How we test cars
Not all car reviews are the same – and there are several reasons why What Car?’s star ratings have been the most trusted in the UK for more than 40 years...
We test every car in three key ways – on road, on track and on paper – before delivering the fairest, toughest verdicts in the business. And our reviews are the work of a team with more than 40 years’ combined experience of testing cars – so you know you’re getting a measured, considered view on the model you’re thinking of buying.
We test cars in the UK, on a pre-determined route that includes a good blend of motorways, urban roads and everything in between. Using a defined route also allows us to make easy comparisons between cars, because our experienced team of testers know how key rivals behave on the same stretch of road. However, just to make sure, we often get these rivals together and drive them on the same roads, on the same day.
We also know that cars rarely match the official fuel economy figures that manufacturers are obliged to quote – so our team of True MPG testers establish what cars will really do to the gallon in the real world. Tests are conducted on a rolling road under strictly controlled laboratory conditions to ensure repeatability, but based on real-world driving data across a selection of different roads. The results reflect what's achievable if you’re driving gently and sticking to speed limits but aren’t resorting to any unrealistically slow acceleration or special "hypermiling" techniques.
Our reviewers use the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire to scientifically evaluate all of the cars they test. They use a two-mile bowl of four-lane motorway for noise testing, a mile-long straight for acceleration and braking, and the twisty Hill Route and Inner Handling Circuit to find out how the cars behave on the limit. They also use Millbrook to test the range of electric vehicles, driving a fixed route over a mix of roads until the batteries run flat.
We crunch the numbers that matter. Our team of mystery shoppers haggle all day, every day to establish the discounted prices that you can achieve on any new car. We call it Target Price, and combine it with comprehensive resale values to work out the most accurate real-world running costs over three years (we also take into account the PCP finance deals that are increasingly popular in dealerships).
Of course, if you’re a company car chooser then retail prices are only part of the picture – so we also factor in the Benefit In Kind rates for 20% and 40% taxpayers. And when we’re reviewing models that are traditionally popular company car choices – executive saloons, for example – we prioritise those monthly tax bills over the price you’d pay in a dealership.