Mr Money: the real Car of the Year

imageTelegraph Motoring’s Mr Money, Mike Rutherford, considers the finalists for the World Car of the Year.

There’s been all sorts of fun and games in Geneva over the last few days concerning what can loosely be described as the best on-sale cars on the planet. Just to be clear, unlike much of the futuristic mental concept metal you’ll see on the pages of Motoring this week, I’m talking here about the models that are actually in the showrooms already, available and ready to be bought and driven away by real-world customers.

So what’s the best of the best? According to the confusingly named (more about that in a moment) Car of the Year organisation, it’s the Opel Ampera. Or is it the Chevrolet Volt? Or the less important (in European and global terms) Vauxhall Ampera?

Who knows? Even the organisers of this competition seem a little confused because they’re sure as hell shouting about the first two models, which are essentially German and American (well, sort of) while disgracefully playing down the importance of the third, which is English in name if not in manufacture.

And besides, if this is the Car of the Year contest, shouldn’t one vehicle win it rather than the duo-cum-trio that has seemingly won it?

While I’m having a little, friendly pop at the “Car of the Year” or “CotY” organisers (not to be confused with the organisation’s out-on-the-road judges, some of whom are dear friends and colleagues) I really do think it’s time they changed the name to more accurately reflect who they are and what they do. This is not, as they’d like you to think, THE Car of the Year award. It’s one of many. And since all its respected judges are in or centred on Europe, might European Car of the Year (ECOTY) be a better title? Come to think of it, might ECC – the Eurovision Car Contest – be more appropriate?

I admit I’m from the rival World Car of the Year (WCOTY) camp. I know I’m inevitably and mischievously biased, but let’s have some credit where it’s due. WCOTY does exactly what it says on the tin. The judges/jurors/executioners (I confess I’m one) are from all parts of the world, not just that comparatively little corner called Europe.

We vote for and against on-sale cars from all over the world. And when we, via our strict auditor KPMG, cast our votes in secret, we end up a few weeks later with our/your overall and undisputed World Car of the Year. And for good measure, we also hand out three separate awards to the companies which, in our opinion, design/build the best-performing, finest-looking and greenest (for want of a better word) cars in the world. What could be fairer?

With all the above in mind, on Tuesday, a Geneva motor show packed with car industry executives heard and saw the announcement of the various finalists. The top three for the overall 2012 World Car of the Year title are, in alphabetical order, the BMW 3-series, Porsche 911 and Volkswagen Up. I can’t argue with this because they’re all worthy contenders, although something tells me that in these days of global austerity the less-is-more Up might be a more fitting and appropriate champion than the far more expensive 3-series or the prohibitively (for most people) costly 911.

The top three finalists for the 2012 World Performance Car award are the Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, McLaren MP4-12C and Porsche 911. In view of these candidates’ impressive credentials, this is more supercar (or even hypercar) than mere performance car. What worries me is that performance cars should be affordable and accessible, too. And at least two of the three are not.

My 65 fellow jury members and I chose the Ford Focus Electric, Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI BlueEfficiency and Peugeot 3008 Hybrid as our top three for the World Green Car award, proving that the internal combustion engine is alive and kicking. Long may it continue – even if mated to a second power unit that runs on electricity or whatever.

Cars eligible for the 2012 World Car Design of the Year award are taken from the list of World Car candidates, or they may be included as a stand-alone entry, provided the vehicle is introduced and available for sale in at least one major market from January 1 2011 to May 30 2012. The top three we chose are the Citroën DS5, Land Rover Evoque and the Volkswagen Up, the first two largely because of their undoubted good looks, the last one for it’s less pretty but oh-so-clever architecture.

The winner of the big one – the overall World Car of the Year title – plus the significant performance, green and design awards will be announced at the New York International Auto Show on April 5. For me, the Up is the best in the world this year, largely (but not entirely) thanks to its sub-£8,000 price. Since the Audi R8 is out of the running in 2012, the Porsche 911 is the greatest real world performance/supercar. The Peugeot 3008 Hybrid isn’t the most fuel efficient and therefore the cleanest or greenest, but it deserves the Green King Crown. Just.

And although the Land Rover Evoque is the prettiest, I don’t think it boasts the best all-round interior/exterior architecture, so the Citroën DS5 is my design champion. But what do I know?

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