Chinese EVs on sale in the UK in 2024 | CAR Magazine

The Chinese electric cars you can buy today: more EV for less cash?

Published: 03 April 2024 Updated: 03 April 2024

► Chinese EV brands on UK sale today
► Breakthrough tech at lower prices
► Our guide to the brands to watch

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’ll have noticed that the Chinese car industry is using the opportunities posed by electrification to leapfrog into global contention. It’s a textbook tale of industrial innovation, as one nation’s car industry uses a significant shift in the automotive industry to kickstart its ambitions to become a producer of the best electric cars.

Within a decade, Chinese car manufacturers have gone from a global laughing stock to serious competitors, and it’s all caused by their decision to go all-in on electric vehicles (EVs). It’s quite the pivot. 

Increasing numbers of Chinese car brands are targeting Europe as a major source of growth. Already in spring 2024 around half of the most popular electric cars sold in the UK hail from China. In this article, we will focus on the new Chinese brands arriving on British soil, as opposed to the labyrinthine ownership structures that are accelerating the electrification of existing and new European brands (eg China’s Geely group already owns western car makers such as Volvo, Polestar, Lotus and a good chunk of Smart).

Which Chinese cars are sold in the UK?

In this article we will guide you through the most popular Chinese brands offering electric cars in the UK in 2024. Read on for a quick summary of each brand and their electric offerings on sale today.

BYD: The one to watch

BYD Dolphin: the cheapest BYD EV on sale in the UK

Standing for Build Your Dreams, BYD is one of the world’s biggest manufacturer of electric cars, tussling with Tesla at the top of the EV sales charts. That gives you some idea of how seriously we should take this car maker: BYD is the biggest and most potent new competitor to land in the UK and Europe and veteran investor Warren Buffet’s decision to buy a quarter of its shares for $232 million in 2008 looks smarter by the day. Choose from these BYD electric cars on sale today:

  • BYD Dolphin (above): An electric supermini priced from £30k
  • BYD Atto 3: Compact electric crossover costing £38k
  • BYD Seal: Powerful Tesla Model 3 rival, from £46k

MG: The rump of MG Rover is now Chinese-owned and offers a variety of powertrains

One of the best Chinese EVs on sale today: the great-value MG 4

Hard to believe how it’s taken two decades since the collapse of Longbridge for Chinese parent brand SAIC to have turned around its prized British asset into a purveyor of decent and increasingly electrified cars. Remarkably, it’s MG’s centenary in 2024 and it now offers a range of petrol, plug-in hybrid and full battery electric vehicles (BEVs):

  • MG 3: The smallest MG on sale today, petrol and hybrid power, costs from a bargain £14k
  • MG 4 (above): Breakthrough EV – great to drive, cleverly packaged, superb value with prices from £27k
  • MG 5: One of the few electric estate cars on sale today. Equally good value at £31k
  • MG ZS: Old-school small crossover – not much cop, but cheap at £18k
  • MG HS: Mid-sized SUV in petrol and plug-in hybrid form. From £24k
  • MG Cyberster: Not quite on sale yet, but one of the first electric convertibles is coming soon

GWM Ora: Great Wall Motor was one of the first Chinese brands into the UK market

The GWM Ora 3, née Funky Cat – an early Chinese arrival in the UK

Great Wall launched in the UK years ago and punted the bargain-basement Steed pick-up truck for a while, with little critical success but proved a hit with penny-pinching tradesmen. We sat up and paid attention when GWM launched the smart Ora Funky Cat, since renamed to sound a little less oddball to European ears:

  • GWM Ora 03 (above): Retro, Beetle-ish style, some clever design flourishes, fully electric and priced from a reasonable £32k
  • GWM Ora 07: Not quite here yet, but arriving later in 2024, the 07 is a saloon version of the 03. No RRP confirmed yet

Maxus: SAIC’s electric commercial vehicles

Have you ever heard of this one? The Maxus MIFA 9 – the world's first MPV EV

Sister brand to MG, Maxus is also owned by Shanghai-based SAIC, which already sells a growing range of electric vans in the UK. We won’t go into those here, but there are also a couple of passenger vehicles and a pick-up on sale right here, right now:

  • Maxus MIFA 9 (above): Claimed to be the world’s first fully electric MPV – seven seats, a 323-mile range and priced from £65k
  • Maxus T90EV: The only electric pick-up offered today in the UK, costs a whisker under £50k (although that excludes VAT)

Omoda: Chery’s crossover brand eyeing up Qashqai sales

Launching in spring 2024: the Omoda 5 arrives in UK showrooms

Omoda launched in the UK in March 2024 with a single model, although a range of cars will quickly follow. It’s all a bit work in progress: the official website claims it has already launched on the homepage, but in other areas it still says ‘Coming soon.’ We will update this article once UK information becomes clearer. For now, your only choice is the launch SUV:

  • Omoda 5 (above): It’s a Qashqai-sized crossover available in both EV all-electric or combustion forms

Other Chinese brands planning to launch in the UK soon

The car makers listed above are the tip of the iceberg: there is a queue of other brands waiting to launch here – so look out for the following names and debutants waiting in the wings. We will be sure to update this list in the months ahead as more brands join the fray, so stay tuned:

Coming soon: HiPhi is a tech-centred EV brand coming to British showrooms soon

It’s hard to establish a new brand from scratch, hence some of the optimistic launch schedules announced by many of these brands. Having a proven product from China is one thing; seeking European type approval, appointing a network of dealers, managing the training and personnel and sales systems and back-end support and parts supply, is quite another…

Why are Chinese electric cars becoming popular in Britain?

The Chinese government has pursued a deliberate long-term strategy to support its automotive sector’s lead in EVs, building a geopolitical footprint to enable the raw materials, intellectual property, design and manufacture of batteries at scale at a price to make western car makers weep.

Thanks to this long-term industrial strategy funded by the Communist government, China has cornered supply of raw materials and production of the batteries required for electrification: 70% of global battery cell manufacturing takes place in China and BloombergNEF’s annual lithium-ion battery price survey suggests that China’s production cost of $126 per kWh undercuts production costs in the US by 11% and Europe by 20%. It’s a stark reminder that geopolitics, trade deals and imperial strategy have been deliberately aligned to secure China’s competitive advantage. 

It’s this combination of scaled EV know-how and lower-price manufacturing that’s producing the exact cars the market is moving towards at prices that undercut European electric models. It’s a potent mix and if anything the choice of Chinese electric cars is only going to blossom in the months ahead, as new and as-yet unheard-of brands line up to launch over here.

Read more about the cheapest electric cars here.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, car news magnet, crafter of words