While electric vehicles barged their way to the winning podium, internal combustion engines held their ground with What Car? readers’ hearts and minds
It was a welcome relief to be back in person at the Grosvenor House London, for last Thursday night’s What Car? Car of the year awards, following the previous year’s Covid-restricted virtual event.
Now in its 45th year, the awards programme is globally recognised for the rigour and integrity of its judging process. All cars are tested back-to-back with their rivals, judged on everything from practicality, comfort and costs, to performance, reliability and refinement.
This year there were 26 category winners and one overall champion, in a ceremony officiated by What Car?’s managing Editor Steve Huntingford, assisted by comedian and actor Kerry Godliman.
Big winners on the night included BMW, who recorded the highest overall tally of gongs, with five category victories for the BMW X5 (Best Luxury SUV), the 3-series (Best Executive car), 5-series (Best Luxury car), BMW 4 Series (Best Coupé) and the BMW 4 Series (best Convertible).
Ford were the next most successful manufacturer, with three category wins: Best Small SUV (Ford Puma), Best Sports SUV (Ford Puma ST) and Best Pick-up (Ford Ranger).
While Ford and BMW achieved well for their sheer number of awards, the big prize of the night went to Kia, with its new electric vehicle the Kia EV6 crowned overall What Car? Car of the Year 2022, as well as first prize for Best Electric SUV.
One of the most exciting electric car makers on the planet
Kia’s win helped to cement its rapidly growing market share alongside its notable prowess as an electric vehicle manufacturer. The EV6 follows in the wake of its smaller sibling the Kia e-Niro, who won overall Car of the Year in the 2019, when it became the first ever electric vehicle to win the awards.
In what could be an inflexion point in history, Kia blazed a trail for both electric vehicles and cars from Asia. Remarkably it is only the third time in the award’s history that an Asian brand has claimed top position, the first being the Toyota Corolla when it won the awards in 2002.
According to the What Car? judges, the Kia EV6 stood out for its “range anxiety-beating” features. The elegant and spacious SUV, based on a bespoke electric underpinning, is capable of super-fast 800V charging, with its battery able to go from 10-80% in as little as 18 minutes. That’s enough to outpace many a Tesla. What’s more, it achieves a whopping 328-mile range, and in What Car? worst-case low temperature conditions, clocked up a commendable 224-mile range.
What Car? editor Steve Huntingford said: “Once again, Kia has set a new benchmark for an electric vehicle. The EV6 is a terrific all-rounder that answers electric car buyers’ questions around range and charging times brilliantly, and which offers terrific space, refinement and value for money.”
Mr Huntingford went on to say, “this Car of the Year win cements its position alongside Tesla as one of the most exciting electric car makers on the planet.”
More than anything, the What Car? Awards have acted as a barometer of change, tracking innovation and consumer demand. Back in the late 1970s, winners were recognised for features considered “luxurious” at the time, like power steering, electric windows and central locking.
Throughout the 1980s everyday practicality dominated, with winners flipping between hatchback and saloon stalwarts, punctuated with the occasional trendsetter for driving performance, including the Volkswagen Golf GTI (1981 winner), the Saab 9000 Turbo 16 (1986) and BMW 7-series (1988).
While Kia trailblazed the winners podium for electric vehicles in 2022, other pure-play EV winners included the Cupra Born 58kWh V2, who picked up best small Electric Car and the Tesla Model 3 (best large electric vehicle).
The Cupra, which shares the same platform as the VW ID.3, was commended for its crisp handling, relatively long range (263 miles) and competitive pricing. While the Tesla was recognised for breaking new ground with its breath-taking acceleration (0-60mph 4.2 seconds) and long range (360 miles official range), that’s 30 more miles than a Polestar 2 and 60 more than a Hyundai Ioniq 5. What’s more, with access to Tesla’s charging network, it takes just 30-minutes to ramp the battery from 10-80%, at a rate of around 28-pence per kilowatt hour.
The MotorEasy reliability prize goes to…
EVs may have claimed accolades for rule-defying practicality and performance, but one winner proved its steadfast credentials, winner of the MotorEasy sponsored Best for Reliability award: Lexus. With a 98.7% reliability rating, most of the guests sitting at MotorEasy’s table predicted a win for Lexus well before the winner was announced.
According to What Car?, if you’re a gambler looking for a safe bet, putting your money on Lexus for top prize in a reliability index, is about as good as it gets. That said, high ratings for Dacia and Suzuki, set new benchmarks, surpassing traditional reliability stalwarts like Toyota and Honda.
While EVs and hybrids made strong ground across most award categories, traditional petrol and diesel engines achieved some notable first prize positions. Best sports car went to the Porsche 718 Cayman, while best estate was claimed by the Skoda Superb estate.
Perhaps more importantly, the winner that claimed the hearts and minds of the public, went to the winner of the annual What Car? Reader’s Choice Award, the Range Rover. The new model, the first to offer seating for up to 7-people, achieved more than 10-times the number of votes compared to its nearest rival. While Range Rover are gearing their design towards a future electric version in 2024, the current model proves that all-round opulence and brute combustion engine strength still score top on the desire-list for most drivers.