Car reviews: six of the best new cars to drive away this spring

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Best new cars for spring Polestar 2

Top Gear motoring expert Paul Horrell selects his essential six new cars, ranging from hatchbacks to luxury saloons

At some point in the not-too-distant future, we'll be free to start taking road trips again – and wouldn't it be nice to do it in a new car?

There are some very impressive new motors hitting showrooms about now, ready to take you on your road-based adventures, hopefully in the next few months. To help you choose what's best for you, Top Gear motoring expert Paul Horrell gives us his recommendations in various categories... 

Note that Boundless members can get special discounts on new cars through our partner Griffin and also cheaper car insurance through another Boundless partner, LV=.

1. Best new electric small crossover: Mazda MX-30

From £25,545

Best new cars for spring Mazda MX-30 front

Mazda crossovers are usually CX-something. This electric one is MX… as in MX-5. Hmmm. Even among electric crossovers, never mind petrol sports cars, it’s not huge fun to drive. The steering is slightly rubbery and the performance a bit pedestrian. Fair exchange: you get beautifully cushioned comfort. Maybe MX implies style. Ah yes. You’ve got a proud bonnet, clap-hands doors like the RX-8 coupe, and a tapered rear. Inside, actual cork surfaces and recycled materials keep it modern, and the controls are easily fathomed. It feels a bit dark in the back, but the boot’s generous. 

Less so, however, is the electric range. You’ll see about 110 miles. The small battery avoids causing unnecessary amounts of lithium to be mined, but you’ll need to make sure this will suit your use pattern first.

The car we tested:

First Edition (£27,495 after grant)

Engine: Electric motor, FWD, single-speed

Power & torque: 145hp, 271Nm

0–62mph: 9.7 seconds

Top speed: 87mph

Range*: 124 miles 

CO₂: 0g/km 

2. Best new mid-size hatchback: Citroën C4 

From £20,990

Best new cars for spring Citroen C4

Like its ancestors, the C4 goes big on comfort. That, and indeed the distinctive fastback body with angular lights, reminds me of the Citroën GS my parents drove when I was a kid. The soft seats envelop and support you like you’re sitting in your living room, and the suspension gently shrugs when presented with even the rudest road shocks. Despite those soft springs, it’s decently controlled both for cornering and motorway stability. 

Unlike those old Citroëns, it’s quiet too – I tested both the gently humming 1.2-litre petrol and the silent, smooth electric. The petrol can be had with an automatic but it’s a rather indecisive set-up; I’d save £1,400 and stick to the manual. The electric one does 217 miles on the official WLTP* test.

The car we tested:

PureTech 130 Shine EAT8 (£25,390) 

Engine: 1199cc 3cyl petrol, FWD, 8-speed auto 

Power & torque: 129hp, 230Nm 

0–62mph: 9.4 seconds 

Top speed: 130mph 

Fuel economy*: 44.7-50.3mpg 

CO₂*: 141g/km 

3. Best electric luxury hatch: Polestar 2 

From £46,900

Best new cars for spring Polestar 2 black

Polestar is a brand spun out of Volvo. In many ways the cars are reminiscent, with a calm modernity about their design inside and out, and a focus on safety and ecological manufacture and running. The Polestar 2 is a mid-size all-electric hatchback, a natural competitor to the Tesla Model 3. Like the Tesla it’s got almost absurd levels of performance. Cornering matches the power with unshakable grip. Yet slow down and you realise it smooths out the road and there’s little tyre roar – which matters in electric vehicles, where there’s no engine noise either. 

It pioneers a connected screen system based on Android. At the moment the graphics and menus are a little crude but, as is the way, updates will come thick and fast, delivered over the internet while you sleep.

The car we tested:

Polestar 2 (£46,900 after grant)

Engine: Electric motors, AWD, single-speed 

Power & torque: 408hp, 660Nm 

0–62mph: 4.7 seconds 

Top speed: 127mph 

Range*: 292 miles 

CO₂: 0g/km 

4. Best mid-size estate: Renault Megane Sport Tourer 

From £22,995

Best new cars for spring Renault Megane

The Megane, after a light facelift, is still a comely alternative to Golfs and the like, with a distinctive comfort in its ride. But not compelling. Though one version is a stand-out: the E-Tech, a plug-in hybrid. Most rivals are an electrical add-on to an existing engine, transmission and brakes. Renault went back to basics, designing the entire set-up around hybrid. So it’s still economical once the battery is depleted. It’s also quiet, even when the engine’s running. 

Pressing the mode button to use electric in town and the engine for faster roads netted me an average 90mpg for a 60-mile route. After three hours on the home charger (Renault throws it in free), the car would be ready to do it again. Or, immediately, a long trip on petrol.

The car we tested:

RS Line E-Tech (£32,995)

Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl plus electric motor, FWD, automatic 

Power: 160hp (combined petrol/electric) 

0–62mph: 9.8 seconds 

Top speed: 111mph

Fuel economy*: 217.3mpg

Electric-only range: 30mph

CO₂*: 30g/km 

5. Best electric luxury crossover: BMW iX3 

From £58,850

Best new cars for spring BMW iX3

BMW makes the X3 as petrol, diesel, PHEV and now this: a full-electric version. It’s almost exactly the same inside and out as the others, which means BMW’s usual quality and ease of use. The X3 is actually BMW’s most popular model worldwide. A handy overall size and useful boot help. The well-damped ride at all speeds, and accurate sure-footed cornering, are hallmarks of the drive. As you’d expect. Also the near-silence. 

For a BMW the performance is maybe unexpectedly modest: the near-vicious kick you get from some big EVs is absent. It’s also RWD-only, so not a snowy weather star. By pinning back performance to what’s sufficient but not overabundant, BMW has managed to get good efficiency. That brings long range out of a battery that can be charged in a short time.

The car we tested: 

Premier Edition (£58,850)

Engine: Electric motor, RWD, single-speed 

Power & torque: 286hp, 400Nm 

0–62mph: 6.8 seconds 

Top speed: 112mph 

Range*: 279 miles 

CO₂: 0g/km 

Price: £58,850

6. Best fuel-cell luxury saloon: Toyota Mirai

From approx £53,000

Best new cars for spring Toyota Mirai

Fuel-cell cars run on hydrogen and emit only water. But, at the moment, that fuel in the UK is hard to find, as expensive per mile as petrol and not very green. In some other countries it’s widespread, cheap and renewable. When that happens here, the new Mirai would be a really fine car. It’s a big luxurious saloon, with a well-furnished cabin. Power is modest, but delivered in that exact and immediate fashion common to all cars where the motor directly drives the wheels. 

The suspension is set up to capitalise; the ride is terrifically cushioning, yet the cornering isn’t mushy. For long distance drivers the killer feature is that it refuels in 10 minutes every 350-odd miles. Big battery-electric cars can’t go that far, take longer to recharge, and cost more.

The car we tested:

Mirai (approx £53,000)

Engine: Electric motor, RWD, single-speed 

Power & torque: 182hp, 300Nm 

0–62mph: 9.2 seconds 

Top speed: 109mph 

Range*: Approx 400 miles (NEDC) 

CO₂: 0g/km 

Lockdown and car sales

In the first national lockdown it was all but impossible to buy a new car, as dealers were shut. But gradually they learned how to sell cars online and ensure safe click-and-collect or home handovers, plus servicing, parts and MOTs. So in the latest lockdown, car sales continued – but were still suppressed. To keep things moving, manufacturers are offering handsome deals in all sorts of ways. Low-interest finance is to be expected, but they’re also adding a combination of discounts or deposit contributions (same thing), three-month repayment holidays and servicing offers. Bargain hard. 

Camper boom

If you’re in the market for a camping upgrade, why not join the thousands of Brits who, faced with long-term working from home, have splashed out and boosted campervan and motorhome sales in the last year? Parked on the drive, plugged into the mains and in range of home WiFi, a camper’s table is a very reasonable WFH desk... 

*Measurememts are WLTP unless otherwise noted. For further details, click here.

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