The Mazda2 has been named 2008 World Car of the Year at a glitzy event at the New York International Autoshow.
The small hatchback pipped the Ford Mondeo and Mercedes-Benz C-Class to the top prize, which is voted for by 47 judges from around the world.
The award for World Green Car of the Year went to BMW’s 118d, thanks to its EfficientDynamics package that drastically reduces CO2 emissions and improves fuel economy.
The awards were judged not on popularity but using standardised parameters that covered everything from styling and quality to performance and safety.
“Consumers will be drawn to the new Mazda compact because of its very appealing looks and high levels of standard equipment for the price,” the judges said.
The Mazda2 follows in the footsteps of previous World Car of the Year award winners including the Lexus LS460 last year, the BMW 3 Series in 2006 and the Audi A6 in 2005.
BMW’s EfficientDynamics technology, as fitted to the 143bhp diesel engine in the 118d, won praise from the World Green Car of the Year judges.
Among its fuel saving features is brake energy regeneration, start-stop technology and electric steering that reduce CO2 emissions to just 119g/km.
Other contenders for the award were the Smart fortwo cdi – currently being considered for UK release – and the Volkswagen Passat 1.9TDI.
In other categories, Audi’s 420bhp R8 was named 2008 World Performance Car, and also won World Car Design of the Year.
Judges loved its “exceptional balance, refinement and control that grant the driver the confidence to push to the limit without fear of unintended consequences.”
The R8 pushed out another high performance Audi, the S5 Coupe, and the BMW M3 to take the World Performance Car title.
It is the second year in a row that the German manufacturer has won the award, following its 2007 success with the RS4.