Motor Awards 2021: The Times and Sunday Times cars of the year announced

Covering everything from city cars to large SUVs, our favourite motoring personality and, of course, Clarkson's car of the year

THE WAIT is over: we can reveal The Times and Sunday Times’ best cars of 2021, including the prestigious Sunday Times Car of the Year.

The winners were announced at a glitzy event on the 17th floor of the News Building in London, hosted by Times Radio Drive presenter John Pienaar, and include everything from city cars to large SUVs.

We also recognise the best car manufacturer, top motoring personality, favourite reader-voted cars, and as usual The Sunday Times columnist Jeremy Clarkson reveals his car of the year, too.

Sunday Times Car of the Year 2021: Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E reveal 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show

Chosen by: expert panel

It was a bold choice to create an electric car with Mustang badging but the Mach-E has proved to be fully deserving of the name, with great looks, sporty ride and handling, and plenty of performance.

Ford also recognised that customers want more than one battery size option, with up to 379 miles per charge, and the chance to buy versions with two- or four-wheel drive.

Rapid 150kW charging, a roomy interior, brilliantly-realised infotainment touchscreen and high-end sound system all add to the superb package.

Congrats, Ford — hugely impressive stuff.

Sunday Times Legend 2021: Land Rover Defender

Land Rover Defender off-road

Chosen by: expert panel

This new-for-2021 award recognises model names that have a long production history but also continue to impress us today. What better winner of the inaugural Sunday Times Legend award than the Land Rover Defender?

It’s a car with roots stretching back more than 70 years that has recently been reinvented for the 21st century, with new advanced technology, greatly improved comfort and revolutionised on-road manners. Yet it’s still as tough as nails and more capable off-road than ever before. We love the new Defender.

Jeremy Clarkson’s Car of the Year 2021: Toyota GR Yaris

Jeremy Clarkson thinks the Toyota GR Yaris is as thrilling as a Porsche 911

Chosen by: Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson writes: “This is a car that made me laugh out loud. I took it into my fields one morning and made a terrible mess, but I didn’t care because it was a complete riot. And once I’d got the hang of how it handled I went on to the roads, which were made from sheet ice. And it was a riot there too. This is one of the most enjoyable and thrilling cars I’ve ever driven.”

This is an abbreviated version; to read Clarkson’s thoughts in full visit The Sunday Times Magazine section of

Best Designed Car of the Year: Hyundai Ioniq 5

2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5 review by Will Dron for Sunday Times

Chosen by: expert panel

The Ioniq 5 appears to have come straight out of a sci-fi movie. It draws inspiration from the 1974 Hyundai Pony by legendary Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, who was famed for his angular bodywork.

We love the Ioniq 5’s chiseled looks, the pixel-like rear LED lighting and the distinctive grumpy cat-like LED headlights. The interior is just as innovative, with fully-reclining lounge seats and an incredible sense of space.

The Ioniq 5 looks like nothing else on the road — in the absolute best sense.

Value Car of the Year: Vauxhall Corsa

The top 10 most popular cars in the UK 2021

Chosen by: our readers

The all-new Corsa was launched last year with a genuinely stylish design and a pure-electric option, packing a competitive 208-mile range, alongside petrol and diesel variants, meaning there’s something for everyone. Our readers recognised that it’s a high quality package and costs from just £17,015. You can’t argue with that.

Electric Car of the Year: Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 Long Range

Chosen by: our readers

Tesla has a loyal fanbase for a reason: the cars are astonishingly good. The Model 3 was CEO Elon Musk’s make-or-break volume sales play, and the American company knocked it out of the park with a radical, high-tech interior, a range of up to 360 miles, impressive handling and class-leading acceleration.

What Tesla really understood from the start, though, was that customers need a quality, reliable, ultra-fast public recharging network. The Tesla Model 3 is an obvious choice from our discerning readers.

Family Car of the Year: Ford Kuga

2020 Ford Kuga Plug-in Hybrid review

Chosen by: our readers

The new Kuga offers a much sportier look, excellent build quality, a flexible and roomy interior, efficient powertrains (including mild hybrid, full hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions) and keen handling in an affordable package. No wonder our readers like it.

Small SUV / Crossover of the Year: Nissan Qashqai

Nissan reveals 2021 Qashqai crossover SUV

Chosen by: expert panel

The British-built Qashqai is one of the grandaddies of the crossover segment and has been popular with buyers from the start, but the new model brings with it much-improved design, a more sophisticated interior and class-leading technology.

Large SUV of the Year: Kia Sorento PHEV

2020 Kia Sorento seven-seat SUv review by Will Dron for Sunday Times

Chosen by: expert panel

Kia appears to be on a mission to outgun all other car makers with models that fit into every niche, with every type of powertrain option. You might think that’d mean it was spreading itself too thinly, and therefore that quality must suffer, but not on the evidence of this plug-in hybrid seven seater: every component appears to have been forged by the dwarf who made Thor’s axe.

There’s more technology than you can shake a stick at, too, including a “sounds of nature” function, found within the huge central touchscreen’s attractive menus, which will play soothing npises to help achieve a state of zen within the cabin.

With a genuine 35 miles of electric driving before the petrol engine kicks in, it can save on family running costs, but it’s also surprisingly good fun to drive. In our review we called it as versatile as a Swiss Army knife.

Adventure Car of the Year: Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo

Porsche Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo review by Will Dron for Sunday Times off-road

Chosen by: expert panel

One of the only problems with the electric Porsche Taycan grand tourer is that it has to be ruled out if you live down a dirt track or have a sloped driveway. The Taycan Cross Turismo solves that with its improved ground clearance, rugged trim panels and off-road driving modes, and offers more luggage space, too.

It loses none of the Taycan’s best qualities, though, including outrageous speed, ultra-rapid charging technology and brilliant interior.

City / Small Car of the Year: Fiat 500e

Fiat 500e

Chosen by: expert panel

Arguably the cutest car to have launched in the last 12 months, the new Fiat 500e is also one of the best models to be in — and seen in  around a city, with its diminutive size, tiny turning circle, fashionable design inside and out, and quiet zero-emission powertrain.

We love the details, such as the patterned seats, the LED eyebrows and the fact that it plays “La Dolce Vita” to pedestrians as you drive along at low speeds. It also greatly improves over the previous 500 in terms of technology and comfort.

British-built Car of the Year: Mini Electric

Mini Electric

Chosen by: expert panel

The Mini Electric is one of those cars you fall in love with instantly. It doesn’t have the biggest battery out there, which means its range is officially only 140-145 miles per charge, but that means it’s relatively light compared to much of the competition, and therefore nimbler.

Mini gave it a cracking electric motor that means acceleration is rapid, and with Mini’s trademark sharp handling and firm suspension, it really is one of the funnest electric cars on the road. Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, and the fact that it is assembled in Oxford just adds to the sense of pride in ownership.

Manufacturer of the Year: Lotus

Lotus Evija

Chosen by: expert panel

Lotus has endured some tough times but it is well and truly back on track, with a clear, achievable plan for the future that has involved a great deal of investment from parent company Geely.

It’s the cars that are making us most excited, though: the Evija electric hypercar looks sensational and it has perfromance statistics to match, while the new Emira sports car — the last petrol model to come out of Hethel  is a clear signal of intent. Lotus is truly back on its feet.

Motoring Personality of the Year: Jenson Button

Chosen by: expert panel

The 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button has been exceptionally busy in the last 12 months. He’s collaborated with Williams and Lotus on various projects, launched a team in the new Extreme E electric off-road racing series (against teams from F1 rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg), and is one of the men behind the relaunch of famous coachbuilder Radford.

He was also the star of the 2021 Goodwood Revival, putting in some stunning performances behind the wheel in his first stab at historic racing, and during lockdown last year Button proved he can beat the best in e-racing, too. Is there nothing this man can’t do?

Hot Hatch of the Year: Toyota GR Yaris

Toyota GR Yaris

Chosen by: expert panel

Clarkson’s car of the year is also our hot hatch of the year. The GR Yaris, as he says, is rally-bred, bonkers fun. Not scarily quick but with performance, handling, chassis control and gear changes balanced in a concoction to revive the spirits of the motoring-weary. You can’t always spot a future classic when it first launches but with the GR Yaris we have no doubt.

Luxury Car of the Year: Rolls-Royce Ghost

Rolls Royce Ghost

Chosen by: expert panel

You’ll be doing extremely well to beat Rolls-Royce for outright luxury. In fact, we expected the new Ghost to be so sumptuous that when our ridiculously high expectations were met, we felt somewhat indifferent. Of course the gaps between the door panels are wafer thin; of course the carpets are deeper than the Grand Canyon; of course the wood veneers are bespoke and beautifully crafted; of course the hand-stitched leather seats are beyond perfect; of course the engine is wonderfully powerful and the ride supple and quiet.

Then you give yourself a slap and remember that being exceptional is exceptionally difficult. The new Ghost is quite simply wonderful.

Sports Car of the Year: Porsche 911 GT3

Porsche 911 GT3

Chosen by: expert panel

Can you have more fun on a track than in the new 911 GT3? We’re not sure, you know. Porsche only added 10bhp to the engine’s output compared with the previous model, yet the 992 is around 17 second faster around the Nurburgring — and a full second quicker than the old RS version. The trick was new double wishbone suspension at the front and 160 hours in one of the world’s most advanced wind tunnels.

But lap times don’t tell the full story; the new 911 GT3 is just a hoot to drive fast, with the naturally-aspirated 4-litre engine delivering smooth, linear power, a nose that sniffs out every apex, fine balance through the turns and a rear end that hunkers down and leaps out of the corners. It’s a beautifully-drivable machine that brings a smile to your face, which should be the main point of a sports car, after all.

Motoring Innovation of the Year: Hyundai Ioniq 5

Interior - 2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5 review by Will Dron for Sunday Times

Chosen by: expert panel

The Ioniq 5‘s sci-fi exterior design is what catches your attention immediately, but it’s the innovation inside that really impresses. Many car makers talk about creating ‘lounge-style cabins’ in their new cars but Hyundai is the first to truly explore that concept in a production car, with super-comfortable reclining seats that allow next-level relaxation during breaks from driving.

And Car-to-load technology turns the Ioniq 5 into a powerbank on wheels, which opens up all sorts of outdoor activity possibilities, from charging e-bikes to powering lights and appliances while camping.

Innovations that other car makers are bound to follow in the near future.

Dog Friendly Car of the Year: Mini Clubman

Mini Clubman Dog Pack

Chosen by: expert panel

Dog owners have very specific requirements when it comes to their cars. That’s why Mini teamed up with Dogs Trust to help dogs “travel happier”, with a goal of becoming the first officially dog-friendly car retailer by 2022.

The brand is working with canine behaviour experts in an effort to help improve car journeys for dogs, but the low boot sill and split rear doors of the Clubman are highly convenient for man’s best friend.

Mini has introduced a dog pack for its models and dealers stock a range of dog travel products, including a dog guard and rear compartment mat.

If you enjoyed reading about The Sunday Times’ best cars of the year 2021, check out our previous winners: