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What Car? has revealed the shortlist for its prestigious 2015 Car of the Year Award that takes place at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London tomorrow night (7 January).

An what a shortlist it is too, with 26 outstanding vehicles that debuted in 2014 up for the award, ranging from the Smart Fortwo, Volkswagen Golf SV and Nissan X-Trail to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, BMW i8, Porsche Macan and the Lamborghini Huracan.

The title of Car of The Year at the annual What Car? Awards is certainly an award that any car manufacturer worth their salt would like to tag onto any advertising or press release to do with a car – as indeed are the many other awards up for grabs – with the car-buying and car-leasing public fully aware of the stringent criteria that cars in the shortlist are subjected to to even get onto the list.

So top dog award in any of the 16 other separate categories would be just as acceptable – although we all know that the top dog of top dogs award is the pinnacle of a car’s career. Which means that an “of the Year” award in (deep breath) city car, small car, family car, electric car, coupé, estate car, mpv, hot hatch, convertible, small SUV, large SUV, executive car, sports car, luxury car, reader award or safety award is not to be sniffed at.

What Car? editor Jim Holder said: “The new car market has been buoyant in the UK during 2014 and the automotive industry in the UK has bloomed – that means there are a heap of exciting new cars that are all genuine contenders for our main COTY prize. No wonder the decision-making process around the shortlist was even more intense than usual.”

Current holder of the What Car? Car of the Year award is the Sunderland-built Nissan Qashqai, and this particular model saw a 312% rise in online searches following the award. No wonder that André Konsbruck, Director of Audi UK, describes the What Car? Awards as “the biggest accolade you can get as a car manufacturer”