It always amazes me how fast European Car of the Year comes round again. For a judge such as myself that means lots of work to do in sifting the excellent from the superb with no time to lose! It’s quite a responsibility, as you’re acutely aware that the public is hungry for the result and of course us CoTY judges are equally hungry. This year was one of the hardest so far, judging-wise. There were so many excellent entries and there could be only one car that would win the right to put a small multi-coloured sticker in its back window.
The first car I sampled was the excellent Fiat Stilo. I was somewhat disappointed when Fiat said they could only supply a left-hand-drive car in this country. I lobbied them long and hard until eventually they corrected this. My wife and I were flown to the Cote D’Azure and could enjoy the LHD Stilo on the correct side of the road. Excellent. Given their professionalism in this matter, I’m confident all Stilo customers will receive the excellent service for which the Italian company is renowned.
Next up, the excellent Renault Laguna. This car has a lot going for it, including class leading safety and a comprehensive equipment list. However, it’s the little touches that make the new Renault truly excellent. My test car arrived complete with comfortable leather seats, innovative key-less entry system, a branded umbrella, a free cappuccino maker and a case of fine Chablis in the boot. Full marks to Renault for equipping their cars to such a high standard.
I was particularly excited to try the excellent new Mini and it didn’t disappoint. My confidence in this car was bolstered when I dined with some of the car’s engineers at a top London restaurant. I can fully imagine the quality of the engineering having seen the effort BMW put into the food, wine and hotel facilities.
Sampling the excellent Honda Civic, I was struck by how similar it felt to the excellent Fiat Stilo. Turns out I had actually been sent another Stilo by mistake. Full marks to Honda who apologised for this error by sending my wife and I to Paris for the weekend. Trust the Japanese to lead the way on customer service.
My disappointment of the CoTY was, it pains me to say, the excellent Jaguar X-type. I lunched with some of their top brass at a top eaterie in Scotland where I discovered the service was slow, the soup was cold and there weren’t enough bread rolls. The only compensation was a superb claret, though even that was marred because I reacted badly to the beef and was violently ill, staining my shoes. I hope the X-type will make a better impression when I get to drive it.
And so to the winner. As I said, this was a tough contest with many judges voting in completely different ways. With consensus so hard to find, it’s reassuring to see that the winner was a car that no one liked: the excellent Peugeot 307. Excellent.