There’s an awkward truth to Car of the Year. We start with a list of around 50 vehicles and the process ensures that all but one get the boot. That results in a long list of very sore manufacturers, many of whom were all but certain that their latest and greatest was about to get the recognition it so richly deserved.
So, to reiterate, to be eligible for Wheels COTY, cars must have been on for sale to the public in the 12 months prior to December 31, 2019. Vehicles that sell below a monthly rate that is equivalent to 100 per year are eligible only at the editor’s discretion. Passenger 4WDs must not have a rigid front axle (which scuppers the Suzuki Jimny’s chances). And as much fun as the McLaren 600LT and the Lamborghini Huracan Evo would have been to have along, Inwood put his sensible hat on and stuck by the letter of the law, as they both represent updates rather than all-new models.
Likewise the Camaro ZL1 was judged a new variant after we had the base Camaro last year, and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan was also not sufficiently divergent from its hatchback sibling to make the cut. Perhaps the Hyundai Kona Electric could feel a little harder done by on that score.
A whole host of contenders were nixed as a result of what an AFL umpire might deem an ‘unrealistic attempt’. The Citroen C3 Aircross, the Jeep Wrangler, the Lexus UX and the Mercedes-Benz GLE weren’t deemed likely to make the latter stages of the competition and were cut from contention. Sharpening the COTY process by making this first sift allowed judges more time with the cars that really stood a viable chance.
The wording on the Value judging criterion was massaged slightly this year, stressing the car’s relative value in class rather than outright affordability, but even that probably wasn’t enough to bring Lamborghini’s Urus into contention, nor the Audi Q8 or BMW X7. The BMW 8 Series was, similarly, too niche and too evolutionary to have really stood much of chance. The Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door, while impressive, was judged not to shift the meter sufficiently within its class and at its price point to mount a serious challenge.
This year’s COTY arrived marginally too early for the BMW 1 Series and the Mercedes-Benz CLA, both cars that could well have progressed. The same probably couldn’t be said of Kia’s Cerato, which was judged unlikely to replicate the impact its cousin, the Hyundai i30, had at the event in 2018.
It’s always tough scratching genuinely good cars from the Car of the Year shortlist. We ended up with 31 cars across 17 models from 13 manufacturers. It was a strong field, but in order to finish first, first you have to finish.
Or, as is the case here, even start.
The major who and why
- Lexus UX: Close, but no cigar. Actually, not that close at all. Easily worked over by the Volvo XC40.
- Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door: Lovely but undeniably niche, and the pricing is eye-watering
- Suzuki Jimny: Rigid front axle and woeful safety rating put paid to any hopes the Jimny had.
- Citroen C3 Aircross: Coming second in a comparison of two vehicles isn’t COTY form
- BMW 1 Series: Promising and fresh take on the 1 Series formula but arrived too late
- McLaren 600LT: Not an all-new model per se. Shame, because it’s just brilliant