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10 award-winning cars in 2018 – why they won, and the runners-up

By Paul Connolly

Car awards tend to be ritzy, glitzy affairs. The manufacturers love it when they win, and who can blame them?

A blaze of publicity, and Recommended or Winner badges that can be used in sales and marketing material is just one of the benefits.

This year already we’ve had the What Car? Awards, one of the UK’s longest-running ceremonies.

So what are the key sectors, who won and why, and what was the nearest competition?

All awards are subjective, of course, and there will be different winners and losers when the next set of awards is announced, including the World Car of the Year Awards 2018, which is a biggie.

For now, let’s look at the What Car? Awards, which has been running since 1978, so this is their 40th anniversary.

Each category has winners in three pricing points, with the overall winner then being chosen as the best of the three.

1. Car of the Year Overall Winner: Volvo XC40

The lovely Volvo XC40 carried off the overall crown, beating off key challengers the Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq.

“You’ll love how grown-up the XC40 feels,” the judges said, “from its punchy but hushed four-cylinder diesel engine to its solidly constructed interior, which features swathes of soft-touch plastics and remains impressively quiet at a cruise”.

The XC40 sits in the competitive Family SUV segment, and the list price is £34,655.

Volvo XC40

2. City Car of the Year: Kia Picanto

Spacious and cheap to buy, the Kia Picanto dethroned last year’s winner the Hyundai i40.

Judges liked the wide range of engines and a “premium interior”.

The Skoda Citigo 1.0 60 SE 3dr and the Suzuki Celerio both got mentioned in runners-up dispatches for delivering quality and value in their price points (the under £11k and under £9.5k sub-categories respectively).

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Kia Picanto

3. Small Car of the Year: Seat Ibiza

The Ibiza received widespread praise for being “everything a small car should be. Its handling, practicality and running costs are class-leading… There are no obvious weak points in its armour.”

Runners-up: the Dacia Sandero won praise in its pricing point (under £12k), as did the MINI Cooper Chili Media XL (the over £20k).

Seat Ibiza

4. Family Car of the Year: Skoda Octavia

Described as “well-priced next to its rivals” and close to Audi for interior quality, the judges say as a package nothing comes close.

The Audi A3 Sportback was singled out in the family car over £23k sub-category, and Seat Leon 1.2 TSI was best in the under £18k category.

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Skoda Octavia

5. Best hot hatch: Honda Civic Type R

Seemingly unstoppable in its ability to win praise, the Type R lifts the overall trophy here, with the judges saying that while it might not be the most powerful hot hatch around  it is “the most enjoyable to drive”, adding: “It’s even comfortable”.

The new Hyundai i30N was best in the £20k-£30k sub-category, and the Ford Fiesta 1.0T Ecoboost ST-Line won the honours in the sub-£20k segment of this award.

Honda Civic Type R

6. Small SUV of the Year: SEAT Arona

The Arona won in this category due to “great finance deals” that make it affordable, and a comfortable and well-equipped cabin. The “cherry on top”, the judges said, is the sheer amount of personalisation options buyers can choose.

The Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ4 got the gong in the small SUV under £16k, while the Audi Q2 won in the over £20k segment.

SEAT Arona

7. Best Family SUV: Volvo XC40

The Volvo XCX40 shone in this category, with the judges saying that at this price point buyhers want luxury and comfort as well as practicality. Particular praise was given for its “interior ambience” and its “smooth yet hushed” diesel motor.c

Nipping on the XC40’s heels in the other price points were the Skoda Karoq (between £20k and £30k) and the SEAT Ateca 1.0 TSI (sub-£20k).

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Volvo XC40

8. Large SUV of the Year: Peugeot 5008

Peugeot’s investment in SUVs pays off with the lovely 5008 receiving high praise: “No other large SUV offers you the same premium feel at this price,” said the judges, adding that it was “plush” and “loaded with kit”.

In this category, the Mazda CX-5 got a gong for best large SUV between £37k and £35k, while the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI Quattro Sport was singled out in the over £35k sector.

Peugeot 5008

9. Executive Car of the Year: Audi A4

The judges said: “The A4 remains simply a cut above the competition in every way. Its interior sets new standards in quality, and the engine is refined and fuel efficient, so the A4 won’t cost a lot to run.”

The new Kia Stinger GT S won in the over £40k sub-category, while the Skoda Superb came first in the under £25k race.

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Audi A4

10. Luxury Car of the Year: BMW 5 Series

The judges praised the sub-£50k models’ ability to appeal to both the rational and emotional sides of a car-buying decision: “You’ll want it as much for its real world 45mpg as you will for its beautiful interior. There are flashier luxury cars, but this is the best all-rounder.”

The Audi A8 was a winner in the £50k-£100k sub-category, while the Rolls Royce Ghost EWD was picked in the over £100k segment.

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BMW 5 Series

There you have it; the best of the mainstream categories. The What Car? Awards have lots of other categories, including best hybrid, best coupe, best electric and so on which are also  well worth checking out.

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