► The best cars 2023 revealed
► It’s CAR magazine’s best buys
► Every segment and budget covered
With around 500 makes and models to choose from, it’s no wonder that new-car buyers face a bewildering choice in the showroom, but help is at hand: CAR magazine’s list of the best new cars 2023. We cover everything from the best hot hatch to the roomiest estate cars.
Our long-standing GBU data section (launched as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in 1976) cuts through marketing waffle and white noise to deliver incisive verdicts Britain’s car buyers can trust. It names the best new cars on sale today, covers all powertrains from the best electric cars to the best hybrids, and is guaranteed to pull no punches.
The best new cars 2023 at a glance
Our best new cars 2023 list covers everything from affordable hatchbacks and family cars to the best campervans, sports cars and grand tourers, so read on for our full list of recommendations. We’ve independently tested every new car, against their peers and class benchmarks, and rate them on fitness for purpose, quality, value and vehicle dynamics.
Best cars in 2023
Pros On-the-deck driving position; dreamy handling balance; slick interior
Cons Knowing you’ve made the obvious choice
The 3-series has been a favourite on CAR magazine for as long as most of us can remember: BMW has fettled and honed its bestselling range into quite the consummate all-rounder. While brisker drivers get all frothed up about the M3 sports saloons, its talents are shared across more mundane models, too. Result? The 320i is a cracking choice in the lower echelons of the range while the 330e will please company car drivers thanks to a low CO2 rating. Crave a trad Munich straight six? Go for the M340i or M340d with their creamy multi-cylinder engines and effortless performance kick.
Quality is top-rate inside and out, the tech on offer is extraordinary and, of course, the BMW 3-series delivers driving pleasure in spades. Few cars at any price can match the Three’s mix of sharp handling, decent ride and a powertrain to die for. Strong residual values mean that it’s a sensible buy, too, protecting your investment if you purchase outright and lowering monthly payments if you lease.
For a more in-depth look read our BMW 3-series review
Honda Civic Type R
Pros: Feel, feedback, focus: a phenomenal full-sized hot hatch
Cons: Nearly £50k for a front- drive hatchback with barely any more power than before
The FL5-generation Honda Civic Type R has it all: dramatic looks, a fiery powertrain and the kind of performance that would’ve startled a Porsche a decade ago. It’s an extraordinary turnaround from the regular Civic, that paragon of sensible practicality and reliability – the sporting version is fizzing with feel and feedback and makes it very easy to drive it faster and harder.
If you want your pocket rocket more comfort-oriented and with a GT vibe, we’d probably recommend the Audi RS3 or BMW M135i instead. But if you want the most athletic pocket rocket on the market, pick the Honda. You won’t regret it. The hot hatchback is a dying breed and we suspect the CTR might be the last of its kind. It’s going out on a high – this is one of the best. There’s just the one model; expect to pay around £550 on a PCP with an £11k deposit.
For a more in-depth look read our Honda Civic Type R review
Land Rover Defender
Pros Reboot brings untold dynamic improvements wherever you drive
Cons Second-row access is a pain in the 90; expensive; 130 in particular is very big, so parking can be tricky
The Land Rover Defender is a brilliant reinvention of an off-roading icon and its smart retromodern looks are matched by a deep ability on road and off it. They were never going to skimp on giving the Defender proper mud-plugging creds and so it should come as no surprise that the 4×4 is one of the toughest off-roaders we’ve driven in recent years. The best bit is how it drives on road: it rides, stops, steers and goes better than any of its 4×4 peers.
The range spans 90, 110 and 130 bodies, with significantly different dimensions but remarkably similar character and the genuine off-road ability that Land Rover always delivers so convincingly. Heart says petrol V8 90, head/wallet say diesel-six D250 110.
For a more in-depth look read our Land Rover Defender review
Pros: Echoingly vast boot, decent to drive – one of the most complete family cars on sale today
Cons: A crushingly sensible choice and just a little bit anonymous
Estate cars come no finer than the Skoda Superb Estate, which deserves its place in the best cars 2023 list. The brand has built a reputation for building cavernous cars that tend to offer more space than rivals – and the Superb is the original supersized family car, especially in wagon bodystyle. Whether you want extra room to carry bags or bodies, it delivers in spades.
The latest Superb is based on VW Group medium-sized hardware, which brings all sorts of plug-in hybrid powertrain options and the choice of manual, petrol or diesel engines. But the really clever bit is the long wheelbase, freeing up extraordinary legroom in row two and a boot so big we challenge you to fill it, even on the family summer holiday when you might just need to throw in the kitchen sink. That it drives well, looks suitably smart in an understated way and features a robust, high-quality interior is the icing on the cake.
For a more in-depth look read our Skoda Superb Estate review
Pros: The most complete sports car around; a spec and variant for every need
Cons: The 911 may have grown up too much for some. Very expensive now
Not for nothing has the Porsche 911 just celebrated its 60th anniversary (it’s nearly as old as CAR magazine itself!). Over the past six decades, Stuttgart has evolved its sports car into the most rounded model going and we wholeheartedly recommend most versions. Part of its appeal is the way you can pick-and-mix bodystyle, engine, transmission and styling to find the perfect fun car for your needs.
Pick the humblest 911 Carrera 2 if you want unadorned sports car thrills. Our favoured bodystyle is the coupe, but the cabriolet brings alfresco thrills and there’s a Targa if you want an in-between half-and-half rooftop. Rear-wheel drive is standard while those living in more remote areas may want to consider the excellent all-wheel drive Porsche 911 with its peerless traction. Meanwhile, the performance ladder steps through entry-level Carrera, to Carrera S, GTS, Turbo and beyond. The limited-edition GT2 and GT3 models, not to mention specials such as the rally-raid 911 Dakar, show just how broad the appeal of the Porsche 911 family is.
For a more in-depth look read our Porsche 911 review
Pros: Style, speed and sensuous lines; a car for, and from, a bygone age
Cons: Baffling steering wheel touchpads; strangled exhaust note
The Ferrari Roma is the front-engined GT from Maranello and our pick of the grand tourer genre. With a useful 2+2 seating configuration, there’s a handy pair of rear pews for kids or small adults and the boot offers a decent space for weekend-away luggage. You can flop the seatbacks down to expand the loadbay if there are just two of you and extra room is required.
Looks are stunning and the engineering is every bit as special as you’d hope a Ferrari grand tourer would offer: the 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8 is effortlessly brawny, serving up a 611bhp/560lb ft punch through an eight-speed paddleshift gearbox to deliver 0-62mph in just 3.4sec and a top speed conservatively estimated by Ferrari as ‘199mph+’. It’s a joyous, delicate drive and one of the coolest ways we can think of to arrive at your Mediterranean holiday pad.
For a more in-depth look read our Ferrari Roma review
Pros: The longitudinal-engined two-door BMW coupe lives
Cons: Bigger and heavier than we’d like; you need £65k to get involved
BMW’s range has undergone something of a revolution in recent years, as Munich prioritises electrifying its range – so it’s something of a relief that it has relaunched the M2 as a compact coupe. Available only as a coupe, it’s our current pick of the compact sports cars on sale today and one of the best new cars 2023.
There are manual or automatic transmission options and we’d advise picking the stick shift. What’s the point in going for a tactile, old-school sports car and then selecting an Xbox paddle flick-shift? It’s heavier and pricier than previous M2s, but the G87 generation is more polished and better resolved – it can while away the miles on a long motorway cruise yet still thrill when you’re in the mood on a deserted B-road.
For a more in-depth look read our BMW M2 review
BMW X5 50e
Pros Massive 66-mile official e-range; so practical; horizon-eating performance
Cons Hybrid hardware cuts into boot space to the tune of 150 litres; no seven-seat option
The BMW X5 was facelifted in autumn 2023 and has come back even stronger: there’s a new look, fresh technology upgrades like the operating system from the latest 7-series, and a bunch of improvements to the hybrid system that’s proved clever enough to propel the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version to the top of our list of the best hybrid cars.
The X5 has always been among the best premium SUVs and the latest one is no different. It’s imperious to drive, with the ability to smother the lumps and bumps of a long drive, or entertain on your favourite back road. Its duality of purpose is nothing short of extraordinary – and there is, obviously, plenty of space and stowage for all the detritus of family life. The xDrive 50e plug-in hybrid is the best model for us – providing 66 miles of silent e-power around town, more than enough for most of our needs. Just remember that the hybrid battery negates the option for a third row of seats, so dodge the PHEV if you need seven chairs.
For a more in-depth look read our BMW X5 review
Pros Interstellar acceleration; stellar handling; agreeably tactile; roomier than a 911
Cons Empty interior; ferociously expensive; not a 911
How times have changed. It wasn’t long ago that there was a paucity of choice of electric cars on the market – but the number of electric vehicles (EVs) has mushroomed in the past few years. And the best of the lot? The consensus at CAR HQ is that the Porsche Taycan is our favourite battery car of all. It just does everything we want of an EV brilliantly, and more besides.
For starters, it’s great to drive. From the classic Porsche control feel to breathtaking acceleration, it drives just like a car hailing from Zuffenhausen should. It rides, handles and steers as sharply as a Cayenne and with a choice of bodystyles (saloon, Cross Turismo and Sport Turismo) there’s likely a Taycan for your needs. Priced from around £80k, it’s not cheap, but even the lowliest model is rifle-bolt quick and drives like a sports saloon. Bravo.
For a more in-depth look read our Porsche Taycan review
Pros Masterful and hugely desirable reinvention of an icon
Cons Reliability remains a worry and the EV version is a while away
The Range Rover has always been an alt luxury car – towering proof that the smartest execs don’t have to adopt a three-box saloon silhouette in the traditional limo vein. The latest iteration is bigger and better than ever, with crisp styling, a cosseting cabin and dynamics to shame many more humdrum 4x4s. It’s one of the most pampering interiors you’ll find in any car, at any price.
There’s plenty of engine choice when buying a Range Rover, but we find ourselves looking past the fun V8 and plug-in hybrids to consider the D350 mild-hybrid straight-six diesel. It’s the sweet spot of the range and we can see why so many buyers pick it. It’s not cheap at £107k (or, more likely, £1.5k per calendar month) but it’s one helluva luxury car.
For a more in-depth look read our Range Rover review
Pros Premium and practical; now available in two spicy versions
Cons Said spicy models aren’t much fun
We’ve been a bit rude about BMW’s styling in recent years and many of us rue the looks of the latest One, but it remains our favourite family hatch on account of its sharp drive and quality cabin features. It might compete with VW Golfs and Audi A3s, but the competition can’t hold a candle to the dynamics of the BMW 1-series.
Our pick of the bunch is the 118i M Sport at £31k (or £340 a month) but you can amp up your brawn and toys to the all-wheel-drive M135i super-hatch topping the tree at £41k if you want some extra chutzpah for your hatch.
For a more in-depth look read our BMW 1-series review
BMW M3 Competition
Pros Mighty straight-six; front axle’s never-give-up attitude; dreamy chassis balance
Cons No manual; nearly 911 money now
We already rate the regular 3-series (see Best Family Car above), so it’s hardly surprising that the go-faster version from M Division is nothing short of sensational. If you want a fast four-door, there really is no substitute for the BMW M3. If a wicked wagon is your thing, you can now pick the M3 Touring, too, although that’ll set you back £85k and they’ve been changing hands for six figures in the first few months on sale.
The M3’s secret formula is to boost up the six-cylinder engine to 510bhp for some seriously rapid punch (0-62mph in 3.9sec). Yes, the M3 has become more of a heavy firepower tool rather than the surgical scalpel of yore, but when it’s this good to drive, who cares? It’s deservedly a shoe-in for the CAR magazine best car 2023 rankings.
For a more in-depth look read our BMW M3 review
Ferrari 296 GTB
Pros: Timeless styling and a driving experience as good as any of Maranello’s finest
Cons: You need reflexes like a fighter pilot to drive it as fast as it can go
A state-of-the-art Ferrari supercar, the 296 GTB brings hybrid punch to the everyday junior sports car. It’s a compelling mix, proving that electrifying even Ferraris adds more performance as well as a little bit of purity. Tellingly, the V8 that’s adorned earlier entry-level Ferraris is swapped out for a V6, boosted by an e-motor to produce a total system output of 819bhp and 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds. And this is the junior Ferrari supercar…
Negatives? We’re not keen on the touch-sensitive steering wheel pads and we wouldn’t bother with the £25k Fiorano pack. Banish any worries that the soundtrack has been diminished: the 3.0-litre V6 warbles and screams like a banshee when you rev it out near the redline. And a modest 7.5kWh electric battery means you can creep silently off your driveway early in the morning to avoid waking the neighbours. When we first drove it, we declared the Ferrari 296 GTB ‘the finest Ferrari sports car in years’ – and you can pick the GTS if you want alfresco thrills. A deserved entry in our best cars 2023 list.
For a more in-depth look read our Ferrari 296 GTB review
Pros Home-from-home versatility, ease of use, driving manners
Cons So pricey that it’d buy an awful lot of holiday hotel rooms…
The Volkswagen California remains our favourite campervan for good reason: here’s a company which practically invented the mainstream camper and it’s gently evolved the recipe over the decades to make a super-polished mobile home. It’s so easy to use and so strong in its appeal that it’s easy to see a Cali slotting into your dream garage.
The genius is how it transforms the humble VW Transporter, now in its seventh generation, into a generous campervan with multi-class appeal. All models have a pop-up roof that raises to provide a two-berth rooftop bed, while the loadbay has a rock ’n’ roll double bed that we’d recommend for adults (top tip: it’s comfier than the more cramped space up top). Depending on the spec you pick, you can then add kitchens, drawers and awnings to maximise your Cali spec, and these days you can go supersized with the LWB Grand California that provides more of everything. That the California is really easy – and good – to drive is an added bonus.
For a more in-depth look read our VW California review
Best cars buyers guide: FAQ
Which car is the best to buy in the UK?
What is the best car on sale today? It all depends on your criteria. A family of five will have markedly different needs from a first-time driver who’s just passed their test aged 17. Do your research on Carmagazine.co.uk and using the tools on our sister site Parkers and we’ll guide you through all the best new cars 2023.
What should I look for when buying a car?
Always start with your criteria. What is your budget? What are your actual requirements? How many seats do you need and what bodystyles appeal for your likely use cases? We tend to find that genre or category of car is a good place to start: you will most likely know if you want a small hatchback or a large people carrier or SUV from the start of your car research. Write down your needs, then consider attributes like powertrain (eg electric, petrol, diesel or hybrid) and budget, plus any features that are a must-have. It’s all part of narrowing your long list down to a concise shortlist – and the cars on our best cars 2023 recommendations should be a good pointer.
Which car is the safest car to buy?
Euro NCAP is the independent organisation responsible for crash-testing new cars and rating their crashworthiness. Each year, it pronounces the safest models tested that year and there are four stand-out models that won its best-in-class awards in the last round: the Tesla Model Y and Model S, the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and Ora Funky Cat. Head to the Euro NCAP website where you can find the crash rating for most models on sale today.
What is the most common car in the UK?
The bestselling car of 2023 is the Ford Puma, which has leapfrogged smaller sister the Ford Fiesta, for many year’s Britain’s top-selling model. It is comfortably ahead of the next most popular new cars, the Nissan Qashqai, Vauxhall Corsa and Kia Sportage. Tellingly, none of these models features in our best cars 2023 UK list.