October 25, 2016

Top car performers of 2015

THIS year has seen some great new cars arrive into
showrooms. Nat Barnes hands out our prized Motoring

Best executive saloon: Jaguar XE

Runner-up: Audi A4

It is no exaggeration to say that the XE is probably
Jaguar’s most important car in decades.

After the lacklustre X-Type of 2001, the maker needs
the XE to be a success, even if taking on the likes
of the Audi A4 and the BMW 3-Series is no easy task.

Thankfully, the Coventry firm has produced a superb
small executive saloon in the £26,990 XE. Excellent
on-road refinement, decent handling and a great
engine line-up (including Jaguar’s new Ingenium
turbo-diesel) make the car a tempting package.

Add in 75mpg fuel economy and 99g/km emissions and
the numbers are all there to tempt the all-important
company car drivers too.

Four-wheel drive models are on their way next year
and don’t be surprised to see Sportbrake estate and
sportier R versions in due course.

Best convertible: Mazda MX-5

Runner-up: Ford Mustang

By the time Mazda started the first deliveries of
its fourth generation MX-5 in September, it was
already sitting on an incredible 1,000 pre-orders
from customers. Those are the kind of numbers
normally enjoyed by exotic supercars, not playful
drop-tops for less than £20,000.

Those customers won’t have been disappointed, mind
you. The £18,495 MX-5 is not just one of the best
cars we’ve driven this year, it is one of the best
cars we have driven ever.

With Mazda’s engineers having gone back to basics to
provide a lighter weight and lots of fun, the MX-5
feels so inherently right that you wonder why other
car manufacturers can’t repeat the same feat.

Best supermini: Hyundai i20

Runner-up: Peugeot 208

Superminis continue to improve with every generation
and nowhere is that more true than the £10,995
Hyundai i20.

Taking on the likes of the giant-selling Ford Fiesta
and Vauxhall Corsa isn’t easy but the i20 is up to
the task. A great engine line-up includes a 1.2-
litre petrol in two power levels and impressive
average fuel economy and emissions (88.3mpg and

With a well-built interior and good driving
dynamics, the i20 is easily our best supermini of

Best large off-roader: Volvo XC90

Runner-up: Audi Q7

Thirteen years is a long time to wait for a new car
to come along but the latest £46,250 Volvo XC90 was
definitely worth it. With ‘Thor’s hammer’ LED
headlights, a gorgeous interior and a main central
touchscreen, Volvo has punched above its weight and
exceeded expectations.

We especially like the T8 plug-in hybrid with 59g/km
(and a tax bill of just £180 a month), the interior
build quality, refined on-road feel and the usual
practical touches that make family life with it a

Best family hatchback: Vauxhall Astra

Runner-up: Seat Leon

With a quarter of us having driven a Vauxhall Astra,
the Luton hatch has a lot of friends. And if this
seventh-generation model is anything to go by, it is
going to have a lot more too. Sleeker and lighter,
the new £15,445 Astra boasts extra interior space
and the very latest technology.

The trio of 1.6-litre turbodiesels perform
incredibly well and enable the Astra to boast
91.2mpg and 82g/km – excellent figures for a non-
hybrid car.

The real highlights though are LED matrix headlights
and Vauxhall’s smart OnStar computer system.

Best hot hatchback: Peugeot 308 GTi

Runner-up: Honda Civic Type R

The hot-hatch market has been cranked up to
scorching of late and with the 2016 arrival of the
Ford Focus RS and VW Golf R400, there’s no cooling

This year has been a battle of extremes, won by the
superb Peugeot 308 GTi.

It has been 15 years since the French firm had a
contender in the family hatchback sector and the
308, at £26,555, is a great addition.

Buyers will enjoy a blend of refinement, usable
performance and good handling. It might not be quite
as eye-catching as the Civic but for everyday use
there’s no question about which one we would rather

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