Top 10: the best cars we tested in 2021

We were surprised ourselves: The list includes a Honda PHEV, a Kia SUV and a Dacia

The ten best cars we tested in 2021

In addition to lots of family, contemplation and much too heavy food, the end of the year also always means – time to take stock of things. In this case, a balance sheet of what new cars we have actually tested for you in 2021. Or better yet, which one will give you the engine1.com editorial team can recommend to you with a clear conscience.

2021 was also not a usual test year for us for well-known reasons. Although, at least into the fall, things were more or less back to normal with regard to the usual flood of appointments, this year we were still at the carmakers’ driving presentations much less than usual.

Taking everything together, we have nevertheless put just under 200 cars through the wringer for you over the year 2021. This includes driving reviews, endurance tests, video tests, tests of our international engine1.com colleagues and consumption tests, which are traditionally left without a score. Should you have very little to do over the turn of the year – here you will find ALL!

Of course, it’s not easy to make a top 10 out of just under 200. It makes sense to keep to the points awarded. Critical as you know us, we actually only awarded 8.5/10 ratings five times, 9/10 four times and 9.5/10 once. The highest score did not fall at all this year, although we have to admit that our top 3 only missed it by a hair’s breadth.

Then the editors put their heads together again and determined the exact ranking of the elite ten. And now really without further blah blah – here are our ten best new cars of 2021.

10. Place: Skoda Fabia (8.5/10)

The new Fabia is probably the best all-rounder in the small car segment. Compared to the already generous predecessor, it has grown massively in all directions. The space offered is comparatively monumental. The look, feel and quality are reminiscent of its big brother, the Octavia. And it’s considerably cheaper than its closer relative, the VW Polo.

Skoda Fabia (2021) in the test

“A car without exaggerated futuristic gimmicks in a pleasantly everyday format with a lot of space. In addition, there is an interesting range: base with 65 hp as a safe first car for the offspring or 150 hp with top equipment as the better Audi A1. In the sum of its characteristics, the Fabia IV tastes good to us”, says chief editor Hildebrandt.

9. Place: Honda HR-V e:HEV (8.5/10)

The third generation of the compact SUV convinces us and is becoming a real insider’s tip in this class. The Honda HR-V e:HEV looks good, has a clever, modular and value-modern interior, the equipment is already incredibly extensive in the base and the handling is so pleasantly neutral, as we expect from a model from the B-SUV segment.

Honda HR-V e:HEV (2021) in the test

Beyond that the e:HEV drive with 107 HP strong gasoline engine is quite good. The combustion engine mostly only serves as a generator for the 60-cell battery of the 131-hp electric motor, which then powers the wheels in EV and hybrid mode. Only in the third mode (combustion), which is selected by the on-board electronics, does the four-cylinder actively drive the wheels.

Click here for the complete test of the Honda HR-V e:HEV.

8. 1st place: BMW 2 Series Coupe (8.5/10)

The new 2 Series Coupe burst into a long line of questionable BMW designs last spring. For me the most beautiful Munich car since ages. A car for the fans, as BMW itself put it. And for exactly those, for the enthusiasts with M-chromosome, one tuned this bulldog of a Coupe also.

BMW M240i xDrive Coupe (2022) in the test

With its rear-wheel-drive genes and six-cylinder engine, the new 2 Series is unique in its field. Brutal immediacy, a crazy-aggressive tuned rear-axle lock diff, and hyperactive agility make it a not-so-smooth ride, but definitely a fun experience.

7. Place: Dacia Sandero Stepway (8,5/10)

“The true Volkswagen comes from Romania, says the colleague Hildebrandt to the Sandero Stepway. With 91-horsepower turbo gasoline engine and full equipment, it is priced at the level of the absolute VW Polo base with 80-horsepower naturally aspirated engine.

Dacia Sandero Stepway (2021) in the test

The interior is appealing, as is the ease of operation. You don’t need to study for it, yet everything relevant is on board.

The Sandero Stepway is average in terms of driving and drive. No more and no less. An outstanding performance at this price. And that’s why this Dacia is a real tip. What else speaks for (and against) it, you can read here in the test.

6. 1st place: Audi RS 3 (8.5/10)

The Audi RS 3 has always been the compact bastion of 0-100 fetishists. Its glorious five-cylinder guaranteed to tear apart auditory canals and stomachs with the best of intentions. Only with these stupid curves the others could do traditionally clearly more. This has changed dramatically with Generation 3.

Audi RS 3 Sedan (2021) on test

Hard work on the chassis and the new torque vectoring all-wheel drive work wonders. The car feels much more light-footed and rear-heavy. A giant leap. And much too fast it remained, as the test of the new Audi RS 3 reveals.

5. Place: Mercedes-Maybach S-Class (9/10)

In all likelihood, this is the last time Daimler will put a twelve-cylinder in one of its cars. And with the new Maybach, he has chosen just the right candidate for the job. Rarely might the celebration of traditional luxury have been packaged more Instagram-worthy. Example? Alone the felt 17 different ways to close the doors without touching them.

Mercedes-Maybach S 680 4MATIC (2021) under test

Otherwise, of course, it’s softened up for all it’s worth. And the twelve-cylinder? A demonstration of power that couldn’t be more refined. A masterpiece. And with a base price of 219.704 euros, the Maybach S 680 4Matic is also the most expensive car in our top 10. Click here for the test of the Mercedes-Maybach S 580 and S 680.

4. Place: Kia Sportage (9/10)

The new Kia Sportage is still really fresh, and was the last candidate to make it into our top ten, coming in at an impressive fourth place. Our senior editor Roland Hildebrandt sees it as the better VW Tiguan.

Kia Sportage (2022) in the test

Balanced driving characteristics, a good diesel, plenty of trunk space and well thought-out handling speak for Kia’s new compact SUV. On top of that, the prices are right. What else you need to know about the Sportage can be found in our test report.

3. 1st place: Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm (9/10)

In the newsroom, the first reaction to the Giulia was GTAm (after jaws dropped back up and pulses dropped below 160): So now they’re taking a Giulia Quadrifoglio that’s not selling at all, putting some carbon on it, and charging double for it.

Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm (2021) in the test

But of course we were completely off the mark once again. The changes to the GTA models are profound. And although the Giulia Quadrifoglio already makes every other sports sedan look pretty silly to drive, the GTAm is on another level in every respect. It sounds trite, but it’s as close as you can get to a touring car for the road.

Apart from that all 500 copies were sold out quickly. Despite prices of over 170.000 euros per unit. We can understand it only too well, as the test of the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm proves again.

2. Place: Toyota GR Yaris (9/10)

Yes man, the GR Yaris. No other sporty car has generated as much hype in the past year as Toyota’s small rally homologation box. The effort to turn the Yaris that everyone knows into a Yaris that everyone loves was simply absurd. And probably not very profitable. Although sales figures went completely through the roof.

Toyota Yaris GR (2021) on test

What it’s all about? Damn beautiful in every respect. Because it shows that complete insanity is rewarded when it is outstandingly made and reasonably affordable. Both are fully true of the GR Yaris. Our Car of the Year of Hearts. And you can read why in the test.

1. Place: Porsche 911 GT3 (9.5/10)

Admittedly, we would all have liked to see the GR Yaris in first place, but when Porsche unleashes a new 911 GT3 on mankind, there’s just no beating it.

Firstly, we hardly expected that the wild bunch around GT boss Andy Preuninger would actually be able (probably for the last time) to produce a 9/10th place.000-RPM naturally aspirated engine plus manual transmission to push past the EU regulatory fury. And secondly, that they actually managed to make the car significantly better again than its glorious predecessor.

Porsche 911 GT3 (992) and Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm - road and track test

Porsche 911 GT3 Touring (2021) under test

The all-new double-wishbone front axle design, the wider track widths and the optimized aero make all the difference. Not only in terms of Nordschleife time (17 seconds faster than its predecessor), but also in terms of how it feels in each corner. We don’t need to say a word more about the four-litre naturally aspirated car anyway. Once again a stroke of genius. Whether it’s with the epic gooseneck rear wing, as colleague Hohmeyer found out in our video test. Or as a more subtle GT3 Touring, whose test you can read here.

And what about electric cars?

Well spotted and don’t worry – we’re not e-deniers! Quite the opposite! You can find all tests of the latest electric cars just mainly on our sister platform InsideEVs. And that’s where we haven’t introduced the familiar scoring yet. From there now (for the last time as an extra sausage) our top 5 best e-cars 2021:

5. Place: Kia EV6

Basically on par with its brother Hyundai Ioniq 5. It really comes down to personal taste. The Kia looks wilder, has a bigger battery and less space. For that, it’s coming soon as a totally awesome GT with close to 600 hp.

Kia EV6

4. Place: Hyundai Ioniq 5

Compared to the Kia EV6, the Ioniq has a clearer design, more wheelbase and more space in the back/trunk. Both charge super fast thanks to 800 volt technology. This is unique in this price segment. The Ioniq drives a bit more comfortably. As I said, there is much a matter of taste.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 (2021)

You can see the video test of the Ioniq 5 here.

3. Place: Tesla Model 3

It’s clear, the Model 3 doesn’t just exist since 2021. But at the end of 2020 there was a facelift with a slightly larger battery (maximum 82 kWh). We found the “Performance” that was put to the test quite convincing. It’s fast as hell, the handling is really decent, the range is simply better than the competition, and the car isn’t expensive when measured against performance and range either.

You can read the test of the Model 3 by clicking here.

2. Space: Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo

Sure, the Taycan Cross Turismo is not a range monster and it really is incredibly expensive. But it drives simply outstanding and at least for us it also looks like it.

Porsche Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo (2021) in test

Daniel Hohmeyer’s opinion of the Taycan CT can be found in this video test.

1. Place: Polestar 2

Our e-experts Leichsenring and Hohmeyer are pretty unanimous – the Polestar 2 is the surprise of the year. Looks fantastic, is convincing in terms of driving dynamics, has real power and a terrific infotainment system. Price-wise, the Tesla Model 3 competitor also still goes clear.

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