Northern Group Car of the Year 2020: Land Rover Defender

The Northern Group of Motoring Writers has voted for Land Rover’s new Defender as its 2020 Car of the Year, the third time Land Rover has scooped the award.

This year’s COTY event has, like so many others in 2020, been dramatically impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Due to multiple lockdowns, restrictions on gatherings, and sanitisation regulations, many members of the Group have spent far less time driving than is ideal.

That also included our annual driving day. While the normal procedure for COTY involves a shortlisting process and a day with all the final cars to decide on one winner, this simply wasn’t possible in 2020.

Instead the Group reverted to a simple popular vote, with members selecting their choices from the vehicles they had managed to drive over the 12 calendar months from July 2019 to July 2020.

The new Land Rover Defender was unveiled in September 2019, replacing the venerable original — itself a firm favourite in the rural North. Following a car that’s been in production, with some changes of course, for 70 years is no mean feat, but it appears Land Rover has hit the mark.

While it’s a different proposition from the more simple original, the new Defender borrows from its siblings — the Discovery, Range Rover, and Jaguar’s F-PACE — to offer the traditional supreme off-road abilities, but is considerably more cultured on it.

The Defender beat both the Honda e and the Ford Puma, which finished joint second in our membership voting, again proving electrification is no barrier to the Group’s traditional value for money metric.

With SMMT Test Day North, the usual prize-giving venue, cancelled for 2020, Group chairman Andy Harris was able to present Land Rover’s public relations manager Kim Palmer with the “Arthur” miner’s lamp.

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