There were 41 candidates eligible for the European 2011 Car of the Year (COTY) award, with quite a few big names being mentioned, such as the Audi A7 Sportback and A8, BMW 5-Series and X3, Jaguar XJ and Mercedes Benz CLS. This week, the list was narrowed down to just seven finalists and, as in previous years, some of them weren't really expected to make it this far.
Our summary presents the remaining candidates in alphabetical order, with the winner set to be announced on November 29. We'd really like to know which of the seven cars would get your vote, though, so comment away below.
And the nominees are…
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
No COTY final should be without an Alfa Romeo. The Italian manufacturer builds some of the most beautiful and sexy cars on the planet. For this alone they deserve a nomination. The Giulietta is no exception, as it revives the name of the first mass-produced Alfa. Fortunately, unlike its 1950s predecessor, the modern day Giulietta is a much more reliable and safer car (it has a 5 star EuroNCAP rating), with a wide range of engine choices, of which the 235 hp (175 kW) 1.8-liter turbocharged version really stands out.
Citroën is also known as a design reference, though its creations don't stir as much passion as Alfas. They're more eccentric, weird even, but mostly in a good way. The new C3/DS3 pair continues this trend, albeit with better interiors, more standard equipment and excellent petrol and diesel engines. The panoramic Zenith windscreen deserves special recognition, as it not only looks cool, but it also significantly improves the angle of vision from inside the cabin.
I grew up around Dacias and it's obvious that Renault did a good job revitalizing the Romanian brand, but I wasn't expecting this. Sure, it is the most affordable European SUV, it does have a larger-than-expected interior (and boot), surprisingly good off-road capabilities and decent engines (especially the 85 hp [63 kW] 1.5-liter diesel), but I didn't think its image was strong enough to be a COTY finalist (though it's getting stronger every day). Still, sometimes it's good to be proven wrong.
Ford C-Max/Grand C-Max
The original C-Max was criticized for not having seven seats. Enter the Grand C-Max, now suitable for 7 passengers thanks to its stretched wheelbase and a foldable third row of seats. This generation of C-Max also showcases Ford's new direct injection, force inducted Ecoboost engines, with ample power (up to 180 hp/134 kW) and torque, plus good fuel efficiency.
Nissan's EV is quite a technological marvel that's set to get a lot of political backing in the following years, as many governments try to change people's opinions on alternative fuels. With a range of more than a 100 miles (160 km), the Leaf can be used as an everyday car without any major impediments, the 110 hp (80 kW) electric motor being more than up to the task, reviewers say.
The new Meriva wants to build on its predecessor's success (it was the leader of the small MPV segment), by using a bigger platform for more interior space and increased boot capacity. Access to the cabin has been dramatically improved by the rear "suicide" (or rear-hinged) doors, which also add a stylish note to the Meriva's design. Multiple engine choices are available, with strong, economical diesels taking center stage.
The S60 is a truly beautiful car, a tribute to the so-called IKEA design, one that seems to signal Volvo's renaissance (now under Chinese ownership). Contrary to its predecessor, the new model is meant to compete with the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class & Co. Measuring 4.63 meters in length, it easily trumps the Germans and we haven't mentioned yet the V60's even more versatile interior. Younger buyers could be persuaded by the 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 petrol engine, with 304 hp (227 kW) on tap, while the more "mature" public can opt for frugal 4 or 5-cylinder diesel engines. Volvo's excellent safety record is another good point for the S60.
So, there you have it, the last seven standing gringos. But only one can survive this shootout and if you're asking for my take, that would be the Alfa Romeo. I'm happy that the Duster made it this far, I can appreciate the insane amount of engineering showcased by the Leaf and Volvo's comeback with the new S60, but, in my opinion, the winner must "speak" to you on a more personal level. And for me, the Giulietta does that best.