New Audi A4 scoops UK award
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Despite being embroiled in the biggest industry scandal for a carmaker in history, it seems the VW Group's reputation is still firmly intact as it dominated the 2016 What Car? Awards on Wednesday evening.
The annual presentation saluting the best models on the market saw the troubled automaker get its hands on half of the 19 awards up for grabs, with Audi's latest A4 family saloon bagging the biggest prize of the night.
Among the other winners were the Ford Fiesta ST-2, new Mazda MX-5, Volvo XC90 and the British-built Nissan Qashqai and land Rover Discovery Sport.
VW's crafty defeat devices used to cheat emissions tests didn't pick up the 'Technology' trophy, though — instead the award went to Toyota and Hyundai for their hydrogen fuel-cell projects.
Audi's A4 not only took the prize of 'Compact Executive Saloon' of the year, it also bagged the 39th Car of the Year gong based on What Car?'s judging system.
It comes as little surprise to those familiar with the awards, with four of the last five overall winners emerging from the VW Group.
In fact, since the inception of the awards in 1978, VW has taken the top prize six times in total, with the Golf accounting for four of these.
However, other brands under the German carmaker's banner have also won Car of the Year, like the Skoda Fabia last year and the Audi A3 and A1 in 2013 and 2011 respectively.
Split into 18 sub categories, from best city car to the most-liked luxury model and even prizes for safety, winners have to rate well in 16 core test criteria to be selected as the sector champion.
This includes back-to-back testing on all types of road and at What Car?’s test facilities, a rigorous analysis of all ownership costs from purchase payments through to tax implications, mystery shopping to get the best prices and independent true MPG testing to find out which cars are the most economical in the real world.
In its award announcement, What? Car was quick to note that none of the prize-winning models were affected by the current emissions scandals, as all of the winners were powered by the latest generation of petrol, diesel and hybrid engines, which don't have the same defeat devices fitted to them.
Jim Holder, editorial director of What Car?, said: 'When we began the judging process, the VW emissions scandal was in full swing.
The Volvo XC90.
'However, our guiding principle is to recommend the best cars on sale today. We have tested all cars with our unrivalled rigour and scrutiny on a level playing field with all of their rivals.
'Regardless of the scandal, the VW Group still builds cars that rank among the very best on the road and, tested against our criteria covering all of the rational reasons that consumers choose one car over another, the results are clear to see.'
Land Rover was the only British carmaker to appear in the 19-long list of award winners — the Discovery Sport took the Large SUV title for 2016. The Nissan Qashqai, which is built in the UK, also claimed a prize for best small SUV.
Another sport utility vehicle picking up a trophy on Wednesday evening was the Volvo XC90, issued with the Safety Award for 2016.
Security and safety firm Thatcham, which sponsors the safety prize, said Volvo's premium offroad after 'raising the bar' by including features like pedestrian and cyclist recognition, auto braking, run-off road protection and rear collision alert.
But it also used the event to call for all the manufacturers present to make Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) standard on all new models.
Thatcham chief executive Peter Shaw said: 'We believe that advanced safety features like AEB should be standard on every new car sold, rather than on just 17 per cent as is currently the case.
'When you have the chance for everyone to gain from the inclusion of a life-saving technology that has been shown in studies to reduce the likelihood of a front-to-rear crash by almost 40 per cent, you simply cannot afford to miss the opportunity.'