Currently reading: Britain's Best Affordable Drivers Car 2021: And the winner is...
This year's champion may come as a surprise, but there's no doubting its ability

At the end of two long days and several thousands of collective test miles, our five-man jury agreed that they had been in the company of two driver’s cars truly fit for Aberdeenshire’s spectacular roads in this year’s Britain’s Best Affordable Driver’s Car contest – but only one was really a deserving winner. That car was the wonderfully – perhaps even surprisingly – purposeful Hyundai i20 N.

As is the way with these things, each judge gave each competing car a score out of a maximum 25 marks on the basis of driver appeal versus value for money, because that’s how BBADC works. The i20 N was the only car impressive enough to score 20 marks or higher consistently. Only one car could have beaten it, and only then if we had allowed the marks of the Caterham Super Seven to stand in a field against which it was competing with the benefit of so many natural advantages. In the end, we simply couldn’t.

98 Bbadc 2021 winner jump

The Caterham weighed less than half as much as the next lightest car on test. It carried with it the sharpened performance, heightened agility and gentler suspension rates associated with that kerb weight. Additionally, it was the only car on test able to circumvent normal type approval restrictions and, despite a driving experience that glittered like nothing else in the field could, it offered a markedly less usable ownership proposition than its opponents. You would always find reasons to drive the Seven were it yours, but you could never use it like a hatchback.

For those reasons and others, it wouldn’t have been fair to score the Caterham the same as its one-and-a-half tonne, front- and four-wheel-drive rivals. Much fairer, as one tester put it, to treat it like Lewis Hamilton competing as a one-off guest in a Formula Ford race: enjoy the spectacle and use him as a yardstick if you like, but don’t award him championship points.

The lion’s share of those, quite rightly, went to a car that feels like a big leap forward for the Hyundai N performance sub-brand. One with a refreshingly appealing price and a more serious performance character than you might expect from a fast supermini, certainly; but also one that can take a snaking mountain pass apart more vividly than cars costing five figures more and hold your attention and enthusiasm every bit as well as it holds the road.


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Our Britain’s Best Affordable Driver’s Car winner faces its sternest examination yet

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94 Bbadc 2021 winner static rear

Next up for the Hyundai come the bigger, supercar-shaped fish of Britain’s Best Driver’s Car proper at Anglesey in October, and we look forward to that. The little Caterham, meanwhile, must keep on ploughing its own supremely endearing and brilliantly captivating furrow, for as long as there are enthusiast drivers like us left to marvel at it.


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Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

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si73 29 August 2021
@ Artill.
The GR Yaris won the best affordable drivers car 2020, the article was from December 20, so I was wrong, I thought it was new this year, I must admit to knowing it had won a group test but couldn't remember what it was, so just did a spot of looking up past winners. Confusingly in their summer 2020 awards ceremony they awarded the best affordable drivers car award to the MX5, so there are two best affordable drivers cars for 2020.

Agree re the 1 series, the auto does seem to hamper it according to the written review, though it's not largely criticised in the video.

artill 28 August 2021

@Si73, you are of course correct, i missed the bit about them being launched in the last 12 months. Yes, the Hyundai is a great effort. I do wonder how much better the BMW would have done without the compulsory auto though

si73 28 August 2021
@ artill, isn't the fiestas exclusion because it isn't new this year? Same for the mx5. Not sure why no GR Yaris though as I thought that was new this year.

Still, it shows what a stupendous job Hyundai have done with this i20 as it has beaten some pretty desirable hot hatches.