/ Motoring

What were the best and worst cars of 2011?

Carmakers, look away now. Members of the Which? Car team have nominated their best and worst new cars of 2011 – with surprising results. The Evoque gets yet another accolade, but others don’t do so well.

Best cars of 2011

Claire Evans picks out the Range Rover Evoque

There’s been a huge amount of hype about the Evoque – so much so that you’d have to live on the Moon not to have noticed it. And it’s all been rather gushing, so usually I would have been happy to have stood out from the crowd and slated it.

But I can’t because it is a superb machine with remarkably refined on-road manners, backed up by modern, efficient engines, head-turning looks and a fairly respectable price. Our full test results are due soon, so let’s hope it can beat Audi and BMW at their own game.

Mike Briggs champions the Mercedes-Benz CLS

I’ve always considered the four-door luxury coupé concept as a bit gimmicky – until I drove the new Mercedes-Benz CLS earlier this year. I was impressed with its comfortable interior (although it only has two seats in the back), abundance of clever tech and powerful entry-level four-cylinder diesel engine.

However, it was the ride quality that blew me away. Despite being hunkered low to the ground and handling like a performance car, the CLS was impeccably smooth. It has to go down as the most comfortable car I’ve ever experienced. If we get good reliability feedback from our Which? Car survey, it will be a Best Buy next year.

Tim Pitt backs the slow and steady Kia Picanto

My favourite car of 2011? The BMW 1 Series M Coupé – no question. But the Bavarians only brought 450 to the UK and they’re all sold, so here’s something decidedly more down-to-earth: the Kia Picanto.

This year, Kia leapfrogged its rivals straight to the top of the city car class. The pint-sized Picanto won’t win plaudits from petrolheads, but it’s one of the most practical, safe and well-made cars that (not very much) money can buy. Factor in a seven-year warranty and suddenly that Fiat 500 starts to look very pricey.

So, 68bhp Picanto versus 335bhp 1 Series M? Maybe slow and steady wins the race after all?

Worst cars of 2011

Richard Headland chastises the Lexus CT 200h

While the Lexus CT 200h may not go down in history as the worst car launched in 2011, it certainly flew wide of the mark. I had high hopes for the baby Lexus with its hybrid engine, but the reality left me wondering how it ever got past Lexus’s notoriously exacting engineers.

The jarring ride was the most unpleasant surprise, followed closely by the cramped cabin and a CVT auto gearbox, which makes the revs scream as the car struggles (and fails) to achieve its sporting pretensions.

For me, the £23k+ price tag feels impossible to justify. It’s a pity, because I think there is a market for a smaller, greener Lexus – just not this one.

Dave Evans is disappointed by the Honda Civic

It’s not that the 2011 Honda Civic is a bad car. It’s more a case of huge disappointment that obvious issues with the old model haven’t been rectified. The back window spoiler, for example, which hindered rearward vision, has been retained and still restricts the view.

The poor ride quality has been improved, but not to the level of direct competitors. And it’s still not as good to drive as the Civic of two generations ago. Our only hope is that this car’s shaky reliability has been boosted to the level of other Hondas, like the Jazz and Accord.

Rob Hull doesn’t like the Jeep Compass

Rob Hull: If the Jeep Compass had been launched four or five years ago, around the time the Nissan Qashqai emerged on the market, it would have been considered a pretty decent car. But for 2011 it’s too far behind the competition.

The 2.2-litre diesel engine isn’t particularly refined (despite coming from Mercedes-Benz) and it has high CO2 emissions, resulting in expensive car tax. And although the interior quality is an improvement over Jeep models of old, it’s far from luxurious compared to other compact SUVs.

Do you agree with our best and worst cars of 2011? And are there any cars we haven’t mentioned that you’d like to see lauded or lambasted?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

At a time when we should all be thinking about the environment and many are struggling to make ends meet, perhaps it is time for Which? to drop luxury cars from reviews and discussion.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hello Wavechange, we have a feature-packed Which? Car magazine and online car reviews that members expect to include all of the latest motors, no matter the price. If a member wants to go out and buy a car, they will want to check the reviews on Which? Car first. This means that they’ll be able to spend the money that they do have on a car that will suit them. Thanks.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I know, but I will continue to have an occasional dig about consumerism and waste of resources.

Member
Howard Jones says:
30 December 2011

I must heartily agree with wavechange, too much luxury,rampant consumerism and well think of the Environment !!
I say lets return to the good old days,hay burners,thats horses/horse and carts to the uninitiated, but wait a minute what about all those methane emissions, the layers of dung in the streets and all those people killed by bolting horses and the need for the return of the boot scraper !!! maybe not ?

Profile photo of Bill S
Member

Consumerism is not just about luxury & cost – it is also about useful lifetime.
If a luxury car will last twice as long before replacement then it may be environmentally better than a car costing half as much, particularly if running costs are lower.

Time we seriously considered what is the practical lifetime of a car.
It is appalling that cars built in 2010 have shorter lifetimes than cars built in 1935 (I was driving one in 1965!)

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I agree that lifetime of a vehicle and fuel consumption are important factors. Producing cheap cars that are not durable is just as undesirable as making large, expensive luxury vehicles that use a lot of fuel.

Member
Ian Bartle says:
1 January 2012

Far from it. It is important that every persons welfare is protected not just those on lower incomes. Discrimination comes in various forms, what you are suggesting would be one. It is vital that new technologies that are first seen on the higher spec vehicles are reviewed and tested so that when they do filter down to cars that are less expensive they get the best and most technology available. Airbags, reversing sensors, fuel injection, sat nav, fuel saving technonolgy all appear on more expensive models first as these test beds lend themselves to lower mass production testing but do increase the cost of the vehicle. Thankfully we do have people that can afford to purchase these higher spec cars so that people just like you can benefit from the technical advances.

Member

I notice that the film about car testing on the opening page makes frequent references to “our laboratory” and “our private test facility” but Which? hasn’t had a laboratory of it’s own since 2003 and the film clearly shows cars being tested in Germany. Surely this is misleading. Would somebody from Which? like to comment?

http://www.which.co.uk/cars/choosing-a-car/how-we-test-cars/how-we-test-cars-overview/

Profile photo of harrisgx
Member

I am amazed to see that Which has launched it’s own Morgage Adviser service claiming that it is impartial yet admitting that it will receive commissions from mortgage providers. How can such a service be completely impartial?

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hello Arnold, we would normally remove comments that are off-topic, however in this case I thought we better reply. I spoke to John Rudkin, Head of Compliance in our Which? Mortgage Advisers team, who passed on the following comment:

‘The advice provided by Which? Mortgage Advisers looks at every mortgage from every available lender and recommendations are made based on the best outcome for the individual. Although we receive fees from some lenders, this in no way affects our recommendations. Indeed, we have recommended many mortgages that do not pay us anything. We are open and transparent about this but if anyone feels uncomfortable with this we offer all customers the opportunity to pay a fee and have any commission that we receive refunded to them.’

I hope that answers your question. Thanks.

Profile photo of Bill S
Member

Sorry for continuing an off-topic conversation but I do not see anywhere that this topic can be discussed.

I believe it should be discussed!
Surely the best course of action would be to remove these posts to a new topic … and publicise the issue for discussion.

I am deeply concerned that Which? are being paid by suppliers for advice given. This is a matter of principal that would seem of interest to all members. We (as Members) pay Which? for totally impartial advice – how can we possibly trust that if some suppliers are paying Which? & some not?

Are there any other “sources of income” to Which? other than from the consumer?

You state that customers have the opportunity to pay a fee. That fee would seem to be 0.5% of the loan. On a typical mortgage that would probably be over 4 figures. Is that a reasonable alternative? Is the actual amount paid by “some” lenders disclosed? Are Members told if they can be better off by taking the fee paid to Which? and paying the 0.5%?

The problem is that we simply do not know. This practise could lead to a total loss of confidence in the impartiality of Which?. It is not sufficient to simply state that money received by Which? does not influence your decision – imho.

For the first time I am seriously considering cancelling my long standing subscription to Which?
Without total impartiality there can be no confidence in the worth of Which? opinions.
Please open a general discussion of this matter.

Profile photo of Bill S
Member

As a further comment, I note Which? itself gives the following financial advice:

“Paying by commission may be tempting because you don’t fork out a lump sum up front. But it can affect the long-term return on your investment, so the total return on an investment can be reduced substantially because part of your money is being used to pay commission rather than being invested.
If your IFA tries to push you down the commission route you should insist on an estimate of how much the fee would be. If a product is later recommended you can then ask your adviser to give you two illustrations, one assuming the advice is paid by commission, the other assuming no commission is paid.
With this information, and a fee quote, you can make an informed judgement about how to pay.

I am asking Which? to freely & openly provide this very information and allow us to make an informed judgement of Which? advice.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hello Bill, I’ve spoken to John Rudkin in the Which? Mortgage Advisers team again. He passed on these comments:

‘The reason Which? entered the mortgage advice market was to offer a genuinely impartial service and push up standards across the board. Key to this is ensuring that our advisers are not incentivised to offer one mortgage over another, which is one of the main faults we identified in the mortgage advice market. That’s why our advisers are paid a salary and do not get any personal commission for recommending one mortgage over another. They are measured against the quality of their advice and the level of customer satisfaction they deliver.

‘Some lenders will pay Which? Mortgage Advisers a commission for recommending one of their mortgages. This commission funds the service, and any profits go towards the campaigning work that Which? does on behalf of all consumers. This in no way influences the mortgage recommendation that our advisers provide and on many occasions, we’ll receive no commission at all. We don’t charge a fee for our advice however if a customer would feel more comfortable paying us a fee, then we offer that option and are at all times completely upfront about the money Which? receives.’

If you’d like to talk about this further please email us here; https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us

We’re really keen to hear member feedback on all of the Which? services, but Which? Conversation is a place where we discuss topical consumer issues – we don’t start Conversations about our own services. Thanks.

Member
Kishore Shah says:
30 December 2011

Do not agree with “wavechange” – a review has to be full & complete and unbiased as regards whether “luxuary”, “sport” or “small & simple”!!

I certainly would like to read about my 10 yrs old “Audi TT” & 3 yrs old “Skoda Octavia” in comparison to newer models or other similar or different cars; it all makes interesting reading [over the years I have participated in “Which? – car surveys and found the journal very useful]

Member
Adrian says:
30 December 2011

I’d like to second the comment from “Phil” about the provenance of Which car testing.

This is a link I was sent by Which a few days ago in response to a query regarding car testing.

http://www.which.co.uk/help/site-features/

It seems quite obvious that German and English consumers have different tastes, and certainly driving conditions are significantly different.

I think any (car) review not personally carried out by Which staff in the UK should be clearly labeled as such.

Member

Mike Briggs says of the Mercedes CLS; ” the most comfortable car I’ve ever experienced”

The Which review gives it 2 stars for ride comfort. This is the same rating as that given to an old Smart, which I can personally vouch for as having no “ride comfort” at all.

Perhaps Mike could call ADAC…….

Profile photo of redkite
Member

I disagree with some of the above. To my eye the Range Rover Evoque is one of the ugliest cars I have ever seen, and that coupled with Rovers poor reliability record seals it for me.
Why do some car designers slope a roof down so much towards the back, it not only looks ugly, but I wouldn’t want to be arear seat passenger in one – no headroom and very small rear windows – claustrophobic !
To me most big 4×4’s are ugly, except the Land Rover Defender which looks like it’s meant to be used by farmers etc..
The best looking car to me is still the Jaguer E-type.

Member
Robertino says:
30 December 2011

It may turn somebody’s head…that’s a matter “de gustibus”. It is a vehicle totally unsuited to urban roads and as an environmental statement not likely to endear many outside the strict aficionados of Top Gear and its obnoxious host. We should all be clearly encouraging compact economical cars that are superior in those qualities that help the purse and make it easy for others. I object to the dents I get in my cinquecento by some of the careless drivers driving such large vehicles that squeeeze into tight parking spaces and bang their doors open against my bodywork. In case the vehicle might appeal to those who like driving down our rural lanes on holiday, take notice that you wont find our hedgebanks that easy to share with horses, cyclists or walkers (or the farmer’s own SUVs).

Member
peter says:
30 December 2011

if the range rover evoque has the same appalling reliability that the freelander has had then i do not think it will be top of the list

Profile photo of Richard Headland
Member

Fair point Peter – we will indeed be looking closely at how the Evoque fares in this respect, and whether it bucks the usual Land Rover track record. It can’t become a Which? Best Buy unless it scores well with owners in the Which? Car survey, as well with as our testers…

Member

I’m not going to pass comment on the above tiresome drivel. I found much the same standard of comment in Advanced Driving magazine thereby causing my cancellation of subscription. Every month some commentator would ask, ‘Should I proceed around a roundabout at 10 , 20 or 30 mph as I am constantly being flashed at by following motorists, some even drawing alongside and giving me the victory sign!’ or ‘Should I park one and a half inches or 2 inches from the kerb?’ I think the Which? team are doing a super job, I hope it stays that way.

Member
Lerwegian says:
31 December 2011

The Kia Picanto – do you really get what you pay for, cheap – yes the inside is plasticy but no more than other city cars, it has so far been utterly reliable, a great little city car and I have had no problems cutting through snow (with winter tyres). It has 4 doors so no problem getting my 6’2″ dad in the back behind the driver with decent space, but not much wiggle room! The hatch accessed boot is tiny, however the split fold rear seat does go flat by raising the seat swab in the rear, turning it into an adaptable little van. It is MUCH cheaper than the over rated honda Jazz, or the overpriced ford fiesta – both decent cars BUT the Jazz really bites your wallet when things go wrong for garage time costs and parts and I am talking from experience- so the 7 year kia warranty is really reassuring. Two of my relatives have also bought the Kia and are equally utterly delighted with them – A thumbs up for cheap common sense

Member
Steve says:
1 January 2012

With regard to Dave Evan’s comment on the Honda Civic being one of the worst cars of 2011 and citing the rear window spoiler as part of the reason. I really like the spoiler, it blocks out the the glare form the headlights of the vehicle behind and when the lights have not lined up with the spoier, it makes it easier to tell whether the vehile is a sensible distance behind you (lights appear above the spoiler) or too close (lights appear below the spoiler. I’ve had no reliability problems in 2 1/2 years of ownership (or with the 2 cars of the previous model I had before this one).

Profile photo of Richard Headland
Member

With regard to Phil and Adrian’s comments about Which? Car using test facilities in Germany, I’d like to flag that Which? often collaborates with sister consumer organisations across Europe to make product testing as cost-efficient as possible. This allows us to test far more cars, digital cameras, tumble dryers etc than we would be able to by testing solely in the UK. Not only does this make our tests more useful and comprehensive to our members, but it also makes sense in today’s increasingly globalised product market.
All tests are carried out as prescribed by Which? at private facilities, by independent labs that are expert in their field.
In this instance, the lab we work with in Germany is well renowned for its facilities and expertise, and we make good use of those for the more technical aspects our car test, such as measuring fuel economy, braking and emergency handling.
However, as with all products where there can be some local differences, we always conduct UK testing alongside, especially for the more subjective and practical assessments. For example, our dedicated UK test route takes account of the UK’s poorer road surfaces, and each car is driven on the same route by a team of two Which? testers, comparing notes and agreeing ratings.
We always aim to ensure that our testing meets the needs of UK drivers, and we believe that our approach is currently the best possible way to achieve this from the perspective of quality, cost, accuracy and efficiency.

Member
Phil says:
4 January 2012

So of all the testing described in “How we (sic) test cars” very little is actually done by Which?

Profile photo of Richard Headland
Member

We commission an independent, specialist lab alongside Which? researchers getting hands-on with the product – exactly as we do for any Which? test. It would make little sense for our own researchers to spend their time measuring fuel economy, for example, especially without access the the equipment and facilities needed to do this accurately and comparably. A lab engineer is far better placed to do this.

Thanks for your comments Phil – hopefully I’ve shed some light on how we do things. But to avoid this post drifting off track, please try to keep any future comments related to ‘the best and worst cars of 2011’. Thanks.

Member
Ian alexander says:
4 January 2012

Must confess we have been Honda fans since our first Civic, a 1988 “GL”, followed by a ’90 Rover 216 GSi (Honda engine and very reliable), a ’93 Accord Estate (quick, reliable and versatile – a great caravan tower to boot), lapsed to a New Passat diesel (’97) economical but a dangerously unsafe towcar, a ’97 Volvo estate – great car but excessive running costs, and then back home to a new Accord Tourer 2.4 Ex (2004 – very rapid, reliable, great load carrier – after six years and 40,000 thousand miles, two new tyres fitted, sold it to my son-in-law who replaced two more tyres and brake pads over 18 months; was it a lemon!.

To more recent times my wife purchased a two year old 2007 Civic SE which despite its style and speed was a disappointment. After 3 months a fog light glass broke (£160 please! rubber), at first service needed corroded rear discs and front tyres replaced, fog light broken again (fixed with sticky tape!), at next service was informed “rubber rebound stop (?)” had failed and the trip computer was hopelessly optimistic by more than 10%. (How about an analysis of car “computer ” accuracy. My CR-V was accurate to 0.2 mpg! The rear window on the Civic is truly a victory of “design” over function. In June we took the financial hit and traded it for a Jazz CVT. Never looked back! Most people will ba aware of its good points but the CVT (none) gearbox deserves special mention. Of course gear “changes” are seemless and it is fascinating to see how the system has been optimised. Under normal driving revs rarely exceeds 3000rpm as the gearbox constantly compensates as you accelerate ie as speed rises the revs stay constant. Cruising At 70 mph the revs are only 2000! With the steering wheel paddles there are endless extra controls such as the equivalent of “kickdown” on a regular auto and if you think you can outperform the auto function you can have seven gears to play with! But why bother?).