The Geneva International Motor Show will open its doors for the eighty-fourth time in over 100 years of history in March 2014. During the festivities, a panel of 58 auto journalists from 22 different countries will choose a Car of the Year. To qualify, the car had to be launched in 2013 and sell over 5,000 units on the year. Of the 30 entrants that qualified, the judges narrowed down the list to 7 automobiles.
At a glance, the list is Euro-centric and skewed toward fuel economy and performance in a stylish package. From the finalists, judges will choose from two electric vehicles as well as family-friendly autos and performance cars. The jury will test each automobile over the course of several weeks leading up the announcement of the winner. Here are the seven cars vying for Car of the Year honors at the Geneva International Motor Show of 2014.
1. Peugeot 308
What does a Peugeot 308 have that other 2013 debuts don’t? On top of the slick front grille and chrome trim, the different 308 models — such as the 308 CC pictured — are lighter and more responsive than previous iterations from the automaker. As a result, reviewers are giving Peugeot very high marks for what is a fun-to-drive vehicle with low emissions, considering the zip available in its three engine options.
Diesel models are arriving later in 2014 to compliment the gasoline-powered vehicles that have earned Peugeot a place in the final circle. If the 308 wins, it will put the spotlight on an automaker that has been all but forgotten in the United States. The competition is stiff.
2. BMW i3
One of two electric vehicles making it into the final seven up for Car of the Year honors, the BMW i3 is a unique entry indeed. Sporting a carbon fiber body made at a fully sustainable plant in the state of Washington, the i3 is the first all-electric vehicle from the world’s top luxury automaker. It can top 80 miles on pure electric power and go from 0-62 in 7.2 seconds using 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. A range-extending gas engine is available.
Since the first appearance of this green city car, critics have been debating whether the i3 counts as one of BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machines.” Industry figures as prominent as Tesla CEO Elon Musk have publicly dissed the i3. The chief critique seems to be the i3′s size and style. Does the i3 look like a BMW? Perhaps not. BMW believes the luxury consumer out for high style and performance will go for the much sexier (and pricier) i8. The i8 supercar will list at $135,000. BMW’s i3 is based in reality at approximately $45,000.
Mazda has been in the finalist’s circle for several automotive awards for its innovative Mazda3. In the 2014 North American Car of the Year vote, GM’s 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray edged the Mazda3 by a count of 211 votes to 185. In the meantime, the Mazda3 clubbed the Motor Trend Car of the Year — the Cadillac CTS — by 185 votes to 94 for the Caddy.
The jury at Geneva will decide if the Mazda3 deserves redemption. In a quick survey of its highlights, its impressive 41 highway mpg and responsive drive characteristics (155 hp/150 lb-ft or torque) put it on par with the Peugeot 308. Efficiency and performance are certainly prized by the Geneva judges, putting the Mazda3 in position to add another feather to its cap.
4. Citroen C4 Picasso
Thrown into the mix at the Geneva International Motor Show is the family-friendly Citroen C4 Picasso. The Geneva jury plucked this Euro compact car and kid-hauler that comes in 11 different versions as a finalist based on the practicality, efficiency, and comfort levels of each. The UK’s Carbuyer.co lauded the C4 Picasso for its comfy, cheap, quick-running style.
The auto website also liked the low emissions of the C4 Picasso, though it said, “Hey, it’s no Ford C-Max” when it comes to drivability. Consider the Citroen C4 Picasso a long shot to win 2014 Car of the Year in Geneva.
5. Tesla Model S
It’s hard to say how much Elon Musk would like his Tesla Model S to beat out the BMW i3 in a head-to-head competition, but it’s easy to imagine it’s considerable. Most critics and drivers agree that the Tesla is superior in every aspect other than the sustainability model and price point, which the BMW i3 has over the Model S hands down.
Don’t put the two in a race for either endurance or performance. The base Model S surges from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds using 302 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque in the base 60 kWh model ($71,070). This model also features more than double the range of the BMW i3. Tesla’s Model S gets an EPA-estimated 208 miles on a full charge, while the actual range may go as far as 230 miles. The 85 kWh model pushes these specs to another dimension; then the Performance 85 kWh Model S pushes them into yet another dimension.
6. Skoda Octavia
The world’s top automaker may not have a finalist for Car of the Year at the 2014 Geneva International Motor Show, but second-place Volkswagen has the Skoda Octavia up for the honor. The Skoda brand does not sell in the United States, but the European brand has a number of advantages over its parent company in terms of exterior styling — especially in the Octavia RS trim.
In addition to the impressive exterior and high-grade safety features, the Skoda Octavia base model offers 99 g/km in emissions, which is the equivalent of a three-cylinder 1.0-liter EcoBoost Ford Focus. That’s a very efficient engine for such a stylish sedan.
7. Mercedes Benz S Class
From the epic cruiser that is the Mercedes Benz S550 Sedan to the sleek and relentless S Class Coupe ready to debut, there is no shortage of incredible automobiles coming out of the German automaker’s top-shelf lineup. Unlike most of the vehicles up for Car of the Year honors in Geneva, the Mercedes S Class does not offer efficiency, practicality, or shamefulness on any level.
Instead, the Mercedes S Class is made to wow automobile lovers with pure thrills for drivers and sumptuous rides for passengers. The S550 Coupe set to replace the CL will appear in the United States with a 4.7-liter bi-turbo V8 capable of 449 horsepower. That’s the same engine inside the S550 Sedan that goes from 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, gets 17 city mpg, and will represent Mercedes in the Car of the Year competition at Geneva.