What Car? Car of the Year Award 2024 contenders revealed

Next week we'll name the best new cars on sale in the UK, and crown one the overall What Car? Car of the Year for 2024 – these are the models in contention...

What Car? Car of the Year Awards 2024 contenders

The models in contention for the overall What Car? Car of the Year Award in 2024 have been revealed.

The shortlist of 19 models includes cars from a variety of brands, including former winners and relative newcomers to the UK market. 

In order to qualify for the overall Car of the Year Award, a car has to have been launced within the past year, and needs to be available to order by the time of the Car of the Year Awards ceremony –  due to take place on 18 January.

The What Car? Awards have been running since 1978, and are the culmination of a 12 months of testing, during which What Car? has driven hundreds of new cars back-to-back with their rivals, both on the road and at its private track.

Alongside the overall Car of the Year, What Car? will name winners in 22 categories, ranging from Small Electric Car to Performance Car, and Family Car to Luxury Car. The Awards are being held in association with MotorEasy.

Below you'll find more information on each car shortlisted for the overall What Car? Car of the Year Award. You can click the links to read our in-depth reviews of each model. These contenders are presented in alphabetical order.

What Car? Car of the Year Award 2024 contenders

Abarth 500e

Abarth 500e front left driving

This electric hot hatch gets 153bhp from its single motor – and while that might not sound like much on paper, it lets the Abarth 500e hit 62mph from a standing start in just 7.0sec. Plus, the instant surge of electric power is sure to put a smile on your face. The 500e also benefits from a bespoke suspension and steering setup which makes it feel more nimble than the rival Mini Electric.

Read our full Abarth 500e review

BMW i5

BMW i5 LT front tracking

The combustion-engined BMW 5 Series is a former What Car? Car of the Year, and the BMW i5 aims to take everything good about that model and transpose it onto an electric car. We've been impressed by the i5's comfortable interior, as well as its superb infotainment system. Plus, while electric cars tend to be heavy, the i5 feels remarkably agile, with precise steering and taught body control through corners.

Read our full BMW i5 review

BYD Seal

White BYD Seal front left driving

Chinese brand BYD is challenging the Tesla Model 3 with this electric executive car, and impressed us with its plethora of standard kit and high-quality interior. It also offers a long range, with even entry-level versions able to officially cover more than 350 miles between charges.

Read our full BYD Seal review

Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V long term test, driving 2023

This practical family SUV is available as either a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid, so could significantly lower your running costs compared with a purely combustion-engined alternative. Despite the need to accomodate a battery, the CR-V has a big boot – we managed to fit eight carry-on suitcases into the plug-in hybrid model – as well as flexible seating to fit around the needs of your family.

Read our full Honda CR-V review

Hyundai Kona

Hyundai Kona Electric front right driving

The latest Hyundai Kona looks like it's rolled off the set of a Sci-Fi film, but beyond futuristic looks it's a thoroughly sensible SUV, and is available in petrol, hybrid or pure electric forms. The hybrid version offers especially low C02 emissions, while the Kona Electric can travel up to 319 miles on a charge. No matter which power type you go for, you'll get lots of kit as standard.

Read our full Hyundai Kona review

Jeep Avenger

Jeep Avenger front right driving

The first fully electric car from Jeep is an SUV which counts the Kia Niro EV and Smart #1 among its key rivals. The Avenger feels sprightly – covering the 0-62mph sprint in 8.7sec in our tests – yet can also take you up to 249 miles between charges. Speaking of charge, getting it into the Avenger's 50.8kWh battery should be quick, because the Jeep can accept a higher rate of charge than most rivals. 

Read our full Jeep Avenger review

Kia EV9

Blue Kia EV9 front right driving

With concept car looks and a body big enough to fit seven people inside, the Kia EV9 is a truly imposing sight. Thankfully, it doesn't feel overly big to drive, with light steering which makes manouvering through tight city streets a breeze. Plus, with a healthy range of up to 349 miles, you won't need to stop too often to recharge. There's lots of room for your passengers to stretch out inside the EV9, and even with every seat in use, there's more boot space than you'd find in a small hatchback.

Read our full Kia EV9 review

Lexus LBX

Red Lexus LBX front left driving

Wouldn't it be great if you could mix the fuel-sipping nature of a hybrid small SUV with the premium interior and comfort you'd expect from a Lexus? That's the aim of the LBX, which is based on the super-frugal Toyota Yaris Cross. Just like in that car, the LBX's hybrid system is inredibly efficient, but you also get a high-quality interior and lots of kit.

Read our full Lexus LBX review

Lexus RX

Lexus RX front

Even luxury SUV buyers would like to save money when it comes to running costs, and so the Lexus RX offers them the chance to do that by being available as both a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid – the latter covered 33 miles on electric power alone in our tests. We like that the RX feels nicely hushed when you're driving, and that it surrounds you with high-quality materials.

Read our full Lexus RX review

Lexus RZ

Lexus RZ front cornering

You'll have seen from the previous two entries that Lexus knows how to build a cracking hybrid car – but the RZ is the brand's first bespoke electric model. It has all the right ingredients to succeed in the growing market for zero-emission cars, with a long range of up to 271 miles, a practical, well-built interior, and a comfortable ride.

Read our full Lexus RZ review

Mercedes CLE

Red Mercedes CLE front right driving

Replacing two cars with one might seem like a tall order, but the CLE is a worthy replacement for the C-Class and E-Class coupés, providing comfort and luxury in equal measure as well as head-turning looks. The CLE 300 model we've driven so far feels powerful, and benefits from mild hybrid technology to help keep your running costs in check.

Read our full Mercedes CLE review

Mercedes E-Class

Mercedes E-Class front left driving

The latest E-Class is as close to a personal butler as many of us are likely to get, because this luxury car can take care of some of the business of driving for you thanks to its advanced assistance systems. Elsewhere, we like its spacious interior, its impressive infotainment system and the class-leading electric-only range of plug-in hybrid models, which can officially travel for up to 71 miles without using a drop of fuel.

Read our full Mercedes E-Class review

Mercedes EQE SUV

Mercedes EQE SUV front cornering

The Mercedes EQE SUV faces tough competition in the growing market for premium electric SUVs, but makes a good case for itself with an impressive range – some verisons can cover up to 334 miles on a charge – and the kind of refinement which will make long trips a breeze. We also like its interior, which offers lots of space for your passengers to stretch out alongside a usefully practical boot.

Read our full Mercedes EQE SUV review

Nissan X-Trail

Nissan X-Trail front

The latest X-Trail is available as a fuel-saving mild hybrid or as an electric car – but the latter isn't quite what you'd expect. You see, it comes with a petrol engine, but it's never used to directly power the car's front wheels. Instead, it charges a battery which powers the car, contributing to significantly reduced running costs compared with a purely combustion-engined SUV. We also like that the X-Trail is predicted to hold onto its value better than some seven-seat rivals.

Read our full Nissan X-Trail review

Renault Scenic

Renault Scenic E-Tech front left driving

The previous Renault Scenic was a rather frumpy MPV – but that's not something you could say about the latest model. Instead, the Scenic is now a stylish electric SUV with a range of up to 388 miles between charges. It's still family friendly, though, with lots of space for your passengers and all of their luggage, plus smart features including a panoramic sunroof which can darken in sections, and a plethora of charging points to keep everyone's devices topped up.

Read our full Renault Scenic review

Smart #1

Smart #1 front three-quarters

Like the Renault Scenic above, Smart's cars have been through a reinvention, and the #1 is the first of a new wave of electric models. It's impressed us with its peppy performance and clever, high-tech interior, but should also take good care of you and your passengers since it comes loaded with all the latest safety kit.

Read our full Smart #1 review

Toyota C-HR

Toyota C-HR front cornering

The latest version of Toyota's hybrid small SUV is wonderfully efficient, but there's more to like here than just low running costs. The C-HR is also brilliant at dealing with all manner of lumps and bumps in the road, but that soft suspension doesn't come at the expense of body control. Indeed we think the C-HR is one of the comfiest small SUVs you can buy.

Read our full Toyota C-HR review

Volkswagen ID 7

Volkswagen ID 7 front right driving

The latest addition to Volkswagen's growing range of ID-badged electric cars is a rival to the BMW i4 and Tesla Model 3 – it even pips the Tesla when it comes to ride comfort. Other positives include a long range of up to 384 miles, lots of interior space, and a boot that's larger than those of most rivals.

Read our full Volkswagen ID 7 review

Volvo EX30

Blue Volvo EX30 front cornering

The EX30 is a great all-rounder in the growing market for premium-badged electric SUVs, offering lots of kit, a decent range of up to 275 miles, and striking a brilliant balance between engaging handling and a comfortable ride. The icing on the cake is that, thanks to competitive pricing, the EX30 will cost you less to buy than most of its mainstream rivals.

Read our full Volvo EX30 review

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