The Toyota Yaris hybrid was named Car of the Year during a virtual presentation of the Geneva International Motor Show on Monday.
But the victory was a narrow one, the 59 members of the CoTY jury also giving strong support to the new, all-electric Fiat 500 and two Volkswagen products, the all-electric VW ID.3 and the sporty Cupra Formentor crossover. In all, seven models were up for honors during the online presentation marking the 10th year of the award.
Powered exclusively by a hybrid drivetrain, the Toyota Yaris “has emotion and reason,” said Frank Janssen, a European journalist who serves as president of the Car of the Year jury. The base version, he explained, offers great fuel economy with low emissions, while the Yaris GR, at 260 horsepower, adds a much more sporty element to the compact crossover.
Hybrids, PHEVs and BEVs dominated this year
The European market is rapidly migrating from gas and diesel power to electrification in all its forms: conventional hybrids, plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles. The seven finalists reflected that with a variety of battery-based drivetrains, including two all-electric models: Fiat’s New 500 and the Volkswagen ID.3.
The very first Car of the Year trophy was presented to a plug-in hybrid in 2012, the Opel Ampera.
While the all-electric Fiat New 500 came within points of the Yaris, Janssen suggested the conventional hybrid won out because it “is a very good compromise” for the millions of European motorists who have neither a garage nor some other place to charge up a plug-in vehicle.
This is the second time the Yaris has been named Car of the Year by the jury in Geneva.
The complete list of finalists
Here are the seven finalists and how they scored, each juror is allowed 25 points to spread out among the various models:
- Citroen C4,a compact hatchback offered in various forms, including a plug-in hybrid 143 points;
- Cupra Formentor, a compact crossover from the newest of the many Volkswagen brands. 239 points;
- Fiat New 500, the latest version of the compact Italian hatchback now sold only as a BEV. 240 points;
- Land Rover Defender, recently revived, the spiritual heir to the brand’s very first off-roaders. 164 points;
- Skoda Octavia, a small family sedan produced by VW’s Czech brand. 199 points;
- Toyota Yaris, a compact crossover now in its fourth generation now offered only as a hybrid. 266 points; and
- Volkswagen ID.3, a compact hatchback and the German automaker’s first long-range BEV. 224 points.
VW had three strong contenders
While Volkswagen might have missed out on the CoTY trophy, the automaker still has the distinction of building three of the seven finalists. That includes both the all-electric ID.3 hatchback, as well as the Skoda Octavia and the Cupra Formentor, that brand itself launched only three years ago.
The CoTY jury consists of 59 members representing 22 separate European markets. It has been presented at the Geneva International Motor Show, a site that maintains “traditional Swiss neutrality,” said Janssen.
Organizers faced a challenge pulling together this year’s awards, however. The Geneva even was the first of the major global auto shows cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. GIMS, already struggling due to rising costs and declining attendance, faced the threat of bankruptcy and has been in the midst of a reorganization.
Struggling Geneva show aims for comeback
For 2021, the Car of the Year awards served as a placeholder for GIMS, with an occasionally tech-troubled online presentation replacing the traditional ceremony at Geneva’s PALExpo Convention Center.
During introductory remarks, the show’s new president, Sandro Mesquita, said new plans, including funding details, will be revealed within “days or weeks.” The show is expected to resume next year, most likely in its traditional, pre-spring timeslot. But Mesquita hinted that “GIMS 2022 will be different from (prior) editions … in terms of form and in terms of content.”