Best new cars 2019: CAR's picks of the year so far

Published: 22 August 2019

► CAR's top picks of 2019
► The best new cars we've driven this year
► SUVs, superminis and supercars

2019’s exciting new car models may not feel like the future we were promised – large family cars being replaced with crossovers, mainstream-yet-sexy coupes thinning out – but new technologies, build quality and a renewed pursuit of lightness means you can choose from some genuinely impressive machinery to drive this year.

There are trends aplenty. The steady progress of hybrid technology toward mainstream applications. Mild hybrid systems in the shape of 48-volt boosters providing urban torque and better stop/start, reducing emissions without bystanders looking for the driver who stalled at the lights. Genuinely useful driver assistants taking the stress out of slowing down for more congested roads. Most of 2019’s new cars aren’t merely replacement models - many of them are genuine upgrades. It's 21st century motoring, version 2.0.

In our guide to the best new cars you can buy in 2019, you’ll find the cream of the crop of all the cars launched and driven so far in 2019. We’ll be regularly updating this list over the course of the year.

Best new cars in 2019

Superminis and small family cars

Renault Clio 

clio

Slightly smaller and lighter? That isn’t how new-generation models tend to work but, with the new Renault Clio, it is. Renault’s next-generation supermini has an all-new platform, fresh engines and gearboxes, so while it might look very much like the previous one, a lot has changed under the skin. A hybrid is coming in 2020, too, using a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and two e-motors.

What really impressed was the interior; this is quite a step on in quality from before, and makes the brilliant, if a little plain, Ford Fiesta look less appealing.

CAR verdict: ‘This is a significantly better package than the previous Clio, which was quite rightly a popular choice.’

BMW 1-series 

1-series

BMW got the ‘small’ bit right with the 3-series Compact and original 1-series, but the practical side took a back seat. Keeping the same characterful miniature-estate shape and urban-friendly dimensions, the 2020 1-series – on sale at the end of 2019 – moves to a front or all-wheel drive platform. This yields more room for passengers and luggage, and improves ergonomics and access for servicing, too.

While that may be a big loss for hardcore BMW fans and keen drivers, most folk who’ll be getting a 118d as a company car won’t really be that bothered. Hot hatch fans might not be quite so keen on the M135i switching to all-wheel drive but it’s fast, great to drive and puts it in line with the VW Golf R and Mercedes-AMG A35.

CAR verdict: ‘It may be a big departure over what’s come before, but the new 2020 BMW 1-series has come through its rebirth relatively unscathed.’

Saloons and large family cars

BMW 3-series 

3-series

The company car benchmark BMW 3-series is the standard to beat for a four-door, four-seater rear-wheel drive compact executive saloon, which means BMW’s got a tough job whenever it updates its heartland model.

Wider, longer and more spacious overall, the latest 3-series remains confident on the road, despite a leaner, slimmer range of motors that might surprise drivers used to six-cylinder bragging rights. The 320d can reach 62mph in less than seven seconds; in a rational world, it’s hard to imagine needing much more.

For those who do, turbocharged six-cylinder engines deliver up to 414bhp, and advanced dynamic suspension, plus a decent selection of engines offered with xDrive, completes a very comprehensive and rational update to the best-seller.

CAR verdict: ‘The 3-series needs little introduction; the latest generation is an effective evolution – but still undeniably, a 3-series.’

Peugeot 508 SW 

508 sw

Once masters of the comfortable saloon car, Peugeot lost its way somewhat after the 407. While arch-rival Renault gave up selling the Laguna in the UK, Peugeot persevered – and we’re thankful they did, as 2019’s 508 SW shows that the French lion has got its mojo back. The 508’s low roof and pillarless windows, striking claw-and-fang day-running lights and LED tail lights masked by a band of black contrast are more than a stylish wrapper for a mundane experience; step inside, and the brave, split-level dashboard i-Cockpit forms a cosseting environment for the driver that feels genuinely futuristic.

The low lines don’t render it impractical, either – the boot is generous, and advanced tech like pedestrian-seeking night vision reduces stress behind the wheel. Mechanically, refinement and ultimate feedback still lag behind the best rivals from BMW, Audi and Mercedes, but the Peugeot’s striking looks, good-value pricing and decent overall blend of abilities make it worth considering, particularly if you want to stand out from the crowd.

CAR verdict: ‘Peugeot’s return to form is exemplified by the 508. It looks appealing enough that people might actually buy it and find out how good it is for themselves, too.’

SUVs

Range Rover Evoque 

evoque

2019’s Evoque is arguably one of the most completely new cars in this line-up - this Velar-inspired follow-up is thoroughly re-engineered and owes little to its predecessor. A stiffer bodyshell, more advanced technology with new all-wheel drive systems to save fuel and improve response times, and crucially for families, more spacious, the new Evoque sensibly doesn’t mess with the distinctive Range Rover interior design language and material quality, and keeps a lot of the instantly-recognisable cues from its predecessor too.

There are plenty of surprise-and-delight touches like flush retracting door handles, and the ‘see-through bonnet’ of the 180-degree ClearSight Ground View camera, but what really matters is that this new Evoque hasn’t lost the eager, hot-hatch-like attitude of the original while improving ride, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) and economy. All except the base model are mild hybrids, with a 48v motor-assist system to smooth out low-speed driving and save fuel when pulling away.

Not everything has carried through intact, though, and the unusual – and stylish – three-door Evoque Coupe, and similarly out-there Evoque Convertible, don’t make the cut to the second generation. Still – this premium five-door SUV really does replace a much-loved success story without alienating buyers, and it’s a worthy upgrade.

CAR verdict: ‘The Evoque was never perfect, but it was undeniably loved. Its successor keeps the charm intact.’

Citroen C5 Aircross 

c5 aircross

Returning to form, Citroen’s C5 Aircross employs an unusual suspension design to enhance comfort and also gives the French marque a true family crossover rival to take on the immensely popular Qashqai and its army of lookalikes from Hyundai, Kia, Renault and so forth. You won’t mistake the C5 Aircross for any of them, taking the cues of the original C4 Cactus and running full-pelt towards ‘challenging’, past ‘interesting’ and neatly sidestepping ‘quirky’.

What really matters, though, is the way Citroen has engineered the C5 Aircross to provide maximum comfort without the expense of air suspension (or complexity of their own, now departed, oleopneumatic system). The suspension takes care of the big stuff by utilising clever dampers and inflatable bump stops to minimise jolts, and the rest is down to the Advanced Comfort Seating – standard on Flair and above. Intelligent cushion design, individually adjustable rear seats designed to take three adults, and secondary comfort touches like filtered air-conditioning and semi-autonomous modes complete one of the most relaxing cars you’ll find for the money.

As befits a car with bodyroll and squashy seats, the fastest models are still relatively slow, but a hybrid version will undoubtedly join the range adding four-wheel drive and a swift turn of pace. We think it’s best to stick with a mid-range model, keep it simple, and enjoy the ride.

CAR verdict: ‘Citroen returns to form by remembering that some drivers liked comfort more than handling. Or styling.’

Sports cars

Porsche (992) 911 

992 911

If it ain’t broke, barely fix it. That seems to be Porsche’s motto generally, and it was the case with the 992-generation 911 that rolled into UK dealerships in 2019. Porsche injected plenty of new technology, like the widescreen infotainment screen from the Panamera and some digital dials, and did just enough to the design to separate it from the 991 predecessor.

It’s still powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre flat-six and more variants are coming out all the time. It started with the brilliant Carrera S and 4S, expanded into Cabriolet and then the lower-powered entry-level Carrera models. It’s only a matter of time before the GT and Turbo cars start appearing.

Regardless, they didn’t ruin the 911 when the next generation arrived, meaning that all is right with the world.

CAR verdict: ‘A wickedly capable and rewarding driving tool, convincingly versatile like few rival sports cars and painfully desirable, it’s a masterful reinvention of a timeless concept.’

Toyota Supra 

Supra

Quite possibly one of the most hyped cars of the last decade finally arrived in 2019. The new Supra shares a lot of its components with the BMW Z4, which might irk some, but Toyota did plenty of its own development work on the same platform.

In GR Supra form, the 3.0-litre straight-six turbo makes 335bhp, sent through an eight-speed auto to the rear wheels – just like the good old days.

Thankfully, when we first drove it we realised that the new Supra had become one of the best cars we drove in 2019. It’s not the sharpest two-door sports car but it’s loaded with charisma, looks fantastic and sounds fruity.

CAR verdict: ‘It’s a new volume-production sports car that has made it, against the odds, into a world that’s increasingly difficult for such a species to survive within.’

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