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The 50 best cars for 2024 – in reverse order: 30-11

We list our choice of the top 50 new cars buyers should consider for 241 registrations - and why

Nissan X-Trail

30. Volkswagen Multivan

Cars are, when you boil it down, about transporting you, other people, and all your stuff from one place to another with minimal fuss and maximal efficiency. That’s why, even though it’s called a van, the VW Multivan is one of the best cars you can possibly buy. You can fit seven people inside and still have space for their luggage. Everyone gets an individual seat. The boxy body might be large but you can see all the corners, and if the ride is a touch firm then it’s also more enjoyable to drive than you’d expect. Sliding side doors make life easier, too. Expensive? Yes, but it’s probably the most practical single car you can buy. PHEV model gets 60km electric range, and does 40mpg on long runs.

  • Plus: All the space
  • Minus: Pretty expensive for a van
  • Equals: What you actually need

29. Mercedes-Benz GLB/EQB

Merc’s mid-sized SUV might share much with the smaller EQA, but it manages to look and feel like a truly different, distinctive, and chunkier model. Optional seats for seven make it family-friendly, even if the third-row seats are pretty short on space. There’s plenty of room in the other seats, though. GLB has a choice of diesel, petrol, or plug-in hybrid power or you can go all-electric with the EQB, with either front- or four-wheel drive versions. EV is the best choice here, especially now that Mercedes has updated the EQB with slightly improved range and efficiency.

  • Plus: Chunky styling, space, quality, EV range
  • Minus: Third row seats tiny
  • Equals: A better all-rounder than a GLC

28. Audi A8 TFSIe

Audi A8 TFSIe

The Audi A8 is looking a bit old-school these days, especially when BMW and Mercedes can offer all-electric alternatives. Still, there is much to be learned from the old school, not least how to create a plug-in hybrid that’s effective at providing electric range and yet doesn’t mug you with excessive fuel consumption on a long run. The A8 can also still teach its German rivals a thing or two about creating a beautiful interior that feels as if it’s been carved from a single block. It’s pretty handsome on the outside too, in contrast to the i7 and EQS. Audi is cooking up an all-electric replacement, but we still love the A8 while it lasts.

  • Plus: Handsome lines, good hybrid, comfort, quality
  • Minus: Looking and feeling a little old-fashioned
  • Equals: Brilliant, but you pay for it

27. Nissan X-Trail e-Power

Nissan X-Trail

Nissan’s big seven-seat SUV exudes a little more character than the (still hugely popular) Qashqai with which it shares a chassis and hybrid system, so it’s the one we prefer. The ePower hybrid is interesting – the electric motor does all the driving (motors, if you’ve gone for the four-wheel drive model) while the petrol engine is only there to top up the tiny battery on the go. It’s different, but effective when it comes to fuel economy and is a better option than a plug-in hybrid for those without their own driveways. Cabin is spacious and very well-made, although the digital displays look too cheap.

  • Plus: Clever and effective hybrid, styling, comfort, quality
  • Minus: Cheap looking screens, big and bulky
  • Equals: An SUV with a bit of character to it

26. Volvo C40/XC40

Volvo XC40 Recharge Extended Range

How many cars have switched from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive? If you answered ‘only the Triumph Toldeo’ you win a lollipop. The twin Volvo crossovers (the XC40 is tall at the back, the C40 slopes down) have switched to having their electric motors at the rear, and have gained a bigger 82kWh battery pack. The result? Much-improved efficiency and better one-charge range. They’re also really nice to drive, and of course Volvo-safe if it all goes horribly wrong. Dowdy cabins a slight let down, but you could live with it, we feel. Not cheap, though.

  • Plus: Much improved efficiency and range
  • Minus: Plain cabin, price, Twin Motor is needlessly over-powered
  • Equals: Turnabout is fair play

25. Range Rover

Land Rover Range Rover

No, not the Sport. Oh, the Range Rover Sport is a lovely thing all right, but if you buy one you’ll spend the eternity of ownership with the nagging thought that you’d bought the wrong car. And the nagging would be right. Whereas the Sport tries – with some success – to square the circle of cornering precision with off-road prowess and ride comfort, the proper, big, Range Rover just gets on with being astonishingly refined. It’s like driving in a cloud, and yet it can pound its way across rocky terrain just like a Defender or a Land Cruiser. Quality worries? As ever, but things to seem to be improving. P440e plug-in hybrid can do a claimed 113km on EV power, and get truly impressive economy on a long run. Expensive, but then what did you expect?

  • Plus: Almost everything
  • Minus: Climate change
  • Equals: It’s good to be the king

24. Toyota Corolla

Just because something is humble, doesn’t mean it’s not any good. Henry Royce, of Rolls-Royce, used to call himself a ‘mechanic’ rather than ‘father of one of the greatest names in motoring.’ Equally, the Corolla doesn’t shout and rave about the fact that it’s the best-selling car of all time (50-odd-million customers and counting…), but instead just gets on with its tasks with relentless competency. Updated for 2023, it now has more power (140hp) but gets better economy from its 1.8 hybrid engine. It’s also really very engaging to drive, and looks good too. Hatchback version is rather cramped in the back, so go for the roomier saloon or – especially – the Touring Sports estate.

  • Plus: Hybrid efficiency, driving fun, handsome looks, quality
  • Minus: Hatch is too cramped in the back, saloon looks dowdy
  • Equals: Get the estate; it’s the best one by far

23. Audi e-Tron GT

Audi’s hip-high e-Tron GT shares all of its chassis, batteries, and motors with the Porsche Taycan, yet is actually the more expensive of the two (mostly because Porsche offers a basic rear-drive model, whereas Audi only offers two motor quattro versions). The standard e-Tron GT is fast, lithe (for a car weighing almost two-tonnes) and exceptionally good to drive. Worth upgrading to the incredibly fast RS model? Yes, if you like the sensation of the blood draining from your feet under full acceleration. Otherwise, the standard version does the job nicely.

  • Plus: So low, so sleek, so fast, so much fun
  • Minus: Cramped in the back, postbox boot, expensive
  • Equals: Audi’s best car right now?

22. Kia EV6

Kia’s take on the same E-GMP platform that gave us the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and 6 looks very different from its crosstown cousins. There are little visual tributes to the 1970s Lancia Stratos in there if you look hard enough, and while it’s actually quite all, it looks to sleek to be truly considered an SUV. Inside, there is lots of space, and a good mix of touchscreens and physical controls. Meanwhile the electric range and performance is beyond reproach. 585hp EV6 GT version is another story – blisteringly fast, and capable of sideways skids, but lacks the handling balance to be a true driver’s car.

  • Plus: Styling, cabin layout, range, performance
  • Minus: GT is a bit too much of everything
  • Equals: Exceptionally talented Korean

21. Hyundai Ioniq 5

It’s no wonder that the electric Ioniq 5 has been a big seller for Hyundai. Quite apart from offering excellent range and ultrarapid charging, its crisp-edged styling (which riffs on 1970s Guigiaro designs) is ageing exceptionally well, and inside it deploys a fantastic mix of spaciousness and high-tech. It’s even really very good to drive, although some of the more intrusive driver ‘aids’ can be a pain in the neck. Seriously rapid Ioniq 5 N, which features a drift mode (!) arrives soon.

  • Plus: Seventies looks, 2020s tech and performance
  • Minus: Intrusive driver aids
  • Equals: Deserved success

20. BMW i7

BMW i7

The big BMW really is big. Really. Park on one a street of ‘normal’ cars and it will dwarf everything this side of a Range Rover. On a narrow road, it looks like an aircraft carrier has run aground. It’s also not what you’d call ‘pretty.’ There are compensations. The large 102kWh battery makes for good range, and the cabin makes some five-star hotels look dowdy and uncomfortable. Better still, activate Sport mode and it still corners and handles like a true BMW ought to.

  • Plus: It drives better than it looks
  • Minus: It weighs more than it looks
  • Equals: Heavyweight contender

19. Citroen C5 X

Citroen C5-X

Citroen’s history of big cars is not glorious. The original DS was possibly the greatest single car of all time, but nearly bankrupted the company. The CX was stunning, but again put big holes in corporate finances. No one bought the C6. The C5 X could be, should be different. It’s based on the same package as Peugeot’s 408, but it’s better looking and fits the big-and-comfy brief to a tee. Few cars, even those costing multiples more, are as smooth on a long journey. Plug-in hybrid is slightly awkward to drive, so get the simpler 1.2 petrol, at least until the all-electric version eventually arrives.

  • Plus: Exceptionally comfortable, refined, roomy, handsome, different
  • Minus: Not quite an SUV, but still not a saloon
  • Equals: Enormously appealing

18. Volkswagen e-Up

It was to our horror that we read recently that VW is ending production of the e-Up (the only car on sale that sounds like a Yorkshire hello…). It’s one of the most affordable EVs on sale, and still one of the best. Diminutive? Yes, but it still seats four, which is enough most of the time. Short-ranged? Yes, but 258km isn’t bad, and again it’s enough most of the time. Cheap inside? Not as much as you’d think, and it’s honestly brilliantly good fun to drive. Snap one up while it’s still on the VW price list. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Plus: Price, range, size, weight, fun factor
  • Minus: Okay, so the boot is pretty tiny
  • Equals: Small and perfectly formed

17. Tesla Model 3

Why are we ignoring the Model Y SUV? The best-selling car in the world in 2023? Because, although it has a bigger boot than this Model 3 saloon, that’s its only advantage. In every other respect – range, styling, driving experience – the lower, sleeker Model 3 is the superior Tesla. If you’re ordering for January, you should be getting the much-updated Model 3, with sharper styling at the front, and myriad quality and battery improvements. Base rear-drive model has more than 500km range; two-motor Long Range model stretches that beyond 600km, and you get Supercharger network access of course. Big screen is flawed, though, and the cabin is starting to look and feel a bit old-hat. Still, for the money it’s hard to beat ...

  • Plus: Price, range, charging, handling
  • Minus: Plain cabin, quality issues, awkward screen
  • Equals: Little wonder they’re so popular

16. BYD Atto 3


BYD’s other EV (for now, lots more are coming soon) looks all quiet and even a touch bland on the outside, but the Atto 3 turns into a design riot on the inside, with two-tone ‘Pleather’ and a gearshifter that looks like the throttle on an Airbus. It’s not an exciting car to drive – it just kind of swooshes blamelessly about – but it has a solid range (that 420km claim is pretty accurate on most days) and it’s comfortable and refined. Trick rotating screen is a gimmick, but the pricing and practicality are on more solid ground.

  • Plus: Practical, well-priced, solid all-round performance
  • Minus: Looks boring on the outside, screen isn’t as good as it seems at first
  • Equals: Not thrilling, but very appealing

15. Nissan Ariya

New Nissan Ariya all-electric SUV crossover EV

Get the Ariya in white. Why? Because then, with the contrast black roof, if looks like Nasa has shrunk the Space Shuttle and put wheels on it. The Ariya’s performance is almost Astronaut-quality too – it has a very decent real-world range, and you can optionally get a 22kW AC charging system that makes kerbside charging a breeze. The cabin is roomy, well-made, and high tech (check out those touch-sensitive buttons) and it’s even pretty decent through the corners.

  • Plus: Exceptionally handsome inside and out, solid electric performance
  • Minus: Instruments and screen look a touch cheap
  • Equals: To infinity, and beyond!

14. Lexus RX

We often complain about SUVs getting too big, but here’s a big SUV that feels small. Not in a bad way – it’s plenty roomy inside – but the RX just doesn’t feel as large nor as chunky as, say, a Range Rover Sport or a BMW X5. It’s a handsome thing, though, and the quality of that cabin is beyond reproach. It’s a shame there’s no longer a seven-seat option, but the RX makes up for that with an excellent plug-in hybrid that’ll do 65km on the battery alone, and yet can manage 6.0-litres per 100km economy on longer runs. Refinement and comfort levels are just off-the-scale good.

  • Plus: Excellent PHEV, brilliant cabin, quality
  • Minus: No seven-seater any more
  • Equals: The acceptable face of big SUVs

13. Skoda Enyaq Coupe

Skoda Enyaq coupe

The Enyaq Coupe is that curious thing – a Skoda that costs lots (our last test version topped €70,000!). Nonetheless, it’s an impressive car, enough so as to make you a little more forgiving of the price. The sloping roof doesn’t make it a coupe in any real sense, but it improves the aerodynamics and stretches the range; to more than 580km if you wait for the incoming updated model with the new 286hp electric motor. The cabin is delightful – easily roomy enough for family life, and just as well-made as any Audi. It’s exceptionally refined and smooth to drive, too.

  • Plus: Range, cabin, room, refinement
  • Minus: Expensive, heavy
  • Equals: Even when they’re pricey, Skodas are charming

12. BMW i4

Look, you’re just going to have to ignore the nose. We know that the i4′s grille is far from the prettiest, but you’ll forget all about that once you’re inside and cocooned in the snug, high-quality embrace of its cabin. Like the bigger, more expensive, i5 the i4 is an EV that still feels like a proper BMW to drive, with brilliant steering and wonderful chassis balance. Claims of a 600km range are a bit exaggerated (450-500km is more like it) but it’s still long-legged enough for most purposes. Four-wheel drive M50 version is unseemly rapid, but doesn’t feel as sweet in the corners as the 40e model.

  • Plus: Decent range, excellent to drive, quality cabin
  • Minus: Small in the back, that schnozz, M50 not as much fun as it should be
  • Equals: Electric, slick

11. Renault Megane E-Tech

Renault has just knocked €3,500 off the price of a Megane E-Tech for the January sales period, and that makes a slightly expensive car considerably more affordable. Basic model gets 300km range, which doesn’t sound like much but it has a brilliant 22kW charging system which means you can (almost) fast-charge from kerbside charging points. That’s a bit of a game changer. Bigger battery model gets 450km range, both get an exceptionally nice cabin with a terrific digital dashboard. And it looks good on the outside as it is to drive.

  • Plus: Cabin, crisp driving experience, charging
  • Minus: Quite pricey, even with the discount
  • Equals: Best Renault you can currently buy
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Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times