Every What Car? Car of the Year winner since 1978

Being named What Car? Car of the Year is the highest honour a car can receive – here is every winner in the 40-year history of the award...

21 December 2018
Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport

2011: Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport

Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport

Combining desirability with agility, the A1 gave buyers wanting a small hatchback with a premium badge somewhere to put their cash. The A1 had the Audi hallmarks of head-turning style and impeccable interior build quality, plus a peppy 1.4-litre petrol engine to boot. "The A1 is a car that makes you smile for any number of reasons," we wrote, "and will keep you grinning as all great cars do. That's exactly what the A1 is – a great car."

Read our used Audi A1 2010 - present buying guide, or find a great deal on a new Audi A1

2012: Volkswagen Up 1.0 75 High Up 5dr

Volkswagen Up 1.0 75 High Up 5dr

The Up's blend of interior quality, refinement, space and maturity set new standards in the city car class, and while this baby Volkswagen felt most at home in town, it was also not averse to munching up miles on the motorway. In fact, more than one member of our judging panel at the time summed it up by saying that the Up was "the right car for the right time".

Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TFSI 122 SE

In many ways, the A3 Sportback was just an evolution of what had come before, but that was no bad thing when what came before was already excellent. In fact, the small improvements to refinement and interior quality in this version made it a stand-out winner, good enough in almost every respect to worry cars from the class above. Keen pricing sealed the deal on its Car of the Year win.

Read our used Audi A3 2013 - present buying guide, or find a great deal on a new Audi A3

2014: Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta 2WD

Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi Acenta 2WD

The original Nissan Qashqai was the car that kick-started the trend for family SUVs, but this second-generation version is the one that really secured its place in history. With striking looks, a high-quality interior and low running costs, it quickly became a common sight on UK roads and remained our favourite family SUV until the arrival of the storming Seat Ateca in 2016.

Read our used Nissan Qashqai 2014 - present buying guide, or find a great deal on a new Nissan Qashqai

2015: Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 90 SE

Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 90 SE

Although it's now getting on a bit, the Fabia remains one of the most well-rounded cars on sale, offering outstanding interior space, a range of refined yet punchy engines and an excellent price.

Read our used Skoda Fabia 2015 - present buying guide, or find a great deal on a new Skoda Fabia

2016: Audi A4 3.0 TDI 218 Sport

Audi A4 3.0 TDI 218 Sport

The A4 set new standards in the executive saloon market, which is difficult to do with rivals from BMW and Mercedes close behind. Its interior is better both in terms of quality and materials than any other rival, and its diesel engine offers impressive performance without sacrificing fuel economy or CO2 emissions.

BMW 5 Series

Some were surprised to see the new BMW 5 Series entered into the luxury car category in 2017's awards, but the fact is that it's comfortable, refined and luxurious enough to challenge long-standing luxury cars that cost a lot more. The 520d diesel engine we recommend offers the best balance of performance, price and running costs, while SE models come with all the equipment you're likely to want.

Read our used BMW 5 series saloon 2017 - present review, or find a great deal on a new BMW 5 Series

2018: Volvo XC40 D4 R-Design

Volvo XC40

Competing in the fast-growing family SUV segment is a tough challenge, but the Volvo XC40 stood out in 2018 thanks to its mix of comfort, quality, safety and style. It excels in all the areas that are important to buyers.

Our independent tests even proved that our recommended diesel engine emits less NOx than plenty of petrols, while offering the low CO2 output that made diesels so popular in the first place. In short, the XC40 is a stunning achievement.

Read our full Volvo XC40 review, or find a great deal on a new Volvo XC40

2019: Find out soon

The 42nd annual What Car? Car of the Year Awards take place tomorrow evening, so check back to Whatcar.com then to find out what has won our top accolade in 2019.

 | Next: Find out more about the What Car? Car of the Year Awards >

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