A widely varied field from the soft-roader Audi Q5 to the baby Volkswagen Polo is competing for the biggest prize in world motoring. The latest Audi and Volkswagen bookend the 10 finalists for the 2010 World Car of the Year.
The line-up also includes the Toyota Prius hybrid, the Gen-Y Kia Soul and the latest Mazda3. The top 10 runners were chosen in a secret ballot of the 59 WCOTY judges from 25 countries, including four from Australia, based on their experience with an original entry list of 30 cars from around the world.
A shortlist of three cars will be named next month at the Geneva Motor Show ahead of final voting and the announcement of this year's winner at the New York Motor Show in early April. The eventual winner will succeed the Volkswagen Golf, which was named 2009 World Car of the Year ahead of its local win in the similar Carsguide contest last year.
"This is the seventh year of the award, and it's getting stronger every year," says co-chair Peter Lyon, an Australian based in Tokyo and covering the Japanese auto industry. "We're now the second most-recognised motoring award in the world. And getting more credibility all the time."
Lyon says voting has been strong through the first-round picks and he is expecting a close contest. "Obviously, it's going to be a tough choice. But from what I've heard the VW Polo is going well and the Toyota Prius has a lot of support. They are the two that stand out.
"What's a surprise is that the other major hybrid release last year, the Honda Insight, did not make the top 10. In Japan it was second in the Japan Car of the Year behind the Prius, in quite a close fight." Judging for the WCOTY includes three other prizes.
First is the Performance Car of the Year award, where the Aston Martin V12 Vantage and Porsche Boxster/Cayman top-and-tail the 10-car list of finalists.
In the Green COTY award, the five finalists are the Ford Fusion, Honda Insight, Mercedes-Benz S400 and Toyota Prius, as well as the BlueMotion models - Polo, Golf, Passat - from Volkswagen.
The final WCOTY contest is for the World Car Design of the year and there are four finalists, led by the Australian-made Chevrolet Camaro. It is up against the Citroen C3 Picasso, Kia Soul and Toyota Prius.
CONTENDERS: 2010 WCOTY
Chevrolet (Holden) Cruze
CONTENDERS: 2010 WPCOTY
Aston Martin V12 Vantage
Audi R8 V10
Audi TT RS
Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG
Porsche 911 GT3