Best new cars 2014

We take a look back at the best new cars we drove in 2014

Cactus makes a point to its rivals

The new C4 Cactus was a big sidestep for Citroen. Engineered to be a low-cost and lightweight family car, the quirky crossover impressed us when we took the wheel for the first time in June.

The sprightly turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine provided a strong mix of pace and efficiency, while beneath the bold looks was a striking, minimalist interior.

Tesla banishes range anxiety

Few electric cars quell range anxiety like the Tesla Model S. The first right-hand-drive versions of the all-electric supersaloon arrived in June, two years after it went on sale in the US.

“It’s a compelling drivetrain package that embarrasses the premium saloon establishment and any other electric car that’s come before it,” we reported. Top-spec models can do a 300-mile round trip on a single charge thanks to a 410bhp rear-mounted electric motor with 630Nm of torque, hurling the hefty Tesla from 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds.

Nissan returns to hatchback territory

The Pulsar is an important car for Nissan, marking its return to the traditional family hatch class for the first time since 2006’s Almera.

Our initial impressions were mixed. The exterior isn’t up to the class best, but inside it’s practical, with a 395-litre boot. We tried the turbocharged 113bhp petrol, which was economical, if not exciting.

Ferrari 458s go head-to-head

We took the Ferrari 458 family for an exclusive shoot-out at the Fiorano circuit in Maranello to find out the difference between the Italian manufacturer’s track and street-legal cousins. Senior road tester Owen Mildenhall climbed behind the wheel of the top-spec roadgoing 458 Speciale, as well as the Challenge Evoluzione, which is the entry point to Ferrari’s race-spec 458 range.

The two sports cars share the same chassis and 4.5-litre V8 engines, but not surprisingly the lighter Challenge was quicker. Our man praised the unique qualities of both models, but then who doesn’t enjoy a day driving Ferraris?

Latest TT really does live up to the hype

More Audi TTs are sold in the UK than anywhere else, so there was plenty of expectation for the new small coupé. It retains the iconic styling with a modern twist, especially the interior’s Virtual Cockpit. But is it all show and no go?

We were impressed with the punchy 227bhp petrol engine on our first drive, as well as the car’s sharp steering and agility. We concluded the new TT “strikes a better balance between sports car fun and coupé comfort than ever”.

Revised Corsa a big step forward with improved economy and lower price

The old Vauxhall Corsa may have been one of the UK’s top-selling cars, but there was no disguising its dated driving experience and mediocre quality. We drove the new model, which set out to right some wrongs.

The exterior is evolution rather than revolution, but the new Corsa is a far better supermini all-round, with a spacious, well appointed cabin. We reported that the “much-needed lift in quality and premium feel is immediately evident”.

Dynamically, we also found the Corsa to be a huge improvement. The Ford Fiesta is still a bit sharper and the VW Polo more grown-up, but we found the ride “compliant and supple” and reported it was “more nimble and responsive than ever before”. The 114bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo was punchy, refined and capable of 57mpg.

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A lower price is the best news for many. Starting at £8,995, the Corsa undercuts its main rivals, so it should remain a sales hit for years to come.

New Fabia looks and drives sharper... but prices are rising

When the original Fabia supermini arrived in 2000, it set new class standards for value and quality. But we reported that the new version had become more of a premium all-rounder when we drove it in October. So is the price increase difficult to swallow? That sharp, classy exterior is far more attractive than before, and the inside is stylish, but surprisingly lacks the posh feel we expect from the VW Group.

The new Skoda’s much better to drive, however, with a comfortable ride and gutsy engines, even though it’s not the sportiest car in the class, but that’s not what the cosseting Fabia is really about. Once a value-for-money choice, the updated Skoda – on sale now – looks pricey next to the new Corsa, starting at £10,600.

New Mondeo hits the road

With buyers shunning traditional family cars and flocking to premium German brands and crossovers, the new Ford Mondeo has to be good to compete. Fortunately, as we found on our first drive back in October, it’s a practical and high-quality package.Despite being on sale in the US since 2012 as the Fusion, the new Mondeo only just reaches our shores in December, priced from £20,795.

Not surprisingly, this new family favourite gets plenty of cabin space and a big boot. But it now has a much higher-quality feel inside, as well as a generous standard equipment list, featuring innovations such as inflatable rear seatbelts.

It’s also more refined, and the smooth 178bhp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel model may worry the BMW 320d. However, we reported that the new Mondeo has “lost a good deal of its driver’s car character in growing up”. It’s still good, but just not as involving as it used to be.

Verdict on UK-bound Mustang

The Ford Mustang has been an all-American icon for over 50 years, yet Ford has never sold its legendary muscle car officially in the UK... until now. The new model will hit dealers here in right-hand drive in autumn 2015, and will also be the first ’Stang to be powered by a four-cylinder engine – a 305bhp 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol unit that’s set to be the most popular option in Europe and will be sold alongside the 420bhp 5.0-litre V8.

Editor-in-chief Steve Fowler drove the new car and found it punchy enough to match its styling. It’s noisy, however, and 35mpg fuel economy is disappointing for a four-cylinder. Still, the six-speed manual box is great, and Steve reported the Mustang was “far more playful than the car’s size and weight would suggest”, even if the low-speed ride was tiresome. The cabin offers style and quality, despite cheap plastics. And at around £30,000, the Mustang could be a true performance bargain.

GT and 911 are American idols

It's not often you get a chance to travel halfway across the world to drive a £100,000 sports car. Even rarer is it to be given the keys to two.

But we flew to California for the launch of the new Mercedes-AMG GT, and put it up against Porsche’s 911 GTS. They were impossible to separate. Merc now has a sports car to rival the best in the business, yet the GTS proved the 911 was still at the top of its game. We loved both models, but will reserve judgement on declaring a winner until we’ve tested them in the UK.

Excellent new Vitara in fine shape to take on Juke and 2008

Suzuki has a rich history of producing tough little off-roaders, and the pre-production prototype Vitara we drove showed it hasn’t lost its touch.

Slotting into the range below the slightly larger SX4 S-Cross, the Vitara goes up against a growing number of compact crossovers, like the Peugeot 2008, Nissan Juke and Renault Captur.

With prices starting from around £14,000, the Vitara should be great value, but doesn’t look cheap with its squared off silhouette and tapered roofline. Inside, there are some brittle plastics, yet the quality is fine and there’s a sense of fun to the way the Vitara drives, whether you go for the petrol or diesel model. Order it with four-wheel drive and it’ll even handle muddy fields and snowy driveways.

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