Currently reading: The Autocar long-term test awards 2019
The Autocar car park is home to some of the year’s most interesting and significant new cars. But which members of our long-term fleet impressed the most?
James Attwood, digital editor
News
9 mins read
31 December 2019

Every vehicle in the Autocar long-term fleet is subject to an extended spell in our personal garages, to give us, and you, an understanding of what they're like to live with beyond the test drive. 

Each performs well in some areas, and not so well in others, which makes for a diverse catalogue of entries into our 2019 long-term test awards. Whether it be as a load-lugging, do-it-all utility vehicle, or as an eye-catching B-road blaster, every car we've had in our car park this year stands a chance at success.

But there's only so many prizes to win. Without further ado, here's the cars that scooped honours among our fleet this year.     

The B-Road B-eauty Award

For the most fun car to drive

Winner: Ford Fiesta ST

Highly commended: Mini Cooper S, McLaren 720S

The Fiesta ST has long been our hot hatch of choice, and this latest version doesn’t disappoint. As news editor Lawrence Allan notes: “It might have been one of the cheapest cars on our fleet but, for sheer British B-road entertainment, nothing – not even the McLaren 720S – beats it.”

Road test editor Matt Saunders called the Fiesta “the best pound-for-pound hot hatchback there is”, admitting that “I’d take one over a Focus ST, frankly”.

Editor-in-chief Steve Cropley admitted he nearly plumped for the Fiesta but was swayed by our Mini Cooper S “because I felt confident slinging it about in extreme situations”.

The McLaren 720S may have missed out on the award to cheaper options but it still won the praise of several of the team. Andrew Frankel, who was lucky enough to run it, admitted it was a “kind of obvious choice”, before voting for the obvious choice. Obviously.

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Ford Fiesta long-term updates

The Centre of Attention Award

For the car that received the most stares from passers-by

Winner: Jaguar I-Pace

Highly commended: Bentley Continental, Alpina B4 S

This award seemed destined to be wafted away by our long-term Bentley Continental GT but, when the votes were counted up, Jaguar’s electric SUV snatched the coveted silverware.

“It’s amazing how many people already know exactly what it is,’’ said Steve Cropley. Mark Tisshaw added that the I-Pace “is an absolute show-stopper. It has a kind of futuristic beauty to it, and on top of that it’s brilliant to drive.”

I voted for the I-Pace because it’s the first car I’ve driven home in since a Mercedes-AMG C63 that the kids on my street have stopped to gawp at and talk to me about – which is some feat for what is ‘just another’ SUV.

The Conti GT may have missed out on this award, but it did pick up plenty of votes. Rachel Burgess, who was only too pleased to take charge of it, justified her choice by simply saying: “Obviously.” Managing ed Damien Smith, who spends his days trying to make our words more succinct, succeeded by simply saying: “Obvs.” Er, totes.

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Jaguar I-Pace long-term updates

The End of the Affair Special Award

Winner: Toyota Land Cruiser

Our Toyota Land Cruiser wasn’t actually eligible for this year’s awards because it arrived on our fleet last year. But since Matt Prior racked up 38,000 miles in it, we felt it deserved a special send-off. Take it away, Matt.

“I look at all the cars we ran throughout the year, and there are more exciting cars, more expensive cars and cars that are better to drive, but the compromises that some ask mean there’s not a single one I could have swapped into to cover the exact same 38,000 miles as I did in the Land Cruiser.”

Toyota Land Cruiser long-term updates

The Really Useful Feature Award

For the most innovative/useful design feature, option or bit of in-car tech

Winner: Bentley Continental GT rotating dash

Highly commended: Kia e-Niro range and mileage counter

What does useful mean to you? Something that’s of use, right? Yet somehow, a significant number of the Autocar team think that our Bentley Continental GT’s rotating dashboard, which can flip a digital touchscreen around on itself to display an old-fashioned analogue clock, is somehow ‘of use’. Explain yourselves, people.

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Jim Holder admitted he was stretching useful “by about a million miles”, but added “the, ahem, security-minded rotating dash oozed Bond appeal and delighted children of all ages”. Rachel Burgess admitted it was “a bit of a gimmick but cool”, while Tom Morgan’s attempt to justify his vote was that it’s “one of the most satisfying bits of kit you’ll find on a car right now”.

I remain unconvinced but will let the Conti’s party trick keep the crown, if only to prevent a new Brexit-like crisis of democracy.

Still, bravo to those who nominated something actually useful: the Kia e-Niro’s near-300-mile range and surprisingly accurate mileage counter. Steve Cropley said: “It’s the only one of these I honestly believe you can trust. It’s very accurate.”

Now that is genuinely useful. If only it rotated…

Bentley Continental GT long-term updates

The 'I'd Buy It' Award

For the Car We'd Be Most Likely to Spend Our Own Money On

Winner: Kia e-Niro and Ford Fiesta ST

Highly commended: Honda CR-V Hybrid, Alpina B4 S

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The ultimate judge of a long-term test car is whether we’d actually be willing to buy one for ourselves, and two machines were well clear of the pack. In fact, we simply couldn’t split Ford’s fantastic hot hatch and Kia’s game-changing electric SUV in the vote, so they’re sharing the trophy.

The e-Niro is perhaps the most usable, reasonably priced EV on the market today, with waiting lists still pushing a year. Steve Cropley said: “I should have bought our former longtermer. When these reach free supply, they’re going to be everywhere.”

Jim Holder, who ran the e-Niro, added: “By the time the Kia left us, I was gutted to find that racking up miles had done absolutely nothing to diminish its value due to the currently limited supply.”

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If the e-Niro won our hearts for making electric motoring truly viable and affordable, the Fiesta ST did so simply for being such good fun to drive. “You could use it every day and have an absolute ball while doing so,” said Simon Davis. “It’s a properly fantastic little car.”

Andrew Frankel called it “the best real-world driver’s car here”.

Kia e-Niro long-term updates

The Keep On Motoring Award

For the best car to take on a very, very long journey

Winner: Bentley Continental GT

Highly commended: Range Rover Velar, Alpina B4 S

Given that it has ‘Grand Tourer’ in its name, our Bentley simply wouldn’t be denied in this category. Road tester Simon Davis praised it for being “plush, refined, beautifully engineered, powerful, comfortable – the list goes on”, but did add that you might want to “watch the fuel bill”.

Andrew Frankel actually used a Conti GT (although not the one on our fleet) for a very long journey, and said: “After 15 countries in 24 hours, I can confirm it has the best seats in the world.”

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The Range Rover Velar took the runner-up spot, with Jim Holder noting that: “It hasn’t had the easiest ride since going on sale, with many people questioning its place in Land Rover’s line-up. None of those people questioning it was driving it on a long journey, however.”

Alpina’s extensively reworked BMW won praise from several including Tom Morgan. “It’s built for comfort but still able to reach 200mph on the autobahn,” he said.

Bentley Continental GT long-term updates

The Top Pick for the Top Trip

For the car most suited to load-lugging

Winner: Citroën Berlingo

Highly commended: Range Rover Velar, Damien Smith's ageing Ford S-Max

No shock that the Berlingo walked this category given that, as Steve Cropley put it, it’s a “style-free but cheery box on wheels, with the softest ride going, a smooth engine and better steering than you’d believe”.

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Ace snapper Luc Lacey was given custody of the Berlingo and found it had so much space, he was tempted to go out and buy extra photographic equipment to stash in the back. “It’s got handy compartments galore, tons of space and sliding side doors for easy access,” he enthused. It wasn’t just equipment, either: Luc has admitted to sleeping in the Berlingo on the odd camping trip.

Mark Tisshaw nominated the Velar, saying: “Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a car for poseurs: it’s vast inside and can rough it in the real world like any Land Rover.”

Meanwhile, Damien Smith insisted that when it came to tip trips, “nothing beats my old S-Max”. See, there is still a market for MPVs.

Citroën Berlingo long-term updates

The City Slicker Award

For the best car to thread through congested places

Winner: BMW i3s

Highly commended: Jaguar I-Pace, Mini Cooper S

BMW’s distinctive electric hatch dominated the voting here, thanks to its smooth, emissions-free running and excellent visibility. Deputy digital ed Tom Morgan, who ran the car, summed it up well: “Short overhangs, great forward visibility and a raised driving position make placing the i3s incredibly easy.” Road tester Ricky Lane added the torque-happy electric powertrain meant the car “goes like a whippet for gaps in traffic”.

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Jim Holder, Haymarket Automotive’s dark overlord (well, his business card reads ‘editorial director’), also highlighted how a “fancy spacious interior” helped boost its city car credentials.

Only two other cars scored any votes in this category. The Mini Cooper S was a predictable choice because, well, it’s a Mini, but the Jaguar I-Pace? Matt Prior reasoned: “A massive SUV is the best city car there is, because a Hyundai i10 is, as often as not, stuck just like you are, but you’re more comfortable.”

Fair points, well made. We doff our cap to Mr Prior, as he sits there, comfortably stuck in traffic.

BMW i3s long-term updates 

Tales of the Unexpected Award

For the car that surprised us most (for whatever reason)

Winner: DS 7 Crossback

Highly commended: Kia e-Niro, Peugeot 508

Is it possible for a category about the car that surprised us to have a surprise winner? Or perhaps that’s the whole point. Either way, the DS 7 Crossback qualifies on all counts to take the class crown here. Jim Holder explained his vote: “On paper, these are Peugeot and Citroën underpinnings dressed up in a fancy frock, but I found myself quite charmed once I was settled in. I enjoyed the difference.”

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The premium-aping French charms of the big DS also won over Damien Smith. “I’m not a big fan of SUVs,” he admitted, “but apart from the raised ride height it felt much like a Peugeot 508 GT.”

Editor Mark Tisshaw championed the Kia e-Niro, saying: “It really is brilliant – and not the kind of brilliant you feel obliged to qualify with ‘for a Kia’.

DS 7 Crossback long-term updates

The 'Pick your Own' Awards

Other prizes we should hand out

DS 7 Crossback, Mark Tisshaw

“The ‘have another go’ award, because it’s supposed to bring ‘Frenchness’ to the luxury car world à la Cartier and Chanel. Except it’s so far off those levels.”

Peugeot 508, Steve Cropley

“Because it shows a saloon can still be stylish.”

McLaren 720S, Andrew Frankel

“For being the most broadly defined and capable supercar yet invented."

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Boris9119 31 December 2019

Landcruiser? Macca 720S?

So Frankel thinks the Macca is "the most broadly defined and capable supercar yet invented". Surely that title belongs to the 911 Turbo S which remains broadly defined and capable on a wet or icy road unlike the Macca ? And the beloved Landcruiser, unless Matt drives across deserts and through jungles on his weekly commute, there is no reason to need a Landcruiser over a miriad of other SUV's. I really admire the Landcruiser, and the Macca, but the comments in the article seem to over state both vehicles qualities?

SongsLyricsFree 31 December 2019

They all are upercars

these are the best supercars.