The Volvo XC40, a compact SUV billed by the Swedish automaker as "built for city life," has been named Car of the Year by a panel of European motoring journalists.

At a flashy ceremony Monday, Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said he felt "fantastic" that the automaker had won the award after repeated recent attempts to take home the prestigious prize.

"It's really time that we won. We have tried so many times," he said of Volvo Cars, alluding specifically to a failed bid for the award by the larger XC90 three years ago.

Samuelsson said the XC40, a compact crossover with a car-sharing technology that eliminates the need to hand over the key, features an all-new platform with Volvo's Chinese car-making owner Geely and is "in many ways representing the future of Volvo."

"It's going into a new segment: It's very important for us," he said.

The award marks the unofficial start of the Geneva auto show, now in its 88th edition.

The six other finalists for the award were the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Audi A8, BMW 5-Series, Citroen C3 Aircross, Kia Stinger and Seat Ibiza.

The award is built around seven European magazines, and jury members hail from 23 countries.

Last year's winner was the Peugeot 3008, the French automaker's offering for the mid-size SUV segment.