It’s safe to say that 2023 has proved to be a busy year in the automotive world. With many manufacturers freed of previous supply chain disruption, we’ve seen new car sales improve significantly following several Covid-riddled years.
It’s been a big year for new car launches, with a host of important new model launches, from electric crossovers through to V8 supercars – yes, electric cars haven’t taken over just yet.
But what have been our favourite cars of the year? Blackball Media’s Jack Evans and Ted Welford explain more.
Honda Civic Type R
Back in October, I had one of those drives that I’ll remember for years to come. No traffic, great Northumberland roads and amazing scenery – plus I was behind the wheel of my favourite car from 2023, the new Honda Civic Type R.
Honda has proved it can make a great hot hatch in previous generations, but this latest Civic Type R is its best yet. With grip like I’ve never experienced in a road car, the delight of a manual gearbox (remember those?) and an engine that loves to be revved, it is exceptional on a British B-road.
It’s been a while since there’s been a genuinely good Jeep, so I can’t say I was hugely excited by the prospect of a new Jeep crossover based on a fairly average Stellantis platform. But what Jeep has created with the Avenger is remarkable.
This four-metre-long crossover is no bigger than cars such as the Volkswagen Polo, yet remarkable packaging means the Avenger’s interior is impressively roomy. With its rugged styling and excellent road manners, this Jeep is quite a lot better than the other Stellantis cars to use this platform, such as the Vauxhall Mokka and DS 3.
There can’t be that many more years until we see the launch of a new V8 supercar, which perhaps made a drive in the McLaren 750S all the more special. A replacement for the highly regarded 720S, it might look similar to its predecessor, but a whole range of changes has been made to make it easier to live with and also more fun.
You’d expect a car such as the 750S to be quite difficult to use on the road, but it’s the absolute opposite with this McLaren – it’s more comfortable than plenty of ‘normal cars’. But on the Estoril race circuit near Lisbon, it is ferocious when allowed to stretch its legs.
Plenty of manufacturers have so far tried and often failed to create an electric car that’s fun to drive. But if anyone was to be trusted with the task, it was Abarth, renowned for chavving up Fiat 500s.
The same principle was adopted with the electric Abarth 500e – more power and more aggressive styling first and foremost. But while EVs are usually known for their silence, Abarth has fitted the 500e with a sound generator that aims to replicate the noise of its petrol cars – and quite successfully, too.
Alpine A110 R
Alpine turned up the heat with its lightweight sports car in 2023, creating the A110 R – a track-focused lightweight special that is littered with carbon fibre and even gets carbon-shelled bucket seats with race harnesses.
December in Yorkshire is perhaps not the ideal time to test a car such as the A110 R, but did that stop me from having a great time? Absolutely not. With remarkable agility and the best steering that I’ve ever experienced in a car, this Alpine is one of the finest vehicles I’ve had the pleasure of driving, although personally I’d switch out the annoying race harnesses…
I’ll admit, I’ve always been a fan of a 5 Series. Big and comfortable, the big 5 has always felt very ‘sorted’ regardless of the generation and has had a common ‘feel’ through each new model. Transferring all that into an electric model is no mean feat, that’s for sure.
So I was a little bit uncertain what the new i5 would be like. Fortunately, I found it to be an incredibly well-rounded electric vehicle with loads of performance and a good driving style overall. It’s not just a good electric car, it’s a good car full stop.
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
All right, all right, I know what you’re thinking – ‘Of course there’s a big-winged 911 in this year’s top 10’, but the 911 GTS RS is simply so good I couldn’t leave it out, no matter the level of cliche. Improving on the standard GT3 is no easy task, but Porsche managed it with the GT3 through its incredible performance and sheer lunacy. It’s a bonkers car, but that’s what I wanted.
I took it for a winding adventure through south and mid-Wales and came back grinning from ear to ear. The GT3 RS is a car for the ages and an example of the true excitement you can get with a petrol engine.
Let’s get something out of the way – the Eletre isn’t a lightweight car. Pitch it in the same mould as cars such as the Elise and Exige and you’ll come up disappointed, with this two-and-a-half-tonne-plus electric SUV feeling like a far cry from the featherweight Lotus cars of old.
But how I see the Eletre is a way for Lotus to continue to build those sports cars we love. And, in classic Lotus fashion, it’s a car that feels a lot sportier than its rivals. Plus, it’s jam-packed with technology and can be specified in an eye-catching green-over-tan, which I thought looked superb.
Ferrari said it would never build an SUV and then, well, it built one. However, the Purosangue isn’t some flabby, cut-and-shut attempt to cash in on the craze for high-riding models – although its £300,000-plus price tag would make even the most Ferrari-loving driver wince – but a properly sorted sports SUV with loads of character.
It’s relatively practical, but underneath that V12 engine is what gives this car all of its personality. I was a tiny bit cynical of the Purosangue when it was first announced, but after driving it, that all ebbed away – this is a very exciting and good-to-drive car.
BMW M3 Touring
As a long-time BMW fan, the arrival of a new M3 Touring was an exciting prospect for me. BMW had always shied away from the M3 estate, despite being inundated by requests and questions from journalists. Finally, it gave way and created one of the most anticipated cars of 2022, which we finally got to drive very early on into 2023.
Fortunately, it delivered. In all areas, the M3 Touring is both exciting and practical, slightly unhinged yet ultimately usable day to day. It certainly lived up to all of our expectations.