Renault Clio wins Car of the Year! The Bollinger must have popped in Boulogne-Billancourt, site of Renault's world headquarters. Dealers throughout Europe prepared for the customer stampede! Clio sales will boom!

Except that the Toyota Aygo and Bugatti Veyron have also - jointly - just won Car of the Year. Those chipper lads from Top Gear. have just told me so. The Suzuki Swift is also Car of the Year, according to the new issue of Car magazine. Ford, only five months before, won Car of the Year (awarded by Auto Express) for its latest Focus. And it wasn't much earlier that Land Rover was celebrating its new Discovery 3 winning Car of the Year (What Car? blazed that on its cover).

A news release has also hit my desk saying the new Honda Civic has been voted Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine in America. Oh, and Aston Martin won Car of the Year (Robb Report) with its DB9. Scottish readers will know that the Car of the Year, recently announced, is the new BMW 3-series. Other Cars of the Year include Mazda's MX-5 (Japanese Car of the Year) and Chrysler 300C (North American Car of the Year). The reigning World Car of the Year is the Audi A6, surely the supreme accolade?

So there we have it. If you want to buy the current Car of the Year - hereafter COTY, for short - you have a choice of at least 12 cars. Not including Supermini of the Year, Family COTY, Diesel COTY, MPV of the Year, SUV of the Year, Estate COTY, Convertible of the Year, Executive COTY, Luxury COTY, Fleet COTY, Track COTY, Tow COTY and Chauffeur COTY (the Audi A8, incidentally). And as if we need another one, there is soon to be a Harrogate Advertiser COTY.

Perhaps we require a COTY award for the best COTY award?

The European COTY, for which Renault just picked up the trophy for the new Clio, is the oldest COTY award in Europe. It has been running since 1964 when - how things change! - the winner was the Rover 2000. The award is now judged by 58 motoring journalists, 56 of whom are men, from 22 countries. Being European, it is clearly a more relevant award to British buyers than the North American or Japanese COTY.

Or is it? Only six of the 58 judges are British. Do we really care what Turks, Czechs, Greeks, Poles and Hungarians and Russians think about the latest new cars? Their opinions have as much relevance to us as Vladimir Putin's views on saving the Routemaster bus or Lech Walesa's judgment on congestion charging. (The UK judges' choice was the new BMW 3-series. Every British judge put it ahead of the Clio.)

The COTY awards given by the UK's big four motoring magazines (What Car?, Top Gear, Car and Auto Express) are all UK-specific. What Car? is a sensible-shoes magazine aimed at Mr and Mrs Average Car Buyer. Yet, sometimes, its choice is eccentric. Reigning COTY, the Land Rover Discovery 3, is a much-praised vehicle. But at £30,000 - and a 4x4 - it's not exactly mass market. On the other hand, Car - which typically writes about far more premium vehicles than What Car? - has given its award to a humble £8,000 hatchback.

Top Gear often chooses quirky cars. Previous winners include the oddball Fiat Multipla MPV and the Nissan 350Z sports car. This year's co-winner, the Bugatti Veyron, does 250mph and costs £840,000. Great for the show's driver, "The Stig", not so good for Sainsbury's.

So which COTY award should we ignore? Which should we respect? All of them. And none of them. COTY awards are as ubiquitous, as fabulous and as flawed, as Book of the Year, Actor of the Year, Magazine of the Year, Dog Breeder of the Year and Newspaper of the Year prizes. It's interesting to see who wins. Just don't take it too seriously.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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