Who'd have thought it? The best new car Britons can buy this year is also the one that will cost them the least amount of money.
That's according to the gongs being handed out by motoring publication, What Car?, which has named the budget-friendly Dacia Sandero 'Car of the Year' status for 2021.
The new model, which arrives in UK showrooms shortly, will cost from £7,995 - a £1,000 hike on the outgoing car - and was commended for being roomy, comfortable, safe and packed with plenty of kit.
Cheap, cheerful and champion: The £8,000 Dacia Sandero supermini has been named 2021 Car of the Year by motoring magazine, What Car?
Some 26 category gongs were announced for winners as part of a week-long awards ceremony taking place online this week, though it was the Romanian brand's ultra-affordable supermini that scooped the top prize.
The 'Car of the Year 2021' trophy was given to the Sandero 1.0-litre TCe 90 Comfort version, which costs £11,595.
However, prices for the Sandero start from £7,995, making it less than half the price of its best-selling rival, the Ford Fiesta, which starts at £16,385.
Explaining why the Sandero was picked out from hundreds of other new cars Britons can buy in 2021, What Car? editor Steve Huntingford said: 'The Sandero’s price is scarcely believable when you consider that our expert testing has shown it to be the equal of or better than most of its higher-priced rivals.
'In the eyes of our test team it stood out for being delightfully comfortable, incredibly spacious and for its suite of modern safety aids and technology.
The all-new Sandero, which is due to land in UK showrooms in a matter of weeks, also won the small car of the year award
While prices start from £7,995, the version What Car? gave its highest recommendation to is the Sandero 1.0-litre TCe 90 Comfort version, which costs £11,595
The Sandero was picked due to its low cost but also because it has bags of space, lots of comfort, plenty of safety kit and is packed with equipment
“In the wake of an incredibly tough year, and with the prospect of hard times economically ahead, the Sandero is the perfect new car for the moment.
'It will put a smile on the face of any buyer, but even more brilliantly, it is priced at a level where it can appeal to everyone, including buyers who would normally be considering used cars.
'It redefines what’s possible at this price point, and underlines that even brilliant new cars do not have to break the bank.'
Dacia bosses said the Sandero's victory was a sign of haw far the Romanian brand has come since it was relaunched in the UK by Renault a decade ago
What Car? said the Sandero was a worthy winner because it redefines what’s possible at the cheapest price point, and underlines that even brilliant new cars do not have to break the bank
The all-new Sandero, which will be available to UK customers in a matter of weeks, has taken a huge step forward in quality to the supermini we've come to know
Vincent Tourette, managing director of Renault UK, said the company is 'incredibly proud' to accept the prestigious award on behalf of the bargain-basement Sandero.
He said the recognition signified 'how Dacia and the Sandero have gone from strength-to-strength and are now held in high regard for so much more than just affordability'.
He added: 'For the All-New Sandero to win the overall ‘Car of the Year’ award, especially against such impressive competition, is a real highlight in Dacia’s UK success story. We look forward to bringing it to UK customers in the coming weeks.'
And it wasn't just the Sandero that scored a win for the budget-focused brand.
Dacia’s popular Duster SUV, which is also the cheapest in its category was named Best family SUV for value.
Best new metal for 2021 - we name 21 incoming cars
While What Car?'s awards were given only to those vehicles that have already hit the market or have been test driven, there are plenty of new models that are due to go on sale this year that are worth considering.
The cars included range from super-compact city cars that can be driven by 16-year-olds to £2million hypercars with F1-derived engines.
This is Money has named its 21 best new motors for 2021. See the full list of fresh metal by clicking this link.
Electric drive: Which zero-emission cars were named the best for 2021?
The only area of the new car market that grew in a difficult 2020 was electrified cars, while overall car registrations falling by nearly a third as result of the Covid pandemic to a 28-year low.
As dealers and their showrooms were forced to close for two extended periods during the year because of the killer virus, sales to UK customers plummeted to just 1.63million – the lowest since 1992 – though electric car sales soared by a staggering 186 per cent and now count for more than one in 20 new vehicles bought in the UK.
What Car?’s top choice for a small EV in 2021 is the Volkswagen ID.3, while the Tesla Model 3 scooped Large Electric Car of the Year award.
These two cars also picked up the Safety Award and Technology Award respectively, yet again signifying the huge advances in EV development in recent years.
With 2020 being a record year for electric cars, it was two of the biggest players on the market today that took the gongs dedicated to EVs: the Tesla Model 3 (left) and VW ID.3 (right)
The Porsche Taycan 4S also beat all internal combustion engined performance cars for the medal in that extremely-competitive segment, while the Skoda Octavia iV Estate won the Plug-in Hybrid Car of the Year Award.
Lexus scooped the prize for making the most reliable cars you can buy this term, while the Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-i Hybrid was named the most frugal motor the magazine has fuel-economy tested so far.
You can see every category winner in the table below and the runners-up that just missed out on taking their respective crowns:
What Car? Car of the Year category winners 2021
Small car: Dacia's Sandero
Winner: Dacia Sandero 0.9 TCe 90 Comfort
Best for the city: Hyundai i10 1.2 MPi 84 SE Connect
Best for practicality: Honda Jazz 1.5 i-MMD e-CVT SR
Best to drive: Ford Fiesta 1.0L EcoBoost Hybrid 125 ST-Line Edition 5dr
Best interior: Mini 3dr 1.5 Cooper Exclusive Comfort/Nav Packs
Winner: Seat Leon 1.5 TSI 130 Evo FR
Best value: Skoda Scala 1.0 TSI 110 SE
Best to drive: Ford Focus 1.0L Ecoboost Hybrid 125 ST-Line Edition
Best interior: BMW 1 Series 118i M Sport auto
Hot Hatch: Toyota GR Yaris
Winner: Toyota Yaris GR 1.6 Circuit Pack
Best value: Ford Fiesta ST ST-2 Performance Pack
Best for practicality: Honda Civic Type R GT
Best for big spenders: Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4MATIC+
Winner: Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost Hybrid (mHEV) 155 Titanium
Best value: Suzuki Ignis SZ3 (safety pack)
Best for practicality: Skoda Kamiq 1.0 TSI 95 SE
Best for comfort: Volkswagen T-Roc 1.0 TSI 110 Design
Best interior: Audi Q2 35 TFSI S line
Winner: Volvo XC40 T3 R Design auto
Best value: Dacia Duster TCe 130 4x2 Comfort
Best interior: Range Rover Evoque P300e HSE
Best for practicality: Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SE L
Winner: Kia Sorento 1.6 Turbo Hybrid '2'
Best value: Citroën C5 Aircross Puretech 130 Sense
Best interior: Audi Q5 40 TDI Edition 1
Best for off-roading: Land Rover Defender 110 P300
Executive car: BMW 3 Series
Winner: BMW 3 Series 330e M Sport (M Sport Pro Pack)
Best value: Skoda Superb 1.5 TSI 150 SE Technology
Best for comfort: Audi A4 35 TDI Technik
Winner: BMW 5 Series 530e M Sport (M Sport Pro Pack)
Best for performance: Audi S8
Best for big spenders: Rolls-Royce Ghost
Large SUV (more than £50k): BMW X5
Luxury SUV (more than £50k)
Winner: BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport
Best for comfort: Audi Q7 50 TDI S line
Best for big families: BMW X7 40d M Sport
Best interior: Rolls-Royce Cullinan
Hybrid (plug-in): Skoda Octavia Estate iV
Winner: Skoda Octavia Estate 1.4 TSI iV SE Technology
Best to drive: BMW 3 Series 330e M Sport (M Sport Pro Pack)
Best for long distances: Ford Kuga 2.5 PHEV CVT Vignale
Best interior: BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport
Small electric car: VW ID.3
Small electric car
Winner: Volkswagen ID.3 Pro Performance Life
Best value: Renault Zoe R110 Iconic
Best for the city: Fiat 500 42kWh Icon
Best for long distances: Kia e-Niro 63kWh '3'
Large electric car: Tesla Model 3
Large electric car
Winner: Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus
Best for comfort: Audi E-tron 50 Technik
Best SUV: BMW iX3 Premier Edition
Best for big families: Tesla Model X Long Range Plus
Winner: Volkswagen Touran 1.5 TSI 150 SE
Best value: Citroën Berlingo PureTech 110 Feel 5st
Best for big families: Ford Galaxy 2.0L Ford EcoBlue 150 Zetec
Winner: Skoda Superb Estate 2.0 TDI 150 SEL
Best value: Skoda Fabia Estate 1.0 TSI 95 SE
Best to drive: BMW 3 Series Touring 320i M Sport (M Sport Pro Package)
Best interior: BMW 5 Series Touring 520d SE
Pick-up: Ford Ranger Wildtrack
Winner: Ford Ranger 2.0L EcoBlue 213PS Wildtrack auto
Best value: Mitsubishi L200 4Life Double Cab
Best for payload: Ssangyong Musso Rhino LWB
Winner: BMW 4 Series 420i M Sport (Pro Pack)
Best for value: Audi TT 40 TFSI S tronic Sport Edition
Best practicality: Volkswagen Arteon 2.0 TSI 190 Elegance
Best for big spenders: Aston Martin DB11 V8
Winner: BMW X6 xDrive30d M Sport
Best value: Citroën C4 Puretech 130 Shine
Best for comfort: Audi E-tron Sportback 55 quattro S line
Convertible: Fiat 500 Cabrio
Winner: Fiat 500 Cabrio Icon
Best value: Mini Convertible 1.5 Cooper Classic Comfort/Navigation Packs
Best for big spenders: Lexus LC Convertible 5.0 V8
Winner: Porsche 718 Cayman GTS 4.0
Best value: Mazda MX-5 1.5 Skyactiv-G SE-L
Best for big spenders: Audi R8 Coupe V10 RWD
Winner: Ford Puma ST
Best for families: BMW X3 M40i
Best for big spenders: Porsche Cayenne Coupe GTS
Performance car: Porsche Taycan 4S
Winner: Porsche Taycan 4S
Best value: BMW 4 Series M440i
Best for thrills: Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate
Winner: Tesla Over-the-air safety updates
Reliability Award winner
Safety Award winner
Winner: Volkswagen ID.3
Reader Award for most exciting launch of 2021
Winner: Alfa Romeo Tonale
True MPG Award
Winner: Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-i Hybrid
Best in town: Toyota RAV4 2.5 VVT-i Hybrid
Best on motorway: Suzuki Ignis 1.2 Dualjet Hybrid