Volkswagen’s Passat is the 2015 Car of the Year. A jury of 58 motoring journalists from 22 countries anointed the VW top dog from a seven-strong shortlist, which also included the BMW 2-series Active Tourer, Citroën C4 Cactus, Ford Mondeo, Mercedes C-class, Nissan Qashqai and Renault Twingo.
Each juror has 25 points to split among the shortlisted seven, with the Passat racking up 340 points in total. That was almost 100 points clear of the second-placed Citroën C4 Cactus which landed 248 points, while the Mercedes C-class came in third with 221 points.
CAR has two jurors on the shortlist, Phil McNamara and Georg Kacher, who both nominated the C4 Cactus as their favourite, giving it six points. But the Car of the Year approach, asking jurors to spread 25 points among the contenders rather than just pick one outright winner, means a consistently scoring car with broad international appeal tends to come through the pack to gain victory.
How the editor of CAR voted
McNamara gave the Passat four points – the same as the Mondeo. Part of his verdict read: ‘Buyers have shifted from saloons to crossovers, but the new Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat attempt to fight back. The Mondeo is the most fun dynamically: drive it hard on our demanding test routes, and its body control, ride quality and responsive controls are exceptional. It’s a very refined motorway car, and the punchy 1.5-litre Ecoboost is great, but the drab, cheap-feeling cockpit is a real letdown.
‘The Passat reeks of quality engineering throughout: it’s a little lighter than the Mondeo, its cabin feels very special, and its sophisticated technology delivers for the consumer: self-driving in traffic jams, automated piloting if the driver is incapacitated, forthcoming active binnacle, and world first trailer assist. If you could combine the Passat’s quality and tech with the Mondeo’s chassis, you’d have an ideal (if trad) car to stem the crossover exodus.
‘But my winner is the Citroën C4 Cactus. It eschews the complex tech of its peers, making a virtue of simplicity to minimise weight and cost, for the consumer’s benefit. So mpg and CO2 figures are impressive. It’s compact but has decent cabin space. The exterior design is handsome, and the interior design peppered with delightful touches, from the asymmetric vents to the cloth grab handles to the gearbox lever.
‘Citroëns often flop in our dynamic assessments, but the controls, peppy 1.2-litre triple, ride and steering are a step forward for the brand. The good value Citroën is brimming with feelgood factor, and it’s my Car of the Year.’
Volkswagen’s strong record in Car of the Year
But that’s one person’s opinion: 57 other voters ensured the Volkswagen won by a comfortable margin. The Passat’s victory means Volkswagen’s three core current models, the Polo in 2010 and the Golf in 2013, have all won Car of the Year.
The award has a long heritage: it dates back to 1964, when the Rover 2000 scooped the first win. ‘It’s the most prestigious award in the automotive industry,’ said CotY president Hakan Matson. ‘Our voting is totally transparent: all the points and the jurors’ verdicts are published on our website.’