Currently reading: The top Autocar reviews of 2021
From family hatchbacks to multi-million-pound supercars, here are some of the best things we drove in 2021

Since 1895, Autocar has operated with one main rule: if it’s new, we will drive it.

This year had no shortage of shiny metal, and we got behind the wheels of the vast majority of it. Here are some of our favourites.

Aston Martin Victor

What happens when a diehard Aston Martin fan with a few million pounds burning a hole in his pocket decides to commission his dream car? You get the one-off Victor. A 1980s V8 Vantage-inspired body was draped over a prototype One-77 tub that was lying around at Gaydon, with power coming from a naturally aspirated 7.3-litre V12 that Cosworth had fettled with to produce 750bhp. Oh, and it has a six-speed manual gearbox. Our tester simply called it “one of the most enjoyable cars I’ve ever driven”.

Mk7 Volkswagen Golf R

The Volkswagen Golf R was somewhat of a legend in our circles: it was more of a volcanic hatch than a hot one. So when the Mk8 car was released earlier this year, we wondered if it was possible to improve on greatness. That turned out to be an unsurprisingly tricky task. Although the Mk8 is blisteringly fast and outclasses many other four-wheel-drive rivals, it simply couldn’t match the easy-going nature of its predecessor. Yet it was still a brilliant thing.

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Mercedes-Benz EQS

Mercedes’ new flagship, the EQS, is one of the most important cars we drove over the past year. Why? Because not only is it the first Mercedes to be built as an EV from the ground up, it also previews the German brand’s next generation of cars. We were particularly impressed with the luxurious interior, although we thought the 141cm-wide dashboard screen was a bit much at times. Either way, it leaves us eagerly awaiting the future. 

Ineos Grenadier

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When the new Land Rover Defender was revealed, some bemoaned that it had gone soft. The Grenadier, dreamt up by Ineos boss Sir Jim Rattcliffe, was supposed to pick up where the original, bare-bones Defender had left off when production ended in 2016. We headed to Austria to drive a development prototype of the Grenadier and were taken by its off-road ability, boxy looks and rugged charm. 

Hongqi e-HS9

To call the Hongqi e-HS9’s styling bold would be the understatement of the century. Designed by the same man who styled the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, this luxury SUV marks the beginning of the Chinese brand’s European expansion. Our tester thought it worked well as an opulent barge, but low-quality interior materials and a dull drive stopped it from getting above three-and-a-half stars.

Toyota Mirai

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Toyota has remained committed to hydrogen technology over the past decade, even as other manufacturers have shied away from FCEVs. The second-generation Mirai showed how far along the technology has come. Our tester praised its “relaxed attitude” compared with the previous version, but the infrastructure to support hydrogen cars still isn’t as widespread as it should be.

Maserati MC20

As Maserati’s first mid-engined supercar since the Ferrari Enzo-based MC12, the MC20 certainly had some very big shoes to fill. We needn’t have been worried: it was everything we hoped for. The first in-house-developed Maserati supercar in a generation, the MC20 is a return to form for the brand. Our tester called it “fast, thrilling and engaging yet also wonderfully approachable and easy to drive”.

Cupra Formentor

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The Formentor is the first Cupra not to be based on a Seat, and despite being built on the Volkswagen Group’s massively popular MQB platform, it manages to feel like an all new type of crossover. In the words of our tester, the Formentor is “precisely the kind of early offering to demonstrate the alternative style, everyday versatility and breadth of appeal that Cupra can now aspire to conjure for a whole range of future models".

Hyundai Ioniq 5

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 caused a stir when it was revealed. It really was just the 45 EV concept translated into production from. We wondered if it would live up to the space and looks, and it did: we were impressed by the 800V battery architecture (something seen previously only on the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-tron GT), practical interior and distinct character.

BMW iX

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The BMW iX was certainly one of the more controversial cars of 2021. The brand’s third EV had been a long time coming, originally being previewed by the Vision iNext concept at the Paris motor show in 2018. We weren’t disappointed though - behind that distinctive front end we found a luxury SUV that was not only more practical than most of its rivals, but was also more fun to drive.

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LP in Brighton 30 December 2021

It's always interesting to read about the high end exotics that few of us can afford, but it's getting to the point where almost every car featured in Autocar costs more than £50k, many with power outputs beyond 500 horsepower. And why is it that nearly every model is an EV, SUV or hypercar?

Personally I'd like to see a bit more balance with more affordable machinery of the type many of us drive. Maybe it's the industry that is to blame, making the expensive (high profit) models so readily available for test while suppressing the high volume stuff which dominates the sales charts. 

Or maybe I am just reading the wrong publication.... 

190e 30 December 2021

Very much agree your comments. The preponderance of high end cars is becoming boring and very much out of touch with the reality of what ordinary drivers can afford. It's getting so I no longer read the umpteenth review of something fast and expensive.  I suppose Autocar would argue we should take ourseves off to the sister publication Whatcar, but that's really a publication for those with no interest in cars.  I am interested in cars provided they are not all some fantasy that only the rich can afford.  It's not how Auto car used to be which was broadly representative of motoring at large.

On a positive note, please keep up the comments against uncomfortable ultralow profile tyres and touch screens to control everything.