No matter how good a brand new car is perhaps, it’s all the time going to face stiff competitors from a raft of proficient rivals – all making an attempt to catch the attention of potential consumers. So, the most efficient approach to decide which mannequin is really the very best of the bunch is by pitting them towards one another in a head-to-head battle.

2022 noticed the arrival of some really spectacular new rivals, significantly within the ever-growing electrical car sector. The temptingly-priced MG4 is a key instance, and it was up towards the extra established Kia Niro EV in our October twin-test.

Some long-standing rivalries reappeared, too. The hot hatch problem was as fiery as ever, with the veteran Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI preventing to maintain the Hyundai i20 N beginner at bay.

Read on to see our favorite group tests of 2022, and tell us which is your favorite take a look at within the feedback part.

January

New Skoda Fabia faces powerful first take a look at

2022 kicked off with one of the smallest – yet biggest – tests of the year. Superminis maintain a vitally necessary spot within the UK’s new-car market, and with 4 of the nation’s 10 greatest promoting vehicles within the 12 months main as much as the competition coming from that very phase, the marketplace for compact, reasonably priced hatchbacks continues to be clearly in impolite well being.

Judging by the requirements of the three vehicles we assembled, that actually gave the impression to be the case. The newcomer within the contest was Skoda’s newest Fabia. Now getting into its fourth technology, right here was a car that had grown a bit of bigger than its predecessor – and change into even smarter and higher outfitted, too.

Such a promising car deserved stiff opposition, so we didn’t go straightforward on the Czech challenger. The first rival got here within the good-looking form of the Renault Clio. It arrived for this contest off the again of two consecutive victories within the Supermini class of our New Car Awards, and it confronted as much as the Skoda in Iconic trim and that includes the same three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. With the Skoda’s 94bhp output, nonetheless, the Skoda held a 5bhp edge on its rival.

The third contestant simply had the opposite two crushed for outright energy, with 134bhp on faucet, but it additionally boasted zero tailpipe emissions. That’s as a result of our take a look at trio was accomplished by the pure-electric Vauxhall Corsa-e. We consider that Britain’s best-selling supermini is at its greatest when paired with the graceful, silent, electrical powertrain, however the hassle is that it’s additionally at its most costly. The query we needed to know was whether or not the time has come for electrical superminis to rule the roost.

In the top, the reply was not fairly – however that was as a lot due to the Corsa’s minor shortcomings somewhat than the electrical powertrain as a complete. With a slightly lower cost and a barely longer total vary, the Vauxhall may need achieved extra, however in the long run, it was its restricted inside area and journey consolation that stopped it from actually competing.

The battle between the highest two on this contest was very shut. Compared facet by facet, the Fabia had the Clio crushed in a number of areas; it’s barely extra comfy (though each excel on this regard), there’s much more area in each the again seats and the boot, and the 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine was a stronger performer but barely extra economical, too.

However, the Clio was in a position to problem the Fabia extraordinarily carefully in each space, and its killer blow was dealt by its discount worth. When we measured up the month-to-month PCP funds, the Clio’s equal trim ranges weighted in at £15-£20 monthly much less on an similar three-year PCP take care of a £2,000 deposit. Better nonetheless, the Clio was obtainable on a two-year, interest-free PCP (because it nonetheless is), making it much more of a discount.

BMW comes out on prime in battle of premium EVs

This face-off between two ultra-luxurious EVs proved simply how shortly the market is transferring ahead. On our first encounter with the Audi e-tron in 2018, it proved to be a fabulously comfy, stress-free EV with incredible tech.

Despite this, the BMW had it comfortably crushed. The iX is much more silent and stress-free, but sharper to drive. The BMW is way more environment friendly, too, whereas its iDrive tech is among the many greatest, and its cabin feels really particular, too. It’s an unimaginable, if expensive, achievement.

February

Hyper-hatches in head-to-head battle

There’s always been a power race among the German brands, and nowhere is that extra clear than within the scorching hatch phase. In truth, with the most recent Audi RS 3 and Mercedes-AMG A45 S, it’s a ponder whether they’re now so excessive (and costly) that they’ve established a category of their very own.

The on-paper stats are thoughts boggling – simply 20 years in the past, they’d greater than possible be thought-about supercar numbers. The Audi is exclusive on this phase because of its turbocharged five-cylinder engine. It’s not in need of energy both, with 394bhp and 500Nm – the latter obtainable from 2,250rpm proper the way in which by means of to five,600rpm. However, the Mercedes is much more potent; AMG’s boffins have squeezed out a staggering 415bhp from a fair smaller 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo.

To learn how these hyper-hatches measured up towards one another, we took them to gorgeous – and predictably, for winter, sodden – South Wales.

Both the roads and the local weather solely helped to indicate this pair of their absolute factor. Along the twisty, undulating tarmac and with restricted traction on the slippery surfaces, there have been few different vehicles at any worth that might have stored up, and there was little or no to separate the pair when it got here to the utmost limits of grip.

Each provided gorgeous acceleration too, with 0-62mph occasions of three.8 and three.9 seconds for the Audi and the Mercedes respectively. So in purely goal phrases, then, this pair was very evenly matched. And we couldn’t even actually separate them on the extra smart stuff like cabin area or gasoline consumption, both.

However, for vehicles which have such the same transient, the pair have drastically totally different characters. Character is actually a phrase that quickly springs to thoughts while you discover the vary of the Audi’s fabulous engine. The five-cylinder soundtrack provides a wealthy, full-bodied sound that couldn’t be mistaken for anything. It sounds nice at light speeds too, so driving it all the time appears like an important day.

Given that it has a four-cylinder unit, the Mercedes already units itself up for a unique character. But though the engine observe sounds suitably offended, it’s the chassis which actually units it aside.

To us, a scorching hatchback ought to really feel thrilling, sharp and just a bit bit unhinged – and in these essential areas, the A45 holds an edge over its rival. Turn right into a nook, and the Mercedes’s chassis feels pointy and agile in method extra befitting of a thoroughbred efficiency car than a five-door hatchback. Yes, it’s a must to take it by the scruff of the neck, however try this and also you’ll emerge from each enthusiastic drive fully exhilarated.

By distinction, the Audi is completed to the purpose the place it lacks a few of the AMG’s really feel and poise. Of course, it’s staggeringly fast, however after many drives, you’ll really feel prefer it was the car doing the work, somewhat than you.

BMW i4 clashes with Polestar and Tesla rivals

February saw us match up three of the best long-rangers of the EV segment, with the all-new BMW i4 dealing with off towards the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3.

In the top, the outcome stood at 4, 3, 2. The BMW took the win because of the good driving expertise, whereas the Tesla’s efficiency, effectivity and very good charging community helped it into a really shut second. The Polestar propped up the standings, not fairly in a position to compete with the opposite two for vary or in-car tech.

March

New Lexus NX beats Audi Q5

Toyota and its luxurious sister model Lexus are each present process one thing of a renaissance in the mean time – and nowhere was this demonstrated extra emphatically than when the brand-new Lexus NX 450h+ took a shock twin-test win against one of the consistent leaders of the posh SUV segment, the Audi Q5.

On our first probability to get behind the wheel of the NX, we struggled to call to mind one other car that had exhibited such an unlimited enchancment over its predecessor.

Of course, Lexus has all the time excelled in some areas – particularly refinement, construct high quality and reliability – however the brand new mannequin constructed on its maker’s conventional strengths to ship a genuinely full bundle.

Take the infotainment system, for instance. In latest occasions, this had change into famend as the one best weak point of a Lexus product, however we discovered that the 2022 NX had ditched the weird trackpad and clunky consumer interface for a big touchscreen, that loaded shortly, seemed nice and was easy to make use of.

Even the Q5, which has one of many slickest techniques itself, couldn’t compete on this space. Nor may it match the Lexus in a number of different key areas too. Not solely had Lexus delivered a car that was stress-free to drive, but it surely was quick and succesful, too. The plug-in hybrid powertrain’s 305bhp comes predominantly from its two electrical motors, giving prompt efficiency that even the 295bhp Audi may wrestle to match – whether or not in full-power or pure-EV mode.

As far as most consumers are involved, the primary advantages of a plug-in hybrid come within the form of decrease gasoline and tax prices. And once we checked out these two fashions, the Lexus emerged as the higher car in each respects.

With a WLTP-rated vary of 43 miles, the NX may additionally journey six miles additional than the Q5 on a single cost. But even with its battery depleted, the Japanese victor proved to be as frugal because the model’s standard hybrids, reaching a incredible 48.9mpg in our arms – at least 14.2mpg higher than the Audi may handle. Plus, the Lexus felt extra sprightly when driving in pure-electric mode.

There’s nonetheless lots to love concerning the Audi – its consolation, for a begin – however we noticed this as an enormous second for Lexus. The NX proved to be the primary car from the corporate in a very long time that you may purchase not simply because it was extra dependable than the German options – or just since you needed to be totally different. This was a Lexus you may purchase as a result of, fairly merely, it was the very best car in its class.

April

New BMW coupé traces up towards Porsche and Audi rivals

Driver’s vehicles have all the time been instrumental in forming BMW’s identification. So when a brand new, sporty mannequin arrives from the model, we’ll take discover. Back in April we had the possibility to pit the new 2 Series Coupé, in its most potent form to date, the M240i, against rivals from Audi and Porsche.

There are fascinating contrasts between the fashions – for a begin, their engines. The BMW has a 3.0-litre turbocharged in-line six, the Audi TT will get a 2.5-litre five-cylinder, and the Porsche 718 Cayman has a 2.0-litre flat 4. Of these, the TT is the most potent, with a thumping 395bhp on faucet. However, the Cayman has decrease weight on its facet, and it sends its drive to the rear wheels solely, whereas the BMW and Audi each provide four-wheel drive traction.

Despite that weight penalty, the M240i was exceptionally succesful. Its chassis was very composed, whereas traction and grip have been phenomenal, making certain robust cross-country tempo.

The Audi was even faster, but it surely all appeared a bit of medical. There wasn’t a lot adjustment to the chassis, and that mixed with lifeless steering to go away it feeling brief on character. That’s not a criticism that could possibly be levelled on the TT’s  fantastic engine, although; the five-cylinder unit sounded good and made the Audi extremely fast.

That left the Porsche. Yes, it was slowest in a straight line, and sure, the engine sounded boring, however for a eager driver, the chassis would make up for that fully. Next to the opposite two, it felt alive by means of the corners, transmitting infinite suggestions by means of the controls, and being a measurement and weight that felt excellent for British B-roads.

In the top, although, it was a victory for the brand new BMW. It was extra involving to drive than the Audi, and sooner than the Porsche, but was way more sensible than both.

We discover the best choice for firm car drivers

Which is the best company car: diesel, plug-in hybrid or electric? We found out by lining up the best of each: the Mercedes C220d, BMW 330e PHEV, and Hyundai Ioniq 5. The Ioniq 5 took the win, providing an enormous quantity of efficiency, area and refinement. The BMW was nice to drive, and had a decrease Benefit-in-Kind price than the Mercedes. However, the C220d’s unimaginable 70.5mpg on take a look at proved that there’s nonetheless life in diesel energy but.

May

Hyundai i20 N claims Fiesta ST’s hot-hatch crown

The Ford Fiesta ST has been the king of the recent hatches for a while, but that all changed in May, when the Hyundai i20N wrestled the crown out of its hands. The Ford remained thrilling to drive, and delicate updates gave it a brand new face and extra package, however the i20 felt simply as hardcore whereas being even higher worth for cash. As with the usual i20, the N is a bit more sensible than the Fiesta, too. Third place went to the VW Polo GTI; it was very fast, however felt a bit of aloof on this firm.

Birthday bash marks 50 years of M vehicles

This yr marked the fiftieth anniversary of the primary BMW M car getting into manufacturing, so Steve Sutcliffe took a very special look back at one of the most evocative letters in the performance car alphabet, by assembling some of the M Division’s greatest hits.

The venue was Llandow circuit in Wales, the place Steve had the chance to discover the capabilities of those vehicles facet by facet. He began with the M1. This was the primary full-production car to put on the M badge, and one which was a cheerful accident after motorsport plans for the mid-engined coupé have been shelved.

On our latest encounter with the M1, it turned very clear that lots of the defining traits that might go on to be hallmarks of all the very best M vehicles – stunning management weights, a spine-tingling engine and sharp dealing with – have been established proper right here.

What turned evident as Steve moved from the M1 to the M635i and again to the E30 M3, was that there have been totally different traits throughout the model. Some vehicles have been true race vehicles for the street, whereas others had that really feel, however delivered in a extra comfy, refined bundle.

Other extra trendy highlights adopted; from Steve reacquainting himself with vehicles that he examined again within the day, such because the Z3 M Coupé, to vehicles he favored a lot that he really purchased, such because the V8-powered E39 M5.

The model explored expertise all through its historical past, with the noughties displaying early, somewhat clunky, forays into automated handbook paddle-shift transmissions within the E46 M3 CSL and E60 M5. Those vehicles, satirically, linked the gearboxes to 2 of the best engines that M ever constructed: the M3’s 3.2-litre, 333bhp straight six and the M5’s 500bhp, 5.0-litre V10, a configuration chosen to indicate ties with BMW’S Formula One involvement on the time.

From there, the expertise grew, together with each the facility outputs and the weights. The 1M was amongst these to buck that pattern, with its compact measurement, rabid character and muscular appears to be like, and the E92 M3 GTS, the stripped-out coupé blessed with an enormous dollop of V8 energy and limitless potential for slides. Even in 2009 it price £117,000, which solely goes to spotlight the truth that M threw all of its motorsport-derived know-how at it.

We introduced the take a look at to its conclusion by way of the exceedingly fast M5 30 Jahre (itself a celebration of 30 years of the M5) and the present G80 M3. In some ways, we found the latter car encapsulated lots of the greatest qualities of its predecessors, rounding all of them up right into a bundle that’s not solely thrilling but in addition straightforward to reside with each day.

June

SUVs battle it out to search out which is better of British

We put the very best of British up towards one another in concern 1,734, with the all-new Range Rover going head to head with the magnificent Bentley Bentayga.

Land Rover was on to a winner with its luxurious SUV. Both really feel opulent, however whereas the Bentayga targeted extra on the driving force, we rated the Range Rover’s skill to make all of its occupants really feel like royalty. Its tech was slicker and, not that it issues an excessive amount of at this worth level, it was additionally cheaper.

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