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Phil McNamara (United Kingdom)

My judgement is based on following grounds:

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo’s skunkworks has engineered an impressively light, stiff rear-drive car that’s great to drive: the front end’s responsive, the suspension grippy but compliant, the engines punchy. The spacious Giulia also boasts the shortlist’s best NCAP occupant safety. But the infotainment and tech are competent rather than leading-edge: while this is a triumph for Alfa and car enthusiasts, it doesn’t look like a game-changer for the wider car world.

 

Citroën C3

Citroën’s C3 is a one-trick pony, but with a top trick: it prioritises comfort and refinement like no other supermini. The C3 filters out wind and road noise better than the Micra, but its soft, bobbing ride won’t suit everyone. The cheeky design has bags of charm, the range is uncomplicated and good value, Flair trim’s accident-recording dashcam is a useful innovation. You might need it: there’s no auto braking.

 

Mercedes Clase E

Driving a modestly specced Mercedes E220d SE on the punishing roads encircling Silverstone Circuit emphatically shows the E-class’s breadth of ability. A supple ride, communicative chassis, linear steering, splendid refinement, the E220d is great to drive fast or cruise calmly. Four-cylinder diesel NVH remains a small bugbear, but its impressive 72.4mpg helps make the spacious, safe Merc good value to own, along with strong residual values to deliver a £349 monthly lease for this SE (£5995 deposit). Standard SE spec is fine – lowered, comfort suspension, reversing camera, keyless go, Parktronic – though it costs £1990 to upgrade to the majestic widescreen displays/Comand. The E-class is an imperious limousine, and my Car of the Year.

 

Nissan Micra

The reborn Micra is sophisticated, with a Volvo’s worth of standard safety kit and a supermini first in lane departure prevention. Every chassis gets clever braking to sharpen turn-in and a ride-smoothing system, and it’s more fun and composed to drive than the Citroën. List prices start £2800 above the C3’s; options and lease deposits look slightly dearer too. Eager-driving downsizers go Nissan, cruisers go Citroën.

 

Peugeot 3008

Buyers love crossovers, and Peugeot’s 3008 stands out with a cockpit you would relish every day. The swoopy dash looks fresh, materials such as the fabric inserts are imaginative, and the i-Cockpit HMI (standard in UK) with customisable instruments would enhance some premium cars. I like the direct, arcade game steering, fuel economy is competitive, and the zesty three-cylinder performs fine in this light car.

 

Toyota C-HR

Toyota is terribly late with its Qashqai-rivalling crossover, but with a party suit so sharply creased it could cut you. Rear visibility pays for those handle-less coupe looks though. Neither powertrain musters much grunt, but the novel hybrid delivers on urban air quality (87g/km of CO2). And the C-HR is another dynamically engaging Toyota, thanks to its safe GA-C platform with sporty double wishbone rear suspension.

 

Volvo S90/V90

Volvo’s handsome and classy S90 saloon/V90 estate has impressive aspects: its innovative use of compressed air to tackle diesel turbo lag, the five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and one of the most natural and intuitive piloted cruise controls as standard. But dynamically it’s stodgy, and ride and refinement levels suffer on UK roads: there’s a better executive car on this list.