The closing weeks of a year can only mean one thing: awards.

We’ve already seen which models are up for the title of World Car of the Year, and now, the shortlist for its European equivalent has just been published, and it’s refreshingly compact in comparison, with just seven cars to choose from. To be in with a shout of being named European Car of the Year, a car only has to be sold in more than five European countries, so there’s a chance that the winner may not even be available in the UK.

The ultimate victor is decided by a 58-strong team of motoring writers from European publications, based on five factors: design, comfort, safety, performance and driver satisfaction.

The winner is announced at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show on Monday 6 March, and historically, the car that drives away with the title isn’t especially exciting.

The current holder is the Vauxhall Astra, and before that, it was the Volkswagen Passat, Peugeot 308 and VW Golf. Even the Prius won it in 2005.

So now your expectations and heart rate have been suitably lowered, who is in the running for European Car of the Year?

Nissan Micra

2017 Nissan Micra

Yeah, this one’s about as vanilla as it gets, but the Micra’s place here is much deserved, bouncing back big-time after a stodgy and staid turnout in the previous generation.

The fifth-generation model, which was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September, injected some much-needed life and attitude with a sharper, more aggressive exterior, while the front-end gets the same V-grille design as the Qashqai.

2017 Nissan Micra

Inside, the dashboard and steering wheel have been smartened up and you can bet that the driving experience is leagues ahead too.

If the Micra is named European Car of the Year, it’d be only the second model to win the award, following the Renault Clio’s triumphs in 1991 and 2006.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The new E-Class has been hailed as Merc’s most sophisticated car ever, which – for a brand that prides itself on elegance – really speaks volumes.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class rear

Refinement is so high that the E-Class feels more like a downsized S-Class rather than a stretched C-Class, setting new standards for quality, design and cruising comfort in the executive car segment.

Peugeot 3008

Peugeot 3008

The last 3008 was a podgy, awkward MPV, but its rebirth as a chunky SUV has pushed it to the front of the pack.

Peugeot 3008 rear

With a smart and futuristic interior boasting up-to-date tech and a fun, refined drive, the 3008 has been an unquestionable success.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulias

It takes balls to take on the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, but with the Giulia, Alfa Romeo has come up with an eye-catching and competitive addition to the small executive car marketplace.

Alfa Romeo Giulia rear

Handling is quick and snappy, while the 503bhp Quadrifoglio model is a worthy M3 competitor. Its only real weak point is the sub-standard build quality, which can’t quite match the heights of its German rivals.

Toyota C-HR

Toyota C-HR

Hybrids are popping up all over the shop while any car maker can’t really claim to be a major player without offering a crossover SUV. Here, Toyota has combined the two worlds with the bold new C-HR.

Toyota C-HR rear

It might not be as practical as it should be but with distinctive looks, a refined cabin and impressive driving dynamics, all at the right price, the C-HR could be the dark horse in this list.

Volvo S90/V90

Volvo S90 and V90

Volvo is the only carmaker here never to have bagged the European Car of the Year title, and the Swedish manufacturer may wonder what it has to do to win it if the S90 can’t convince judges this year.

Volvo S90 and V90

The S90 and its V90 estate sibling are essentially flattened versions of the phenomenal XC90 SUV, with many of the engines and tech borrowed wholesale from the BMW X5 rival.

Citroen C3

Citroen C3

Remember the C4 Cactus’ airbumps? Well, Citroen has adapted them for the C3 hatchback, but there’s more to its inclusion here than just squidgy side panels. It’s comfortable, stylish, packed with tech and super cheap to run.

And that’s it, so which car takes your fancy? Tell us in the comments sections below.

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