With scores of new cars released each year, it can be tough to navigate the automotive landscape. That’s why the World Car Awards, administered by a Toronto-based non-profit and voted upon by 73 jurors worldwide (myself included), drives them all and decides upon the best of the pack. Here’s a look at our picks, announced last week at the New York Auto Show, across five categories: design, green, performance, luxury and overall.
Mazda won the day, taking home two awards – World Car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year – for its MX-5 Miata roadster. Its attention to detail, handling and “back-to-basics philosophy” tipped the scales against the other finalists, according to Peter Lyon, chairman of the World Car Awards. (That’s the Audi A4 sedan and Mercedes GLC compact crossover for World Car of the Year, and the Jaguar XE sedan as well as Mazda’s CX-3 subcompact crossover for the World Car Design of the Year title.) “There isn’t one aspect in which this new fourth-generation MX-5 fails to surpass its predecessor,” Lyon said. “It’s shorter, lighter, more spacious and better laid out. Its fresher, sharper-looking styling takes the coupe in a whole new direction. It’s faster, more economical and even more engaging to drive than before.”
Toyota claimed World Green Car for its Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell sedan, beating the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota’s own Prius hybrid mainstay. Lyon called the Mirai “a breakthrough achievement” that’s likely to influence competitors’ electric car strategy. “World Car judges commented that the beauty of this car is that it drives like any standard gasoline or diesel powered sedan — in that it is smooth, delivers ample power, comfortable, hi-tech, reliable, practical and economical,” he said.
Audi’s R8 coupe took the title of World Performance Car, a category that included the Honda Civic Type R and Mercedes AMG C63 coupe as finalists. Jurors raved about the V10 engine’s power and seven-speed twin clutch gearbox married to Audi’s updated Quattro four-wheel drive system, Lyon said. “Audi’s R&D department has taken a great supercar and taken it to the next level,” said Lyon. “Audi has engineered a little kick in the back to make the full-throttle driving experience that much more visceral. The coupe also gets a lot more high-tech gizmos but retains it everyday supercar tag.”
The World Luxury Car award went to the BMW 7-seriessedan, edging out the Audi Q7 full-size crossover and Volvo XC90 mid-size crossover. What’s more, the 7-series’ “space-age” technology such as laser lights and ambient air control is likely to trickle down to the next 3- and 5-series sedans, too. “Apart from the smooth and relaxing manner in which the sedan covers the ground, jurors gave high marks for the car’s impressive level of in-car technology, which includes navigation, night vision cameras, autonomous parking, four-zone climate control and gesture control,” Lyon said.