Wednesday 13 December 2017

Car of the Year: If you're not in, you can't win

This year's Continental Irish Car of the Year shortlist is striking for the marques that haven't made the cut, writes Campbell Spray

BOOST: The Nissan Juke, last year’s Continental Irish Car of the Year, had 1,400 sales in 2011
BOOST: The Nissan Juke, last year’s Continental Irish Car of the Year, had 1,400 sales in 2011

THE biggest surprise of the Continental Irish Car of the Year shortlist was the absence of two of the three major players in the market here -- Toyota and the Volkswagen group.

However, VW could have much more luck in the European Car of the Year stakes which has now been bizarrely delayed nearly four months until the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The very impressive mini called Up!, which was premiered at September's Frankfurt show, is the platform for a whole range of small cars across VW, Seat and Skoda. It won't be launched here until next spring and will make a significant impact. The highly anticipated launch of Audi's Q3 later this month is also too late for the Irish vote but might do well in Europe.

VW's main contenders for the Irish vote were the Passat and Jetta but both were seen as rather lacklustre by many of my colleagues on the Irish Motoring Writers Association (IMWA) jury.

Toyota, in spite of its success in leading the car sales charts this year, failed to impress on the small car list with either the Verso S or the Yaris although the latter has some good interactive technology on board.

By contrast, the Korean marques have shone this year with Kia taking the two places on the 10 car shortlist allocated to the mini/small car category with the Rio and Picanto. The very impressive Hyundai i40 in the large family sector is the third Korean car on the shortlist and is up against the Peugeot 508 in that category. Ford is guaranteed to be the sector winner in the family car category with the new Focus and C-Max taking both slots there.

In the luxury and performance car categories, things are a bit less straightforward with the Range Rover Evoque against the Mercedes C-Class coupe and the Honda CRZ against the Mercedes CLK.

The final test day for the IMWA members to go over the 10 cars on the overall list was last Friday, which wasn't ideal for people working on a Sunday newspaper. However, I and Contributing Editor Shane O'Donoghue attended and will give our verdicts on all the cars in a 12-page motoring supplement which will be printed with the Sunday Independent next week. I could see that Shane was very taken with the Evoque while I could have happily taken the day off as I headed west -- for a few minutes anyway -- in the CLK with its roof down. The Rio, 508 and i40 were also very impressive on the day and you can never dismiss the Focus.

The overall winner will be announced at an awards lunch on November 17 at the Convention Centre in Dublin's Spencer Dock.

From 46 eligible cars, selection of the shortlisted vehicles is based on votes from the 24 voting members of the IMWA, taking into account such factors as value for money, style, engineering and performance. "This year's shortlist of 10 includes some great models with a mix of exciting new versions of established nameplates and some totally new cracking car concepts," said Paddy Murphy of Continental Tyres Ireland.

Last year's Continental Irish Car of the Year was the Nissan Juke, which has seen nearly 1,400 sales this year alongside nearly double that for its ever popular big sister, the Qashqai, that almost single-handedly rescued Nissan. It's best not to talk about the all-electric Nissan Leaf, which is the present European Car of the Year. For all sorts of reasons, many to do with infrastructure, it has been a disastrous year with only 43 sold compared with the anticipated 600. Awards are one thing, sales are very different.

Sunday Independent

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