Jaguar I Pace – Best premium electric car
2018 was a stand-out year for new cars, Nat Barnes hands out our coveted Motoring Oscars for the past year.
Best premium electric car: Jaguar I-Pace
An electric Jaguar might have enjoyed plenty of limelight at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle back in May, but it was the Coventry firm’s electric I-Pace that took centre stage in showrooms this year.
The Audi e-tron and Mercedes EQC might be on their way in 2019, but this £63,495 Jaguar I-Pace, the first premium all-electric SUV, was here first – and by some margin too.
With its 90kWh electric motor and 298 mile range, the I-Pace already out-performs its forthcoming younger German competition and is considerably lighter too.
Add to that the fact that it handles well and already boasts a six month waiting list and Jaguar has put the UK on pole position for what’s due to be a fast-growing market in 2019.
Hyundai Kona EV – Best mainstream electric
Best sports car: Alpine A110
What a huge risk. Reinventing a beloved classic from the 1960s into a two-seater sportscar to take on the superb Porsche Cayman and with a £51,805 price tag to boot. On the face of things, the prospects for Renault’s Alpine A110 looked slim, but the reality was simply divine.
A back-to-basics ethos along with a feather-like weight combined with a high-revving 1.8-litre turbo-charged engine and superb handling makes it one of the best driver’s cars we’ve driven this year, if not ever. Anyone planning on buying a Cayman should definitely drive one of these first.
Best mainstream electric: Hyundai Kona EV
If the Jaguar I-Pace stole a clear march on its premium rivals, then there was no doubt about who did the same in the mainstream market. Despite having only arrived into showrooms in September, the £24,495 Hyundai Kona already boasts a ten month waiting list – the kind of delay more used to supercars than small crossovers.
Good looks, a 279 mile range, an excellent driving experience and variable modes for the regenerative braking (crucial for electric cars) means that this is possibly the best and easiest step yet for many to move into plug-in motoring. Plus, with 2019 seeing the arrival of the hydrogen-powered Nexo and Hyundai’s sister firm Kia launching the e-Niro, Korea looks to be leading the way for EVs in all their forms.
Ford Focus – Best hatchback
Best hatchback: Ford Focus/ Kia Ceed
When it comes to mid-range family hatchbacks, you’d expect the new £17,930 Ford Focus to have absolutely walked this class. And indeed, the blue oval’s big-selling hatch is certainly a very fine car, proving to be more refined than ever and keeping much of its driver enjoyment.
But for 2019 the Focus been matched from an unexpected corner in the form of the third-generation £18,295 Kia Ceed. The Ceed has boasted the biggest conquest sales rate of any other car in this class and with this latest model, that’s only likely to continue. It’s better to drive, better built, very well-equipped and looks great too. It’s too tight between them, but right now, the Focus and Ceed represent the very best in the hatchback class.
Best family saloon: Peugeot 508
You don’t have to have Mensa membership to know that crossovers are dominating sales right now and the repmobile family saloon market is one of the biggest affected. In the past, the likes of the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia ruled car parks, but that’s no longer the case. So it’s ironic that Peugeot has produced such a strong candidate in the form of its stunning new 508.
Starting from £25,039, the 508 has a new hatchback body, is better looking inside and out, great to drive as well as being comfortable and light-years ahead of is predecessor. Even better, there’s an SW estate version on its way during 2019 too.
Bentley Continental GT – Best luxury
Best luxury: Bentley Continental GT
It would be very easy to assume that you know the Bentley Continental GT. The most successful Bentley ever produced, there remains little else like it in the market for its combination of sporting luxury and comfort even at its £156,700 list price.
However, while this new Continental’s styling is more evolution than revolution, it remains fearsomely fast both from a standing start and mid-range and handles far better than its 2.2-tonne kerb weight would suggest.
Combined with that is an interior that’s nothing short of exquisite both in terms of the materials and its build quality.
The craftsmanship of wood, metal and leather has you constantly and subconsciously running your hands across the surfaces for sheer tactile enjoyment. Fifteen years on from the Continental GT’s first arrival, it remains unique in the market and we still love it for that.
Ford Fiesta ST – Best hot hatch
Best hot hatch: Ford Fiesta ST
Ford reputation in the hot hatch market is well deserved with its long heritage of XR, ST and RS models and this latest Fiesta ST certainly lives up to that. Priced from £19,495, the ST combines some impressive small car performance with sporty looks and a new optional Performance Pack.
It’s this Performance Pack that enables you to exploit the ST’s handling to the full and exposes this hot Fiesta as one of the best pocket rockets on the road. Capable of humiliating so-called sports cars point-to-point at several times the price, it’s no exaggeration to say that this is probably one of the best cars ever to wear that emotive Ford ST badge.
Best 4×4: BMW X5
The original BMW X5 was a game-changer when it first arrived in 1999 and more than 2.2-million worldwide sales later, it’s still setting the standard with this fourth-generation version. With a larger X7 on its way in 2019 and the competent X3 beneath it, this £57,495 X5 might have easily lost it way, but instead it is better than ever.
Refined, comfortable and excellent to drive, it may have lost some of its sporty sharpness compared to its predecessors, but few potential owners are likely to notice, especially when virtually every other element of the car has been improved. Sharing a class with the Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Discovery is nobody’s idea of an easy task, but this X5 remains as tempting as ever.