Top 10 European Car of the Year Winners That Changed the Automotive Industry Forever

Europe is home to some of the most iconic and innovative car brands in the world. From luxury to performance, from design to technology, European cars have set the standards for the global automotive industry for decades.

But which European cars have made the most impact? Which ones have been recognized as the best of the best by the experts and the public? Which ones have changed the automotive industry forever?

To answer these questions, we have compiled a list of 10 European Car of the Year winners that have left a lasting mark on the history of cars.

These are the cars that have won the prestigious European Car of the Year award, which is given annually by a jury of automotive journalists from across Europe. The award is based on criteria such as innovation, quality, safety, design, performance, and environmental impact.

Here are the 10 European Car of the Year winners that have changed the automotive industry forever:

1. Renault 16 (1966):

The first European Car of the Year winner was the Renault 16, a revolutionary hatchback that combined the comfort and space of a sedan with the practicality and versatility of a station wagon.

The Renault 16 was the first car to feature a hatchback opening, a folding rear seat, and a front-wheel drive layout. It was also one of the first cars to offer a range of engines, transmissions, and trim levels.

The Renault 16 was a huge success, selling over 1.8 million units worldwide and influencing many other car models.

2. Fiat 128 (1970):

The Fiat 128 was the second European Car of the Year winner and the first car to use a transverse engine and front-wheel drive layout in a compact car.

This configuration allowed for more interior space and better handling than the traditional rear-wheel drive layout. The Fiat 128 was also praised for its fuel efficiency, reliability, and performance.

It was one of the best-selling cars in Europe in the 1970s, with over 3 million units sold.

3. Volkswagen Golf (1975):

The Volkswagen Golf was the third European Car of the Year winner and the car that defined the modern hatchback segment. The Golf was a radical departure from the previous Volkswagen models, such as the Beetle and the Karmann Ghia.

It had a sleek and aerodynamic design, a spacious and ergonomic interior, and a range of engines and options. The Golf was also the first car to introduce the GTI badge, which became synonymous with sporty and fun driving.

The Golf is still one of the most popular and influential cars in the world, with over 35 million units sold in eight generations.

4. Porsche 928 (1978):

The Porsche 928 was the fourth European Car of the Year winner and the first and only sports car to win the award.

The 928 was a ground-breaking car that combined the performance and style of a Porsche with the comfort and luxury of a grand tourer.

The 928 had a unique design, with a front-mounted V8 engine, a rear transaxle, and a hatchback body. It also had advanced features, such as pop-up headlights, an adjustable rear spoiler, and an electronic dashboard.

The 928 was a masterpiece of engineering and design, and a true icon of the 1980s.

5. Peugeot 205 (1984):

The Peugeot 205 was the fifth European Car of the Year winner and the car that saved Peugeot from bankruptcy. The 205 was a small and agile hatchback that offered a great driving experience and a low running cost.

It was also one of the most versatile cars ever made, with a variety of models, such as the economical 205 Diesel, the sporty 205 GTI, and the legendary 205 Turbo 16, which dominated the World Rally Championship in the mid-1980s.

The 205 was a huge hit, selling over 5.3 million units and becoming one of the most beloved cars in France.

6. Fiat Tipo (1989):

The Fiat Tipo was the sixth European Car of the Year winner and the first car to use a modular platform that could be adapted to different body styles and markets.

The Tipo was a compact car that offered a lot of space, comfort, and technology for a reasonable price. It was also one of the first cars to feature a fully galvanized body, which improved its durability and resistance to corrosion.

The Tipo was a global success, selling over 2 million units and spawning several derivatives, such as the Tempra, the Tipo Sedicivalvole, and the Tipo Sedici.

7. Renault Clio (1991):

The Renault Clio was the seventh European Car of the Year winner and the successor of the legendary Renault 5.

The Clio was a modern and stylish hatchback that appealed to a wide range of customers, from young drivers to families. It was also one of the first cars to offer a diesel engine in its segment, which increased its popularity and efficiency.

The Clio was also known for its advertising campaign, which featured the slogan “Nicole and Papa” and the song “Papa Loves Mambo”. The Clio is still one of the best-selling cars in Europe, with over 15 million units sold in four generations.

8. Toyota Prius (2005):

The Toyota Prius was the eighth European Car of the Year winner and the first hybrid car to win the award.

The Prius was a pioneer of the hybrid technology, which combines a gasoline engine and an electric motor to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

The Prius was also a practical and spacious car, with a hatchback body and a large trunk. The Prius was a game-changer for the automotive industry, as it proved that hybrid cars could be reliable, affordable, and popular.

The Prius is still the best-selling hybrid car in the world, with over 6 million units sold in four generations.

9. Nissan Leaf (2011):

The Nissan Leaf was the ninth European Car of the Year winner and the first electric car to win the award. The Leaf was a revolutionary car that offered a zero-emission and zero-noise driving experience, thanks to its battery-powered electric motor.

The Leaf was also a smart and connected car, with features such as a navigation system, a remote control app, and a regenerative braking system.

The Leaf was a leader of the electric car movement, with over 500,000 units sold worldwide and a high customer satisfaction rate.

10. Peugeot 208 (2020):

The Peugeot 208 was the tenth and most recent European Car of the Year winner and the second car from Peugeot to win the award.

The 208 was a stunning and futuristic hatchback that impressed the jury with its design, quality, and innovation. The 208 was also a versatile and eco-friendly car, with a choice of gasoline, diesel, or electric powertrains.

The 208 was a worthy successor of the Peugeot 205, and a strong contender for the best European car of the decade.

The Bottom Line.

These are the 10 European Car of the Year winners that have changed the automotive industry forever.

They are not only great cars, but also milestones of the car history. They have inspired and influenced many other car models and generations, and they have shaped the car culture and lifestyle of millions of people around the world.

Which one of these cars is your favourite? Which one would you like to drive or own? Let us know in the comments.

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