The Irish Times

Toyota Yaris named Europe’s Car of the Year

The supermini’s victory is partly down to rave reviews for its rally-inspired GR version

- Michael McAleer Email motors@irishtimes.com Motoring Editor

The new Toyota Yaris has been named Europe’s Car of the Year 2021. The popular supermini saw off competitio­n from the new Skoda Octavia, VW ID.3 and all-electric Fiat 500. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, the awards process proved extremely challengin­g, particular­ly for journalist­s to adequately test the new cars.

However, after testing each of the finalists at various stages and operating within the national Covid-19 restrictio­ns in different countries, each of the 59 jury members across 22 countries got to allocate 25 points across the seven finalists, with a maximum of 10 points for any one car.

The result saw the Yaris secure 266 votes, ahead of the new Fiat 500 with 240, the Cupra Formentor with 239, VW’s ID.3 with 224, the Skoda Octavia with 199, Land Rover Defender with 164 and the new Citroen C4 with 143.

The Yaris’s victory was partly down to the company’s widely acclaimed GR rally-inspired version of the car. While the regular Yaris is sold as a fuel-efficient eco-friendly small car, favoured by Irish buyers for its petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, the GR harks back to the days when car producers built road-going versions of their rally cars.

The Yaris GR scored five stars in its road test with The Irish Times and has received similar accolades from motoring journalist­s across the globe.

As one of the jury members, my top score went to the Volkswagen ID.3. Here is how I scored the final seven and why.

VW ID.3 – 7 points

In the face of a tech revolution, some carmakers are seeking succour with retro styling and reviving past model names. Yet VW has been brave enough to face the new age with a completely new model. Not only that, but VW has overhauled its entire production process to fit the ethos of the new era and is investing heavily in advancing every area, from over-the-air updates to battery tech. The carbon-neutral production process at a factory that relies entirely on renewable sources of energy is to be commended. The company is walking the walk.

The end product is a car that’s not without flaws, but those that exist are niggling issues – such as lagging software response, infuriatin­g touch-button controls, or a lack of smarter stowage solutions for the power cable – not deal breakers.

The ID.3 is a seriously spacious, well-built family car that offers GTi performanc­e on the straights and commendabl­e cornering ability when you consider the battery weight. The weight distributi­on is spot on, the decision to set it up as rear-wheel drive means the front wheels can focus on steering, while the torque is delivered much smoother than jerking electric rivals. Pitted against similar-sized electric offerings, it wins on all counts, including price.

The fact the ID.3 heralds a new family of electric vehicles from VW suggests Wolfsburg is ready for this new era in motoring.

Skoda Octavia – 5 points

The strong silent type on this shortlist, this Skoda delivers quality finish and refinement, a mix of power options and all at a competitiv­e price. Mainstream car buyers may be flocking to crossovers, but for those who still opt for saloons and estates, this car deserves to be on every shortlist. Where it makes trade-offs in the name of practicali­ty or cost compared to its cousins in the VW Group, they are always rationally justified. When you see past the marketing hype from rivals, it’s easy to understand why so many motorists continue to opt for Octavia.

Fiat 500 – 4 points

Fiat has returned to the retro route with its foray into the all-electric world. And why not, when you have a car that’s this cute. The latest version moves the dial in terms of quality perception as well, with a lot better finish than we’ve seen from Fiat in many years. The delivery of electric power its well-engineered as well.

Rear space is still very limited and anyone over single digits in age is going to gripe. As a stylish city car, though, this is nimble, nifty and really nice to drive. It’s also surprising­ly composed on more trying national roads.

Cupra Formentor – 3 points

You can look at this car in two ways: an expensive Seat or an inexpensiv­e Audi or Porsche. Either way it’s a great looking car that mixes hot-hatch performanc­e with crossover appeal. It probably does enough to warrant the extra spend over a Seat, while it looks like good value when viewed from the premium heights of VW Group’s more expensive brands. Buyers may tire, however, of being an ambassador for the new brand and having to explain their purchase to every passer-by.

Toyota Yaris – 3 points

This car has me in a quandary. The GR version is the best car I’ve driven all year – one of the most fun cars in many years in fact. As for the regular Yaris supermini, the new platform delivers sharp handling in a tidy package and low emissions, but there are points with the interior where it doesn’t match rivals, such as last year’s Car of the Year, the Peugeot 208. If the GR was a standalone model, however, it deserved to win car of the year on its own.

Citroen C4 – 2 points

On paper this car made no sense: neither a hatchback nor a crossover and from certain angles a bit bland compared to the more radical styling Citroen has adopted of late. In the metal, however, it’s a styling success. Combine the looks, family space and electric power, this has the makings of a much-needed hit for the French brand. Comfort is at the heart of the brand’s heritage and current sales pitch, but the new C4 doesn’t quite deliver the cloud-like ride I expected. In return it handles better than I feared, but I would have been more impressed if it took a more fundamenta­list approach on the comfort front. The auto transmissi­on on diesel version is much better than in the past.

Land Rover Defender – 1 point

It’s a monumental task to take such a landmark model and make it relevant for the 21st century. Land Rover addressed the two biggest flaws with the old Defender: dreadful on-road driving and an interior that harked back to the turn of the last century.

It has pulled off a masterstro­ke in modernisin­g this motoring legend, yet retaining its key off-road characteri­stics. The greatest flaw in the plan is the price, which has caused many loyal Defender fans to take fright. While it will capture a new wealthier audience, few of these will use the car to its true potential, while those that can – and need to – are now abandoned by the brand.

ACROSS

8 Bails CIA out of the big church (8)

9 Imperial weights (6)

10 ... emptor, let the buyer beware (6)

11 Not one of the first three (8) 12 Marine mollusc (6) 13 Supplement­ary material at

the back (8)

15 Soft creamy cheese (4) 17 West Indian song (7)

19 Bony wall of the chest (3,4) 22 Poses for a painter (4) 24 Cell fragment in the blood,

important for clotting (8) 27 Bulbous vegetables (6) 29 Particular to an individual

(8)

30 Have an impact on (6) 31 Bear witness (6)

32 Stopping here is not allowed

for motorists (8)

DOWN

1 Yellow bird (6)

2 Without delay or deviation (8)

3 Upsets or stirs up (8) 4 Traditiona­l Japanese warrior (7) 5 Informal interviews with members of the public, in short (3,3)

6 To no avail (2,4) 7 Moving slowly back, hair perhaps (8) 14 Impudent or cheeky (4)

16 “a .../By any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet) (4) 18 Diseases or disorders (8) 20 Remote, set apart (8) 21 French hairstyle (8) 23 Letters slanted to the right (7)

25 Hanging bunch of threads (6)

26 From end to end (6) 28 Drink of the gods (6)

 ??  ?? ToyotaYari­s ........................... 3points ......................... 5points
ToyotaYari­s ........................... 3points ......................... 5points
 ??  ?? VWID.3 ................................... 7points
Cupra Formentor ...................... 3 points
VWID.3 ................................... 7points Cupra Formentor ...................... 3 points
 ??  ?? CitroenC4
................................. 2points
CitroenC4 ................................. 2points
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? SkodaOctav­ia
Fiat 500 ..................................... 4 points
SkodaOctav­ia Fiat 500 ..................................... 4 points
 ??  ?? LandRoverD­efender ................. 1point
LandRoverD­efender ................. 1point
 ??  ??

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