Ford Fiesta Well Placed to be European Car of the Year 2009
By Andy Bannister
There’s mixed news for Ford of Europe with news of the shortlist for the European Car of the Year award being announced. The Kuga small crossover didn’t even make the final cut, but the new Fiesta is in there and looks like a hot favourite to win.
The award is easily Europe’s most prestigious motoring accolade, with journalists from countries large and small voting. Past winners have made much of their success in the contest, so manufacturers are understandably keen to get their hands on the trophy and the kudos it can bring in the showroom.
The 2009 final seven doesn’t look like the strongest field ever, which should help Ford’s chances. The Fiesta’s main rival seems to be GM’s new mid-size car, the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia. Altogether 37 newly-introduced models from around the world (but sold on the European market) were eligible this year, with most eliminated in a preliminary heat.
Renault has a good track record in the contest but the newly announced Megane hatchback looks unlikely to set many hearts on fire from a glance at the early launch pictures. In contrast to its brave and radical-looking predecessor (the 2003 winner) the new model plays it boringly safe from an appearance point of view, and could easily wear almost any mainstream badge – European, Japanese or Korean.
Citroen’s second-generation C5 is, by contrast, a greatly improved model with sharp styling and driving manners. However, the French make’s traditionally low impact with larger cars means the jury might be less likely to take it seriously.
Italy’s contender this year is Alfa Romeo’s smallest car for many years, the Mito, an interesting rival for the BMW Mini. Fiat Group cars have done well in the contest in the past, including Alfa victories in 2001 for the 147 and 1998 for the 156. If voting divides along partisan lines it should scoop up plenty of points from the Italian contingent.
Finally, there are two VW group entries, the Skoda Superb and the latest generation VW Golf. The Golf, extremely worthy though it no doubt is, seems more like a facelift than an all-new model. The Superb, meanwhile, a sort of cut-price VW Passat popular among taxi drivers, looks a little like a makeweight in this field.
Britain has no entries this year, with the Jaguar XF failing to make the short-list, despite being acclaimed as the most impressive and desirable model from the marque in ages.
VW’s new Scirocco, which at least looks more interesting than the Golf, also missed out on a place, as did the Lancia Delta, Audi A4, Mazda 6, Volvo XC60, Honda’s Accord and Jazz and Dodge’s Journey, among others.
Whilst Ford models including the Mondeo, Focus and S-Max have won past contests, the Fiesta small car has never won before. In 1977, the very first Fiesta – a radical departure for the company and the archetypal early supermini – trailed in third, with the Rover 3500 taking the crown that year, and subsequent generations have done no better.
The good reception accorded to the latest very stylish model – seen as a huge step forward from its predecessor – should help the Blue Oval’s chances this time.
There are 59 members of the jury, all leading European motoring journalists, representing 23 countries. To be as fair as possible, the five largest countries – France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain – get six members of the jury each.
Each voting member has 25 points to allocate and must spread those between at least five of the seven cars on the final shortlist. The ultimate winner will be announced on 17 November.
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