For the third time since the Japan Car of the Year Awards began in 1980, a model from a non-Japanese brand has won the overall title again. For the 2013-2014 award, it was the Volkswagen Golf 7, the first time a non-Japanese car had won and then last year, it was the Volvo XC 60 and this year, it’s a Volvo again – the XC 40.

The judging panel considered 29 nominees which were shortlisted to 10 finalists that were presented as the 10 Best Cars of the Year.

However, Subaru Corporation withdrew its model from the finalists list (the first time in the history of the awards program such a request was made) and the reason given was related to the carmaker’s announcement (in October 2017) of ‘inappropriate procedures’ during quality inspections at its factory.

In choosing the XC 40, the judges said that it has a casual and sporty styling with a size just right for Japanese road environment. “The interior is high quality Scandinavian design and storage space is also substantial with high functionality. The driving feel is sporty yet comfortable and we also appreciate the fact that Volvo has provided many advanced safety systems and features as standard,” the panel’s statement said.

Of the three other non-Japanese models among the finalists, the Volkswagen Polo was third while the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and BMW X2 were seventh and eighth, respectively.

The highest scoring Japanese model was the new Toyota Corolla Sport (above), a descendant of the car that started the motorisation of Japan when it was launched in 1966. The latest generation, launched in Japan in June is described as a ‘first-generation connected car which offers a brand new relationship between people and cars’.

Toyota GAZOO Racing received a special award for bringing Toyota its first Le Mans win.

Special awards were also given to the Honda Clarity PHEV, BMW X2, Daihatsu Mira Tocot and Honda N Van. The Executive Committee Special Award went to TOYOTA GAZOO Racing for bringing Toyota its first-ever victory at the Le Mans 24-Hour race this year.

PAST WINNERS
1980 – 1981: Mazda Familia (323)
1981 – 1982: Toyota Soarer
1982 – 1983: Mazda Capella (626)
1983 – 1984: Honda Civic
1984 – 1985: Toyota MR2
1985 – 1986: Honda Accord
1986 – 1987: Nissan Pulsar
1987 – 1988: Mitsubishi Galant
1988 – 1989: Nissan Silvia SX
1989 – 1990: Toyota Celsior (Lexus LS)
1990 – 1991: Mitsubishi Galant
1991 – 1992: Honda Civic
1992 – 1993: Nissan March
1993 – 1994: Honda Accord
1994 – 1995: Mitsubishi FTO
1995 – 1996: Honda Civic
1996 – 1997: Mitsubishi Galant
1997 – 1998: Toyota Prius
1998 – 1999: Toyota Altezza (Lexus IS250)
1999 – 2000: Toyota Vitz (Yaris)
2000 – 2001: Honda Civic
2001 – 2002: Honda Fit (Jazz)
2002 – 2003: Honda Accord
2003 – 2004: Subaru Legacy
2004 – 2005: Honda Legend
2005 – 2006: Mazda MX-5
2006 – 2007: Lexus LS460
2007 – 2008: Honda Fit (Jazz)
2008 – 2009: Toyota iQ
2009 – 2010: Toyota Prius
2010 – 2011: Honda CR-Z
2011 – 2012: Nissan LEAF
2012 – 2013: Mazda CX-5
2013 – 2014: Volkswagen Golf
2014 – 2015: Mazda Demio (Mazda2)
2015 – 2016: Mazda MX-5 (Miata)
2016 – 2017: Subaru Impreza
2017 – 2018: Volvo XC 60

[Chips Yap]

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