20 of the best British cars to buy

August 03, 2022 by

Want to make a great British car your next set of wheels? We have 10 fantastic suggestions

The British car industry has changed enormously over the years, but the UK continues to be a major player when it comes to new cars.

Whether it’s a question of British brands and the models they offer, or British factories producing new vehicles, if you’re after a new car and want to buy British, we have 10 great choices for you.

We’ve selected cars to suit all tastes and budgets, so whether it’s an efficient hybrid hatchback, a family-friendly SUV, or something altogether more exotic, here are 10 of the best British cars you can buy today.

1. Land Rover Defender

The iconic Land Rover Defender can trace its roots back to 1948, and while the current model, launched in 2020, is a very different machine, it’s a fantastic recreation of the spirit of the original.

Offered with a range of efficient diesel, punchy petrol and sophisticated plug-in hybrid engine options, the Defender is both one of the most accomplished off-roaders around today, and also a fantastic family SUV. There are three and five-door versions available, and a wealth of personalisation options, too.

2. Vauxhall Corsa

It would be tricky to find two more different cars: while the Defender is a large, premium SUV, the Vauxhall Corsa is a compact, affordable hatchback – yet it’s no less appealing for that.

Arguably the best looking Corsa Vauxhall has ever produced, the latest Corsa is available in petrol or a 100% electric guise, but whichever model you go for you’ll get a fantastic selection of modern kit, together with strong handling and a nicely designed interior.

3. Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla may hail from Japan, but it’s built rather closer to home in Derbyshire. It’s also a fantastic family car, offering a relaxed, comfortable driving experience, together with modern, stylish looks and a fantastic reputation for reliability.

Offered with efficient petrol-electric hybrid power, the Corolla has long been the world’s best-selling car, while the high-quality interior of this latest version is another highlight.

4. MINI Hatch

As well as being a famous British brand, the MINI Hatch is also built locally, at the firm’s Oxford plant. But the Hatch isn’t just popular in the UK for patriotic reasons: it’s brilliant fun to drive, while the design blends retro charm with modern styling with great success.

MINI’s famous personalisation options mean you can get exactly the car you want, while the peppy range of engines deliver all the performance a modern supermini could want.

5. Jaguar F-Pace

A couple of decades ago, it would have been unthinkable for a company like Jaguar to offer an SUV – today, it’s unthinkable for them not to. But while the F-Pace may be taller than Jaguar’s of old, it benefits greatly from the firm’s brilliance for designing cars that are great to drive, being one of the best-handling SUVs you can buy today.

The F-Pace is also a handsome machine, while the modern interior features better tech than ever before, and there’s a choice of petrol, diesel of plug-in hybrid power available.

6. Range Rover Velar

Range Rover Velar plug-in hybrid

The full-fat Range Rover may be a newer car, but there’s an argument to be made that the Velar is the best-looking model in Range Rover’s portfolio, and possibly even the premium SUV class entirely.

Those looks are backed up by a wealth of deeper talents, with a cosseting driving experience, the all-important high driving position Range Rovers are famed for, plus a luxurious cabin with better tech than ever before. Petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid models are available, plus a vast array of options, so finding the right Velar for you is guaranteed.

7. Nissan Qashqai

As with the Toyota Corolla the Qashqai is a Japanese-designed, UK-built car, hailing from both Yokohama and Sunderland. Now in its third generation, the ever-popular Qashqai offers a wealth of talents, being affordable to buy and run, while offering families good space, a relaxing driving experience and strong levels of standard equipment.

As well as being available with a couple of petrol engines (one with 140 and one with 158hp), the Qashqai can be had in innovative e-Power guise, which sees an electric motor drive the wheels, with a 1.5-litre petrol engine effectively acting as a generator that provides electricity.

8. Jaguar F-Type

Many of the models featured so far have been pretty sensible family cars, but Britain has a strong reputation for building sports cars, so it seems only appropriate that the Jaguar F-Type gets a mention.

The F-Type is a muscular, two-seater sports car in the best tradition, offered with a reasonably efficient 2.0-litre petrol engine, or less efficient (but more potent) V6 and V8 choices. You’ll be getting a beautifully styled, rewarding sports car whichever you choose, while there’s also a convertible version for open-air thrills.

9. Vauxhall Astra

The latest Vauxhall Astra may be the first version of the car not to be built in the UK, but Vauxhall’s uniquely British status, and the new Astra’s sleek looks more than justify its inclusion on this list.

The eighth-generation Astra ticks a great deal of boxes, offering a relaxing, comfortable driving experience, low running costs, a decent amount of space and strong levels of standard equipment. As with many models on this rundown there’s a plug-in hybrid version, too.

10. MG ZS EV

MG has arguably changed more than any of the other British firms on this list, having once been famed for its sports cars, and now carving a convincing position for itself as a maker of family-friendly, affordable cars.

The ZS is the smaller of MG’s two SUVs, and offers an alternative to cars like the Nissan Juke. Unlike the Juke, however, the, as well as being offered in frugal petrol form, the ZS is available as a pure electric car, and making a good case for itself as a route into affordable Ev motoring.

Best used and classic British cars to buy

With a century of motoring industry and heritage and myriad different firms – some defunct, some in rude health – constructing cars, choosing the 10 best British classic cars is an almost impossible job, so our rundown below consists more of a snapshop selection rather than anything approaching a comprehensive rundown.

Nonetheless, if you’re hankering for a slice of classic British motoring, here are 10 cars to inspire you.

1. BMC/Austin Mini

One of the most important cars of the last century, the Mini is today responsible for an entire brand, while also being one of the most stylish, fun-to-drive and iconic cars of all time.

Featuring innovative packaging and suspension, the tiny Mini was adored by motorists from every echelon of society, and is written about almost as much today as it was back in the 1960s.

2. Bentley Continental GT

The first all-new car produced by Bentley after it was bought by the Volkswagen Group, the Continental GT was a huge success, not least because while its circa-£100,000 pricetag was high, it made the car far more attainable than previous Bentleys.

Two subsequent generations of Bentley Continental GT have since arrived, with the current car offering a similar formula to the original model: a top speed of around 200mph, a hugely powerful and unusual 6.0-litre W12 engine, all the luxury you could imagine, plus that all important driver involvement Bentley is famed for.

3. Nissan Qashqai

No, we haven’t made a mistake – the Qashqai has already featured in our rundown of new cars you can buy today, while the firm behind it is clearly Japanese.

But the Qashqai was made in Sunderland for many, many years, while some of the key brains behind the first-generation model were British. As the car that heralded the rise of the modern SUV crossover, the Qashqai will go down as one of the most consequential vehicles of the modern era.

4. Lotus Elise

It may have been something of a niche proposition and sold in relatively small numbers (certainly compared to the Qashqai), but the Lotus Elise was a huge success for its maker, and is one of the most important cars to come out of the UK.

It found immense favour among road testers and owners for its intuitive handling, light weight and excellent ergonomics, but the Elise’s bonded and extruded aluminium construction was as important as any of those aspects. Lotus’s engineers pioneered this construction method, which has since become established in the automotive industry.

5. Ford Capri

The Ford Mustang may be intrinsically American, but the Ford Capri was intended for European tastes, with Ford’s Halewood plant responsible for building many of the cars; even two of the engines (the Kent and the Essex) took UK placenames.

An immediate success, the Capri found almost two million buyers over three generations and 20 years, further growing the UK’s affinity for Ford in the process.

6. Aston Martin DBS

Any number of Aston Martins could have featured on this rundown, but we’re plumping for the DBS, a V12 engined, manual grand tourer based on the DB9.

With stunning looks, an interior featuring traditional wood and leather alongside stainless steel, aluminium and carbon fibre, the first-generation DBS produced 517hp, could hit 191mph, and featured in the quintessentially British James Bond franchise.

7. Jaguar XJ

As with the DBS, there is a wealth of cars from Jaguar at our disposal – not least the stunning E-Type coupe and roadster. But while the E-Type is undeniably iconic, it is arguably the XJ that is most emblematic of the brand.

Produced from 1968 right through to 2019 (most recent version pictured), the XJ offered all the grace, space and pace luxury car buyers demanded across several generations, holding its head high among stiff competition throughout its lifespan.

8. Rolls-Royce Phantom

There are any number of Rolls-Royces we could have chose for this list, but we’ve picked the seventh-generation Phantom (the first car from the company after it was taken over by BMW)  for its modern take on the classic Roller formula. Offering unparalleled luxury and refinement, together with more than enough power thanks to its V12 engine, Rolls-Royce’s personalisation department will fit a Phantom out with almost any material and finish you can imagine – for a price, naturally.

Interestingly, while the UK may have lost several brands over the years, it’s worthy of note that BMW chose Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen picked Bentley – two quintessentially British marques – when moving into the ultra-luxury market.

9. Land Rover Defender

As with the Mini, the Land Rover is a car that founded an entire brand, with the Defender’s ancestor first appearing in 1948 and the Defender disappearing in 2016 before being replaced four years later.

With a body made of aluminium due to steel shortages caused by the post-war hangover, together with a reputation for being unstoppable off road, the Defender was used in civilian and military arenas alike, and few cars are so iconic.

10. McLaren F1

The McLaren F1 is certainly one of the best British cars of all time, though it might be a stretch to call it one of the best British cars you can buy: not only do they seldom come up for sale, but when they do you would need many, many millions of pounds in order to take one home.

Away from the exclusivity (just 106 were produced), the facts and figures that surround the F1 are astonishing. A motorsport-derived 6.0-litre V12 engine that produced 618hp without the use of turbocharging; an engine bay lined in gold foil for heat reflection; a central driving position with two passenger seats either side; oh, and the small matter of a 231mph top speed and a 3.2 second 0-60mph time. And all this in 1992.

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