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The World Car Awards organisation, which in March declared the Mazda MX-5 the all-round finest offering the market had to offer in 2016, has now added a new vehicle class to its growing list of judging categories.

The World Car of the Year awards, which already include categories for overall winner, performance cars, luxury cars, green cars and automotive design, will next year include a new ‘urban car’ category.

Announced this week through a 13-page essay on the issue of our world’s growing population, increasing urban density and the overwhelming traffic congestion that results, the category is intended to highlight innovation in compact vehicles designed for city living.

“With more than 50 per cent of the world’s population now living in towns and cities, and that figure expected to increase in the years ahead, urban cars are the future,” the organisation said.

2014 Toyota Yaris HB ZR

Vehicles eligible for the award must measure between one and four metres in overall length, which rules out most ‘small’ cars such as the Toyota Corolla (4.27m) and Mazda3 (4.46m), but ‘light’ cars like the Toyota Yaris (3.88m), and ‘micro’ cars like the Suzuki Celerio (3.6m) can be considered.

Not all light cars will be eligible, though, with offerings like the Mazda2 (4.06m) and the Ford Fiesta (4.06m) being too large to qualify.

And, to stand any chance of winning, vehicles in the class must also pass the following judging criteria: “clean; green; safe; quiet; flexible; fun; driver, pedestrian and cyclist friendly; affordable; comfy; capable of motorway speeds when being driven outside urban areas; able to fit in the narrowest of driving lanes and the tightest of parking spaces above or below ground… or even on the side of apartments and offices”.

2016-suzuki-celerio-hatch-8

Clearly, then, future alternative-energy city cars with advanced impact protection and collision avoidance systems will be the strongest candidates for this new award.

While micro and light cars are popular in regions with much higher populations than in Australia, and where government incentives and tax rules drive people towards smaller and more efficient cars, local sales in those segments have declined in recent times.

Year-to-date micro-car sales down from 3608 this time last year to just 2593 at the end of April 2016. Likewise, light-car sales have dropped from 36,578 at this point in 2015 to 32,395 year-to-date.

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