What Car? reveals the best used cars of the year

Explore the winners at the latest What Car? used car awards.

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What Car? has published its 2021 Used Car of the Year Awards, highlighting the best used cars currently available on the market. These range from Best Small Car all the way to Best Luxury SUV to provide an insight into what to consider from each sector of the used car market. Here we highlight all of the winning cars from the brands we represent, including the What Car? Overall Used Car of the Year.


Small car: ŠKODA Fabia

Winning the ‘Used Small Car of the Year’ award was the ŠKODA Fabia, which celebrates three years in a row with this title. What Car? awarded the Fabia the title based on its affordable price of less than £8,000, spacious interior and strong reliability record.

Praising the ŠKODA Fabia, What Car? wrote: ‘Used small cars simply don’t come any more complete, or more reasonably priced, than the Fabia. Not only is it spacious, good to drive and easy to manoeuvre around town, but the Fabia also has that typical ŠKODA sense of solidity and a strong reliability record.’

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SEAT Arona

Small SUV: SEAT Arona

The SEAT Arona came out on top in the ‘Used Small SUV of the Year’ award. Available to purchase from less than £12,000, the SEAT Arona was praised for its ride quality and handling as well as its similar equipment in like-for-like trim as more expensive alternatives.

What Car? wrote: ‘It has a finely judged ride and handling balance that makes it fun to drive without sacrificing comfort. Its interior may not be as classy as that of the posh Audi Q2, but it’s just as well screwed together and matches the Q2 for equipment in like-for-like trim.’

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SKODA Octavia

Family car: ŠKODA Octavia

The previous generation ŠKODA Octavia came first in the ‘Used Family Car of the Year’ category. Offering fantastic value for money starting at less than £10,000, the Octavia offers a big boot, practicality over its rivals and a better ride quality too.

Commenting on why the ŠKODA Octavia won its category, What Car? said: ‘In all our testing, the 2021 used family car award-winning ŠKODA Octavia has only been beaten in the suitcase test by the gargantuan BMW X7. The Octavia’s engines are much more refined than the Astra’s and its steering is more precise. With its softer suspension, it’s more relaxing to travel in than the relatively firm Leon, too.’

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BMW M140i

Hot hatch: BMW M140i

Winning ‘Used Hot Hatch of the Year’ was the BMW M140i, the performance variant of BMW’s popular last generation 1 Series model. With earlier examples now creeping under £18,000, the M140i is proving to be a great option in the used hot hatch market, offering a capable six-cylinder engine, a rewarding soundtrack and a more enjoyable driving experience compared to its rivals.

What Car? commended the M140i, stating: ‘The driving experience centres around the car’s brawny six-cylinder engine. That may sound like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but it pulls like a locomotive and delivers a soundtrack that the four-cylinder Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf R simply can’t get close to matching.

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SEAT Ateca

Family SUV: SEAT Ateca

In one of the most hotly contested classes on the used car market, the SEAT Ateca proved to be the comprehensive choice for What Car?, who awarded it the ‘Used Family SUV of the Year’. Its handling and fun to drive nature were some of the key points to its success, as well as its family-friendly interior.

Praising the SEAT Ateca, What Car? said: ‘The Ateca is extremely agile, with minimal body lean and precise steering. It’s genuinely fun to drive, and that isn’t something you can say about its Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai rivals. It’s family-friendly inside, too, with a sturdy build and loads of space. Plus, there’s no need to hunt around for one of the pricier trims to get a car with lots of equipment.’

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Volvo XC60

Large SUV: Volvo XC60

The current-shape Volvo XC60 took the award of ‘Used Large SUV of the Year’ for its premium look and feel, generous equipment grades and ‘classy’ interior.

Available from less than £25,000, the XC60 was praised from What Car?, who said: ‘The current-shape XC60 echoes the upmarket look and feel of its luxury SUV stablemate, the XC90, yet it’s several thousand pounds cheaper. The XC60 may not be the last word in driver appeal, but its Scandinavian-inspired interior is classy and cosseting. And, being a Volvo, there’s a raft of safety kit as standard. It’s generously kitted out, too, and refuelling it won’t break the bank.’

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Audi A4

Executive car: Audi A4

In another highly competitive class, the Audi A4 came out on top as the ‘Used Executive Car of the Year’. Commended for its refinement, reasonable running costs and array of driver assistance technology, What Car? explained the well-rounded nature of the A4.

What Car? wrote: ‘The Audi A4 is wonderfully refined, more so than the ŠKODA Superb, and it also offers reasonable running costs, a fantastic array of driver assistance technology and one of the highest-quality interiors you’ll find anywhere, all attributes that led us to name it as our Car of the Year when it was new.’

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BMW 5 Series Touring

Estate car: BMW 5 Series Touring

The ’Used Estate Car of the Year’ award was claimed by the popular BMW 5 Series Touring. Its driving manners, comfort, and practical interior impressed What Car? reviewers, who complimented it as being one of the best all-rounders you can buy.

What Car? said: ‘Simply put, it takes all we love about the 5 Series saloon – the wonderful driving manners, the comfort, the classy and well-appointed interior with its brilliant infotainment system – and adds in an extra dose of practicality, thanks to its huge and easily accessible boot. For most people, it’s all the car they’ll ever need.’

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Audi A8

Luxury car: Audi A8

Topping the Luxury car segment was the Audi A8, which is now available from under £40,000. What Car? praised the Audi A8 for its ‘spectacular’ value for money and unrivalled smooth ride in its segment, warranting the ‘Used Luxury Car of the Year’ award.

What Car? said: ‘The Audi A8 may be in our top price bracket, but two-year-old examples can be found for less than a new entry-level BMW 5 Series - spectacular value for money indeed. The A8 is even quieter and smoother than a Mercedes S-Class at a cruise, while the 282bhp 3.0-litre diesel engine in our favourite 50 TDI model is powerful, refined and efficient.’

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Audi Q7

Luxury SUV: Audi Q7

Winning the ‘Used Luxury SUV of the Year’ award was the Audi Q7. Its versatility and comfort really impressed What Car? reviewers, as well as its ride quality compared to similarly priced competitors.

Commending the Q7, What Car? said: ‘With £35,000 to spend on a used luxury SUV, your choices include the likes of the BMW X6, Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Velar. As good as those cars are, though, none is as versatile as the Q7. Whether you’re going on a family holiday or tackling the school run, the Q7 will take you there in comfort and style.'

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Audi TT

Coupe: Audi TT

The Audi TT has an excellent track record with What Car?, and is one of the most successful cars on the website in terms of awards. Now added to the list is the ‘Used Coupe of the Year’ award for 2021, which is the fourth year in a row the Audi TT has won it.

What Car? praised the Audi TT’s excellent driving dynamics and engine options, saying: ‘Buy one used and you get to enjoy all the good features this third-generation TT has always offered – its agility, that lovely interior, the range of refined and punchy engines and its delightful performance. It looks neat, too, and it’s a thrill to drive, with this being enough to edge it ahead of the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé.’

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Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet

Convertible: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet

The ‘Used Convertible of the Year’ award was given to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, which What Car? say is ‘nigh on unbeatable’ in the convertible sector of the used car market.

Praise from the What Car? team continued, with reviewers saying: ‘It looks and feels very much the premium product, being stylish and plush and solidly constructed. It also provides effortless performance with any of the various engine options under the bonnet. Added to that, it’s superbly refined with the roof up or down and has a comfortable and extremely classy interior that could probably sell the car to you in the showroom before you’ve even turned a wheel.’

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Porsche Cayman

Sports car: Porsche Cayman

The Porsche Cayman came out as the worthy winner of the ‘Used Sports car of the Year’ award. What Car? commended the Cayman on its characterful six-cylinder engine, involving handling and excellent gearbox, whether that be the manual or automatic option.

What Car? said: ‘With its playful handling, sonorous six-cylinder engine and snickity six-speed manual gearbox (a brilliant automatic is also available), the ‘981’ Cayman still delivers a driving experience that makes you wonder why you’d ever need to step up to a 911.’

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SEAT Ateca

Overall Used Car of the Year: SEAT Ateca

The overall winner and given the prestigious title of ‘Used Car of the Year’ was the SEAT Ateca. This impressive achievement for the Ateca was down to many areas, showing that it’s a fantastic all-round package no matter what your requirements are in a used car.

What Car? commended the SEAT Ateca for its excellent value for money, writing: ‘Here is an immensely likeable family SUV that can now be bought for less than half what you’d spend to buy one new. None of the other category winners could match the Ateca’s combination of practicality, driving fun and excellent value for money. One of our favourite new family SUVs is even more recommendable as a used buy, and we have no hesitation in awarding it the top gong this year.’

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