After hours of deliberation, trawling through countless reviews and a handful of minor fist-fights, we’ve finally selected our winners for the 2014 carwow awards.
We’ve listed all the winners below for the various categories along with links to the shortlists with the runners-up.
It’s surprising they can get Nissan Qashqais out of the Sunderland factory gates with all the silverware the car has amassed. Experts were very impressed with the refined and composed driving experience that’s ideally suited to the countless families it’ll ferry about. Elsewhere, excellent quality, frugal engines and good levels of standard equipment make the Qashqai effectively beyond reproach.
It may have been out for a little while now but the Volkswagen Up is still the sector-defining car amongst city cars. Critics are blown away by its Tardis-like interior, fautless build quality and its efficiency. On the road the Up impresses as it strikes a perfect balance between the fun of a small, peppy city car and the refinement and comfort of a large executive barge.
Any of the estates based on the Golf platform would’ve been a contender for this award, but the SEAT Leon ST just edged it as it offers all the quality, technology and frugality of its siblings but with a welcome injection of style. Estates can often be seen as the dull, practicality-minded version of more exciting cars but the Leon ST reminds us that more space doesn’t have to equal less desirability.
It would be a cliché for a Porsche to win the best performance car award if their cars weren’t so effortlessly talented. The Porsche Cayman had reviewers salivating over its sensational handling balance, beautifully built interior and raucous flat-six engine. That it manages all of these feats while being a car that could conceivably be used everyday is a very impressive result – but would you expect anything else from Porsche?
The Nissan Qashqai would happily carry on walking out of showrooms regardless of this award, such is the clamour to get one. It’s spacious, reasonably priced, well equipped, frugal and, most importantly, comfortable for families. The ride and refinement particularly impressed the critics – demonstrating that Nissan clearly understands the target market for this model. That it’s built in Britain is just icing on the cake.
When a Qashqai isn’t enough, you’ll need the Land Rover Discovery. Another car that’s been out for a while now but is still firmly at the top of its class. The ruggedness of the drivetrain combined with the sheer weight and size of this thing make it ideally suited to traversing rough terrain or as a towing vehicle. Critics like that it also seats seven in reasonable comfort and that the interior feels sturdy and stays refined on journeys.
We spend most of out time with our cars on the inside, so manufacturers have to make it count. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class easily deserves this accolade as its interior is more akin to those from two or three classes above. Many of the design cues and some of the switchgear itself is taken from the S-Class luxury saloon and this really makes the C-Class feel like a very special place to sit.
Hot hatches try to be all things to all people – at once compact and practical while also being fun and engaging. The Volkswagen Golf R promises to be one of the ultimate do-everything vehicles – 296hp gets split between all four wheels either through a six-speed manual or DSG auto gearbox – enough to satisfy even the most ardent petrolhead. That it does all this while simply being a Golf gives it an almost unmatched breadth of ability.
Electric cars can only become more relevant as combustion-engined vehicles fall further from favour. The Renault Zoe impressed critics for the usual reasons an electric car might – zero exhaust emissions, silent running electric motor and ease of use. Admittedly, it doesn’t do any of these better than the BMW i3 – the current electric car du jour – but it’s effectively as good while costing nearly half as much.
Alongside electric cars, alternatively powered vehicles are a growing sector and the Audi A3 e-tron could be one of the most interesting propositions. Its combination of plug-in hybrid electric system and a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine give it hot hatch rivalling power while emitting very small amounts of CO2 and achieving a scarcely-believable three-figure mpg rating. That the A3 is already such a good car makes this an easy pick.
There are plenty of clever designs in the automotive world right now, but few are as innovative as the Citroën C4 Cactus. Starting with the staggeringly low weight – entry-level cars weigh less than a tonne – this means the Cactus is faster and more efficient than its rivals. The minimalist style of the dashboard makes for a bold interior, while airbumps on the side of the car protect against dings in car parks.
Convertible versions of performance cars are hardly uncommon, but they’re often seen as style-led exercises rather than true performance machines. In this vain, the Jaguar F-Type simply must be the ultimate convertible – it’s fast, sounds amazing and is a hoot to drive. All of these things are irrelevant, however, because of the way the F-Type looks – its arresting beauty still has the power to make people stop and stare as it slinks past.
The brief for a family car is simple – spacious, tough, frugal, comfortable and refined. The Škoda Octavia estate fulfils all of these requirements and more with its vast array of abilities. Critics struggle to argue with the price, at which the Octavia offers more room and more quality than almost any rival. The estate is cavernous, too, so will swallow any family paraphernalia you throw at it. It’s worlds away from the butt of the car jokes now.
The families who need yet more space over an Octavia need look no further than one of the seven-seat models on sale. The Citroën Grand C4 Picasso gets our vote not only because of its space, frugality and refinement but also for its innovative seating arrangement that gives three individual seats in the middle row meaning installing children in child seats becomes that much easier.
Luxury cars are an opportunity for manufacturers to show off their latest technology and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has, as every previous generation did before it, shot to the top of the class. Critics were amazed by its fabulous cabin featuring beautiful materials and tasteful designs, in addition to its peerless refinement. The magic ride system, which scans the road and adjusts the dampers accordingly, has won much praise.