2020 What Car? Car of the Year Awards: the contenders
In January, we'll reveal the best new cars in every category, plus our overall Car of the Year. These are the models in contention...
2020 What Car? Car of the Year Awards: the contenders
What Car? has released the list of vehicles set to compete for the coveted Car of the Year title at the What Car? Car of the Year Awards 2020, comprising of 23 categories and nearly 200 models.
The ceremony, recognised as being akin to the Oscars of the car industry, will see winners named across each of the categories, as well as an overall victor which will be crowned What Car?’s Car of the Year.
The winners of the 2020 What Car? Car of the Year Awards will be announced in January, but in this slideshow you'll get an early look at all of the models in contention.
Value car: Dacia Sandero
It might be one of the UK's cheapest new cars, but there's plenty to like about the humble Sandero, including its spacious interior and economical engines.
The Ignis is one of the smallest and cheapest SUVs you can buy, and offers a spacious interior and generous amounts of equipment.
Small car: Audi A1
Buyers looking for a peppy petrol engine and a smart, well-equipped interior might well be swayed by the Nissan Micra.
Funky looks aside, the latest 208 impresses with a smart interior and a vast array of standard safety kit.
A range of class-leading safety kit and a practical boot means there’s plenty to like about Renault’s smallest car.
The latest Corsa is decent to drive and well equipped and is available with electric power for the first time.
Last year’s defending champion puts cars from the class above to shame with its generous space and high-quality interior.
Family car: BMW 1 Series
BMW’s new family hatchback has an excellent infotainment system and entertaining handling, and its diesel engines are efficient.
This hybrid version of the Ioniq promises low running costs, but feels refreshingly normal to drive too.
The A-Class looks futuristic inside, and its swish infotainment system is backed up with plenty of features. It’s also good to drive and comfortable.
Drive the Corolla and you’ll enjoy seriously low running costs, as well as a comfortable ride and all the kit which comes as standard.
Updates to the Vauxhall Astra in 2019 have made it an even more compelling family car, with plenty of space and low emissions. That it’s also available with big discounts only sweetens the deal.
The latest version of Volkswagen's big-selling family hatchback arrives with a range of mild hybrid engines to help improve your fuel economy, plus the option of plug-in hybrid power too. Inside, there's a minimalist layout featuring digital instruments and a large infotainment touchscreen, which should be especially useful since new Golf is always connected to the internet, so can, for example, show you the latest fuel prices.
Small SUV: DS 3 Crossback
DS’ smallest SUV comes with a good range of safety kit and clean engines, plus it’s available with electric power.
The Puma name returns on a small SUV with mild-hybrid engines and more space than its key rivals.
The latest Juke continues to offer the stand-out looks of its predecessor but improves on just about everything else. A smart interior and a good driving position are just two highlights.
Renault’s small SUV is a quiet cruiser, and its flexible boot and rear seats are likely to appeal to growing families.
The Ignis is one of the smallest and cheapest SUVs you can buy, and offers a spacious interior and generous amounts of equipment.
The smaller of the two Volkswagen-badged SUVs which appear in this category comes with an impressive array of safety kit. It also offers a smooth ride and a spacious, flexible interior.
The T-Roc offers many of the same advantages as the T-Cross, such as impressive safety kit and a big boot, but is packaged in a slightly larger body. It’s a fine buy, then – especially if you stick to the cheaper trims in the range.
Family SUV: BMW X1
With a high-quality interior that’s also spacious and practical, the latest BMW X1 appears to fit the family SUV brief nicely.
It’s the cheapest car in this class by some margin, but the Duster is also spacious and offers low running costs. Could it be a winning formula?
Range Rover Evoque
The second-generation Evoque improves on its predecessor in just about every way – it’s well equipped, has a great driving position and good to drive.
If you’re looking for value in the family SUV market, then the Korando costs significantly less than the competition, yet still offers a powerful engine and is very practical.
Subaru XV e-Boxer
While four-wheel drive and mud-plugging ability have traditionally been the XV’s strong points, this new e-Boxer version aims to add frugality to that list of strengths too.
Large SUV: Audi Q5
Citroën C5 Aircross
Citroën’s largest SUV is comfortable over most surfaces, quiet inside even when you’re on the motorway, and keeps running costs low with a range of frugal engines.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
Updates in 2019 have earned the Discovery Sport an extra star on our road test, meaning it now sits alongside the best in this class. It’s well equipped, comes with a refined range of engines and available with seven seats.
Updates to the GLC in the past year have made it even more compelling, with stacks of equipment and a punchy range of engines.
The 5008 has won this category for the last two years. It’s still brilliant in 2019, so could Peugeot be about to make it a hat trick?
Subaru Forester e-Boxer
Subaru’s take on the family SUV has always been better off-road than on it, but could the addition of hybrid power broaden its appeal?
Luxury SUV: Audi Q7
If you can afford to splash some serious cash on a new SUV, then the Bentayga offers exclusivity, power and tremendous luxury. It’s also decently practical, and has space for seven people.
While there’s no denying the G-Class is an expensive choice, there’s little to argue about its excellent off-road ability, its eye-widening performance or its spacious interior.
The GLS is the most luxurious SUV which Mercedes makes, and it shows. It’s interior as spacious and crammed with tech, it comes with a huge amount of equipment and it rides comfortably.
Sports SUV: Audi SQ2
How do you make the Q7 luxury SUV even better? Well, fitting a V8 diesel engine under the bonnet, a throaty exhaust and adaptive air suspension is an excellent start.
Audi RS Q3
Despite being a family SUV, the RS Q3 can beat most sports cars in a sprint to 62mph, thanks largely to its 395bhp 2.5-litre petrol engine. Despite that heady performance, the RS Q3 returns 32mpg on official WLTP tests.
Bentley Bentayga Speed
If you want to travel at almost 190mph while also sitting in the lap of a luxury SUV, then the Bentayga Speed is one of very few ways of doing it. It’s an uprated version of the regular W12-engined Bentley Bentayga with a staggering 626bhp available.
BMW X2 M35i
BMW X3 M Competition
This is the most hardcore version of BMW’s large SUV, and is powered by a 503bhp 3.0-litre petrol engine. It’s fast, then, but also surprisingly easy to live with, with a generous amount of equipment and composed handling.
BMW X3 M40i
If you don’t fancy the full fire-breathing X3 M Competition, this M40i version is your next logical step. It’s still powerful, with 335bhp available and a 0-62mph sprint time of 4.8sec, and pleasantly flexible thanks to being able to pull hard from low revs.
BMW X4 M Competition
Think of the X4 M Competition as a coupé-styled version of the X3 M Competition and you won’t be far wrong, because that’s exactly what it is. It gets the same 503bhp engine and is a hoot to drive fast.
The Cupra Ateca is proof that you don’t need to spend a lot to drive a thrilling SUV. It’s fast, fun to drive and yet costs substantially less than most of the other cars listed here – in fact, it’s our defending champion in this class.
Jaguar F-Pace SVR
This performance version of the Jaguar F-Pace strikes a sweet balance between ride comfort and handling finesse, all accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack from its V8 engine.
Mini Countryman JCW
If you’re looking for something which combines space, style and performance, the Countryman JCW could be right up your street. It’s peppy rather than outright fast, but impresses with keen handling.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
The regular Porsche Cayenne isn’t exactly slow, but the Cayenne Turbo produces the kind of performance which would have been reserved for supercars even a few years ago. It’s frankly bonkers that this kind of performance is available in an SUV.
The Macan is as sporty and as good to drive as you’d like a Porsche-badged SUV to be, but also offers a high-quality interior and reasonable boot space.
Volkswagen T-Roc R
The T-Roc is the smallest Volkswagen SUV to get the R treatment, adding a 296bhp petrol engine under the bonnet and a host of other performance upgrades. It all adds up to a car that’s great to drive.
MPV: Citroën Berlingo
Practicality is the name of the game in this class, and our defending champion is exactly that. With space for up to seven people, plus all of their luggage, and a flexible petrol engine.
Although these days you’re more likely to see one being used as a taxi than on someone’s driveway, the Galaxy still makes a lot of sense if you value space. It’s huge inside and, like the best Fords, is great to drive.
A huge boot and masses of passenger space means the Ford Tourneo is akin to a Tardis on wheels. That it’s also cheap to buy and run only sweetens the deal.
Renault Trafic Passenger
It might be based on a van, but that means this version of the Trafic offers both stellar space for big families and reasonable running costs.
Vauxhall Vivaro Life
Like the other MPVs here, passenger space in the Vivaro Life is excellent, but where it really shines is in offering flexible seating, and by being easy to drive and maneuver – despite its size.
A former winner in this class and still one of the best MPVs on sale, the Touran is roomy, practical, well built and good to drive. Big discounts also mean that it’s not overly expensive.
Estate: Audi A4 Avant
The A4 Avant starts on a good footing – after all, it’s based on a former What Car? Car of the Year in the Audi A4 salon – and impresses with its big boot and refined engines.
Audi A6 Allroad
Fancy a halfway house between an estate and an SUV? This version of the Audi A6 gets rufty tufty looks, a raised ride height and four-wheel drive.
BMW 3 Series Touring
Takes everything we love about the regular 3 Series saloon – its stunning interior, decent engines and enjoyable handling – and adds a big boot. What’s not to like?
BMW 5 Series Touring
The 5 Series Touring blends luxury and space to create a true all-rounder. Whether you’re hauling furniture, people or both, few cars do it better.
Kia Proceed GT
The Proceed GT is a halfway house between the regular Ceed hatchback and Ceed estate, but still offers decent boot space alongside swooping looks. It’s well equipped, too.
Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake
The CLA Shooting Brake is the smallest estate Mercedes makes, but its alluring looks are likely to tempt buyers looking for more space from their A-Class.
For those who want space but also the cutesy styling of a Mini, the Clubman holds serious appeal. It’s powered by a range of efficient engines and has a high-quality interior – just make sure you can live with its curious ‘barn’ boot door arrangement.
Peugeot 508 SW
This estate version of the 508 keeps the stylish looks and attractive interior of its sibling, but adds an extra dose of practicality in the form of its larger boot. Its engines are economical, too.
Skoda Superb Estate
The only transport with more space inside than the Superb Estate are commercial jets, because this Skoda can swallow your passengers, their luggage, the kitchen sink and any pets and still have room for more. Add in that it also has a high-quality interior, and it represents exceptional value for money, and it’s easy to see why it’s our defending champion.
Toyota Corolla Touring Sport
Low running costs meets decent space in this estate version of the Toyota Corolla, especially if you go for the hybrid version. Elsewhere, there’s a comfortable ride and lots of standard kit to enjoy.
Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer
With big discounts available, low company car tax and competitive running costs, there are plenty of good reasons to choose the Astra Sports Tourer. It’s comfortable, spacious and affordable.
Volkswagen Passat Estate
Updates to the Volkswagen Passat in 2019 have made it an even more compelling choice, with a wide range of engines, a spacious boot and an easygoing driving style which relaxes any driver.
Hot hatch: Audi RS3
Ford Fiesta ST Performance
This Performance model of the already potent Fiesta ST gets launch control for faster getaways and a shift light to tell you when to change up, among other things. They’re small changes, but they make for a terrific hot hatchback.
Honda Civic Type R
Our defending champion in the hot hatchback class for the last two years, the Civic Type R mixes driving thrills with everyday practicality extremely well.
Mercedes A35 AMG
It's not as hot as the full-fat Mercedes-AMG A45, but this version of the Mercedes A-Class is still pretty toasty, with 302bhp available from its 2.0-litre petrol engine. We like that it's also comfortable by the standards of this class.
Renault Megane RS Trophy
From its stonking engine to its wonderful soundtrack, and from its comfortable sports seats to its distinctive looks, there’s plenty to like in the latest hot Megane.
Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
This extra-hot version of the Golf GTI gets 286bhp to play with from its 2.0-litre petrol engine. It feels deliciously quick, but what also impresses is that it’s so easy to live with.
Convertible: Audi A3 Cabriolet
One of our favourites, and for many years a price point winner in our Awards, the A3 Cabriolet takes all that we love about the regular hatchback and adds all the thrills of open-top motoring. It’s stylish, refined and great to drive.
Audi A5 Cabriolet
Just like its smaller A3 sibling, the swanky A5 Cabriolet is a delight to drive, decently refined and comes with a classy interior that few can match. The folding fabric roof blocks out noise and can also be folded away and raised again quickly, and there’s even a good-sized boot.
Bentley Continental GTC
Very few cars can make a statement like the GTC – it’s a large and luxurious drop-top grand tourer of exceptional class and magnificent performance. It’s fast, comfortable and cosseting, and definitely not one for the shy and retiring.
BMW 8 Series Convertible
We loved the old 6 Series Convertible and the newer 8 Series carries on all that car’s good qualities: it’s fast, striking and beautifully put together. Throw in a plush interior that’s loaded with plenty of kit and a class-leading infotainment system and it’s a mightily tempting open-top package.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet
The S-Class in all its forms is a breathtakingly competent vehicle, but add in the extra razzle-dazzle of a folding roof and it becomes a car few can match for overall glamour. Our defending champion is great to drive, too, and amazingly refined; the interior’s a sybaritic delight and the ride quality is superb.
Minis are well-known for their premium interiors, and this Convertible model doesn’t let the side down - there are soft-touch plastics and plenty of stylish and deliberately retro touches everywhere. Add in its enjoyable agility and eager performance and that wind-in-the-hair fun is almost guaranteed.
Porsche 911 Cabriolet
Not only is the 911 Cabriolet an amazingly fast soft-top with top-class handling, it’s wonderfully luxurious inside, too. It’s a thrilling car, and one of the few at this level of performance you can easily live with every day.
Coupé: Aston Martin DB11
The beauty of the DB11 is that it can play either the long-legged grand tourer role or the track-day special one. It combines effortless performance with sharp handling and, of course, those head-turning looks; its interior is beautifully crafted and is a classy cocoon, too.
The A5 Coupé carried off this prize last year and it’s no surprise: it’s comfortable, quiet and has a really classy interior, for starters, and it comes with a range of strong and smooth engines, too. It’s even fairly practical, making this easily one of the most well-rounded coupes you can buy.
Audi A5 Sportback
All the pleasures of the A5 Coupé can be found in the Sportback version too, which adds in two rear doors and a hatchback for extra practicality. It’s also comfortable, refined and reasonably cheap to run, and its interior quality is class-leading.
Audi TT Coupé
No car has won more of our awards over the years than the Audi TT, and it’s easy to see why. There’s the crisp styling, for one, and it’s also agile, fast and easy to drive, with sharp handling and a delightful interior. It’s well built, too, and always feels rock solid.
Bentley Continental GT V8
The Continental GT is a top-notch grand tourer that gets the balance between being a sports car and a luxury car exactly right. Its performance is prodigious, its ride and refinement almost unmatched and its interior is a wonderful place in which to spend a lot of time.
BMW 8 Series Gran Coupé
The 8 Series Gran Coupe strikes an excellent balance between sportiness and comfort. It rides and handles well, is luxurious inside and has all the style you’d expect from a four-door coupe.
The CLA is one of the smaller four-door coupes, being closely related under the skin to the much-improved A-Class hatchback. It rides and handles well and look smart, and features a bang up to date infotainment system.
It might look a little like a Passat, but the Arteon is longer, lower and wider, and its glitzier, coupe-like exterior is much more interesting to behold. It’s good to drive, comfortable to ride in and amazingly practical, too.
SUV-coupé: Audi Q3 Sportback
We like the regular Audi Q3, but if you want a dollop of extra style added to the mix the Q3 Sportback’s the way to go. It’s still good to drive, decently refined and comes with that up-market Audi interior. It’s comfortable, too, with a well-composed ride.
Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupé
With the presence and lofty driving position of an SUV and some of the sleek styling of a rakish coupe, the GLC offers strong performance, a striking interior and a long list of standard kit.
Range Rover Velar
Think of the Velar as being the bridge between the Evoque and the cheapest Range Rover Sport. It’s huge inside, comfortable and – as befits the Land Rover badge – excellent off-road.