Let’s be clear: this isn’t a round-up of the best cars of 2022. We’ve already compiled the most capable cars in different categories on the Motoring Research website. Rather, these are the cars that warmed our hearts and made us smile in 2022.
They did so by being zippy around town, balletic on open roads or riotous on a racetrack. From the Toyota Aygo X to the McLaren Artura, it has been an eclectic and memorable 12 months.
The Toyota GR86 is a timely reminder that you don’t need XL helpings of horsepower, downforce, traction or technology to create one of the best cars of 2022. Like the GT86 it replaces, this front-engined, rear-driven coupe feels joyous at eminently sensible speeds, with a snickety manual gearbox and wonderful steer-from-the-rear balance.
It was also strong value for money, priced at £29,995 – or a very tempting £299 a month. You will note, however, the previous sentence is in the past tense, as the full UK allocation (around 430 cars) has now sold out. The GR86 isn’t simply one of the most-wanted cars of 2022, then, it’s also a nailed-down future classic.
We said: ‘While the GT86 was famously shod with low-grip ‘Prius tyres’, the new car wears larger 18-inch wheels with more grown-up Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber. It’s harder to unstick, no question, but still very willing to go sideways, particularly if you select Track mode for the stability control. Damp roundabouts in November are laugh-out-loud fun.
‘Even without indulging your inner hoonigan, though, what shines through is a wonderful sense of fluency and throttle-balanced poise. It’s something no hot hatchback can match. For me, the GR86 is also more engaging and exciting than an MX-5, albeit without the option to lower the roof and drive al fresco.’ Tim Pitt
Porsche Cayman GT4 RS
Ever since the first ‘987’ model debuted in 2005, Porsche fans have wondered what a Cayman with the full Rennsport treatment would be like. In 2022, we got our answer. The GT4 RS uses the same 4.0-litre naturally aspirated flat-six as the 911 GT3, sending 500hp to the rear wheels via a rapid-fire PDK gearbox. To sum it up in three words: worth the wait.
We were torn between including the GT4 RS or the even-more-extreme 911 GT3 RS on this list – but everyone loves an underdog, right? Indeed, the ultimate Cayman’s ability to overshadow big-brother 911 perhaps shows why Porsche hasn’t attempted this GT3 heart transplant before. Sadly, with an electric Cayman due in 2025, nor is it likely to again.
We said: ‘Drive the GT4 RS in an appropriate manner and you can forget about listening to Radio 4. The air intakes that replace the rear side windows are located just behind your ears, and the effect is like hugging the speakers at a Motorhead gig.
‘As the revs soar, the voracious gasp of induction is overwhelmed by the bandsaw blare of six wide-open throttle bodies. The piercing top notes are pure racing car.’ Tim Pitt
Britain’s best-value new car? We reckon so. Prices for the Dacia Jogger start from £16,645 – or £240 per month on PCP finance. That’s for a well-equipped SUV with seven seats, don’t forget, not a poverty-spec supermini. As our review points out, for that kind of cash, the Dacia’s only rivals are second-hand.
There’s a straightforward, fit-for-purpose honesty about the Jogger that really appeals. Rather like an old Land Rover, it’s a car for going places and making memories, rather than to drive for its own sake. Besides, it will save you so much money, you can buy a sports car on the side.
We said: ‘While Dacias of the past used outdated Renault tech, the Jogger is based on the CMF-B platform that underpins the current Clio. Despite this, it feels pleasingly old-school to drive, with feelsome steering, a knuckly six-speed manual gearbox and plenty of body-roll in corners.
‘A kerb weight of just 1,200kg helps the Jogger feel quite lively, too. It’s certainly more fun than many modern SUVs. And when you’re seven-up and taking it steady, the long-travel suspension and sensible 16-inch wheels do a good job of soaking up bumps. For little more than £15,000, this must be on tje list of the best cars of 2022. Richard Aucock
Morgan Super 3
That balmy August afternoon will live long in my memory. Morgan has the Malvern hills right on its doorstep, and I can’t think of a better way to explore this lush and beautiful corner of England. The locals clearly agree: the Super 3 is greeted by waves, toots and smiles wherever I go.
My experience would have been different on a drizzly day in November, of course, but nobody pretends a Super 3 should be your daily-driver. No, this is a car (or should that be trike?) for special occasions and gung-ho road-trips, a basic and entirely analogue antidote to modern motoring. And when you park up for lunch at a country pub, everybody wants to talk about it.
We said: ‘If the 3-Wheeler looks a bit steampunk, the Super 3 leaps forward several decades into the jet age. Its insectoid face is framed around a single aluminium casting, which supports the pull-rod suspension and 20-inch disc wheels.
‘The dashboard channels the spirit of NASA mission control circa. 1969, but with joysticks and digital dials that riff on 1980s arcade games. It’s a fantastic piece of design.’ Tim Pitt
Volkswagen Multivan eHybrid
Parenthood changes lives, and changes your outlook on cars. That’s why I have picked a hybrid-powered MPV as one of my favourite cars of 2022. With its sliding doors, endless seating options and clever storage solutions, the Multivan feels like the answer to any domestic challenge. The eHybrid’s 218hp powertrain is also smooth and economical, never being overwhelmed by the Volkswagen’s size.
The Multivan is a sizable reminder of why MPVs make so much sense for family life. It’s just a shame that we have allowed the (largely imaginary) lifestyles created by marketing departments to convince us that SUVs are what we want. In reality, we just need sliding doors and movable seats.
We said: ‘The Multivan’s exterior size translates into a cabin that’s as vast as it is practical. Buyers can have six or seven seats, with rails that allow the rear chairs to slide forwards and backwards. All individual seats can be heated and come with Isofix attachments for maximum child-carrying capacity.
‘Look beyond the infotainment system and the price, though, and the Volkswagen Multivan is a brilliant reminder of why MPVs make so much sense. SUVs might be more fashionable, but the sliding doors of the Multivan are portals to a world of endless practicality.’ John Redfern
The EQS currently holds the record for the longest range of any EV: a whopping 453 miles, thanks to its huge 107.8kWh battery. That’s an achievement in itself, but it’s this sleek saloon’s convincing interpretation of an electric S-Class that really impresses. Until the Rolls-Royce Spectre arrives in late 2023, this is the most luxurious EV you can buy.
A standout feature is the full-width Hyperscreen dashboard (actually three giant screens joined together). It’s a must-have option when you spend upwards of £105,610 on an EQS. Confusingly, ‘EQS’ is also the name of Mercedes-Benz’s flagship SUV – an electric version of the GL-Class.
We said: ‘Electric power certainly suits a luxury vehicle, though; smooth, near-silent running and instant torque are exactly what you need for effortless progress.
‘The EQS also proves less stressful in city driving than many of its contemporaries, with amazing surround-view cameras for parking, plus optional rear-wheel steering that swivels up to 10 degrees for a 10.9-metre turning circle – smaller than a Ford Fiesta.’ Tim Pitt
Toyota Aygo X
Even city cars must look like SUVs these days, apparently – but the raised ground clearance and rugged bumpers of the Aygo X equip it well for urban life. A peppy 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and a turning circle similar to a London black cab also aid its cause.
Toyota hasn’t tried being too clever, though. Adding hybrid technology – or indeed an electric drivetrain – to the Aygo X would have ramped up costs. As things stand, prices start from £15,655. That’s not bad for a boxfresh car with a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty (provided you have it serviced every year at a Toyota dealer).
We said: ‘You can get it with a huge canvas roof, which I’d opened before I even left the underground car park. It helped me hear the cheery throb from the little 1.0-litre non-turbo engine (note: if this was an electric car, it would cost £10,000 more) and, as I emerged blinking into daylight, gave me a passable sense of being in a convertible.
‘The first part of my drive was through Barcelona and up into the 1992 Olympic Village. The Aygo X was in its element. For a modern car, it rides bumps beautifully. We’re now too used to big steamroller wheels smashing horribly into potholes and everything feeling shuddery and ill at ease, even on seemingly flat and even roads.’ Richard Aucock
The Artura kicks off a new era for McLaren Automotive. The familiar twin-turbo V8 has been ditched for a wide-angle V6 with plug-in hybrid tech, and everything from the carbon fibre tub to the touchscreen infotainment is all-new. With that in mind, it’s no wonder the car had a few delays and teething troubles .
McLaren is one of a tiny minority to persist with hydraulic power steering – rather than a fuel-saving electric system – and the clarity of feedback it provides is endlessly gratifying. Sitting low and outstretched, you sense the Artura’s lightness, the heat-haze from its ‘powertrain chimney’ filling your mirrors. It feels special in the way only supercars can.
We said: ‘Climbing into the mountains, the interplay between petrol and electric power works seamlessly, while the dual-clutch gearbox is intuitive and brutally quick. The Artura feels caffeinated and almost precognitively alert, swatting away local Seats with nonchalant disdain.
‘The V6 sounds more cultured than McLaren’s venerable old V8, too, its tone hardening to feral snarl as you near the 8,500rpm redline.’ Tim Pitt
The Alpine A110 was launched back in 2017, but Richard drove one for the first time earlier this year – then wished he hadn’t waited so long. Fleet-footed and fast enough to be fun, the A110 is a distillation of everything we love about driving. Like the Lotus Elise two decades earlier, it’s a sports car with everything you need and nothing you don’t. Although a bit more luggage space would be nice.
A kerb weight of around 1,100kg (a new Lotus Emira is 300kg heavier) is the key number here. You sense the Alpine’s lightness through its deft damping, delicate steering and supple body control. It makes most sports cars feel a bit leaden. The forthcoming, track-focused A110 R promises to be very special indeed.
We said: ‘Its four-cylinder engine – shared with the Renault Megane RS – isn’t musical, but it revs with gleeful abandon. Press the big red Sport button and the dual-clutch ’box blams through ratios without pausing for breath, while the slender aluminium paddles feel supercar-special.
‘It could probably keep pace with supercars on most roads, too. The ‘S’ feels tauter and more tied-down than the standard car, attacking corners with neutral balance and unwavering focus.’ Richard Aucock
Think all electric cars are expensive? The MG4 EV is here to make you think again. Prices, remarkably, start from just £25,995 – and that’s for a family-sized five-door hatchback that shows the decidedly lukewarm Volkswagen ID.3 a thing or two. The standard car has a 218-mile range, or you can pay £28,495 and upgrade to one with a 281-mile range. The £37,000 ID.3 can only manage 265 miles.
The new MG4 EV looks great, has a well-equipped interior and genuinely drives really well. There are niggles: rear-seat and boot space could be better, it’s a little noisy by EV standards at speed, and the smartphone holder on the centre console is terrible at actually holding smartphones. Overall, though, this is a cracking electric car that we guarantee will feature prominently in 2023’s best-sellers chart.
We said: ‘The MG4 EV is proof of just how far this fast-growing brand has come in a few short years. A pure electric range of cars, it is MG’s first entrant into the compact family hatchback sector in a long time, and offers a stern challenge to the Volkswagen ID.3. This is a car that value-seeking new car buyers definitely need to have on their radar.
‘The MG brand might not be fully on your radar yet, but the MG4 EV merits a closer look regardless. You might be surprised at just how appealing it is.’ Richard Aucock
Ferrari 296 GTS
Ferrari’s ‘junior’ supercar has vaulted upmarket, with more power (a frenzied 830hp) and a higher price tag (£278,893) than its rivals from McLaren and Lamborghini. Yet the 296 GTS is so sophisticated and crushingly capable, it doesn’t seem to have overreached. If anything, it makes the company’s own SF90 Spider (a hefty £418,233) look a bit redundant.
A plug-in hybrid system is key to the Ferrari’s breadth of ability, offering everything from silent and emissions-free EV progress to maximum-attack track driving. We also love how the 296 looks, with kicked-up hips redolent of the classic 250 LM.
We said: ‘I switch to Hybrid mode and the wide-angle 120-degree V6 wakes up with a brusque bark. Ferrari engineers call it the piccolino V12 (little V12) and I’m about to discover why.
‘Heading into the hills, I select maximum-attack Qualify mode. Now all 830 horses are unleashed, with the force of a controlled explosion. Throttle response – boosted by ‘torque fill’ from the battery – and the gear shifts via the long carbon fibre paddles are both savagely sharp, the 296 GTS piling on speed with manic intensity.’ Tim Pitt
Paul Stephens 993R
There is no shortage of 911 restomods, but the 993R from Essex-based Paul Stephens is one of the most interesting. Firstly, it’s based on a 993 – the last iteration of air-cooled Porsche 911 – rather than the usual 964. Secondly, it takes inspiration from the subsequent water-cooled GT3 models, emulating their pared-back focus on performance and driving dynamics.
With 330hp and a kerb weight of just 1,220kg, the 993R is plenty fast enough for road use, and its narrow ‘Carrera 2’ body feels tailor-made for English country lanes. Quality is superb and each car is entirely bespoke. Paul Stephens has plenty of experience in this game, too – he’s been building modified 911s since long before Singer existed.
We said: ‘Push harder and the reborn 993 struts its stuff with athletic poise and joyful exuberance. Turn-in is immediate and the whole car feels light on its feet, your angle of attack controlled by the throttle as much as by turning the wheel.
‘It’s the classic 911 experience, but rebooted for 2022 in high-definition. If a GT3 – or even a Singer – seems too obvious, this might just be your perfect Porsche.’ Tim Pitt
Twisted Land Rover Defender EV
Likewise, many companies produce modified versions of the original Land Rover Defender, but Twisted Automotive is a little different. The North Yorkshire firm has poured its expertise into creating an electric Defender with all the charm that keeps owners fiercely loyal to their Land Rovers.
Ditching the Defender’s diesel engine for an electric drivetrain does nothing to diminish its ability. Venturing off-road is no problem, with four-wheel drive, high- and low-range gearing, and a locking centre differential. It can even wade through water up to 900mm deep. It may cost £270,000, but the level of engineering within the Defender EV justifies its high price tag.
We said: ‘The differences become apparent as soon as you pull away, with instant torque delivering effortless acceleration. The Land Rover powers on relentlessly, with only its house-brick aerodynamics holding it back at high speeds. With silence from the electric drivetrain, wind noise is the main reminder of how fast you are going.
‘Twisted’s tagline is “The best made better”, and this battery-powered Land Rover exemplifies that. No shortcuts were taken in creating the best vehicle possible. The end result is a bespoke electric Land Rover that retains the character of the original Defender – and the soul that made it an icon.’ John Redfern
Renault seems to have rediscovered its mojo. The new Megane E-Tech has been well received, while the classic 4 and 5 are both making an EV comeback. The Austral doesn’t tug at the heart strings like Renault’s ‘reimagined’ icons, but it certainly has more va-va-voom than the ditchwater-dull Kadjar it replaces. It’s also moved upmarket – particularly in semi-sporty Esprit Alpine trim.
A roomy, five-seat family SUV, the Austral is powered by an efficient 200hp 1.2-litre petrol engine with hybrid tech. Official figures of 65.6mpg and 104g/km look very impressive, aided by plenty of engine-off electric running. Renault’s new Google-based media system is fast and intuitive, too.
We said: ‘The Renault Austral’s 4Control four-wheel steering is a smart option. It brilliantly reduces the turning circle at slow speeds – you can really sense it steering the rear end round, for a level of manoeuvrability unheard of in cars of this size.
‘It also works well at higher speeds. In normal mode, you don’t really sense it working – until you turn more sharply into a corner, and feel the rear end tucking in and helping you round. Press the drive mode button on the steering wheel to select Sport and it becomes much more dynamic – almost like a form of old-school passive rear-wheel steer. It’s a lot of fun, creating hot hatch-style interaction in a family SUV.’ Richard Aucock
Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo
The Taycan already looked like something from a sci-fi movie, and the Sport Turismo (Porsche-speak for ‘estate’) is even cooler still. Not many cars could rock Frozen Berry pink paint with such aplomb.
Perhaps the Taycan’s greatest achievement is that, despite weighing north of two tonnes, it still feels like a Porsche. Excluding a handful of hypercars, no EV is so focused or rewarding to drive. The fact that your family will fit inside, plus sufficient luggage for a week away, is the icing on the gateau (Black Forest, naturally).
We said: ‘After a brief blast in the second-rung Taycan 4S, I grab the keys for the entry-level RWD. It offers a relatively modest 280hp with the optional Performance Battery Plus (fitted here), but a fully-charged range of 306 miles is what counts now. The late afternoon light is fading and we have a plane to catch.
‘What follows is the most exciting drive of the day, and in the slowest car. With only two driven wheels, I sense the transition between grip and slip, the frozen surface demanding constant concentration.’ Tim Pitt
Including the Mazda MX-5 seems almost to be a journalistic cliche, but it’s worth reminding ourselves just how good this diminutive sports car is. With electrification now inevitable, and technology placing barriers between driver and machine, a simple roadster is a wonderful thing in 2022.
Lowering the roof on the MX-5 emphasises the sensation of speed, and lets in the sights and sounds you’d miss if cocooned in a ‘normal’ car. Add a high-revving engine and direct handling to the equation, and driving the MX-5 becomes a truly addictive experience. That MX-5 prices start from less than £26,000 seems an absolute bargain.
We said: ‘An engine that revs beyond 7,000rpm is a treat in 2022, and the MX-5 demands you work the gearbox to make the most of it. Doing so is hardly a hardship, though, with the six-speed manual delivering a short throw and a wonderfully mechanical action. It is a world away from the turbocharged engines and dual-clutch transmissions of many modern cars, let alone anything electric.
‘It is easy to lapse into hyperbole about this little Mazda, but in truth it really is that good. Enthusiasts often joke about the MX-5 being the answer to every automotive question. The latest model is still the default choice for those who want pure motoring enjoyment. Buy one while you still can.’ John Redfern
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research