“Genesis being crowned ‘Best Car Company’ was a shock”

Mike Rutherford reflects on some surprises at this year’s Best Cars of the Year awards

Opinion - Genesis

What happens when dozens of experienced, free-thinking and fiercely independent car designers, engineers, automotive industry titans, stars from F1 and TV, journalists and other media pros have to name their three best cars of the year?

Unpredictably, much agonising and controlled mayhem break out, that’s what. This I know because one bloke each year chases down these world-renowned judges, before getting them to identify their world champion new cars. And that is me because, for my sins, I’m head tea boy and chair of the judging panel at bestcarsoftheyear.com.

Initially, the judges have more questions than answers. Do cars have to be below a certain price? Built in large volumes? Sold on more than one continent? Classed as cars (rather than quadricycles or car-derived vans)? No, no, no, and no again, I say.

Best Cars of the Year is simple, fair and democratic. Our unique, unaffiliated and unbiased panel simply picks the three (or fewer) cheap or pricey, fast or sluggish all-new models that impress them most. That’s why designers Frank Stephenson and Fabio Filippini (plus the UK’s ultimate car dealer, Tom Hartley) voted for eye-wateringly expensive Ferraris, bless ’em. And why former Aston Martin CEO Dr Andy Palmer and yours truly couldn’t resist giving a vote to the cheap-as chips Citroen Ami, which is about as fast as – and looks not dissimilar to – an escargot.

I’m honoured to say that joining us as judges in 2023/24 are Shiro Nakamura (hugely respected former design god at Nissan and Infiniti) and Ukyo Katayama (F1 and Le Mans legend) who expressed their fondness for two or three state-of-the-art Mercs and Nissans. Conversely, car nuts-cum-comedians Tim Shaw and Fuzz Townshend, whose Car SOS TV show is broadcast across the globe, couldn’t have had more opposing views.

Intriguingly, plenty of leading automotive journalists voted for Chinese models. For example, Daily Mail motoring editor Ray Massey highly rated the MG4, while Steve Fowler of this parish unapologetically allowed the BYD Atto 3 to creep into his top three.

Another unexpected twist was that the rapidly growing Genesis line-up received a ton of votes (GV60 being the most popular). For this and other reasons, the firm provided the shock of the season by being crowned Best Car Company of the Year – at a very young age.      

Volkswagen only received votes for a couple of models, but no matter; the ID. Buzz EV modern classic won the overall Best Car of the Year title. And rightly so, in my opinion.

Other, more minor but still important, class wins went to the Dacia Jogger (Best Bargain); MG4 (Best Affordable EV); Toyota GR86 (Best Affordable Sports Car); Citroen Ami (Best Quadricycle) and VW ID. Buzz Cargo (Best LCV/car-derived van). 

So congrats to Germany and Korea for the biggest and most significant Best COTY wins. For their category victories, Romania, China, Japan and France also deserve praise.

But deep commiserations to several ‘leading’ premium car firms, who failed to receive a single vote from a single judge. Or should that be judge, jury and executioner? Probably.

What do you think is the best car of the year? Let us know in the comments section...

Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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