On April 17, at the New York International Auto Show, the winner of the World Car of the Year will be bestowed with the honor after a jury of 69 individuals from the automotive world weigh in on what car they believe is most significant for 2014. It’s the eighth year of the parallel between the World Car Awards and the New York Auto Show that, “Has seen the awards program grow to become the recognized number 1 premier automotive award,” the WCA’s press statement said.
The finalists in the World Car of the Year — listed below — and the World Luxury Car and World Performance Car categories will be chosen by secret ballot, based on the jurors’ “experience with each candidate as part of their professional work.” The jurying panel is made up of automotive journalists from around the world.
1. Audi A3
Audi (VLKAY.PK) let its U.S. A3 lineup get a bit dated, but its back for 2015, and seemingly better than ever. New for the U.S. is the sedan format (we’ve only had the hatchback so far), and with a slew of trim options from the S3 to the frugal TDI clean diesel, the A3 almost guarantees the right fit for anyone shopping in the entry-level luxury market.
2. BMW 4 Series
Newly split from the 3 Series, BMW gave the coupes a nameplate of their own. The 3 Series has long been a standard setter in its segment, offering perhaps the best all-around performance out of its competitors, and the newly minted 4 Series doesn’t seem to be any different. With a convertible and new M4 on their way, BMW is renewing its efforts to stay on top of the luxury industry, helped by a great-looking, though slightly vexing 4 Series Gran Coupe.
3. BMW i3
BMW’s i3 electric car plays a rather important role. While Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) shot for the high-end electric vehicle market, BMW looked to cap it at the other end. Though it’s still a pricey car — commanding over $41,000 — it’s about half of a well-equipped Tesla, and it’s also BMW’s first real shot at an all-electric vehicle. The company says there is robust demand for the i3 in Europe, and the compact will make its way Stateside in the Spring.
4. Cadillac CTS
The Cadillac (NYSE:GM) CTS is a leading factor in Cadillac’s renewed fight for market share in the luxury segment, and has been winning the affections of many as a true competitor to the likes of BMW and Mercedes. It already cleaned up at Motor Trend‘s 2013 Car of the Year awards, and is now aiming for global domination with another trophy for its mantle.
5. Citroen C4 Picasso
The Citroen C4 Picasso — the more family friendly version of Citroen’s compact C4 — has been thoroughly redesigned for 2014, and certainly offers one of the more unique takes on a practical vehicle. Citroen has a proud history of quirky vehicles including the 2CV (or “Deux Chevaux”), and that history is apparent in the newest C4. Sadly, it’s not available here in the U.S.
6. Ford Fusion/Mondeo
Ford’s (NYSE:F) Fusion — or Mondeo, in international markets — has been making waves since it debuted, and set a new standard for aggressive, sporty appearance in what used to be the dreary, dull midsize sedan market. It’s available in a variety of trims, including a plug-in hybrid version, or the 47 mile per gallon standard hybrid. If you’re wary of the hybrid systems, though, Ford offers a generous slate of conventional options, from the 1.5 liter EcoBoost to the 2.5 liter Duratec inline-four.
7. Infiniti Q50
Infiniti had big shoes to fill left vacant by its G37, but the Q50 seems adequately prepared to do so. At its heart is a 328 horsepower 3.7 liter V6, and new, sleek sheet metal make the Infiniti look like a far more serious contender in the global luxury segment. It also features Infiniti’s drive-by-wire steering technology, which replaces the mechanical linkages with digital controls, allowing the drivers to choose their steering preferences from a number of different options.
8. Jeep Cherokee
Its looks aren’t for everyone — and it certainly represents a departure from what Jeep fans formerly knew as the Cherokee — but the new Jeep is proving to be one of Jeep’s best sellers, and offers an entry-level option for those who don’t need or want to jump to the full-size Grand Cherokee. Further, the Cherokee — when properly equipped — comes loaded with technology and toys, and a far more refined interior than many would expect from the brand that was built on the Wrangler.
9. Lexus IS
The Lexus (NYSE:TM) IS is the new face for the brand’s entry-level offerings, and represents an apex of the company’s new design language moving forward. The swooping body lines, hooked headlights, hourglass grille, and aggressive from fascia are all styling cues that define the new Lexus range, and the IS is a perfect showcase for them. Engine options include a 204 horsepower-four, or the more potent 306 horsepower V6.
Mazda’s new lineup of vehicles have been winning critics over since their release, and the Mazda3 is no different. The compact is available in both hatchback (shown) or sedan formats, but both are powered by a 155 horsepower SKYACTIV 2.0 four-cylinder engine at base, with an option to upgrade to a 2.5 liter four (to some slight detriment of its impressive fuel economy.)
11. Peugeot 308
The Peugeot 308 is the French company’s answer to the four-door VW Golf, and can apparently return as much as 75 miles per gallon combined on the U.S. cycle (91.1 miles on the Imperial cycle) thanks to its super-frugal 1.6 liter diesel engine. It’s also 140 kilos (about 308 pounds) lighter than its predecessor, helping it become more efficient, handle better, and improve performance.
12. Skoda Octavia
We don’t have the Skoda brand here in the U.S., but the Czech-based company falls under Volkswagen’s umbrella of brands as an alternative to the VW nameplate as an entry-level brand. The Skoda Octavia is available in wagon or sedan forms, and is about the size of VW’s Passat.