Every year, a panel of 75 auto journalists from around the globe decides on the winners of the World Car Awards (WCA). After announcing the 10 entries in February and showcasing the three finalists in each category at the Geneva Auto Show in March, WCA representatives present the winners at the New York Auto Show on April 2.
Besides prizes for the best luxury, best performance car, best green car, and best overall car design, members of the automotive press decide on the best vehicle appearing in the previous calendar year (in this case, 2014). Automobiles do not have restrictions as far as global availability is concerned.
Following the Audi A3, the last winner, here are the 10 automobiles competing for 2015 World Car of the Year, listed in alphabetical order.
1. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
Does a front-wheel-drive minivan strike anyone as an “ultimate driving machine”? We don’t think so, but the World Car Awards judges consider practicality and other unsexy criteria when nominating a vehicle for the prize. Between the 2 Series Active Tourer and the new seven-seat Grand Tourer on sale in Europe, drivers get the BMW badge and a heavy dose of utility if not much excitement from the German luxury brand. We’re going to guess this car won’t be in the winner’s circle in New York, though stranger things have happened. (Remember when Crash won the Best Picture Oscar over Capote and Brokeback Mountain?)
2. Citroën C4 Cactus
Citroën’s C4 Cactus is the second of three World Car of the Year nominees not on sale in the United States. The C4 Cactus’s “Airbump panels,” which protect against dings and scrapes in daily use, are one of the remarkable features on this crossover. Its remarkable efficiency of 91 miles per gallon in European cycle testing is an eye-popping statistic, even if it falls short of the 118 miles per gallon (U.S.) economy claimed for the Cactus Airflow concept the automaker showcased in Paris last year.
3. Ford Mustang
Was the pressure on Ford to deliver a worthy successor to the great Mustangs of the past? Absolutely, but most journalists have agreed the 2015 edition is a home run. From a muscle standpoint, the cars became more powerful; as for efficiency, Ford brought out the turbocharged EcoBoost ‘Stang that tops the V6 in horsepower and returns 32 miles per gallon in highway driving. Throw in the improved handling from the independent rear suspension and the 5-star NHTSA safety rating for the new Mustang and you have a worthy contender for World Car of the Year.
4. Hyundai Genesis
Considered one of the most underappreciated luxury cars on the road, the Hyundai Genesis gets love from auto journalists on a regular basis. The premium midsize sedan checks in with an ALG Residual Value Award for 2015, a 5-Star Safety Rating from the NHTSA, an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS, and two consecutive awards for initial quality from J.D. Power. In other words, few would blink if it won the World Car of the Year award, even if some people in the audience never heard of it.
5. Jeep Renegade
The 2015 Jeep Renegade receives rave reviews for style, fuel economy, and off-road capability. With the compact SUV craze in full swing, the first such model by Jeep is as relevant as any other entry on the list of World Car Awards nominees. If demand and “reading the market” weigh on the minds of panel judges, Renegade could be the automobile standing in the winner’s circle on April 2.
In the same was Genesis racks up awards but hasn’t the sales to show for them, the Mazda lineup always receives abundant critical praise without having the sales that should back it up. Enter the Mazda2, which previously won the 2008 World Car of the Year and has a new edition up for consideration in 2015. Mazda improved upon economy and power in the 2016 edition, so don’t count this subcompact out when the panel makes its decision.
7. Mercedes-Benz C-Class
As the L.A. Times noted in its review of the Mercedes C300, consumers now have nearly as many options on tap in the smallish Benz as they do in the regal S-Class. By improving the interior and performance while showcasing new trims, Mercedes has taken its best-selling line into a new dimension. A C-Class coupe, a diesel model, and a hybrid version are all in store, but the turbocharged base model offering 241 horsepower and 31 miles per gallon on the highway is a legitimate contender for this award.
8. MINI 5 door / MINI 4 door Hard Top
While the Mini Coupe and Roadster have exited the scene, U.S. consumers can find a worthy replacement in the more spacious Mini 4-door Hardtop at BMW dealerships. The World Car Awards journalists like this version enough to nominate it for best debut of 2014. In the base Cooper ($21,700), 134 horses are available from the turbocharged engine. Cooper S models ($25,100) offer 189 horsepower and an impressive top speed of 145 miles per hour.
9. Nissan Qashqai
The third vehicle on this list that is unavailable in the U.S. is the Nissan Qashqai (though we know it as the Rogue), a crossover that has been nicknamed the “cash cow” for its sales success abroad. Its fuel economy, drive capabilities, and comfortable interior get very positive reviews overseas. U.K. website What Car? named it Best Small SUV for 2014 and 2015, so there is a precedent should this vehicles take home World Car of the Year honors in New York.
10. Volkswagen Passat
As with other underappreciated cars, the Volkswagen is well-received but routinely trails the pack in the sales department stateside. Its nomination here warrants yet another look at the car’s positives: it’s the only midsize sedan with an efficient diesel option in the U.S.; Passat tops the competition in rear-seat legroom; and the Tennessee-built sedan retains the positives of its German origins. Since the majority of the panel does not have the U.S. biases against the Passat’s conservative nature, this car is a legitimate contender.