Toyota's fourth-generation Yaris scooped the automotive industry's most prestigious prize in Geneva on Monday, being crowned the European Car of the Year 2021.
Since its inception in the 1960s, the highly-coveted COTY award has recognised carmakers' innovation and design for nearly 60 years.
Toyota's win comes days after the new Yaris was named Europe's best-selling car for the first time.
Commenting on winning the award, Matt Harrison, Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Europe, said: "This is a great honour for Toyota and I’d like to thank the jury for their consideration and recognition.
"I’d also like to take this opportunity to recognise the passion of our development teams in Europe and Japan. This is the best-ever Yaris, and just as Akio Toyoda intended, it is already putting a smile on the face of our customers".
This is the third time the company has won the award, with the first generation Yaris taking the prize in 2000 followed by the Prius in 2005.
Each new generation of the Yaris has been shortlisted for the award.
Due to the ongoing global health crisis, the 2021 awards ceremony - which usually takes place at the annual Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) - was live-streamed for the first time from the city's empty Palexpo convention centre.
"It was very important to organise this event here in Geneva," said Sandro Mesquita, CEO of the GIMS. "The COVID year was the perfect platform to kick off, in a way, the organisation of the future Geneva International Motor Show 2022.
"It's very important we stand with the brands to help them overcome this crisis. So, we know already that we will need to reinvent, to transform not only the format of the motor show but also the content".
As with this year's event, the motor show was cancelled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic but, Mesquita hopes, carmakers will be attracted back to Switzerland for the next event in 2022.
This year's vote
The winner of the gong is awarded from seven finalists selected by a jury of 59 members comprising of motoring journalists from 22 countries across the continent.
This year's shortlist was narrowed down from 30 new models on sale in Europe over the previous calendar year.
Having test-driven each shortlisted car, each juror has 25 points to allocate to each nominee as they see fit, meaning there is a total of 575 points awarded by the jury.
The pandemic made the major test drives undertaken annually in Denmark and France impossible so arrangements had to be made for jurors to test drive each car in their own countries.
"Of course, it was not easy to organise but in the end we managed. We got a lot of support from the manufacturers, that every jury member could drive every finalist car," said Frank Janssen, president of the COTY jury.
"On the other hand, the organisation of this event was, in the first place, it was a matter of believing that we could do it. So, if we had said already in the fall last year, 'it doesn't work because the pandemic isn't over in February or March,' then we wouldn't have succeeded".
'A very good compromise'
This year's winner garnered 266 points, just ahead of the new Fiat 500 on 240 points and the Cupra Formentor on 239.
The latter celebrated its first nomination for Car of the Year, coming just three years after the Spanish brand was launched.
The other nominees for the year's award included the Citroën C4 (143 points), the Land Rover Defender (164 points), the Škoda Octavia (199 points), and the Volkswagen ID.3 (224 points).
Four of this year's shortlist were either electric or hybrid models, including the Yaris.
"I think it's a very good compromise when you see that the Toyota Yaris has a hybrid system. If we talk about the transformation of the automotive industry from internal combustion to eletrification, the Toyota Yaris is both," said Janssen on this year's winning model.
"I think it's a very good car for people who want electrified driving without having a plug. You don't need to plug it in and I think that's a very good compromise".
A sign of the times, the top four finalists for the 2020 award were also all either purely electric models or the manufacturers offered electric versions.
Last year, the Peugeot 208 won comfortably with 281 points over the Tesla Model 3 and the Porche Taycan, both electric, which took 242 and 222 points respectively.
In 2019, the Jaguar I-Pace, the British manufacturer's first electric vehicle, topped the board.
In pictures: This year's award-winning Toyota Yaris
European Car of the Year 2021 finalists in full:
• Citroën C4 (143 points)
• Cupra Formentor (239 points)
• Fiat 500 (240 points)
• Land Rover Defender (164 points)
• Škoda Octavia (199 points)
• WINNER: Toyota Yaris (266 points)
• Volkswagen ID.3 (224 points)