The cover will already have been printed for the awards issue of What Car? magazine, but what's on it will remain a closely guarded secret until Wednesday.
The annual What Car? awards will see one car take away the coveted Car of the Year gong, beating all comers from a category list consisting of thirteen segments. Last year's overall winner was the Volkswagen up! though this year the little Volkswagen has some hard-hitting rivals. Not least in its own City Car category, where the Fiat Panda and Vauxhall's new Adam joins the Volkswagen and its Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii cousins fighting for top dog status among the babies.
In the Supermini class, last year's Audi A1 winner will be attempting to keep honours from newcomers like the Dacia Sandero and Peugeot 208, the Renault Zoe also joining the class in a bid to fight a battery-powered battle in this fiercely competitive segment.
The Small Family Car category, where the Volkswagen's new Golf resides, might not be as clear cut as you might anticipate. The new Wolfsburg machine faces some stiff competition from its upmarket Audi A3 cousin as well as Skoda's Rapid and a pair of SEATs in the shape of the Leon and Toledo. Don't rule out the Kia cee'd, either, or Mercedes-Benz's A-Class in this category - nor for outright honours.
The traditional Family Car category shows how much the segment has shrunk, Ford's 2012 winning Mondeo facing off opposition from Mazda's 6, Skoda's Superb and the Volkswagen Passat. With a gong in the Estate Car category too, the Ford Mondeo faces tougher opposition against new load luggers like BMW's 3 Series Touring, Jaguar's XF Sportbrake and the Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake, among others. Good as it is it's pretty safe to assume that Ford won't be popping the Estate Car title in the Mondeo's capacious boot this year again.
At the sillier end of the market where such awards are unlikely to result in a sticker on the rear window the Porsche 911 will defend its number one status. It faces a tough fight though, with the Aston Martin Vanquish, revised Audi R8, Audi RS 4 Avant, Ferrari F12, McLaren MP4-12C Spider and Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Black Series all vying for the Performance Car title. Every car in this category is new or seriously revised - seems the recession isn't hurting everyone...
Promising more seats than round the table at the awards do will be the MPV category, last year's SEAT Alhambra winner up against the Citroen C3 Picasso, Fiat 500L, Ford's B-Max, Kia's Carens and the Toyota Prius+. Less seats is more in the Coupé class, where the Audi TT will defend its 2012 title against the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, MINI Cooper S Coupé and the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86 twins. The TT also defends the Open-Top class, where it faces new competition from the Mercedes-Benz SL and MINI Roadster among others.
Hot competition is a cert this year in the Hot Hatch category, where the Renault Mégane Renaultsport 250 Cup will have a serious job to beat BMW's M135i; Ford's excellent ST combo of Focus and Fiesta and Kia's cee'd GT are unlikely to get a look in this year. BMW also holds the 2012 gong for SUV with its X3 and the Executive Car class with its 3 Series, both unlikely to be shifted from the top spot by anything new this year.
That all leaves the Luxury Car category, which could produce the overall winner in the guise of the new Range Rover. The new luxury off-roader is almost certain to topple the Mercedes-Benz S-Class from the class lead, though we'll only know for sure in a few days' time whether it's done enough to gain the overall gong, or whether What Car?'s judges read the zeitgeist right and go for something a bit more hoi polloi.
Kyle Fortune - 7 Jan 2013