear wheels. But the car was ultimately plagued by numerous engine problems and NSU eventually disappeared following a merger with Volkswagen.
Peugeot 504 (1969)
Despite a lack of technical innovation, Peugeot's 504 won praise all over the world. It was a stylish, comfortable, spacious and sturdy family car which offered superb ride and handling. The full range eventually included saloon, estate, coupe and cabriolet bodystyles. Its days were numbered after the launch of the 505 in 1979, but production did not cease until 1983 in Europe and is being produced to date (2006) in Nigeria and Kenya for African markets.
Fiat 128 (1970)
Fiat's rejuvenation continued with the launch of the entirely new 128, which was nothing special to look at but on its launch was easily the best-handling family car in Europe. Its saloon and estate bodystyles were practical and the range was later completed with the arrival of a stylish coupe. Most of the 128's mechanicals were maintained for its quirky successor, the Strada/Ritmo, which went on sale in 1978, but the 128 remained on the price lists until 1984 and its mechanicals lived on well into the 1990s in a Yugoslavian-built Zastava version of the car.
Citroën GS (1971)
Citroën broke into the medium family car sector with the aerodynamic GS hatchback and estate range. It was instant hit on the continent. Roadholding was excellent, but relatively small engines meant that performance was restricted. Production continued until 1986, four years after the launch of its successor - the BX.
Fiat 127 (1972)
Fiat completed its rejuvenation with the compact 127, which slotted into its range between the tiny 500 and the medium sized 128. It was one of Europe's first compact hatchbacks and for the first few years of its life was probably the most practical small car in the world. Production lasted for 12 years, when its successor - the Uno - went on sale and also clinched the European Car of the Year award. Until the end of the 1990s, the 127 lived on as a Yugoslavian-built Zastava.
Audi 80 (1973)
Following the merger with Volkswagen, Audi was fast becoming one of the most acclaimed car makers in Europe and the award winning 80 showed just how far the German marque had progressed in terms of quality, refinement and style. A light body ensured that its 1.3 and 1.6 engines gave strong performance. The 80 nameplate continued well into the 1990s on two further incarnations.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class (1974)
The original Mercedes-Benz S-Class was an extremely stylish and luxurious saloon on its launch and its new 4.5 V8 engine was one of the most refined drivetrains of the decade. It was first of many S-Class models which have helped Mercedes-Benz maintain their position as one of the biggest 'image' car makers in the world.
Citroën CX (1975)
After nearly 20 years in production, the legendary DS/ID was finally replaced by the ultra-modern aerodynamically styled CX. A wide range of engines were all refined and economical, but the real star of the range was the 2.4 130bhp GTi version which could top 120 mph. Hydropneumatic suspension ensured high levels of ride comfort and kept market demand high throughout the CX's long production life. Its successor, the 1989 XM, was also European Car of the Year, but nowhere near as successful.
Chrysler Alpine/Simca 1307-1308 (1976)
Chrysler Europe's first all-new car was badged as the Chrysler Alpine in Britain and the Simca 1307-1308 in France. It had a stylish and practical hatchback body, a spacious interior, decent equipment levels and good handling. But it was let down by outdated 1.3 and 1.4 pushrod engines which were simply too short of power for cars in the Ford Cortina sector. The Alpine continued as a Talbot after Peugeot took over Chrysler's European division in 1979, spawning a saloon version called the Solara, and remained on sale until the Talbot badge was discontinued on passenger cars in 1986.
Rover SD1 (1977)
After the heavily criticised Austin Allegro and Morris Marina, BL finally got it right with its range topping Rover SD1. The ex-Buick 3.5 V8 was swift, refined and reliable, and its ultra-modern hatchback body was the most modern on a big car to be seen on Europe's roads during the 1970s. It sold well in the luxury car sector until it was superseded by the 800 Series in 1986.
Porsche 928 (1978)
Porsche spent heavily on an all-new supercar to replace the ageing 911, and the 928 was indeed a great looking and great handling masterpiece. Its 4.5 V8 power unit gave superb performance. But the 911 refused to die, and Porsche dropped the 928 in 1994.
Chrysler/Simca Horizon (1979)
Chrysler Europe's second award winning model, the Horizon was its manufacturer's first intended world car. On its arrival things were looking good — a practical, sturdy five-door hatchback with excellent roadholding. It was soon rebadged as a Talbot due to Chrysler Europe's sale to Peugeot, but was unable to establish itself as a successful world car. The European version had been shelved by 1987, but the American version lingered until 1990.
Lancia Delta (1980)
Lancia entered the 1980s with an ultra-modern family hatchback which had been penned by world renowed designer Giugiaro. The four-wheel drive Integrale version would go on to enjoy a long and successful rally career, but smaller-engined versions were heavily criticised for their sluggishness and unreliability. The Delta continued unchanged until an all-new model was launched in 1994.
Ford Escort (1981)
Ford stuck with an established nameplate to completely upgrade its small family car for the 1980s, with rear-wheel drive and saloon bodystyle being discontinued in favour of front-wheel drive and hatchback bodystyle. With a wide range of engines and trim levels, the Escort was ideal for those looking for reliable motoring on a tight budget to enthusiasts wanting an exciting yet affordable driving tool. It was a huge success all over the world throughout the decade, receiving an update in 1986 and being replaced by an all-new model in 1990.
Renault 9 (1982)
Renault's answer to the Ford Escort and Opel Kadett (Vauxhall Astra) was the Renault 9 four-box saloon. Although not the most attractive or innovative car on the market, it was still relatively successful thanks to its superb roadholding and high levels of comfort and space. It was soon joined by the Renault 11 hatchback, and both models were hugely popular until they were replaced by the R19 in 1988.
Audi 100 (1983)
The third incarnation of the Audi 100 went straight to the top of the large saloon sector and grabbed a host of honours, and for good reason. On its launch, it was hard to find another large saloon in Europe — if not the world — that offered more in the way of quality, engine refinement and technical innovation. It continued unchanged until the all-new 100 went on sale in 1991.
Fiat Uno (1984)
Fiat replaced the ageing 127 with the all-new Giugiaro-styled Uno. The contemporary-looking exterior housed a surprisingly spacious and practical interior, as well as having (some) power provided by its frugal engines. Quickly established itself as one of Europe's most popular cars and its popularity continued until it was replaced by the Punto, another Car of the Year, in 1994.
Opel Kadett/Vauxhall Astra (1985)
The second generation of Opel's front-drive Kadett (Vauxhall Astra in the UK) was voted Car of the Year thanks to its modern aerodynamic styling and wide range of engines, ranging from the veteran but economical 1.2 unit all the way up to the swift 1.8 GSi — and soon afterwards the road-burning 2.0 GTE 8v and 16v versions. Its wide range guaranteed the Kadett/Astra success virtually everywhere it was sold. The second generation Astra was discontinued on the launch of a new model in 1991, but it continued for another six years as the Korean-built Daewoo Nexia.
Ford Granada Scorpio (1986)
Ford scored a winner with the distinctive-looking Granada Scorpio, which was based on the mechanicals of the smaller rear-drive Sierra but stood out from the compact luxury car crowd thanks to its unusual but practical hatchback bodystyle, well-appointed interior and superb range-topping 2.9 V6 engine. It was also Europe's first volume production model to have antilock brakes as standard equipment across the range. The Granada Scorpio lasted until the launch of an all-new model in 1995, but its successor failed to make an impact and by 1999 Ford had pulled out of the executive market.
Opel Omega/Vauxhall Carlton (1987)
General Motors responded to the success of Ford's Granada Scorpio by introducing the all-new Opel Omega as replacement for the Rekord, although the British version was still sold as the Vauxhall Carlton. Its plus points were a massive boot, comfortable interior and an impressively powerful top-of-the-range 3.0 Straight 6 engine with 177bhp. It lasted until the launch of an all-new model - badged Omega by both Vauxhall and Opel - in 1994.
Peugeot 405 (1988)
The Pininfarina-penned 405 saloon and estate range won the award by a wide margin. And it wasn't just the car's looks which sealed it. A comfortable interior, excellent ride and handling and an advanced turbo-diesel engine were years ahead of the competition on the 405's launch. It proved popular in Europe and just about everywhere else it went for the entirety of its production life, which ended in 1997 - two years after the launch of its successor, the 406.
Fiat Tipo (1989)
Fiat replaced the much-maligned Ritmo (Strada) with the all-new Tipo, finally lifting the rusting curse thanks to galvanised body panels. But the real key to the Tipo's success was its ultra practical tall body which housed a spacious, well-equipped and comfortable interior. Value for money and ride comfort were also very good. This kept demand high until the Brava/Bravo arrived in 1995 and like their predecessor took the Car of the Year award.
Citroën XM (1990)
The quirky Citroën XM was one of the most unique offerings in the executive car market for the 1990s, with its Bertone-penned exterior well in keeping with Citroën's tradition for innovation, running skin deep through to the oleo pneumatic suspension. But earlier cars were plagued with electrical faults and within a few years demand had reduced to a trickle outside France. The XM lingered until 2000 and its successor, the C6, was not launched until 2005.
Renault Clio (1991)
As an eventual replacement for the elderly Renault 5, the Clio won praise all over Europe by moving the supermini game on to a higher level thanks to its attractive styling, comfortable interior, solid build quality and excellent road behaviour. It went on to be a massive hit all over Europe, with the next generation Clio continued where its predecessor left off on its launch in 1998.
Volkswagen Golf (1992)
It was third time lucky for the Golf as the third incarnation of this world famous family car finally lifted the Car of the Year award. It earned praise for its solid build quality, reliable engines, comfortable interior and superb performance from the 1.8 GTI and 2.8 VR6 sports models. These qualities ensured high sales until the fourth generation Golf was launched six years later.
Nissan Micra (1993)
The Micra was the first Japanese car to win the Car of the Year award, although it was made at Nissan's Sunderland plant in the UK. Ease of driving, solid build quality, faultless reliability and lively 16-valve engines were the main reasons for most jurors giving the Micra top marks. The design was gradually brought up to date over the years before an all-new Micra finally arrived in 2003.
Ford Mondeo (1994)
Ford replaced the rear-drive Sierra with the front-drive Mondeo, and its new model was an instant success all over Europe thanks to its modern looks, impressive handling, comfortable interior and refined range of Zetec petrol engines. The only major criticism of the car was the lack of refinement of its diesel engine in comparison to the more refined engines from Peugeot and Citroën. It was still proving popular at the time of its successor's launch in 2000.
Fiat Punto (1995)
Fiat replaced the long-running Uno with the Punto. Like its predecessor, the Punto was a stylish product from the Giugiaro studios, but there was more to its success than its dramatic looks. Competitive prices, low running costs and spacious interior saw it pip the all-new Volkswagen Polo to the big prize. The Punto was an instant success all over Europe, selling in huge volumes until it was replaced in 1999.
Fiat Bravo/Brava (1996)
The Car of the Year award went to Fiat for the second year running. This time the winner was two separate cars — the three-door Bravo hatchback and five-door Brava fastback. Both cars were distinctively styled, spacious, well equipped and good to drive, and strengthened Fiat's position in the European family car market. It was produced for six years until the Stilo arrived.
Renault Scénic (1997)
Renault became the first European manufacturer to churn out a compact people carrier, with its Scénic being sourced from the chassis of the successful Mégane hatchback. It was a huge success wherever it went, thanks to its ultra practicality and good range of engines. Within a few short years, most other manufacturers had come up with an answer to the Scénic but few of them could match its superb versatility. The Scenic lasted seven years before Renault finally came up with a replacement to continue its outstanding success.
Alfa Romeo 156 (1998)
Alfa Romeo's first serious BMW 3-Series competitor since the 75 grabbed the Car of the Year award thanks to its sleek looks, appealing interior, superb handling and strong performance, as well as much-improved build quality which looked to end the marque's reputation for lacklusture quality control. It ran for eight years before the equally stylish 159 went on sale.
Ford Focus (1999)
After trying the distinctive 'New Edge' style in less popular models, Ford adopted its distinctive styling for the all-new Focus which would be competing in the small family car sector - the most competitive sector in Europe. It was an instant success all over Europe thanks not only to its distinctive looks, but its excellent ride and handling, good equipment levels and spacious interior also drew praise from those who bought the car. The Focus was Britain's best selling car virtually every month from its conception right up to the launch of an all-new replacement at the end of 2004.
Toyota Yaris (2000)
As only the second Japanese car to be voted European Car of the Year, Toyota's new supermini was a winner with the jurors thanks to its technical innovation, spacious interior, clever styling and impressively powerful 1.0 engine. It also maintained Toyota's reputation for building solid and faultlessly reliable cars.
Alfa Romeo 147 (2001)
Taking its chassis from the larger 156, the 147 hatchback was arguably the most stylish car in its sector and won the Car of the Year award by a one-point margin. It also offered a smooth ride, sharp handling and a clever Selespeed semi automatic gearchange as an option on some models. Its 1.9 litre JTD turbo diesel unit was also an ultra refined diesel engine which helped Alfa Romeo rejuventate itself further.
Peugeot 307 (2002)
The Peugeot 307 was voted European Car of the Year thanks to its appealing looks, spacious interior, good equipment levels and impressive handling. Its 2.0 HDi turbo-diesel was a benchmark for diesel engines in terms of economy, performance and environmental friendliness. Most European markets took to it straight away, although some concerns about build quality and reliability dented its reputation.
Renault Mégane (2003)
The second-generation Renault Mégane ran away with the European Car of the Year award thanks to its distinctive looks, excellent safety rating, good equipment levels, solid build quality and an ultra-refined 1.9 dCi diesel engine. A wide range included a hatchback (with three or five doors), an estate (badged SportTourer), a saloon and a clever coupe-cabriolet. Sales all over Europe were high, silencing any critics who suggested that the car's quirky looks would ruin its chances of success.
Fiat Panda (2004)
Fiat's all-new city car was given top marks by most of the jurors thanks to its surprsingly high levels of space and comfort, as well as its excellent 1.3 Multijet diesel engine. It helped revive Fiat's fortunes after a slight fall in market share across Europe, and set the benchmark for others to match in the subcompact market.
Toyota Prius (2005)
The quirky-looking Prius was an award winner mainly due to its environmentally friendly petrol-electric hybrid motor which also gave good performance. A slightly high price tag was partly justified by high levels of interior space, comfort and equipment. Handling was good too, and being a Toyota it should establish itself as a reliable and well built vehicle.
Renault Clio (2006)
With the third generation Clio, Renault strengthened its position as one of the world's top car manufacturers. The Clio was the first model to have won the award twice, the original Clio having received the award 15 years earlier. The main factors in its success were excellent safety ratings, a spacious interior, high equipment levels and a good driving experience which justified its slightly steep asking price.