The Saturn Aura won the North American Car of the Year Award. It beat out finalists Toyota Camry and Honda Fit.
The award is presented after 49 American journalists cast their vote. The funny thing is that seemingly every journalist who has talked about the award has said they didn’t vote for the Aura, but they knew it would win. Even the quotes in the Aura’s press release were from journalists who went on in the pieces from which they were taken…some even in the same line, to say the car wasn’t as good as the Camry or Accord.
Evidently, a core group of journalists voted for the Saturn to congratulate GM for “trying” to create a competitive midsize sedan. By almost every account, however, the Saturn Aura is on par with the Accord and Camry circa 1999. It’s not a bad car, from what I’ve heard, just not anywhere as good as last-gen leaders. It’s not as fun to drive as an Accord, nor is it as solid or quiet as a Camry. Interior materials are better than previous GM attempts, but still way behind the Japanese.
So, essentially, these American journalists are awarding the Aura for GM’s effort, not for the actual end-result. After all, the Fit is by far the best competitor in the subcompact market, and the Camry is the leader in the midsize market. (Okay, I also agree the Honda Accord is a better all-arounder than the Camry, but the Camry sells more. The Honda will also bring its new Accord out this coming year.)
At some point journalists will have the stones to simply say what they mean: “Thanks for getting back into the midsize sedan market, GM, but we’rel giving the award to the best car. Do better next time, and we’ll consider awarding it to your company.”