The winners of Top Gear’s annual coveted Car of the Year prizes have been announced, with a surprise package taking home the overall award.

It’s been a vintage year for motoring, with the likes of the McLaren P1, VW XL-1 and BMW i3 pushing the very boundaries of possibility, but the king of the cars this year is one of the most recognisable on Britain’s roads: The Ford Fiesta.

Not just any Ford Fiesta, of course, but the new ST, which not only triumphed in the keenly-contested Hot Hatch category, but also took home the overall gong.

While retaining much of the popular car’s engineering, the new ST adds some spice in the form of a 10mm drop in ride height, some ST-specific suspension settings, reconfigurated steering and enhanced torque vectoring control anti-slip electronics in the front axle.

The result is a playful car that offers a 1.6-litre EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with up to 197bhp and capable of hitting 62mph in 6.9 seconds, running to a maximum speed of 137mph.

As the magazine summarises: “It’s a car that invigorates, excites and rekindles some of the love you thought you’d lost for the simple stuff. A car that puts a smile on your face each and every day. It’s the most enjoyable car of 2013.”

Though a hatchback took the overall Car of the Year Award, there was plenty of room for the year’s performance cars in the rankings, with Jeremy Clarkson’s Car of the Year nomination being the McLaren, which the presenter described as a “giant leap” that represents the change of direction to a “bright new future”.

High performance was a key theme for co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond, with the former nominating the Ferrari 458 Speciale for its ability to heighten the senses and make an already great car even better.

The titular Hammond, meanwhile, voted for the Porsche 911 GT3, which he said was less like driving a car and more like wearing a treasured item of clothing: “It’s like a set of Superman pants and a cape. It’s a car that takes the genius of the 911 and turns it up to 11.”

The success of the 911 GT3 also earned Porsche a second spot in the rankings, with the German company also taking home the coveted Manufacturer of the Year gong. With a broad offering that also included the 911 Turbo, Cayman and Panamera E-Hybrid, as well as the revolutionary 918, Porsche eased to victory over its rivals in the category.

It was a good year for German manufacturers full stop, with Mercedes-Benz also appearing twice on the list – once for the SLS AMG Black, which scooped the ‘Lairy’ Car of the Year title, and also for the S-Class, which added yet another Luxury Car of the Year gong to the manufacturer’s trophy cabinet for being “the pinnacle of technical achievement and technological advancement”.

BMW also made an appearance with the i3, which was bestowed with the Green Car of the Year gong thanks to its ability to make city driving a fun experience, while Volkswagen rounded off the German contingent with the XL-1, which received the Innovation of the Year award for pushing every possible boundary.

As Top Gear stated: “Its official 313mpg might suggest that the XL-1 is a worthy, bran-eating, excitement-free zone. Except that it isn’t. The XL-1 is a hypercar.”

Though the Fiesta took home the overall prize, the continued rise of the German performance cars suggests that 2014 will be even more hotly contested, with the likes of Range Rover, Corvette and Rolls Royce all set to have their say.

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