These are our favourite cars from 2023
From electric hatchbacks to supercars, we pick out the best cars we’ve reviewed this year
It’s been another varied year in the automotive world. With an ever-increasing number of electric cars going on sale, and manufacturers being particularly keen to promote them.
At the same time, more traditional petrol models continue to prove popular, not least in the performance car world. Throughout 2023, we’ve driven and reviewed more than 120 new cars. But what have been our highlights? We pick out our favourite cars of the car, from electric hot hatches through to performance SUVs.
Honda Civic Type R
Honda has had a busy 2023, introducing three new SUVs and also refreshing its well-loved Jazz. But Honda’s best car from the year – and potentially even the best car we’ve driven throughout the last 12 months – is the new Civic Type R hot hatch.
Honda is known for its Type R models, but this latest Civic is exceptional. The engine is superb, the gearshift is possibly the best of any car on sale today and the balance of the car is sublime. We could run out of superlatives to describe it.
Very little of note has come from Jeep in recent years, with a fairly weak and uninspiring line-up aside from its chunky off-roaders. That changed earlier in 2023 with the arrival of the Avenger. It’s important for several reasons, but not least because it’s Jeep’s first electric car and a far cry from the gas-guzzling models the American 4×4 firm is typically known for.
While the Avenger might be based on the same underpinnings as cars like the Peugeot 2008 and Vauxhall Mokka, Jeep has been far cleverer with its ingenious packaging, as at four metres long, this Jeep is no larger in size than cars like the Volkswagen Polo yet delivers some great space inside. It’s a brilliant car, and deserving of its ‘European Car of the Year’ title.
I know, I know. Surprise, a 750bhp supercar being picked as a ‘car of the year’ by a motoring journalist is hardly a revelation, but bear with me. The McLaren 750S might not look much different to the 720S that came before it, but the engineers at this Surrrey-based firm have worked relentlessly to improve this supercar in just about every way.
It sounds better, is more fun to drive now and gets a far more livable interior courtesy of a new touchscreen with Apple CarPlay. But it’s the 750S’ sheer all-round ability that makes it all the more impressive. It really is a supercar that can be used every day of the week.
Manufacturers continue to struggle to make electric cars genuinely fun to drive, but perhaps the most engaging EV I’ve driven to date came in the form of the Abarth 500e. Known to be the tuner of Fiat 500s, Abarth has now worked its magic with the electric model too.
With a sound generator that replicates the noise of a petrol Abarth’s exhaust, engaging handling and zippy performance, the Abarth 500e is a true look at the hot hatch of the future. Objectively, it’s not one of 2023’s best cars, but it’s one of the most memorable and favourite for that reason.
It was always going to be a challenge to create an electric version of one of BMW’s core models – the 5 Series – but it’s something which has been achieved with the new i5. What’s best about the i5 is how ‘normal’ it feels and, were it not for the completely silent powertrain, you could be mistaken for thinking you were in just a regular 5 Series.
Comfortable and spacious, the i5 is great in the bends and refined on the motorways as well. Need a little extra space? Fear not. There’s an estate – or Touring – version of the i5 due next year.
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
Porsche’s RS moniker has adorned some of the most incredible road cars ever made and, in 2023, it surfaced once again to sit on the very latest hardcore version of the 911- the GT3 RS. Essentially a track car that has been allowed on the road, it’s a sensory overload to drive with the rear-mounted 4.0-litre flat-six being core to the experience.
Inside, it’s a stripped-out affair with lightweight materials used everywhere. The steering wheel, meanwhile, is straight out of racing and features controls for the aerodynamics, driver modes and even the car’s Drag Reduction System – or DRS – just like F1 cars.
The Eletre caused quite a stir when Lotus first announced it. Here was a car which flew in the face of the firm’s founder Colin Chapman’s original lightweight ethos, instead arriving as a relatively heavy, large and battery-powered SUV which seemed worlds away from classic Lotus models like the Elise and Exige.
But Lotus diehards needn’t have worried as though the Eletre is quite different to some of the firm’s previous offerings, it’s still one of the most dynamic-driving electric SUVs on sale today, backed by a cleverly packaged interior and some great technology. We expect the Eletre to have a big impact on the fortunes of Lotus, that’s for sure.
It seems pretty obvious to put a Ferrari within a list of top cars, but the abilities of the Purosangue can’t be understated. Sure, this £300,000-plus, V12-powered SUV might be slightly out of touch with the current financial climate, but in classic Ferrari fashion, it’s the execution of the Purosangue which amazes.
For such a large car it’s remarkably easy to drive while the huge engine under the bonnet lends the Purosangue a character that can’t be matched even by other ultra-performance SUVs. Fit it with winter tyres and it’ll still tackle snow and ice, just as you’d expect a ‘proper’ off-roader to do.