Ten of the best at The Irish Car of the Year Awards

It’s that time of year again with awards ceremonies aplenty. On Sunday Belfast hosted the MTV awards and shortly this month on November 17 to be precise the Dublin Convention Centre will play host to the annual Irish Car Of The Year Award 2012, which is sponsored by Continental tyres.

It’s that time of year again with awards ceremonies aplenty. On Sunday Belfast hosted the MTV awards and shortly this month on November 17 to be precise the Dublin Convention Centre will play host to the annual Irish Car Of The Year Award 2012, which is sponsored by Continental tyres.

Road Tested By Hugh Maguire

Each year myself and my colleagues in the Irish Motoring Writers Association (IMWA) form the jury on these esteemed awards. Having spent the year road testing and reviewing the new cars that have come to our shores we finally vote on the cars we feel have made the most advances in areas such as safety, economy, comfort, value for money, performance, specification, style, technological advances and so forth.

Well, the first round of votes is in and the IMWA have now shortlisted ten cars, one of which will become the Continental Irish Car Of The Year. The results of our final ballot will not be known until that gala ceremony in Dublin on November 17, so what is in the mix this year?

The ten finalists are, in alphabetical order:

Ford C-Max

Ford Focus

Honda CRZ

Hyundai i40

Kia Picanto

Kia Rio

Mercedes Benz C Class Coupe

Mercedes Benz SLK

Peugeot 508

Range Rover Evoque

The unusual thing in this year’s awards is that no less than three manufacturers, namely Ford, Kia and Mercedes have not one but two models that have made it to the shortlist of ten cars. The IMWA have just had a refresher day where the shortlist of ten cars could be driven again to, well refresh one’s mind as to what each person feels will be the car they vote for.

I for one will find it a difficult choice this year. All the shortlisted cars are very good in their own segment. From the top of the list let’s take a brief look at each car.

The new Ford Focus builds on what we all had known was previously a very good car. Excellent features such as auto start/stop, active park assist (where the car can actually park itself, you just control the accelerator and brake, it does the steering for you!), and a host of other technologies make the new Focus a family car with goodies previously only seen on luxury models. The Ford C Max offers the same engineering but in an even more family oriented MPV type package.

Honda’s CRZ is a fantastic little sports coupe that proves very high tech thanks to its Hybrid technology. It is very stylish looking, fun to drive yet frugal and well equipped.

The Koreans do well in this shortlist, a sign of their coming of age really! The excellent new i40 Tourer is a huge leap forward in almost every way for Hyundai. Here is a car that can truly rival the best from market leaders such as Toyota and Ford.

The i40 looks like a car twice its price and I am sure will make great inroads into the competitive family and business segment.

Another Korean manufacturer Kia have two cars here, the lovely little Picanto, a truly superb town or city car that is nimble, costs virtually nothing to run, and proves practical too, and the new Rio. The Rio is already creating a stir with its dashing good looks, space, practicality, comfort and high specification, in a car nearly the size of a VW Golf but at VW Polo prices!

The two Mercedes cars in this year’s shortlist are in the sports coupe and cabriolet segment, cars bought for their driving dynamics and pleasure rather than practicalities.

The C Class coupe is a very fine luxury four seat coupe as one would expect from Mercedes, while the new SLK looks so much more muscular and purposeful than its predecessor, boasting unique features such as a hot “AirScarf “ which blows warm air about the two occupants neck area to keep you cosy when the top’s down ... nice that!

Peugeot’s new 508 replaces the 507 and here the French manufacturer has scored a bullseye with a very fine car indeed. The new style could be mistaken for one of the solid looking Teutonic brands. The new 508 is lovely to drive, has a great selection of trims and engines, not to mention the excellent HDi diesels and is well priced.

If ever a car turned heads while I was testing it this year it has to be the Range Rover Evoque. Here is a car that started out as a concept vehicle, got such a good response that Range Rover produced it and boy what a looker. It’s radical bold lines make it stand out from the crowd. No other car I have driven this year created such a stir. I would return to it to find people standing around looking in awe at its curves and lines. Even a Dublin bus driver rolled down his window to ask about the Evoque as we sat in city traffic. The Evoque is not just a pretty face though. With true Land Rover underpinnings its full time four wheel drive (a two wheel drive will follow) and the lovely 2.2 diesel engine, along with of course sumptuous leather interiors make it a real off roader if that’s where you want to go!

So as you can see, a difficult choice. There are awards for different categories too, but which car will be this year’s Continental Irish Car Of The Year 2012?

Well which one would you pick?