Barely on the market in the US for a fortnight, the A3 – which has been on sale in Europe for months already – defeated the BMW 4 Series and Mazda 3 for the title, as determined by a panel of 69 automotive journalists from 22 countries. It was not a foretold victory, if the faint pause evinced by the award presenter (who had no knowledge of the award recipient’s identity) was any indication. Audi’s first victory at the competition was in 2005, when that year’s A6 sedan was crowned the original World Car of the Year. It is the sixth time that a model from the Volkswagen Group has taken the honour.

The A3 shares underpinnings with last year’s award winner, the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf.

Scott Keogh, president of Audi of America, accepted the award on the manufacturer’s behalf, saying that the A3 “represents what Audi does really well.”

It was the second time that the Mazda 3 made it to the round of three, only to be snubbed. Most recently it lost out to the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray as North American Car of the Year.

The BMW i3 electric car still managed to sweep two categories: World Green Car and World Car Design of the Year. In the former category, the i3 eked out a victory over the Audi A3 Sportback G-tron and E-gas, as well as the Volkswagen XL1 — BBC Autos’ pick for Most Fascinating Green Car of 2013. In the design category, the i3’s figure trumped those of the Mazda 3 and 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Perhaps the most controversial selection was of the Porsche 911 GT3 as World Performance Car. The hot GT3 was recently subject to an automaker-mandated recall to prevent it from becoming too hot, after two already caught fire. The Ferrari 458 Speciale and Chevrolet Corvette Stingray played debutantes.

In the newly created World Luxury Car category, the semi-autonomous Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan was recognised, beating out the Bentley Flying Spur and Range Rover Sport.