Car of the Year 2024: every nominee detailed

COTY nominees
COTY nominees

Welcome to an Autocar group test designed by committee. If we had it solely our way, you would be about to read a group test between the BYD Seal, Honda CR-V, Kia EV9, Lucid Air, Renault Scenic, Toyota Prius and Volkswagen ID 7.

Instead, of those, only the Seal, EV9 and Scenic are among the cars gathered at Silverstone one breezy February morning for a final round of testing for the 2024 Car of the Year (COTY) award.

They are joined by the BMW i5, Toyota C-HR, Volvo EX30 and not quite the Peugeot e-3008 (that's some Photoshop trickery on the opening spread, about which we will explain shortly).


Autocar is a sponsor of COTY, the winner of which this year will be announced at the returning Geneva motor show on 26 February. But our ballot paper is one of only 58 from jurors from 22 countries across Europe.

As you may recall in a story in our 6 December 2023 issue on the long list testing, each juror nominates seven new cars that were driven and on sale before the end of the previous calendar year and the seven cars with the most combined votes then make up the final shortlist. And here they are.

It's a democracy we're happy and proud to be part of, and three out of seven of our original picks is not so bad - and regardless, each car on the shortlist is worthy of its place and we start this last round of testing afresh and without preconceptions.

To qualify for COTY, cars must be all-new. So no facelifts are permitted, nor are derivatives allowed (for example, a new estate version following a year after the hatchback).

According to the COTY statutes, "the main criteria on which a car should be judged are the following: general design, comfort, safety, economy, handling and general roadworthiness, performance, functionality, general environmental requirements, driver satisfaction and price. Technical innovation and value for money are major factors." The last bit explains why the award is rooted firmly in the mainstream market.

It's yours truly who has his name on the voting paper but I consider the votes very much those of Autocar, which is why road test editor Matt Saunders has joined me alongside the other five UK jury members (regular Autocar contributors Andrew Frankel and Vicky Parrott among them) at Silverstone for the day.

2024 Car of the Year nominees at a glance

Matt Saunders (MS): It's a fairly varied bunch at a glance, this: a couple of pretty trad saloons, small SUVs, big SUVs and a couple of crossovers. It should be interesting. I'm glad the Kia EV9's here, and I expect plenty of the Renault, but I'd have had a Volkswagen ID 7 instead of the BMW.

I'd also have liked to see the Fisker Ocean and the new Tesla Model 3 included - it's about as new as the Toyota, after all. And in a world where its engines had come along in a different order, I wonder if Mazda's innovative and efficient CX-60 diesel might just have squeaked into contention, rather than missing its chance in PHEV form. Then again, I'm sure the Peugeot's very deserving...

Mark Tisshaw (MT): Ah yes, the Peugeot e-3008 is so new that Peugeot couldn't get the ones it has got built to the UK in time for this test and then back to Mortefontaine, near Paris, for the final tests and presentations to the entire jury in the week in which our votes are due. So that'll be for me alone to slot into the pecking order.

Renault's revived Scenic could be a contender...

MS: Shall we start with the Renault and Kia? They look like quite similar designs, don't they? Similar surfacing language and proportions, the Scenic E-Tech just a couple of sizes smaller than the EV9.

I thought the Volvo EX30 would out-compete everything else here for static appeal, but these two have other ideas. Considering the price, I'd say the Renault probably deserves the most credit for that. Both are impressively spacious and well-packaged cars - although it's the Scenic that has the marginally more innovative interior features.

There are some slightly disappointing aspects to the material quality and tactile finish in its cabin. But I like the way it drives. It's smooth- and fluent-riding, but not soft or limp.

It's light and precise through the controls, and quite quick on the road - even if, at times, you certainly know that it's front-wheel drive. I'm impressed with the dynamic job they've done using the same kit of bits that made the Nissan Ariya, which doesn't feel nearly as dynamically sophisticated.

Even so, I would want a lower-end wheel anc nodel trim. The Esprit Alpine variant didn't ride nearly as well - and I bet it won't go as far on a charge.

MT: I put the Scenic on the original shortlist after a toss-up between that and the e-3008. On very first impressions, the Renault was an easier car to get on with.

It rides well in non-Esprit Alpine trim on what is a very challenging test loop near Silverstone. It's a shame not to be able to test the e-3008 on the same route for a straight comparison between direct competitors.

Any votes for the e-3008 are still going to have to come with some caveats and trepidation, having not had the opportunity to test it in the UK. I've gone through lots of different feelings about the EV9 based on the way it drives.

I still can't quite get past the near-£80,000 price of the dual-motor versions, but the £65,000 entry-level Air model we have at Silverstone for the first time does wear its price more comfortably.

And from here, you don't have to make an excuse for the fact that the interior materials and base design are the same as in most other new Kias. Instead, you can just appreciate what an immensely practical, hugely interesting and really rather relaxing car to drive it is.

MS: I agree - for the most part. The Single Motor car certainly seems a little more efficient than the Twin Motor one we've just road tested. Being lighter, it might even ride slightly better on a like-for-like tyre.

I was worried that it might feel a bit slow, but on A- and B-roads I wouldn't say it does at all. It's a big family car and you drive it like one. Simple as that. Deserves to rank, I'd say.

So let's move on to the saloons. The BMW i5 and BYD Seal are both fascinating cars. But, for different reasons, I'm not sure I could justify a four-star road test verdict for either of them (he said, hastily checking for what we actually gave them. Phew, what a relief).

The BMW has apparent dynamism and polish about it, but not quite the superior electric powertrain you expect. It just needs another 50 miles of range, and slightly better refinement to go with the rest of the package.

Could BMW or BYD pull off a shock win?

MT I love the BMW i7 and was disappointed that it didn't make last year's shortlist. It's still the benchmark in my head for refinement. I'm also a big fan of the i4's handling balance and general driver involvement.

Both are outstanding EVs. With that in mind, I thought the i5 could be the perfect blend of the two, but somehow it just doesn't quite do it.

I've found that increasingly with the 5 Series: as the 3 and 4 Series have crept up in size, the 5 Series has felt quite squeezed. But, for me, the BYD is the opposite. The more I drove it, the more I liked it.

Once you get past the model name and the fact that the badge has been put on wonky at the rear, I find it quite compelling as a Tesla Model 3 alternative.

I don't think it moves the game on but it's going to take sales from the established set and is good as well as different. I had one on loan for a week and showed it to a serial Porsche Taycan owner, who was impressed with the styling, the interior quality and the range.

MS Well, the BYD's interior quality is certainly quite good and there's plenty of space inside. It does seem quite efficient - although I don't think it rapid-charges as quickly as a Taycan or a Tesla - and it drives very respectably. But it's too derivative to be worth much in this process, I'd say.

Feels like a car designed to mop up those who have had a Model 3 and didn't get on with it, rather than a car you would buy for its own reasons. But it's comfy, usable, well equipped and decent value by EV class standards.

I've driven far, far worse. What does that leave to discuss? The Volvo EX30 and Toyota C-HR. A compact, desirable, fairly affordable EV and a big-selling hybrid crossover.

They certainly feel like the kinds of cars COTY should be recognising, I must say. And you know what? I think I prefer the Toyota. It's real-world; it's a simple, universal ownership prospect; it's easy to make efficient; and they have even made it interesting to look at.

Toyota and Volvo need to do more to win over our judges

MT Starting at £31,290, the Toyota needs to be £5000 cheaper somehow. Then I might even give it the lion's share of my voting points (no pun intended there, Peugeot). It's quite in the zeitgeist and a clever bit of product positioning, but you can't price it like that and then make it so cramped.

It just doesn't have the four-seater cabin space that you expect from it. Really, I wish the Prius had made it into this final seven, because that feels like the best new Toyota hybrid that the company has launched in a while - and that now will be coming to the UK, contrary to earlier reports.

It's efficient, it handles and it feels like a smarter buy. As for the Volvo, I just didn't really get on with it, on a number of different levels. Leaving the infotainment aside, it feels quite a fragile car to drive - a bit 'first-gen EV in how easily you can break traction.

I'd love to fast-forward to the facelift, because I think there's a really good car in there waiting to get out, but it just feels a bit rushed and not ready. And then you bring in the infotainment...

MS Quite. The usability of the infotainment screen didn't bother me as much as I expected it to, but if you're not going to bother with instruments, at least give me a head-up display. And if you're not going to bother with either, you can forget about the driver monitoring system that bongs at you so often for taking your eyes off the road.

Honestly, there's no other way to check how fast you're going! It's maddening. Dynamically, I hope that Volvo's single-motor models feel a bit more together because this twin-motor one has way too much power for its own good and not really enough grip or body control.

I don't expect a Volvo to be sporty, but a more assured, secure, settled drive than this ought to be possible. It's not a Car of the Year in my book - not that I have one...

Summary: Renault and Kia stand at the forefront

MT: A semblance of an order appears to have materialised, then. The Kia and the Renault look to have emerged as the class of the field. Then it all gets quite congested with a lot of worthy but not outstanding candidates.

Nothing deserves full marks [COTY jurors have 25 points to share among the cars - with a maximum of 10 points each and at least five cars must score - and must choose one clear winner] yet nothing deserves nothing either.

Then there's still the Peugeot to slot in... My hunch is that it will split the vote with the Renault, between those who favour the Renault's greater dynamism and those who value the Peugeot's richer cabin.

I'll admit, at the start of the day, I didn't think this group was the most inspiring bunch, which is a reflection of the all-new car launches into the mainstream market in 2023 not being the most inspiring overall.

Yet by the end of the day, I've been captivated by the different qualities that this varied bunch of cars offer to the very different types of buyers they are aimed at.