The best new cars of 2023

While, at the end of 2023, it can feel as if motoring is somewhat embattled — caught between rising prices and interest rates on the one hand, and the growing climate crisis on the other — this year has nonetheless seen a bumper crop of truly exciting cars arrive in Ireland. With the last few days of the calendar ticking down to 2024, it seems like a good time to run through the best cars of 2023…


Best overall. Hyundai Ioniq 6

True, the Ioniq 6’s styling isn’t to all tastes, and it’s being comprehensively out-sold by its somewhat more conventional-looking brother, the Ioniq 5. We have nothing against the Ioniq 5 — far from it — but here’s the thing; the ioniq 6 goes further. Much further. In fact, thanks to that wind-cheating shape — which has references to classic Porsche and even Tatra (Google it…) models in the styling — means that with the exact same battery, the Ioniq 6 can go for an extra 100km compared to the Ioniq 5. That makes it, even on an island still waiting for a truly fit-for-purpose EV charging network, spectacularly easy to use. Range anxiety? What’s that? It doesn’t hurt that the Ioniq 6 is also rigorously well-made, roomy and refined inside, and really only lacks a truly huge boot to make it perfect. It’s a bit pricey — especially compared to rivals from Tesla and BYD — but comes with the peace of mind you’d associate with Hyundai build quality. A super-star car that deserves to find far more Irish homes.

Most surprising. BYD Seal

High performance in electric cars is nothing new. Tesla has been playing drag racing games with its cars for a decade now. But it can be tricky getting repeat high performance, as batteries and motors heat up when you use them hard, and need to be given a break to cool down. BYD’s Seal, then, was a big surprise when we were allowed to try repeated high-speed 0-100km/h acceleration runs (within the safe confines of a test track, of course). With four-wheel drive, and 523hp, the Seal can theoretically hit 100km/h from rest in 3.8secs. Actually, not theoretically — it does it. And did it. Again and again and again. In fact, it was over an hour later, never stopping for a break in the meantime, that the Seal’s motors and batteries finally wilted. Then it would only get to 100km/h in 4.8secs… Add to that staggering performance, some sharp styling, a glossy interior, and for the basic rear-drive model a 550km range, and you’ve got a seriously accomplished car from the newbie Chinese brand. Oh, and did we mention it’s actually cheaper than the cheapest Tesla Model 3? Definitely one of the best cars of 2023.

Best Hybrid. Toyota Prius

When it was first launched, and to be fair for pretty much every year since, the Toyota Prius was the hair-shirt of cars. It was the car you bought when what you cared about was fuel economy and pretty much nothing else. Until about 2016, you also only managed to score that impressive fuel economy if you drove like a saint, so knife-edged was the Prius’ ability. Well, that has now changed — you can drive the new Prius pretty much any which way you like and it will still be frugal — but so much else has changed. The new Prius is — no joke — hugely stylish, with styling that wouldn’t disgrace an Italian supercar. It’s also fun to drive, and has a high-quality interior (even if it’s a bit tight on space in the back and boot). It’s a plug-in hybrid now too, allowing you to go for more than 70km on electric-only power if you keep it plugged in. Not the cheapest car around, but well worth your while.

Best SUV. Jeep Avenger

Jeep had never made a fully-electric car before. Jeep had never made a small, compact car before. And Jeep was going to do both of these things by borrowing the platform from an Opel Corsa. Somehow, it’s all come together and the Jeep Avenger is a truly cracking little car. It’s also truly little, barely any longer than that Corsa (which does impinge on rear seat space somewhat) but it still looks like a proper, chunky, appealing Jeep. For now, it’s available only in all-electric form with a useful 400km (reasonably realistic) range but there are other versions still to come. There will be an all-electric 4Xe four-wheel drive version, and even a petrol-powered hybrid model too, but the really good thing about the Avenger is that for all its compact size, its easy park-ability, and its alluring basic price, it still feels like a proper Jeep. Show it a dirt road, or some mud or wet grass, and it rises to the challenge just as it ought to.

Best family car. Renault Austral

Renault’s history of making SUVs and crossovers is not a glorious one. The less said about the original Koleos the better and even if the Captur has been a big seller, it’s hardly the most thrilling car in its class. Thankfully, the new hybrid-only Austral is cut from a better cloth. It uses a clever and complex hybrid system, based around a 1.2-litre petrol engine, that’s half-hybrid and half-range extender. It then wraps that very frugal powertrain up in a handsome body, with a spacious and hugely comfortable — and very high quality — interior. It then proves to be more engaging to drive than, say, a Nissan Qashqai and yet still perfectly practical for facing the rigours and difficulties of family life. A terrific all-rounder.

Best performance car. BMW i5 M60

To say that there’s a distinct split in the new BMW i5 electric saloon lineup is to undersell things somewhat. At one end of the range, there’s the i5 eDrive 40, which has a single, rear-drive electric motor developing a healthy 340hp, and giving you a range of up to 582km. The other electric i5 is the four-wheel drive, two-motor M60 model which — and I’m not joking — has 601hp. It’s not all that long ago that 601hp was considered a healthy output for a Formula One car, and here it is, in a comfy, luxurious, four-door executive saloon. Needless to say, the i5 M60 hits hard, very hard indeed. 100km/h comes up in just 3.8secs, but being a BMW this i5 can also dance around corners with the very best of them. This category really was a two-horse race this year, with the other contender being the petrol-powered BMW M2, but given that you can do all of the i5’s high-performance tricks with a clean environmental conscience, it takes the win.

So there you have it, the run down of the best cars of 2023. Do you think we missed any? Contact us to let us know!