The 2016 World Car Awards will be presented later this week at the New York Auto Show. After months of deliberation, the 73 judges have narrowed the longlist down to a shortlist of five Top Three cars in the World – including the overall World Car of the Year prize.
Which are the hot tips though? Here, I place a bet on the winner of each category. How many will I get right? Come back later on Thursday to find out…
World Car of the Year 2016 tip: Mercedes-Benz GLC
Runners-up: Audi A4, Mazda MX-5
Volkswagen Group is a serial winner in WCOTY and the shortlisted Audi A4 is already European Car of the Year. Both may actually work against it though, as may the evolutionary look that conceals Audi’s most convincing BMW 3 Series rival yet. Don’t mention dieselgate either.
I like the Mazda MX-5 but is a racy two-seat open-top sportscar really what the world is seeking? These days, it’s SUV that buyers are flocking towards; add in the GLC’s elegant styling, very accomplished drive and striking interior, plus a great brace of safety and tech kit, means my bet’s on Mercedes-Benz doing the WCOTY Car of the Year double.
World Luxury Car of the Year 2016 tip: Volvo XC90
Runners-up: Audi Q7, BMW 7 Series
This is a tough one. BMW’s 7 Series is smarter and more innovative than many realise, a technological masterpiece, although it ultimately still can’t quite deliver the luxoindulgence of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The Audi Q7 is bigger and better but the cool Audi clinicalness is a little too evident here for genuine luxury.
Which leaves the amazing Volvo XC90, a car that’s come out of nowhere to challenge the best from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The old one was god but not a luxury car: without question, this one is a fully-fledged class contender. It has on-road status, is quiet and cushioned to ride in and the interior is an absolute triumph of warmth, quality, integrated technology and comfort. I reckon it’s Volvo’s to lose.
World Performance Car of the Year 2016 tip: Audi R8
Runners-up: Honda Civic Type-R, Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe
We’re a bit lacking in performance sector drama this year. Or perhaps we just think we are. The Audi R8 is an extraordinarily fast performance car that’s almost a generation and a half step on from its predecessor. That identikit styling strikes again – so long as the judges got behind the wheel, it’s in with a shot.
Same goes for the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe, a wildly satisfying performance car but one you have to drive hard and for a while to fully appreciate the depths of its abilities. In contrast to the bombastic Honda Civic Type-R, a hot hatch from the old school that’s firm, fast, slightly ferocious and sensational fun. You’ll never mistake this hoonigan for a diesel model in a car park; you’ll never have a dull journey in it. Could the arrival of the Ford Focus RS already have overshadowed the Civic Type-R though? And will the judges really see it as a genuine performance car? For this reason, my tip is the Audi R8.
World Car Design of the Year 2016 tip: Jaguar XE
Runners-up: Mazda CX-3, Mazda MX-5
The edgy CX-3, a mini SUV that successfully blends in MX-5 cues without looking like a pastiche. The MX-5 has newfound cues of its own, although the latest-gen design hasn’t won universal acclaim. It’s the other car that’s not a retro Jaguar pastiche that my bet’s on: the XE is an elegant, expertly-judged Ian Callum creation that brings something new to the compact executive sector without scaring away what’s a traditionally quite conservative group of buyers.
Now we’re seeing more of them on the road, its surprisingly sporty proportions and sophisticated stance is starting to stand out. I reckon the WCOTY judges will already be onto this and will vote the Jaguar top.
World Green Car of the Year 2016 tip: Toyota Mirai
Runners-up: Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius
Two Japanese brands versus a U.S one, and all three are green car pioneers in their own way. The Prius was the first mainstream hybrid, the Volt was the first volume range extender, the Mirai is the first mass-market hydrogen fuel cell.
So which way will the judges go? I think the Prius will not be the green step on they’re looking for, even though the latest one is an extremely able car (the rumoured plug-in that’s coming to NYIAS 2016 will be a shoo-in for next year though). The Volt? Maybe a missed opportunity. It’s not massively greener than the outgoing one, as Chevy has concentrated instead on normalising it. Maybe the judges will like this – but maybe the groundbreaking Mirai will won them over instead.
We’ve been promised hydrogen-powered cars for decades but this is the first one to go into volume production: be it chicken or egg, either way it’s a landmark car. Those running the refuelling network have no excuse, particularly as the relatively affordable Mirai is so good at what it does (and, despite being the car of the future, so normal and easy to drive). This complex category is in some regards a tough call, as all three have merits. But I think the gamechanging status of the Mirai will nudge it.