Buying a car is one of the biggest decisions you can make. It will sit outside your home for years and, for many of us, a car is an essential part of everyday life. The best cars will be reliable, easy to drive, spacious, practical and capable of keeping your loved ones safe in the event of an accident.
But choose the wrong model and you could end up with a fault-prone car that will spend as much time with a mechanic as it does outside your home.
A new car is an important purchase, and an expensive one, so you need to make the right decision. At Which?, we understand the importance of buying a car that perfectly suits your budget and needs. That’s why every car we review goes through hundreds of extensive tests and why we drive them for hundreds of miles on real roads.
Our mixture of scientific lab-controlled tests, real-world driving and unique survey data means our reviews are the most informative and accurate around.
To make it as easy as possible to find the perfect vehicle, we’ve rounded up the best cars in each class.
Already know which type of car you want? Click the links below to see our round-up of the very best. Otherwise, read on to find out more about each class.
Being exempt from car tax has made electric cars more popular than ever. Top-rated models will have a good range while offering the same functionality and practicality as their petrol and diesel counterparts.
The chief drawback for many would-be electric-car buyers is the range. More and more manufacturers are claiming their cars can travel over 200 miles, but our own tests have found electric cars that fall well short of the claimed figures.
Our Which? Car Survey asks tens of thousands of owners how reliable their cars are. The information we collect informs our reviews; if a car is known to break down often or require a lot of costly repairs, it can’t be a Best Buy.
Drivers looking to save on fuel costs often turn to hybrid cars. Where hybrid cars can really come alive is in urban driving - pick the right model and they'll easily best the average petrol or diesel for urban mpg.
However, their traditional Achilles’ Heel is poor motorway mpg - although some of the best hybrid cars can be exceptions to this trend. Our realistic mpg tests reveal which hybrid cars are truly economical, and which aren't.
If you’re thinking of choosing a plug-in hybrid model as your next car, you’ll want to regularly charge the battery to make the most of its electric range. Otherwise, you’ll be facing higher fuel costs.
Every car we test in our lab is driven for hundreds of miles on UK roads, so we can say, with authority, whether or not the car is easy to drive.
Our in-depth reviews have shown that many city cars struggle to stick to pollutant limits in our high-intensity motorway test. In other words, pick the wrong vehicle and you might be disappointed by the vehicle’s fuel consumption at high speeds.
City cars are competitively priced. While our testing has found some cheap and cheerful models, we’ve also found Don’t Buys with puny engines, poor handling, and a lack of active safety equipment such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
We determine how quickly a car accelerates from 37-62mph, rather than 0-60, so you know how well smaller cars will cope with overtaking and changing lanes.
One small car has the dubious honour of being our lowest-rated car.
The best medium cars are consummate all-rounders that aren’t difficult to drive or park.
We found that 98% of cars can’t meet their official mpg. This is why we perform our own fuel-economy tests, so you will know how often you’ll really need to fill up and how much your car will cost you over time.
As you’d expect, interior space in a large car won’t be an issue, and sizeable engines mean the extra weight won’t make for sluggish performance.
But although you’d expect all ‘large’ cars to have plenty of boot space, not all of them deliver on their promise. Unlike car manufacturers, our own expert tests measure usable boot space to help you compare the cars on your shortlist.
We test to see how well each seat is padded, looking in depth at lumbar, thigh and head support, so you know whether a car will give you back ache after a long drive.
We’ve found cars that don’t give nearly enough consideration to passenger comfort and, coupled with poor suspension, your lower back will feel every pothole.
The best small SUVs have bundles of cabin space. They should be easy to drive, despite their size, and offer a commanding view of the road.
To make sure visibility is good, we use a 360-degree rotating camera to measure exactly how much the driver can see. Huge door pillars and small rear windows can make parking a nightmare. Sensors that help guide you into a space are becoming more common, but these pricey extras shouldn’t come at the expense of a well-designed cabin.
Don’t be wooed by some of the low-cost crossovers, because sometimes you really do get what you pay for. We’ve found Don’t Buy small SUVs that are light on in-car tech and safety equipment. There’s no excuse for manufacturers making unsafe cars, and all our reviews show the Euro NCAP test results as well as the results of our own avoidance tests. Unsafe cars put everyone at risk in the event of a crash.
When determining the amount of interior space we don’t just get in and stretch our legs. We use dummies to work out exactly how much head, leg and knee space each occupant will have.
Sometimes the back seats are more cramped than the front, particularly when it comes to coupé SUVs – the sloping roofs can significantly diminish rear headroom. So unless you're never planning on having anyone in the back, spare a thought for your passengers and read our reviews before you buy.
Some manufacturers remove carpets and include the space designated for a spare tyre when measuring and reporting boot capacity. We use foam blocks, which ignore the small nooks that nothing practical can fit into, to give a realistic figure for boot space.
There’s more to consider than just a large boot. If an estate car is high off the ground or has a raised lip at the base of the boot, it can be difficult to load, especially if you’re carting heavy items around.
We check to see how well every car copes with last-minute avoidance. We swerve around objects at 56mph to make sure the car remains stable and grips the road.
If the front wheels lock, then the car can’t be a Best Buy. Our testing has found cars that can’t handle sharp turns at high speeds. Locked wheels mean you’ve effectively lost control of the car, which can lead to serious accidents.
The best 7-seaters should still have a sizeable boot and not be cramped, even when all the seats are in use.
Seven seats is all well and good, but if the car is cramped and hard to get into, then those extra seats aren’t much use. We check to see how easy it is to enter any car, so you’ll know if the car you’re considering is suitable for older or disabled passengers.
Sliding doors can make it easier to get in and out of a car, particularly in cramped parking spaces, but we’ve found that some large MPVs have heavy sliding doors that some passengers may find difficult to open and close.
We understand what people want from a sports car, and that is reflected in our testing. The final score will be based more on how well the car handles and how fun it is to drive, rather than practicality – no one ever bought a sports car for its boot capacity.
The best models will look fast and go even faster, thanks to state-of-the-art engines kicking out enough bhp to power four small cars. But any car that has high emissions in our tough tests, which are stricter than many manufacturer’s own tests, isn’t worthy of a Which? Best Buy title.
The high price means we often have higher expectations for how a sports car should perform on the road. Handling is paramount for an enjoyable driving experience, but some sports cars we’ve driven aren’t nearly responsive enough. The last thing you want is to be tens of thousands of pounds worse off, with only a boring car to show for it.
Expectations of luxury cars are understandably high – the top-rated models we’ve uncovered in our tough tests meet them.
We drive every car we test over a test track with more than enough lumps, bumps and potholes to replicate a British road. If the suspension isn’t up to scratch, we have the sore bums to prove it.
A second-hand luxury car might catch your eye, but be careful – we’ve found that some older models are a major disappointment when it comes to reliability. In fact, luxury cars are among the least reliable car types that we test. Buying used could save you a sizeable chunk of cash, but make sure you consult our expert reviews before you part with your hard-earned money. We survey thousands of car owners so we can reveal which models stand the test of time.