Thirty-five automotive designers and engineers from of the Institute of Vehicle Engineers (IVehE) have selected eight winning cars from those on display at the motor show.
Cars were judged in eight main car categories and in four special categories, plus an overall Car of The Show.
Category 1: Small Cars up to £10,000
The Renault Modus, making its UK debut (if not quite its world premiere) at the NEC, was well received by the judges. They commented on its integrated modern design inside and out, and its many practical and innovative features. Close behind were the Honda Jazz and the Fiat Panda.
Category 2: Medium Cars from £10,001 to £16,000
Attracted by its fresh and original styling and its sporty interior, the judges awarded first place here to the Seat Altea. Their comments included praise for thoughtful detail design, good loadspace configuration and build quality. The cars pipped to the post were the Smart Forfour and the new Volkswagen Golf.
Category 3: Large Cars from £16,001 to £25,000
Another British Show newcomer, the Peugeot 407 gained the highest score in this sector, with the judges being particularly impressed by the high feature level and strong safety specification. They noted everything from the use of laminated glass all round to the neat employment of the ‘0’ in the 407 badge as the boot release. It beat the Saab 9-3 and the Toyota Avensis.
Category 4: Luxury Cars £25001 and over
A combination of all-round competence and Latin flair put the Maserati Quattroporte at the top of this category – it provided all the things expected of a luxury car but made the most impact on the judges, especially with its stylish interior. Following up were the Volkswagen Phaeton and its sister Audi A8.
Category 5: Sporting open cars up to £25,000
Engineer-judges who understand the special challenges of designing a good soft top car were impressed by the fine detail of the Saab 9-3 Convertible, and its well-tailored hood, putting it in first place. Also scoring well were the Vauxhall Tigra, another car making its first UK Show appearance, and the familiar Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet.
Category 6: Sports/Performance cars – unlimited price
Probably the category most agonised over, but the Bentley Continental GT just shaded the new Aston Martin DB9, with the judges citing the exceptional interior quality of the Bentley as the deciding factor. The Bentley won this category on its debut at the 2002 NEC Show, for all the same reasons – its modern interpretation of a classic theme and its craftsmanship. In a very honourable third position was the much lower-priced Mazda RX8.
Category 7: MPV unlimited price
In another close contest, the Ford C-Max took the first slot over the Renault Espace, with judgement being made on relative value for money and size. The C-Max was considered to demonstrate excellent packaging, providing good space and comfort in such a compact vehicle. Third place went to the Volkswagen Touran.
Category 8: 4×4 SUV unlimited price
The key competition here took place on the Land Rover stand, with the bold new Discovery 3 up against the Range Rover. Barely two points separated them, but the Range Rover won – it was considered an unbeatable blend of classic style, space, capability and presence. Following up strongly was the Volvo XC90.
Category 9: Environmental Award
Making a hat-trick of three awards in this category, the Toyota Prius was considered by the judges still to have no really serious competition in the field. It is hoped that other rival ‘eco-cars’ will challenge the Toyota more vigorously soon.
Category 10: Safety
Another repeat performance here, as the Volvo XC90 took the Safety prize for the second time. However Vauxhall were commended for making Advanced Front Lighting (AFL) available, the strong safety specification of the Peugeot 407 was noted, as was the Bentley Driver Academy initiative.
Category 11: Concept/Prototype
Difficult to spell, but readily appreciated by the judges was the Nissan Qashqai, a dual role compact crossover concept car. Designed in Nissan’s new London studio, and made in Britain, the Qashqai was picked out for its high quality of design and execution.
Category 12: IVehE Special Award
The IvehE Special Award is chosen on a completely free basis covering any car or other exhibit at the Show which demonstrated exceptional automotive ingenuity and skill. It is awarded to the MG ZT 260, which offers a remarkable blend of all-round performance, value and usability, as evidenced by recent critical acclaim.
Car of the Show
Selected independently by the Audit panel, with due regard to comments from all the judges, the Car of the Show is the new MINI convertible. It was considered to be a well-engineered, well-conceived version of an already successful design that will have a special resonance for a great many visitors to this Show.