2015 has been a cracking year for new cars, especially if you like SUVs. And the sales figures don’t lie – us Brits really do like these vehicles. Lower down the height chart, the terrific new Vauxhall Astra is a reminder that budget doesn’t have to be boring, while the higher-salaried among us have seen their options expand nicely as well. We round up our top 10 cars from 2015 and explain why each of them will liven up your new motoring year.
If space is the greatest luxury, then the huge new Superb out-premiums even the Germans. Platform and tech-sharing with VW means the Czech firm can fit equipment like active cruise control even in the affordable specs, and this time the hatch and estate look elegant too. A comfortable ride and refinement from the low-emission diesel range make the Superb a winner.
This tremendous effort by Jaguar to replace its 5-series rival suggests Britain’s BMW isn’t going to be a premium minnow much longer. Agile, comfortable, well-equipped and handsome to look at, the XF brings Jaguar’s A-game to a horribly competitive segment. It also keeps one eye on fleet with emissions as low as 104g/km of CO2 for its punchy new 2.0-litre diesel. Just needs an estate now!
It took Renault ages to finally bring out a competitive model to satisfy SUV-loving Brits, but the Kadjar has all the ability and handsome looks to tempt buyers away from the best-selling Nissan Qashqai, a car that shares the same platform. A quality, spacious interior rewards your decision on a daily basis, while the punchy 1.6-litre diesel copes with most demands from the right foot.
Pushing the Kadjar on style is Hyundai’s new Tuscon, a replacement for the ix35 SUV. It really does look the business with the chrome grille, but there’s substance to go with the style in the form of huge interior space and lots of practical touches. The engines are willing and the ride comfortable, even if the higher-than-average weight hurts real-world economy somewhat.
The American brand was nowhere, really, in the UK until it came up with this cheekily styled and Italian-built small SUV. We love the fun little visual references to its more hardcore cousins, and it really does have some off-road skills if you go for the 4WD models, but mostly it’s a well-judged and comfortable on-road companion with efficient diesels and more space than rivals thanks to the squared-off cabin.
Britain loves Audis, and with good reason. The latest A4 combines styling detail and overall cohesiveness to the point you find yourself sneaking looks at it. The interior is up to its usual high quality standard, and you can really blow the budget on some fancy tech such as a giant screen behind the steering wheel. Rivals are better dynamically – the Jaguar XE, for example – but for long-distance motoring the A4 is hard to beat. Good on fleet costs too, with the Ultra diesel going below 100g/km.
‘Britain’s Ferrari’ went from zero to profitable in less than five years with stunners like the 650S, and has wowed again with its £140,000 ‘entry’ car. The carbon-fibre 570S pulls off the supercar trick of being both magnetically appealing to look at while delivering belting performance from its 562bhp twin-turbo V8. It changes direction with such ease you seem to just need to look where to go and it’ll follow. It’s even quite comfortable and almost practical with it – as practical as two-seater supercars go, anyway.
If you thought the success of Volvo’s big family SUV was a one-off, here was the Swedish company’s perfect riposte. Chinese owned Volvo may be, but the new Waitrose Wagon expertly caters for those who can afford a touch of elegance with their everyday practicality and the car is currently breezing past its German rivals in the sales charts across Europe. The high-tech touches include a giant tablet sized touchscreen and the option of a plug-in hybrid model.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Evoque-nosed replacement for the old Freelander started off well but has now has really hit its stride with the fitment of Jaguar Land Rover’s new 2.0-litre diesel in place of the gruffer 2.2. That finishes off the refinement of what’s a very well packaged SUV, with its seven seats in a compact footprint. The car is agile, smart and, although it can get a bit expensive in higher specs, the satisfying feeling you get driving it really fits the car’s more premium image over the Freelander.
The fleet mainstay hatch has always been a competent car, and this new, British-made replacement more than builds on that. The smart styling, the surprisingly high-quality interior and the range of technology available mark this Astra as an above-average budget choice. On the road, it strikes the right balance between sport and comfort, while terrific ‘whisper’ 1.6 diesel line-up is refined and economical. Really economical actually in the 109bhp model, which also records a fleet-favourable 82g/km of CO2.
- Nick Gibbs is a journalist who writes about cars and the car industry for the Daily Telegraph and others.