Whenever the end of the year is upon us, we all spend enough time to take a break from all the holiday shopping to reflect on the year that was.
The same holds true in the automotive industry, except that instead of merely reminiscing, there are those that are in positions to hand out what they deem are the best cars of the year. Last week, 48 journalists from North America voted on the North American Car and Truck of the Year, whittling down the list to three finalists in each category with the winners being announced at the 2014 North American International Auto Show this coming January.
Well, Europe has its equivalent in the aptly named "Car of the Year jury." It consists of 58 members from 22 countries in Europe with representation depending on a specific country’s market size and its "importance in car manufacturing."
A subjective criteria, but okay, we’ll roll with it.
What’s important is that the list of contenders for the prestigious award has been narrowed down to seven finalists, all of which have as much chance as the other to succeed the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf . The winner will be announced at the Geneva Motor Show in March, giving the "Car of the Year" jury enough time to exhaust every analytical measure possible before making a decision on which car to vote for.
Good luck to all the finalists!
Click past the jump to read about the seven finalists for the Car of the Year award
The BMW i3 reveal was a long and drawn-out process, as BMW didn’t care to hide its intentions with the model, but it did continue to release half-camouflaged images. When BMW did finally decide to launch the i3, it was met with such demand that as of November, the model already had more than 8,000 pre-orders for the vehicle, way beyond even BMW’s expectations.
The BMW i3 has a surprisingly pleasant powertrain, featuring a motor that puts down a healthy 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This allows this small five-door to hit 62 mph in a respectable 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 93 mph. On top of fairly lively performance, the i3 can also travel up to 123 miles between charges.
Gallery BMW i3
In the time since the C4 Picasso was first introduced in 2006, the little hatch has turned out to be quite the popular ride for the French company, so much so that the first generation model remained in production until last year. But like all goods thing, they all come to an end.
Fortunately, Citroen’s second-generation C4 Picasso was more than able to pick up the mantle from its successor. The new C4 Picasso adopts a bold, expressive design with dynamic, high-tech styling and a bright, uncluttered interior and technologies that innovate, comfort and protect.
Under its hood, the compact car is powered by a choice of two engines: an e-HDi 90 Airdream and a BlueHDi 150 unit. Both engines can be combined with a new six-speed clutch-less manual gearbox called ETG6 (6-speed Efficient Tronic Gearbox).
Gallery Citroen C4 Picasso
The only car to be named a finalist in both the North American Car of the Year and the European Car of the Year awards, the new-generation Mazda3’s inclusion is a testament to the kind of car Mazda has built. The new Mazda3 adopted a new design language similar to what we saw with the new Mazda6.
The Mazda3 is offered with a choice of two engines: a SKYACTIV-G, 2.0-liter gasoline engine and a new SKYACTIV-G, 2.5-liter gasoline engine. The 2.0-liter engine delivers a total of 155 horsepower, while the 2.5-liter version produces a total of 184 horsepower. Both engines are offered with a standard SKYACTIV-MT, six-speed manual transmission, while a SKYACTIV-Drive, six-speed automatic transmissions is offered as an alternative.
Gallery Mazda3 Hatchback
The only luxury car to make it to the last, the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class was a vindication of sorts for Mercedes, who saw its predecessor struggle through mediocre sales in the face of stiff competition.
But the new model is a doozy and well-deserving of its place among the other finalists. It comes with the same design language we have seen in all the recently launched Mercedes models. So the new S-Class has sharper lines, a sportier front fascia, a larger grille, a nice redesigned rear end.
Best of all, the new S-Class has a monster under its hood in the form of a 4.7-liter, V-8 engine that produces 456 horsepower and 517 pound-feet of torque, good enough to hit 60 mph in 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 130 mph.
Gallery Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Like a little firecracker with enough explosiveness to it to blast of your digits, the 2013 Peugeot 308 is all sorts of dynamic, albeit one that you still won’t confuse for a high-powered ride. But that’s not the point.
Peugeot developed, tested, tested some more, and tested even more the new 308 with the believe that it could became the nice compact mover that can compete with the market’s best.
As far as the powertrain goes, Peugeot developed a nice stable of options, beginning with a 1.6-liter diesel with 92 horsepower or 115 horsepower and a 1.6-liter petrol with 125 horsepower or 155 horsepower. With those numbers in tow, Peugeot is hoping that the new 308 can serve as a worthy competitors to the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf, the same car that it also hopes to succeed as Europe’s best.
No, that speck of irony wasn’t lost on us.
Gallery Peugeot 308/301
The 2013 Skoda Octavia may not have a lot of cache here in the US, but in Europe, it’s proven to be quite the hot seller. It’s second generation looks probably has a lot to do with that as is the newly developed engine that can hit an output of up to as much as 220 horsepower in the vRS.
The rest of the engine options are more pedestrian, including a 1.2-liter diesel engine with 105 horsepower to a 2.0-liter diesel engine with 184 horsepower, but still noteworthy enough to apparently receive a lot of positive vibes across the pond.
Gallery Skoda Octavia
The California-based electric car maker offers the Tesla Model S with three battery options. The base version gets a 40 kWh battery pack, and the powerful options include a 60 kWh and 85 kWh battery. The Model S Performance version is the brands flagship carry a base price of just over $83,000, and it can quickly go over $100k with all of the options selected.
All that aside, the performance of the Model S has to be its highlight with the 60 kWh version capable of hitting 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds to go with a top speed of 120 mph. Meanwhile, the 80 kWh version is for those who want a bit more performance, as this version completes the dash from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds with a top speed of 126 mph.
The even more performance-oriented top-spec model reaches 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds, plus it can travel up to 300 miles on a single charge.