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Best Cars of 2018

Best Cars of 2018


Long-serving motoring journalist, John Swift, gives us his top cars for 2018.

Top Cars of 2018

As a motoring journalist for many years, I’ve had the privilege and sometimes the pain, of getting behind the wheel of most of the new cars released into the UK market. Here are my favourites from 2018.

Best car of 2018: Jaguar I-PACE

You will hear justified criticism that the I-PACE is still not a practical car and still demands compromises of its owners. Both of those observations are true, but they could equally be applied to any all-electric car and they will remain valid until such time as the UK gets the recharging infrastructure to match this fast-growing market.

Sadly, that seems some way off and blame can only be laid at the door of the government, recharging providers, oil companies and private enterprise who have failed to enable all-electric customers to have the whole journey, being able to buy and then fully use their new car; it’s a bit like Henry Ford building the Model T, but there not being enough fuel pumps to keep the new owners rolling.

But, is that the fault of this car, does it diminish its appeal? Not one bit, I would say.

Royal blue I-Pace with leafy background

Owners know what they are buying into and will have driving requirements the I-PACE will fit seamlessly into. What they’re buying is a car that makes just about anything else look old-fashioned and certainly any big SUV look boxy, heavy and cumbersome. 

It drives like a Jaguar and how many of us expected that? The I-PACE is about proving that electro-mobility can work, but until you drive it you may think that would have been enough for Jag, but its chassis works as a Jaguar should, it shrugs off the weight of those battery packs and motors and rides/steers as sweetly as you would want.

Picking the I-PACE is controversial because you may well see and hear more criticism of its shortcomings than praise for what it does. I went back to the three questions I always ask of a car when testing it; what is it built to do, how well does it do it and how well does it do that compared to the opposition?

The I-PACE is meant to supercharge the executive SUV market into the electrical age while giving buyers a car true to the company’s ethos of making elegant, graceful cars blessed with a fine chassis. It hits those targets spot on and as for opposition – well, there isn’t any. Yet! This time next year that will be very different but for now the I-PACE stands alone.

Coupe: Audi TT

If this was an awards ceremony would there be any point in any other car being entered? Probably not. The Audi TT is the car which defines its class and recent updates have done what many said couldn’t be done – improved on the best. Sheer class throughout, brilliant cockpit, brilliant to drive. BMW’s new Z4 has a mountain to climb if it wants to establish superiority.

Red Audi TT driving at speed down country lane

SUV: Volvo XC40

Hard to think of it now but it isn’t so long ago that Volvo was a bit of a lost brand. Its USP of having the safest cars lacks the impact it once did as now almost every new car is very safe and its badge couldn’t match the lure of the German makes.

It made up some lost ground with more distinctive styling and in beating its rivals to having hybrids, but these were small steps only, not giant leaps. Until the new XC40 that is which arrived this year. It timing was perfect, given our continuing fascination with SUVs, and those who have bought it, tested it or are tasked with selling it, say it’s the best thing Volvo has made in generations. The fact that it was voted European Car of the Year 2018 indicates they’re right.

White Volvo XC40 driving at speed

Family hatchback: Ford Focus

An easy pick this, the best in the class just got better. 20 years on from the original this all-new generation wisely stuck to the tried and tested formula of having the finest handling/riding chassis in the pack, but now with some (much needed) sparkle in the driving environment and interior, modern driver aids and although Ford still doesn’t (yet) do a hybrid Focus the latest small-capacity/high-efficiency engines are very impressive.

There has to be a special mention of the Kia cee’d here too. Another excellent car made better in its latest guise – just not quite as good all round as the Ford.

Blue Ford Focus stationary

Small SUV: SEAT Arona

Back at the start of the year I drove the SEAT Arona, a product of the VW family and I’m not usually a fan of cars from a big corporate family; however, SEAT has managed to take familiar components and make a car with its own special stamp. Making one car stand out from what is now a very crowded field is difficult and to be honest, one small SUV feels pretty much like another these days and all are pretty good, but if I were in the market for buying a small SUV I would definitely be heading to the nearest SEAT showroom.

Copper metallic coloured SEAT Arona parked

Santa's Wish List

If there’s to be one car I’d like to find under my Christmas tree this year it would be the Alpine A110. Imagine how difficult it must have been for the development engineers to take just an idea, a wish list if you like, and from a standing start make it drive and handle as well as a Porsche Cayman? (or Porsche 718 as we are now supposed to call it). They didn’t have an earlier model from which to learn lessons and improve, it had to be bang on first time. And how they delivered.

How easy would it have been for the stylists to make a clumsy pastiche of a car from the 1960s instead of doing a stunning translation of that shape into a modern car.

I’m a previous Lotus owner so you can see where my tastes lie and I’m a huge fan of the Cayman/718, but if there was to be one car I was unwrapping on Christmas morning I would want it to be this one.

Blue Alpine A110 driving at speed through rugged countryside