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Cars of the Year 2006
Deciding which out of all the cars in Europe is the best vehicle of its year seems like an impossible task. That's exactly what the European Car of the Year award was designed to do, however, and, over 40 years since it was established, the competition is still going strong.
Launched in 1964, the award is currently organised by a selection of motoring magazines from around Europe. The judges are the journalists who write for them, and rather than putting cars into categories according to their type, country of origin or size, these journalists have the unenviable task of selecting just one car, and naming it Car of the Year.
With cars judged on design, comfort, safety, economy, handling, performance, functionality, environmental requirements, driver satisfaction and price, it’s a tough award to win, and the winners are an eclectic bunch, ranging from fuel-burning sports cars to practical family workhorses.
This year's winner, the Renault Clio, for example, scraped into first place by only five points. Although one of Europe's top selling vehicles since its launch in 1990, the supermini was the top choice from only jurors – perhaps testament to the wide variety of cars competing in the award.
Available in both three and five door versions, and with the sporty Clio 197 designed to appeal to the younger and faster generation of drivers, the Clio is everything to everybody. This is the second European Car of the Year Award for the Clio, which won for the first time in 1991, just one year after its launch. It's also a big seller outside of Europe, being named best car by Mexican magazine Automovil Panamericano in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
This year, the Clio encoutered stiff opposition from the second place Volkswagen Passat and third placed Alfa Romeo 159. Another family car, the Passat has been around in one form or another since 1973, and is sold in Euope as the Dasher, Santana and Quantum. Whatever name you know the Passat by, there's no doubt that it's a familiar sight on Britain's roads, and is the car of choice of many families.
Athough the Alfa Romeo 159 is large enoughto be used as a family car, sleek styling and hidden rear doors make it more popular as an executive vehicle. The replacement for the hugely successful Alfa Romeo 156, which was Car of the Year in 1998, the 159 looks likely to become a regular fixture in the award.
As if to prove how difficult it is to choose just one car from so many, "What Car" Car of the Year judges didn't choose any of the three Euopean winners as their overall winner, naming the BMW 320d ES 4dr as their top pick. The What Car Awards differ from their European counterpart by placing vehicles in categories as well as choosing one overall winner, however, and here the Clio and Passat did get a look in, being named Best Supermini and Best Family Car respectively, while the Maxda RX-8 was Best Coupe and the Vauxhall Vectra Best Estate Car.
29 Aug 2006