Motor Awards 2019: The Times and Sunday Times cars of the year

Motor Awards 2019: The Times and Sunday Times cars of the year

Celebrating the best cars on sale

WE CREATED shortlists of our favourite cars, you voted in your hundreds of thousands — now we can reveal The Times and Sunday Times cars of the year 2019.

Categories included best small car, best hot hatch, best family car, best sports car and the most dog-friendly car — picked by owners, not their canine companions (sorry dogs).

We also picked our Sunday Times car of the year and manufacturer of the year, while Driving columnist Jeremy Clarkson got greedy and chose two winners for 2019: his favourite supercar and a “people’s favourite”. Well, he is the people’s favourite motoring journalist, after all.

Last year Clarkson won our motoring personality of the year award, but not this year – that goes to another larger-than-life TV star.

In this second year of our awards, competition was fiercer than ever, with more than 60 shortlisted cars and products, and 270,000 votes. If you took the time to pick your personal favourites, thank you for taking part. Read on to see if the majority agreed with you.


The Sunday Times car of the year 

Porsche 911 

Chosen by Expert panel

It was harder than ever this year to choose an overall winner but after much intense discussion at ST HQ, the latest version of Porsche’s evergreen 911 was put on the top step of the podium. Our writers found it to be not only fast, beautifully balanced and thrilling on track but also comfortable on a long cruise. According to Richard Porter, “Few cars can match the 911’s breadth of ability. Yes, it’s good at hammering across the countryside if you get your kicks from such things, but what sets it apart from rivals is how good it is at mundane, everyday stuff.”


Manufacturer of the year 


Chosen by Reader vote

Volvo is still riding the crest of a wave that began when the XC90 was re-launched in 2015. That brought stunning high tech Scandi-chic interiors and excellent driving manners along with the Swedish manufacturer’s trademark levels of safety and comfort. Since then the full line-up has been replaced, and Volvo has announced one of the industry’s most ambitious plans for electrification, ditching diesel this year and with ambitions for half of its global sales to be pure-electric by 2025.

Volvo is still pioneering safety, revealing to us in March that women are just as safe as men in its cars (a 2011 study found women wearing seatbelts are on average 47% more likely to suffer severe injury in a crash than men). It even opened up its archive of crash test data to the world in an effort to cut deaths across the board.

Also shortlisted

  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Kia
  • Porsche
  • PSA (Citroën, DS, Peugeot, Vauxhall)
  • Toyota


Jeremy Clarkson’s supercar of the year 

Ferrari 488 Pista 

Chosen by Jeremy Clarkson

In his review for the Sunday Times in July, Clarkson said the Ferrari 488 Pista was “not just good. Or brilliant. It’s way beyond that.” Here is an extract:

“There was a time when any car, even a Ferrari, struggled to cope with 711 brake horsepower. The back end would skitter about, and you could never — not on the road, at any rate — use full throttle in any gear for more than a second or two. But it’s not like that in the Pista. To make the engine feel naturally aspirated rather than turbocharged, the torque is limited in the first six gears. So you don’t get that wheelspinning madness. Which means you don’t get the terror. This is a car you can drive fast. That you’ll want to drive fast.

“And then there’s the handling, which is faultless. You find yourself going round quite significant corners at ridiculously high speeds and there isn’t even a chirp of protest from the tyres. Or your passenger, because it all feels so completely controlled. You’d imagine that, to achieve this, the suspension was harder than a communist’s heart, but no.”


Jeremy Clarkson’s people’s car of the year 

Bentley Continental GT V8 

Chosen by Jeremy Clarkson

Replacing the V12 with a smaller V8 drops power a little, but you still get planetary amounts of torque combined with even keener handling characteristics and more miles per tank.

Here’s what Clarkson had to say:

“There’s no doubt the Bentley is the people’s car of the year because Bentley is owned by Volkswagen and that literally means “people’s car”. Sure, it has an interior like one of Lewis Hamilton’s earrings and some chintizness that only a footballer could love. But footballers are people too.

“Also, it is extremely good value for money. Yes it’s expensive but compared to the offerings from various other boutique brands, £152,000 is the bargain of the week. Because this car offers sooo much; power, opulence, comfort and a sense when you’re behind the wheel that all is well in your world.

“I don’t need a Continental in my life but I want one. And that’s the measure of a car’s greatness.”

Watch Jeremy Clarkson reveal his cars of the year at Sunday Times Motor Awards


Small SUV/ crossover of the year 

Volvo XC40 

Chosen by Reader vote

The XC40’s design is straight from the Apple school of “minimal is best”, but poke around a bit and you’ll also find it has the functionality that Swedes are so good at. Jeremy Clarkson reckoned this was the car to have for those who couldn’t bring themselves to drive a Range Rover.

Also shortlisted:

  • Audi Q3
  • BMW X1
  • Cupra Ateca
  • DS 3 Crossback
  • Nissan Juke
  • Volkswagen T-Cross


Family SUV of the year

Range Rover Evoque 

Chosen by Reader vote

The Evoque is the car that dyed-in-the-wool off-road enthusiasts love to hate, but it is still extremely effective on the rough stuff. It’s also popular with buyers, being Land Rover’s best seller. The second-generation model is more spacious, more high tech, better to drive on the road, more fuel efficient and improved in just about every way, yet the designers and engineers crucially managed to stick very closely to the original’s winning looks.

Also shortlisted:

  • BMW X7
  • Honda CR-V Hybrid
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE
  • Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
  • Volkswagen Touareg


Family car of the year

Volvo V60 

Chosen by Reader vote

The Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3-series Touring and Mercedes C-class estate are all good cars, but they’re common, so your boss will have one — with a bigger engine than yours. Which is why there’s a place for the Volvo V60. Driving it is as soothing as a meditation podcast. Yet it’s still, at heart, a hard-working estate car that’s fit for a life with children, Labradors, botched DIY projects and Gumtree purchases.

Also shortlisted:

  • BMW 3-series
  • Kia ProCeed
  • Peugeot 508 SW
  • Skoda Scala
  • Toyota Corolla


Adventure car of the year 

Ford Ranger Raptor

Chosen by Reader vote

Just as our burgers, fries and shakes are a fraction of the size of the ones in America, so are our pick-ups. The problem with that is they look weedy compared with their US counterparts. So Ford has created a version of the mighty American Raptor for more conservative Europeans. Based on the popular Ranger pick-up, it comes with a sensible diesel engine with a sensible amount of power, but beneath the wheelarches you’ll find off-road racing suspension that makes it a riot to drive flat-out to the top field and will have drivers hollering: “Yee-haw!”

Also shortlisted:

  • Audi A6 allroad
  • Land Rover Defender
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Suzuki Jimny
  • Volvo V60 Cross Country


City/ small car of the year

Ford Fiesta 

Chosen by Reader vote

Somehow the spanner-wielding folk at Ford have managed to give the Fiesta all the best bits  of a small car without any of the annoying stuff. No matter which version you jump into, it’s a hoot to drive, even if you’re just pottering to the shops. Yet if you have further to venture, the Fiesta shows a maturity and confidence beyond its size and price. By sipping fuel and being affordable to insure, it’s easy to live with, too.

Also shortlisted:

  • Fiat 500
  • Mazda 3
  • Peugeot 208
  • Renault Clio
  • Vauxhall Corsa


Sports car of the year

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante 

Chosen by Reader vote

This Aston is a tour de force, a car with muscular performance yet forgiving manners on the road. It will stand your hair on end, should you wish, but will never scare you to the point where some of it starts to fall out. Which, let’s agree, has to be a good thing when the roof is down and people are staring. Technically it’s a four-seater but the rear pair are scaled for handbags, manbags and designer breeds of miniature dog.

Some critics, including Jeremy Clarkson, aren’t convinced it’s worth nearly a quarter of a million, but even he admits that not only is it blisteringly fast but “one of the best looking cars ever made”.

Also shortlisted:

  • Audi R8 V10 Performance
  • BMW Z4
  • McLaren 600LT Spider
  • Porsche 911
  • Toyota Supra


Dog-friendly car of the year

Nissan X Trail 

Chosen by Reader vote

The Land Rover Discovery (last year’s winner in this category) has cocked a leg and left its mark on this territory. Yet the X-Trail is a comfortable and, yes, lovable companion. It’s also cheaper than the Discovery. The boot is generous, and Nissan offers a Paw Pack, which  includes a boot liner and a ramp so Fido doesn’t have to jump in and out.

Also shortlisted:

  • Land Rover Discovery
  • Mazda CX-5
  • Tesla Model X
  • Volvo V60


Electric car of the year

Tesla Model 3 

Chosen by Reader vote

Britain’s drivers have started voting with their feet and plugging into the electric revolution, ditching petrol- and diesel-powered cars. In the process, they have propelled the new Tesla Model 3 onto the podium of the UK’s bestselling cars. In August, only the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Golf sold more.

Motorists appear to have caught onto the fact that the Model 3 can travel for up to 348 miles on a charge, depending on the version, and is cost-effective to run when compared with a similarly sized Audi or BMW. Plus you can drive with a halo over your head.

Also shortlisted:

  • Audi e-tron
  • Hyundai Kona Electric
  • Kia e-Niro
  • Mercedes-Benz EQC
  • Mini Electric


Motoring innovation of the year

Nextbase Series 2 Dash Cam 

Chosen by Reader vote

Nextbase is the UK’s best-selling dash cam brand, and with good reason — it keeps one step ahead of the pack. Or several steps in the case of its new Series 2 range. With clever magnetic mounts, plug-and-play rear-view cameras (zoom, wide-angle or rear window-mounted), Alexa voice control on higher-spec models (if specified), quick file transfers to your smartphone and an Emergency SOS service that will call for an ambulance if you don’t respond following a crash, these are clever bits of kit. They also happen to record driving footage in class-leading clarity, fuss-free, and are far from the most expensive models out there.

Also shortlisted:

  • Airbubbl in-car air filter
  • Hyundai NEXO Blind Spot Monitor
  • Land Rover Ground View
  • Polestar Android Auto
  • Tesla Sentry Mode


Best Designed Car of the Year

McLaren GT 

Chosen by Reader vote

A McLaren for those who wish to travel without earplugs, the new GT is also gentler on the eye. The shape is familiar but friendlier — it doesn’t so much shout as whisper sweet nothings, but it will still turn more heads than a streaker at a cricket match.

The McLaren is unusual for a grand tourer in that it’s mid-engined (McLaren refuse to do it any other way), and as such has an unusually-shaped rear luggage compartment, but with a large space between the front wheels buyers can transport more than just a weekend toothbrush. And it’s so light and well-balanced that McLaren’s trademark fine handling characteristics come as standard.

Also shortlisted:

  • Aston Martin Valhalla
  • Kia ProCeed
  • Mazda 3
  • Peugeot 508
  • Volvo S60


Value Car of the Year

Kia Picanto 

Chosen by Reader vote

Not only is the Kia Picanto competitively priced — not always the case with small cars in an age of easy finance that has a way of hiding the true cost of a vehicle — it also has a seven-year warranty. You get only three years with a Fiat 500, Ford Ka or Volkswagen Up!. Neither will it leave drivers feeling that corners have been cut on build quality.

The highlight of the range is the perky turbocharged 1-litre engine, which means it can punch above its weight.

Also shortlisted:

  • Dacia Duster
  • Skoda Citigo
  • Suzuki Jimny
  • Vauxhall Combo Life


Hot Hatch of the Year

Mercedes-AMG A 35 

Chosen by Reader vote

If you want a hot hatch you won’t tire of, look no further. There are appealing rivals but when you floor the throttle, they turn out to be about as exciting as a night in on the sofa.

Clarkson described the A 35 thus: “You put your foot down and it’s like going through the ‘Devil’s Anus’ — the wormhole in Thor: Ragnarok that was used to reach Asgard. It’s a mad ride, full of jolts and judders and stars flying past at breakneck speed.”

Also shortlisted:

  • Ford Focus ST
  • Hyundai i30 Fastback N
  • Renault Megane Trophy
  • Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR


British-built Car of the Year

Bentley Continental GT V8 

Chosen by Reader vote

A second award for mighty V8-powered grand tourer, this time recognising the incredible work put in by the skilled team at Bentley’s Crewe HQ. Each Continental GT takes 110 hours to make, with around 11 bull hides going into every one. At the end of each day’s shift,  444 unassuming members of the 4,000-strong Bentley workforce swing a leg over their bicycles and ride home, content to know they have produced another run of cars that can stand  comparison with the best in the world.

Also shortlisted:

  • Jaguar XE
  • LEVC TX taxi
  • Nissan Qashqai
  • Range Rover Evoque
  • Mini Electric
  • Toyota Corolla


Luxury Car of the Year

Mercedes S 63 Cabrio

Chosen by Expert panel

Mercedes engineers are an exacting bunch. Why, they asked, should we expect our customers to settle for a heated bottom when we could warm every other part of their body as well? And lo, to the drop-top version of the S-class they added armrests that will warm your elbows and lower arms, and headrests that keep your head and neck cosy even on a chilly autumn morning. To complete the glow, they fitted the AMG version with a 603bhp twin-turbo V8 engine that will warm the cockles of a driver’s heart every time the accelerator pedal is squeezed.


Motoring Personality of the Year

Guy Martin 

Chosen by Expert panel

Imagine being Guy Martin and looking through your diary.

Saturday: put finishing touches to Second World War Dakota plane.
Sunday: ride a bike around a wall of death at sister’s pub.
Monday: take part in a tractor-pulling contest.
Tuesday: parachute jump out of Dakota to commemorate D-Day landings.
Wednesday: start building driverless robo-van.
Thursday: repair lorry engine.
Friday: race bike against David Coulthard in Formula One car.

There is seemingly never a dull moment. And the best bit is that the nation gets to enjoy the adventure with him, be it through his Speed with Guy Martin TV series or by following his exploits via the Guy Martin Proper YouTube channel.

As addicted to tea as he is to speed and breaking records — including fastest speed on a wall of death — he has an unassuming air and a natural curiosity about how things work, a combination central to his appeal.

All the while, Martin keeps his feet firmly on the ground, in part thanks to a day job that sees him performing MoTs on lorries in Grimsby, and because he’s the sort of person who shuns celebrity. In this day and age, clearly it’s a trait his fans value.


Photos by Simon Thompson. Video by News Productions. With thanks to Silverstone Circuit.