The World Car Awards is the biggest automotive awards program out there – bigger than the European Car of the Year awards, bigger than the North American Car of the Year program.
2018 is its 14th year and, at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the road to the World Car Awards final at the 2018 New York International Auto Show commenced.
The awards are split into six categories: World Car Design, World Luxury Car, World Performance Car, World Green Car, World Urban Car and the overall World Car of the Year. The overall World Car of the Year Award is the one they all want to win. Last year, Jaguar triumphed with the F-Pace, and the Mazda MX-5 won the year before that.
More than 80 export motoring journalists are jurors for the World Car Awards, across every continent. The awards are split into six categories: World Car Design, World Luxury Car, World Performance Car, World Green Car, World Urban Car and the overall World Car of the Year. And the contenders for 2018 are..?
World Car of the Year 2018: the contenders
The 2018 jurors have a tough task ahead of them – assessing the cream of the new model launches and deciding which of the world’s best cars should have a shot at scooping a prestigious World Car Awards gong. Which new model will succeed the Jaguar F-Pace? The cars in the running for the 2018 prize are…
Click on the images to see the contenders in fullscreen; scroll down to read all about them
Alfa Romeo Giulia
The breakthrough Alfa Romeo sporting saloon has put this famed Italian brand back on the map. It’s as good as we hoped it would be, particularly the thrilling Quadrifoglio model, which squeezes a 510-horsepower V6 engine into a chassis more than capable of coping with it. Even the regular cars are engaging though, bringing a welcome new contender to the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class sector.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio
Following up the Giulia in quick succession is the firm’s first-ever SUV, the Stelvio. Using much of the acclaimed tech behind its sports saloon sibling, the Stelvio looks good, drives well and, perhaps even more so than the Giulia, is like to deliver the growth and profits the firm desperately needs.
We’ve yet to drive, or even see, BMW’s promising-sounding X2 small and sporty SUV. It’s taking on the Audi Q2 and, if the X2 Concept we saw last year is anything to go by, should at least be a smart-looking thing. We don’t doubt BMW will deliver on the driving front, either.
The X3 is a crucially important SUV for BMW, one that sells very well around the world. The previous model was always a bit bland and humdrum, despite its popularity: this all-new one thus may even drive yet more sales, because it’s not only more attractive and interesting, it’s also more engaging and enjoyable to drive and travel in.
Buick Regal / Opel/Vauxhall Insignia
A car with many names, the UK’s Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport is sold as an Opel in Europe and a Buick in North America and China. A talented large car whose abilities and appeal see it almost tiptoe into the premium brand arena, We just hope buyers will be able to look past the badges…
Citroen C3 Aircross
It’s a sign of the times that the Citroen C3 Picasso small MPV has been replaced by this, the C3 Aircross small SUV. Again derived from the talented C3 supermini, it boasts the latest appealing Citroen style outside and in, is decent to drive and is very spacious and practical inside.
Dacia has given the popular Duster an extensive mid-life facelift. It’s not an all-new car, but lots of important parts are – such as the front end design, the interior and much of the onboard tech.
The best-selling car in the UK for years, and an European favourite too, the Fiesta is one of Ford’s most popular models outside North America. The previous generation car was an acclaimed star and this new one is even better – the driving magic of its predecessor has been maintained, enhanced with step-ahead infotainment, ride comfort, interior ambience and overall fit and finish.
The new Genesis G70 is how Hyundai aims to take on the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Previewed by a striking concept at the New York Auto Show, the production model is a little more conventional but still a standout by class standards. If the superb G90 is anything to go by, we’re hopeful of great things.
The 10th generation Honda Accord has undergone some big changes. Not least the loss of its creamy V6 engine – instead, buyers are offered four-cylinder motors, either 1.5-litre turbo or 2.0-litre turbo. Let’s not panic too much though: in the Civic, the 1.5-litre is excellent, and the 2.0-litre is basically a detuned Civic Type R motor. With its sharp new styling and much-improved interior, this North American favourite looks in rude health.
The small crossover SUV is the car of the moment and, after the chart-topping success of the pioneering Nissan Juke, carmakers are falling over themselves to introduce rivals. Hyundai’s Kona is one of the crispest-looking of the lot, and first reports suggest it’s decent to drive as well.
We like the logic behind the new Jeep Compass. It’s based on a stretched Jeep Renegade platform and looks like a downsized Jeep Cherokee, perfectly filling the gap in the firm’s model range. As with other Jeeps, most are biased for all-road use but there’s a ‘Trail Rated’ full-bore off-roader sitting at the top of the range, for a bit of top-line authenticity.
The Kia Niro is an interesting compact hybrid crossover SUV. It’s more passenger car than 4×4, and offers a toughened-up alternative to sister company Hyundai’s equivalent Ioniq range. It’s neat, although not as standout as the perennially popular Kia Sportage.
The little Kia Picanto is a thoroughly well sorted city car that shows big advances over previous models. It’s pretty much as refined as a supermini, and surprisingly spacious inside, while some strong engines enhance good on-road manners while others appreciate the neat styling.
Here’s a Kia with a difference – a rear-wheel drive model with a 365hp 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 engine! You can of course get lesser Stingers, but all carry the same GT four-door looks: think of it as Kia’s alternative to the Mercedes-Benz CLS. Early reports suggest it drives pretty tidily as well…
Kia’s sister car to the Hyundai Kona, the Stonic is as boldly styled as many such compact crossovers, with a practical and family-friendly interior, decent equipment levels and good value for money.
Land Rover Discovery
What a formidable off-road machine the new Land Rover Discovery is – and what a quantum leap it is over the old one when back on it. Refinement is almost Range Rover-like, the interior ambience is far more premium, it’s packed with tech, exceedingly spacious… although for all its excellence, it’s still able to generate controversy with its unusual rear end design – to the frustration of Land Rover’s chief designer…
The previous Mazda CX-5 wasn’t all that old and still drove nicely – regardless, Mazda’s still replaced it with this new one, which carries similar styling but is even better resolved and more capable to drive. It now really is a premium compact SUV in disguise.
Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
Mitsubishi has been starved of product in recent years, so the introduction of the Eclipse Cross can’t come too soon. Joining the burgeoning compact SUV sector, it brings the firm’s familiar styling themes into a new sector that bosses hope will help it turn around flatlining sales in most markets outside of North America.
Many car makers haven’t even launched their first-generation electric car, yet here’s Nissan with the second generation of the world’s best-selling EV. The all-new Leaf is all set to be an electric car star: it’s far better looking and more appealing than the first, the interior is much nicer, the range is longer, performance is stronger yet it’s no more expensive to buy. With all eyes on the Tesla Model 3, here is the car set to truly take the EV mainstream.
After comprehensively dropping the ball with the previous Micra, Nissan’s upped its game significantly with this new one. Built alongside the Renault Clio it shares so many bits beneath the surface with, it’s once again a good-looking, contemporary supermini that marks Nissan’s long-awaited competitive return to this popular new car sector.
The first Peugeot 3008 was a crossover that was more MPV than SUV. Here, Peugeot’s twisted the dial more towards the SUV end, with its chunky, crisp-edged styling benefitting no end. The interior is a genuine triumph as well, and it’s also extremely good to drive. This one surprised many with just how good it is.
Range Rover Velar
The fourth Range Rover model line, Velar sits in between Range Rover Evoque and the Range Rover Sport. It’s a slightly more road-orientated model with elegant styling and a truly standout interior, one that’s plush to drive and, in V6 guise, performs strongly. It’s not cheap, but this probably won’t dent its desirability one bit.
Forget the terrible first-generation Koleos and take a look at this upscale new one. It is a larger, posher five-seat range-topper, sitting above the Kadjar and effectively becoming Renault’s new flagship. It drives nicely and the interior is very practical, so long as you don’t need seven seats.
Wow – what a turnaround for the Seat Ibiza. From a middling, forgotten class player to a true front-runner, the exceptional new Ibiza is a class act to drive, has an interior that wouldn’t shame the larger Leon, and packs in some cutting-edge tech. It’s now closer to the class-leading Ford Fiesta than it’s ever been.
A replacement for the charismatic Yeti, some have mourned the fact the Karoq is more conventional, but this downsized Kodiaq model is exactly what’s needed for the Czech firm to take on the sales-busting Nissan Qashqai it has in its targets.
SsangYong Rexton G4
Big, tough 4x4s are now many times outnumbered by more road-biased crossover SUVs, but that hasn’t stopped SsangYong rolling out the tough-as-old-boots Rexton G4. It’s claimed to offer one of the beefiest towing capacities – 3500kg – for one of the lowest entry-level prices, and all the off-road ability any amateur explorer could ever need, but this time blended with new levels of plushness and refinement for the SsangYong brand.
Subaru XV / Crosstrek
Customers love the Subaru XV and more crossover-style Crosstrek. It’s a superbly reliable go-anywhere car that drives nicely on road and is unstoppable off road for virtually everyone. A welcome upgrade with the latest one is a better quality, more appealing interior.
Suzuki is the master of the small car and its latest triumph is the new Swift supermini. The previous car was just a bit too much on the small side, with a tiny boot and so-so rear space. Both are fixed here, yet without gaining weight or spoiling the racy drive. The interior’s a big step on too, and the Boosterjet engine is a gem.
Like Honda, Toyota’s gone bold with its latest Camry – it’s arguably now even more standout than its North American arch-rival. It’s sportier to drive, has far more active safety feature as standard and is more fuel-efficient than the old one.
If the new Seat Ibiza is good, the new Volkswagen Polo should be even better. It’s built using the same architecture, but with materials just that bit more upscale in quality. You pay a bit more for it, of course, but it’s still not as much as the larger Golf this car is now so expertly imitating. Don’t underestimate the mighty Polo.
What’s this – a standout, head-turning Volkswagen? Yes indeed! To take on the Nissan Qashqai with its first compact crossover, VW knew it had to go radical – but everyone has been surprised by just how bold the T-Roc has turned out to be, both outside and in. We have little doubt it will drive extremely well, either.
Volkswagen’s new range-topping passenger car, the Arteon is a replacement for both the CC and, in a sense, the Phaeton. It’s a big car that sits above the Passat, once again bringing striking standout style to Volkswagen retailers.
Aiming to repeat the success of the landmark second-generation Volvo XC90 is this, the second-gen XC60. Styling is very much in the vein of the 90, and that’s no bad thing, while the five-seat interior is a triumph and it’s as classy to drive as its bigger sibling too.
Can Volvo make it a hat trick of SUV successes? The striking-looking XC40 aims to do just that. It’s as distinctive inside as it is out, and the firm’s promising the all-new architecture is as world-class as the larger 60 and 90. We can’t wait to find out more.
World Luxury Car 2018: the contenders
The world’s most sumptuous cars are rewarded here; last year, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class topped the table, and the contenders for 2018 look equally formidable.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has long been the luxury car to beat, but that hasn’t stopped BMW and now Audi giving it a jolly good fight. The new BMW 7 Series was a step on and Audi’s aiming for the svelte-looking new A8 to make a similar jump. It’s so advanced, it’s the world’s first car to have Level 3-standard autonomous drive functionality, beating even Tesla here.
BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo
Replacing the unfortunate-looking BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo is the newly-elevated 6 Series GT. Gone are the awkward looks and in comes something much more elegant. The interior is, impressively even more spacious and far more luxurious than before. A feel-good car to ride in that BMW says is perfect for China and should do much better than the 5GT in Europe and North America.
Lexus’ technological flagship, the mighty LS continues to lead the way. This one looks way more modern than the old one and has a quite extraordinary interior, while leading-edge petrol-electric running gear is much cleaner and greener than the old one too.
It looks pretty similar to the old one but beneath the surface, the all-new Cayenne aims to up this oh-so profitable Porsche’s luxury credentials. It’s always driven well: Porsche now wants the experience to be just as good for passengers.
Porsche has perfected the Panamera concept with this second-generation model. The uncomfortable looks have been smoothed out, the interior’s more spacious and luxurious, while the dashboard is a masterpiece of state-of-the-art design. Petrol-electric hybrid versions are very clever, the Turbo petrols very, very fast.
World Performance Car 2018: the contenders
Judging the World Performance Car contenders is always a treat for any World Car Awards judge. It was the Porsche duo of 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman that triumphed last year: check out the hot cars in the running for the 2018 prize.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
The sportiest version of the new Giulia saloon is a BMW M and Mercedes-AMG beater straight out the box. The company has spared no expense in equipping it with race-grade tech to give it incredible sporting attitude. It’s a glorious, hilarious blast to drive.
Audi RS3 Sedan
Audi doesn’t know where to stop when it comes to adding power under the bonnet of the RS3. The latest model, newly available in four-door sedan guise, packs a whopping 400hp from the 2.5-litre turbo engine, which means acceleration is nothing short of ludicrous. For such a relatively compact car, it’s fantastic.
Audi RS5 Coupe
Gone is the old Audi RS5 Coupe’s highly-strung V8 and ill-sorted chassis, in comes something far more well-rounded and desirable. This feels like a true high-performance Audi, one with an intelligent and understated breadth of talents. It’s also good-looking, has a sensational cabin and is wildly fast in all weathers.
The new BMW M5 uses a version of the old car’s turbo V8 engine pumped up to 600hp – tamed, for the first time ever, by all-wheel drive. This gives it the traction to serve up crazy acceleration times for such a large car – yet the all-wheel drive system can also be deactivated for tail-out rear wheel drifts on a racetrack all day long (or at least as long as there’s rubber on the tyres…).
Another car that’s been turned from an ugly duckling into something genuinely pretty and head-turning. The Portofino replaces the California T and finally gives the brand a lead-in convertible hard-top to be proud of.
Honda Civic Type R
This is the hot hatch of the moment, full stop. It doesn’t have the sheer power of the Ford Focus RS, but it’s not far off, and Honda’s managed to develop a car that has thrills, vibrancy and excitement in abundance while also proving well-rounded and full of finesse in everyday driving. It looks amazing, both outside and in – it’s not subtle, sure, but in terms of sheer impact, nothing beats the mighty Type R.
Hyundai i30 N
The talents of the Hyundai i30 N have proven to be a genuine surprise. Perhaps we should have expected the first hot Hyundai to come under the watch of former BMW’s M boss Albert Biermann to be good, but the sheer focus and breadth of abilities demonstrated by the hot N have still wowed us – particularly given the great value for money the car offers.
Lexus LC 500
It looks good, but there’s more to the Lexus LC 500 to simply appearing pretty. It has a well-developed chassis beneath it all, and a very exciting V8 range-topping engine. The GT car that can teach Mercedes-Benz and even Aston Martin a thing or two?
Renault Alpine A110
To say anticipation is high for this exciting little rocketship of a coupe is putting it mildly. It’s been a long time in the making but will be driven very, very soon – and we’re fully expecting sparks to fly. We can’t wait to get behind the wheel.
Volkswagen Polo GTI
The new Volkswagen Polo is brilliant, and the most appealing one of all may well be the range-topping GTI. Using the same 2.0-litre turbo engine as in the Golf GTI is a great start, as is being developed by the same man responsible for recent hot Golfs. It has all the makings of being a bit of a gem.
World Green Car 2018: the contenders
Judges voted the plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius Prime (also known as the Prius PHEV) as the greenest new car of 2017. There are some equally forward-looking contenders in the running for the 2018 gong too.
BMW 530e iPerformance
Diesel is fast dropping down the agenda, with electric-assist hybrids being the name of the game. BMW is able to respond in one of the most important model sectors it competes in, the executive class, with the petrol-electric 530e iPerformance. This plug-in hybrid model is all set to take a significant proportion of sales – some of which will come at the expense of the 520d and 530d…
Chevrolet Cruze Diesel
Diesel is dead in North America? Try telling that to Chevrolet, which is going ahead with its roll out of the Cruze Diesel. The firm is hoping there’s still an appetite for diesel in the States: will customers agree?
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Adding electric hybrid assistance to the innovative, well-liked Chrysler Pacifica boosts its green credentials. For customers, it means better fuel efficiency and lower tax, for the planet it means fewer nasties being pumped out by America’s top-selling minivan.
We’ve only seen this as a concept, but it’s going to be here any time soon – the svelte Hyundai FE fuel cell will build upon the firm’s experience in retailing the Hyundai ix35 hydrogen fuel cell. Can it take the fight to the Honda Clarity and Toyota Mirai? If it can, it could genuinely be a front-runner for the 2018 Green Car Award.
Nissan has learnt so much with the original Nissan Leaf, it’s putting all this knowledge into the second-generation model, which is all set to be the best all-electric car the world has yet seen. Do not be surprised if the new Leaf is a grade-A groundbreaker.
World Urban Car 2018: the contenders
This was a new category for 2017, honouring the greatest cars for use in the city. Last year, the ingenious all-electric BMW i3 won… which will be the best car for urbanites in 2018, though?
For years, the Ford Fiesta has been an exemplar. With this all-new one, Ford has improved all the old model’s weaknesses, upped the premium-finish appeal, yet barely grown it an inch over the old one. With the added draw of an ultra-posh Vignale range-topper, more than ever it’s a supermini star.
SUV crossovers are taking over from superminis as the car to have for urbanites. Whereas the Hyundai i20 is worthy but dull, the similarly-sized Kona is all cool appeal and striking looks. It could even trade places with the i20 in terms of sales – and we’d fully understand why.
New city cars are a bit thin on the ground, making Kia’s achievement in making the all-new Picanto such a talented micro-sized model all the more praiseworthy. It’s a budget car that never feels cheap, and still manages to put a smile on your face even in its most affordable guise.
The Kia Rio, like the Hyundai i20, is an able car, but not the most thrilling of machines. So, again, the Stonic is coming to spice up the firm’s small car line-up – and we expect it to have a similarly significant effect on the sales mix.
At last, Nissan has upped its game in the small car sector, after years of lagging behind with the old Micra. This new one is at last a car worthy of sitting in the same showroom as the Qashqai and Leaf – and some of the onboard tech it packs in makes it a genuinely appealing supermini in its own right.
Seat has transformed the Ibiza’s fortunes, following up on the success it’s enjoyed with the latest Leon and new Ateca. The Ibiza enjoys one of the youngest new car buyer profiles in Europe – who are now being treated to one of the best cars in its class for the money.
Clever, value-priced small car engineering, the ingenuous Swift is a triumph of Japanese design. It’s thoughtful, usable, robust and dependable, and the cute looks of the original have made a welcome return on this latest one too.
Like a Golf, only smaller. The new Polo distils all the brilliance of Volkswagen’s best-selling family hatch into a more compact package, making it a car that’s all set to return to the top tier of Europe’s best-seller charts.
World Car Design 2018: the contenders
All cars eligible for the other World Car Awards categories are also entered into the overall World Car Design award – which is judged by an expert panel of car designers. Last year, the Jaguar F-Pace triumphed. Which will win this year? Because they’re not represented elsewhere, the jurors have added two other new models that they think are worthy of consideration, too.
BMW i8 Roadster
The open-top version of BMW’s dramatic i8 petrol-electric supercar, this has been a long time coming but is finally set to launch in dramatic style.
Lamborghini’s first modern SUV, the Urus has been shown in concept guise for years – its production launch is imminent… so the world will finally be able to see if the maker of the world’s most dramatic supercars can also turn its talents to making the most radical-looking production SUV design on the planet.