Road Test Special: Which will be crowned the Car of the Year?

The final contenders have been whittled down to these seven

It's voting time for Car of the Year 2009, the Europe-wide competition to find the best new car launched in the past 12 months. Fifty-eight judges from the most influential newspapers and car magazines across 22 countries have already each given their top-seven shortlists. The final seven-strong shortlist was announced at the Paris motor show two weeks ago.

Each judge – of which there are six in the UK, including myself representing The Independent on Sunday – has 25 points to distribute between the seven cars. The UK judges met at Silverstone race circuit last Monday to sample diverse versions of the seven car ranges on the track and, more importantly, on the road. So, which one will win? Will innovation rule or will competent consistency win the day? Sometimes, an unremarkable car wins through scoring many second places.

These, then, are the seven contenders for Car of the Year 2009; four of my own nominations failed to make the cut so it's goodbye to the Jaguar XF, the Volkswagen Scirocco, the Ford Kuga and the Mazda 6. In a fortnight's time we'll know which of the seven is Car of the Year 2009.

Renault Mégane

This is a competent car, with a hi-tech digital instrument pack and pleasingly smooth, light, precise controls. Its steering is a vast leap forward from its predecessor's stodgy, anaesthetised system, and the Mégane flows over Britain's disintegrating roads with a dynamic authority. But it's not particularly quiet, and its styling is contrived and unmemorable. The old Mégane's singular looks made the roads a more interesting place. This one does not.

Volkswagen Golf

Tricky one. I put the last Golf in top slot for COTY 2004, but time moves on. The new Golf has moved on less, sharing more major components (including virtually all the understructure) than any previous Golf has with its immediate predecessor. It's quiet, civilised, pleasing if unmemorable to drive and it has an interior of class-busting quality, and it feels more than ever the mini-Mercedes. But a significant new car? No.

Citroën C5

Citroë*goes German. Only the nose and the concave rear window reveal its marque identity. Inside there's a generic Teutonic feel. But the C5 is nothing special to drive. It feels bulky; its steering is vague; the Citroë*USP of hydropneumatic suspension fails to raise ride comfort above that of cheaper steel-sprung versions. Great idea, imperfectly executed.

Vauxhall Insignia

The Insignia expunges the ghost of mediocrity that haunted its Vectra predecessor. The look, feel and quality are German, and the Insignia oozes technology in its suspension, transmission and adaptive headlights. There's little deep pleasure gained from driving it, though.

Alfa MiTo

A small(ish) car with a big personality steeped in red-blooded heritage. It works, too. The 1.4-litre turbo engine is a feisty thing; the Torque Transfer Control keeps the front wheels nailed to the cornering line, and it looks terrific. Even the steering, which I disliked at launch, has been improved. You'd enjoy owning the MiTo, and that's crucial.

Skoda Superb

Drive the Superb after driving the Insignia and C5, and you wonder where the others went wrong. The Skoda flows beautifully along British roads, always responsive, always natural. It has fabulous rear-seat space and it's very well finished. The combination bootlid and tailgate is a piece of genius that gives the Superb a USP. It's no beauty but the Skoda is great value and a great car.

Ford Fiesta

A small car ought to be fun to drive, to that end it has everything – weight, size, agility potential – on its side. The Fiesta (main picture) succeeds where many of its rivals do not, yet it has the feeling of quality and integrity expected of a bigger car. And it looks great, a faithful version of the wedge-waistlined Verve concept car. The super-frugal, free-road-tax Econetic diesel version could be all the car you'd ever need. The winner? I hope so.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas