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Car of the Year 2021 – These were the ten first ever winners

Car of the Year 2021 election

In the Car of the Year 2021 election, automotive journalists from more than twenty European countries will discuss last year’s automotive debutants. In their election matters such as design, comfort, safety, economy, ease of use, environmental aspects and value for money an important role. That has yielded a lot of predictable winners in the past decades, but we also see a number of surprising Cars of the Year in the now long line. A dive into the first decade of the most famous European new car title fight.

1964 – Rover 2000


We have already mentioned it: the first Car of the Year came from Great Britain. Just like the electric Jaguar I-Pace, which took the victory this year. The 1964 winner was the Rover 2000, also known as the Rover P6, of which a number of engine variants appeared later. The design of the new Rover was fairly traditional, but under the skin the Brit had a lot of beautiful technology in-house. The Rover P6 also won many points in the safety field.

1965 – Austin 1800


A year later, the jury awarded victory to the Austin 1800, in fact a highly stretched Mini, giving this Issigonis creation an incredibly spacious interior.

1966 – Renault 16


In 1966 it was again a front-wheel drive mid-size car that took home the trophy: the Renault 16. In addition to plenty of space and comfort, the large Renault also offered a fifth door, unique in this segment at the time.

1967 – Fiat 124


The 1967 winner was a lot more conservative: the Fiat 124. It was a box-like four-door sedan, with rear-wheel drive and few technical highlights. Nevertheless, this Fiat had a long life. Until 2006, the model in Togliatti, Russia, left the production line as Lada. Even as a Seat, the basic concept of the Fiat 124 lasted a very long time.

1968 – NSU Ro 80


After the somewhat dim Fiat 124, it was the turn of a revolutionary car in 1968: the NSU Ro 80. The smooth, streamlined design, the compact, vibration-free rotary engine and the semi-automatic transmission appealed to the imagination. Unfortunately, the NSU Ro 80 was plagued by many motor problems, which turned this German revolutionary into a flop.

1969 – Peugeot 504


With the 1969 winner, the Peugeot 504, the jury particularly praised the design, comfort, road holding and beautiful rear suspension. It was the start of a long and glorious career for this French limousine.

1970 – Fiat 128


The Fiat 128 may have the same angular design as the Fiat 124, but underneath it was much more modern. Following the Autobianchi Primula, the Fiat 128 had a transverse engine and front-wheel drive. Only a large third or fifth door, like the Primula had, was still a bridge too far for Fiat. Still, the Car of the Year jury found the car innovative enough to award it the 1970 election.

1971 – Citroën GS


Front-wheel drive was hot in the early 1970s. But that was by no means all that the 1971 Car of the Year had to offer. Due to its hydropneumatic suspension, the compact Citroën GS offered the same flying carpet experience as the large Citroën DS, and the compact air-cooled boxer engines were economical and low-maintenance. And brakes did the light GS best, thanks to its four disc brakes all round.

1972 – Fiat 127


In 1972, victory went to Fiat again, this time to the 127. This front-wheel drive was a size smaller than the 128 and its design made it very suitable for a hatchback body. Nevertheless, the Fiat 127 was only available with a third door a year after its introduction.

1973 – Audi 80


Only in the tenth year of the election does the trophy go back to a German car. The winner is an apparently quite conservative sedan: the Audi 80. Still, it is an important car. A year later, Volkswagen presented its front-wheel drive Passat, a car that was almost identical to the Audi 80 under the skin. The Audi had an indirect impact on the survival of Volkswagen, which had tarried for too long on the hopelessly outdated Volkswagen Beetle.

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