Despite the growing popularity of SUVs and crossovers, UK car buyers still choose more small hatchbacks than any other type of car.
However, small cars are getting ever-larger. The smallest, known as city cars, are becoming an endangered species in the transition to electrification. In fact, the only car of this size launched in 2022 was the Toyota Aygo X.
Next up are superminis, which are larger and are usually five-door models instead of three-door hatchbacks like city cars. These are the most popular category of new car in the UK – although maybe not for much longer, as best shown by Ford deciding to kill off the UK’s most popular model of the last 40-off years, the Fiesta. Meanwhile, no new models arrived this year.
Above that we have more family-sized hatchbacks, which vary in size a bite more. The smallest of these, like the Cupra Born and Renault Megane E-Tech, are barely any longer than the larger superminis but offer better interior space.
This year saw no new superminis, although the smaller family hatch marketplace was quite busy. Hitting UK roads this year were the Cupra Born, Peugeot 308, Renault Megane E-tech and Vauxhall Astra.
Electrification is starting to really take off in this sector, with several EV choices now available. However, you’ll find relatively few hybrid models plug-in hybrids. The majority are still powered by familiar petrol engines, although some have mild hybrid assistance. Diesels have almost completely vanished and only make up a fraction of sales.
Our awards recognise both the best new models to have been launched over the last 12 months, but also the best overall cars in each category – because newest doesn’t always mean best, as you can see below.
Best new small car + Class champion, electric: Cupra Born (76%)
The Cupra Born is a Spanish version of the Volkswagen ID.3 electric hatch, but adds a bit more flair and improved driving dynamics. It’s the top-ranked new model to join the small car ranks this year with an Expert Rating of 76%. It also goes straight to the top of the small EV class – at least for eligible models.
The new MG 4 has a higher Expert Rating, but was ineligible for this year’s awards because it did not have a Euro NCAP rating by our cut-off date. It did get a five-star rating in December, so it will be eligible next year.
Class champion, petrol/diesel: Ford Fiesta (77%)
Ford may have decided to kill off the UK’s favourite car from the last half-century, but the Fiesta is going out at the top of its game, with an Expert Rating of 77% that pips last year’s best new car and class champion, the Skoda Fabia.
Diesel models and the three-door body style have fallen by the wayside due to falling sales, but the (freshly facelifted) five-door petrol versions of the Fiesta are still outstanding small cars. Unfortunately, there are no hybrid or electric choices in the Fiesta family, which has been hurting its sales performance over the last few years – especially with the Vauxhall Corsa available as an EV.
The best new cars of 2022
Notes on eligibility
To be eligible for our Best New Model or Class Champion titles, there are a couple of requirements in addition to having a top Expert Rating score.
Firstly, the Best New Model must have been launched in the UK between 1 December 2021 and 1 December 2022. That means cars registered and on the road, not just available to order for deliveries starting sometime in 2023.
Secondly, a car must have a current Euro NCAP safety rating of either four or five stars. If a car scores three stars or less, we can’t in good conscience give it an award for being best in class. If a new model has not been tested by Euro NCAP by 1 December 2022, it will not be eligible but we will consider it next year if it has been tested.
Our Euro NCAP requirement meant that the new MG 4 was ineligible for this year’s awards. It has subsequently achieved a five-star safety rating, which means it will be eligible next year.