Question: what do the new Citroën C3 Aircross, Honda Civic, Ford Fiesta, Opel Grandland X, SEAT Ibiza and Volkswagen T-Roc all have in common?
Answer, they are the six new car finalists going forward to this winter’s ‘Best Buy Car of Europe in 2018’ award, as organised by AutoBest, the independent journalists’ group.
Yes, there are many awards these days (perhaps too many) but AutoBest is different, aimed squarely at mainstream cars on sale across Europe and with a strict price limit (up to 20,000 Euros, before tax), as here.
With those criteria in mind, let’s look at this year’s AutoBest ‘Best Buy’ contenders:
Citroën’s C3 Aircross builds on the appeal of chic C3 supermini. With neat high roof style and plenty of personalisation on offer, the C3 Aircross takes Citroën into the booming B-SUV crossover sector. Good to drive, too, according to first reviews.
Honda’s long running Civic is all new for 2017. This latest design is a real stand out. Underneath, there’s a brand new platform and engine range as Honda again strives to make the Civic the most efficient, sophisticated car in the class.
A new Ford Fiesta is always a hugely significant market force across Europe, selling in huge numbers. This time, thanks to an impressive range of high-end spec, Ford bills the new 2017 Fiesta as the most technologically advanced small car on sale.
Opel/Vauxhall joins the upscale SUV set with the Grandland X, the third member of its new ‘X’ family. Big on space, with good room for five, sporty off-road looks, the Grandland X is based off Peugeot’s hit 3008 and has plenty of appeal.
Spanish maker SEAT has long done well with its Ibiza supermini. Now here’s the latest fifth generation, with crisp ‘Leonised’ styling and strong dynamics (thanks to latest MQB AO platform). Connectivity and kit also feature extensively in the new Ibiza makeup.
In the VW camp, some might have thought the new Polo would have been a strong AutoBest contender. Instead, we have the funky T-Roc compact crossover lining up: Golf-based and certainly the more expressive and street fashionable of the two.
So how does AutoBest work? Uniquely, the AutoBest jury is made up of 31 motoring journalists across Europe, with only one per country (I represent the UK). Each of us is tasked with coming up with an initial list of five cars. To make the cut, a car must be substantially all-new, on sale across the majority of EU counties as of Jan 1 and come in for under 20,000 Euros before tax.
Results are then pooled. Then a ‘Final Five’ list emerges although the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that this year, uniquely, we are up to six…
Full disclosure: I can say that in the first round voting, with AutoBest’s budget-based template in mind, I nominated the appealing new Suzuki Swift as one of my top five.
Also the new Kia Rio, another well sorted, good-to-drive B-segment mini, plus the new Dacia Duster (a previous AutoBest winner), coupled with the new Civic and Ibiza for AutoBest.
In the end, however, as we can see, only the Civic and Ibiza made it through to the other side after all the first round votes had been counted.
What happens now?
Well, later next month, towards the end of November, there’s to be an extensive two-day drive session of the six cars at the Vairano test track near Milan, the proving ground of Italy’s Quattroruote magazine , and on the road, to find the winner
That’s sure to be instructive. In last year’s AutoBest shoot out at Vairano, it was the SEAT Ateca SUV that quickly emerged on top. Strong design, versatility and price (value for money) are key factors in winning AutoBest while pragmatic day-to-day issues such as distribution and parts availability also feature on the jury scorecard.
AutoBest also has a number of associate awards and one of the most high profile covers design. Already in the AutoBest Design hall of fame we have the likes of JLR’s Ian Callum and Gerry McGovern. Last year, Volvo’s Thomas Ingenlath deservedly took the award.
This year the AutoBest ‘DesignBest’ award goes to Marek Reichmann from Aston Martin in recognition of his outstanding body of work, not least with the fantabulous DB11 supercar but also through his contribution to evolving Aston into an ice cool luxury brand.
‘SmartBest 2017’ this year goes to SEAT for being the first car brand in Europe to integrate Amazon’s Axela voice service into its car range, thus offering drivers next gen levels of connectivity behind the wheel.
Toyota takes AutoBest’s prized ‘SafetyBest 2017’ award for making its highbrow Safety Sense system standard fit across virtually its entire model line-up in Europe (92 per cent of sales), thus bringing a high level of active safety to the road.
At a time when many car makers’ economy claims are coming under scrutiny, AutoBest’s ‘EcoBest 2017’ award goes to France’s PSA group for its insightful work in measuring ‘real world’ fuel consumption, in conjunction with three independent organisations (Bureau Veritas , T&E and France Nature Environment).
And still to come…further AutoBest awards including the high profile ‘ManBest’ (or Manager of the year), with PSA’s successful CEO, Carlos Tavares the current holder.
So, Citroën, Ford, Honda, Opel, SEAT, VW, which will it be?
The flag’s dropped and the contest is underway. The AutoBest champion and winner of ‘Best Buy Car of Europe in 2018’ is set to go live on December 15.