Every What Car? Car of the Year winner: a list

Winning the coveted What Car? Car of the Year Award is highest honour for any car - here is every winner since 1978

Words ByDarren Moss

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Every What Car? Car of the Year winner

At the start of every year, we crown the best cars on the market, and salute the people who make them at the What Car? Car of the Year Awards.

There are awards in many different categories, but our most coveted prize is the overall What Car? Car of the Year.

Being crowned as the What Car? Car of the Year is the pinnacle of success for a car and its makers. It's the sign of a great year ahead for that model, and in the past our winners have included some of the most popular cars on the market, including the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf and Nissan Qashqai.

What Car?'s influence on car buyers is second to none, and is built on a relationship of trust with our readers that has been earned over more than 40 years. Below, we've listed every Car of the Year winner since the award's inception in 1978. Is your car on the list?

Find out what's in the running for our Car of the Year 2017

  • 1978 - Renault 20 TS - launched in 1975, the Renault 20 was an executive car which eventually went off sale in 1984.

  • 1979 - Peugeot 305 - sold as a four-door saloon, estate and as a van, the Peugeot 305 left the market in 1989.

  • 1980 - Vauxhall Astra - the very first Vauxhall Astra gave the company a significant boost in the family car market.

  • 1981 - Volkswagen Golf - designed to be a modern, front-wheel drive hatchback, the first VW Golf set a precedent for quality which still exists today.

  • 1982 - Mercedes-Benz 200T - part of Mercedes' successful W123 family, the 200t featured a 2.0-litre engine with 107bhp

  • 1983 - MG Metro - sold first by British Leyland and then latterly by Rover, the Metro is an icon of British manufacturing

  • 1984 - Peugeot 205 GR - a practical family hatchback, the Peugeot 205 would later spawn one of the best hot hatchbacks of its time, the 205 GTi

  • 1985 - Volkswagen Golf GL - the second generation of VW's family hatchback again took our top honours, this time with the GL version

  • 1986 - Saab 9000 Turbo 16 - Saab's 9000 executive car gained a sporty turbocharged version soon after its launch

  • 1987 - Renault 21 Savanna GTX - not only did Renault's 21 win our main title, we also crowned it as the best family estate car of 1987

  • 1988 - BMW 735i - the second generation of BMW's luxury car had 205bhp and a top speed of 144mph

  • 1989 - Ford Fiesta 1.1LX - 1989 marks the first time that Britain's best-selling car appears on this list

  • 1990 - Rover 214 Si - launched in 1989, over half of all Rover 200 models were sold in the UK

  • 1991 - Rover Metro 1.1L - the Metro, now made by Rover rather than British Leyland, makes its second appearance as our Car of the Year

  • 1992 - Volkswagen Golf 1.8 GL - it's a hat-trick for the first three generations of the VW Golf: this time it wins in mid-range GL form

  • 1993 - Ford Mondeo 1.8 GLX - the very first Ford Mondeo was an instant hit, carving out a new niche for 'Mondeo Man' in the UK

  • 1994 - Peugeot 306 1.6 LX - Peugeot's replacement for the ageing 309 was virtually identical underneath to its CitroΓ«n ZX sister car

  • 1995 - Volkswagen Polo 1.3 CL - the third generation of Volkswagen's posh supermini lasted until 2003

  • 1996 - Peugeot 406 1.8 LX - the Peugeot's 406's 1.8-litre engine developed 113bhp

  • 1997 - Renault Megane ScΓ©nic 1.6 RT - latterly just called the ScΓ©nic, this stylish car helped to define the MPV segment

  • 1998 - Land Rover Freelander 1.8i - Land Rover opened up new markets with the Freelander, earning it our top accolade

  • 1999 - Rover 75 1.8 Club - probably Rover's best known executive car, the 75 ceased production in 2005

  • 2000 - Skoda Fabia 1.4 16v Comfort - the very first Fabia hatchback was a triumph; it was also available in saloon and estate forms

  • 2001 - Ford Mondeo 1.8 LX 5dr - having acheived its status as one of the best-selling family cars in Britain, the popular estate again won our top honour

  • 2002 - Toyota Corolla 1.6 VVT-i T3 5dr - despite the ninth-generation Corolla launching in Japan in 2000, it took a full two years for it to reach the UK

  • 2003 - Seat Ibiza 1.2 12C 5dr - underneath, this Ibiza shared its structure with the Volkswagen Polo, another former Car of the Year

  • 2004 - Volkswagen Golf 1.6 FSI S 5dr - this version of the Golf proved to be incredibly practical, offering a bigger boot than the previous model did

  • 2005 - Land Rover Discovery TDV6 S auto - the third generation of Land Rover's big-selling SUV blurred the lines between luxury and practicality

  • 2006 - BMW 320d ES - the fifth-generation BMW 3 Series quickly established itself as a benchmark car in the executive market

  • 2007 - Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 Club AC 5dr - a little known fact about the previous Corsa concerns the image of a shark which found its way into every production model. If you've got one, look at the glovebox hinges very carefully

  • 2008 - Jaguar XF 2.7D V6 Luxury - Jaguar's replacement for the S-type won our top accolade during its first year on sale

  • 2010 - Peugeot 3008 1.6 THP 150 Sport - despite its somewhat quirky styling, Peugeot's 3008 offered buyers a truly practical MPV

  • 2011 - Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport - Audi's new small car gave families a premium alternative to the likes of the Ford Fiesta

  • 2012 - Volkswagen Up 1.0 75 High Up 5dr - in the same year that we crowned the Up as our Car of the Year, it was also named as the World Car of the Year

  • 2013 - Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI 122 SE - Audi's five-door A3 is one of the best, and most practical, family hatchbacks around

  • 2014 - Nissan Qashqai 1.5dCi Acenta 2WD - the Qashqai represents excellent value for money and a truly practical package

  • 2015 - Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 90 SE - one of the most well-rounded cars on sale, and at an excellent price

  • 2016 - Audi A4 3.0 TDI 218 - Our current Car of the Year has set new standards in the junior executive market

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