Tonight is the annual What Car? Car of the Year Awards (COTY). A glittering event in London’s West End, often dubbed the “Oscars of the car world”.
What Car is a brand synonymous with objective, impartial advice. The consumer champion of the automotive world. Launched in 1978, the awards set out to identify, the best car for the everyday motorist. The antidote to rival programmes that tended to focus on “the fastest or most expensive”.
Once again, MotorEasy are proud to return as headline sponsors, using the event to align our mission to the very same principles that the What Car? brand represents.
What Makes a Winner?
Over the years, the COTYs have played no small part in transforming sales for previous winners, like the Volkswagen Golf, Nissan Qashqai, Ford Fiesta and last year’s winner, the Kia EV6.
The awards emerged at a time of growing innovation and prosperity. Computers and electronics were destined to be part of all our lives, as consumers across the world embraced technology.
Tech soon became a key feature for short-listed cars. The very first winner– the Renault 20 TS – was singled out for advanced components like power steering, central-locking and electric front windows.
But, while other more expensive vehicles of the day could claim similar luxuries, it was the combination of Renault’s competitive price point that singled it out as the winner.
During the early years, COTY winners were exclusively European, with French brands Renault and Peugeot making a regular appearance. Notably the 1984 winner, the Peugeot 205, whose GTi version remains a firm-favourite amongst petrolheads everywhere.
Fuel economy and emissions have been a common theme over the years, as new inventions like catalytic converters introduced from 1993 and diesel particulate filters introduced from 2011, became standard features for all the winners.
2002 saw the first Asian car take the title, the Toyota Corolla. Recognised for its fuel efficiency, reliability and practicality, the Corolla remains to this day one of the best-selling cars of all time. By 2021, it hit the milestone of 50 million cars sold, across 12 generations stretching back to 1966.
Asian brands then took a backseat until the Nissan Qashqai took the crown in 2014. During the intervening years, the Europeans dominated, with an assortment of mainly UK and German brands.
Surprisingly, Audi themselves had to wait as late as 2011 to claim a top podium position, with the Audi A1 seizing the crown, despite the best efforts of iconic trailblazers like the 1980s Quattro.
Who will reign supreme?
As we wait in anticipation to see the roll call tonight, who will claim the title? Have we seen the last of the petrol and diesel winners?
Could the Ford Fiesta, set to be discontinued next year after nearly 50 years of production go out on a high. It’s certainly won the nation’s heart, the classic “first owned car” for many, has clocked up nearly 22-million sales since its launch in 1976.
But, with a striking number of electric vehicles on the shortlist, does it belong to a forgotten era? Included amongst these is the striking looking Hyundai Ioniq 6. Perhaps not to everyone’s design taste, it
packs the whacking punch of a fast charging 350 kw battery that should put pay to the fear of range-anxiety.
Then there is the Genesis GV60, from the luxury vehicle division for South Korean manufacturer Hyundai Motor Company. It’s relatively obscure and unknown amongst UK customers, but it wins the praise of many automotive journalists. A victory would surely put them on the map, raising brand awareness and sales in tandem.
Faced-up against these new electric entrants is the convincing appeal of the Tesla Model Y. It can draw-on the backing of Tesla’s famous supercharger network as a trump card, but it has a firm drive-ride that will perhaps snag its chances.
Another contender on the EV front is the VW Buzz, Volkswagen’s iconic campervan revived and revamped in electric form, with a futuristic design to stop traffic in its track.
Design-impact is a key feature for many of the contenders this year. Remarkably, the new MG4 seems to take cues from Lamborghini of all places. But its price-tag couldn’t be further removed, offering incredible value for money with efficient charging speed and a decent range.
While European cars will no doubt pick up awards in categories reserved for refinement and luxury, notably Range Rover and the BMW i7, with its incredible in-car entertainment features. From a “people’s car” perspective, we feel the balance might be shifting towards and Asian victor.
All will be revealed tonight, so make sure to track our social media channels for live coverage and don’t forget to check back here for our review of the night and proceedings.
Click here for a full list What Car? Car of the Year contenders