The rate at which Chinese cars are improving is unprecedented. Twenty-five years ago, China was knocking out models like the Lubao CA6410 – essentially the front end of an Austin Montego, mated with the rear end of an Austin Maestro, with a Toyota engine thrown in up top for good measure.
They tend to be among the cheapest and most reliable cars on the market, while the latest EVs from China also top the charts of the most efficient electric cars too.
And don’t think it’s all price-driven pragmatism either. They’re catching up with European, Japanese and Korean efforts in terms of interior quality and driving fun too.
Below you’ll find our favourite cars from Chinese companies that are either currently on sale or coming soon to UK roads.
The best Chinese cars
The car that really changed things for MG. The 4 truly shuffled SAIC’s brand from builders of cheap-but-boring transportation devices with long warranties and tempting finance offers to a car manufacturer of note (again).
The MG 4 is a car that doesn’t need a qualifier or explanation, it’s just brilliant on its own. Key to this experience is the way it drives. It flows well, with strong, reassuring brakes and a RWD platform that provides a bit of fun when poked.
The interior is sensible and well laid out too. The heating controls are easier to use than in the Volkswagen ID 3, and the electric range pegs it as one of the most efficient electric cars on the market, even in our real-world testing.
It’s even available as a dual-motor all-wheel-drive hot hatch called the MG 4 XPower. Despite the added traction and power, it’s not quite as fun as the regular car. But there are very few other options out there that offer 429bhp for under £40,000.
China’s answer to the Tesla Model 3 is from a company that quietly expanded into Europe in 2021, with plans to enter the UK in the near future.
The P7 borrows heavily from the Palo Alto playbook. So it’s a saloon with rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive variants, and comes with different battery sizes and power options. Top banana is the Performance version with 466bhp and a range of 358 miles.
It’s not just about the numbers, though. The steering has fluency that some newer car brands lack and the hammer of electric torque makes for easy progress.
Interior space - especially in the rear - is more than ample and the infotainment’s software is up there with the best in the business.
There aren’t many electric estates around. Sure, Porsche will sell you a Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo, but they’re knocking on for six figures and the firm would prefer it if you didn’t call it an estate anyway.
So the MG 5 sits in a class of its own, for now. And it certainly fits the bill for sensible, practical and no-nonsense motoring thanks to a 479-litre boot and an official 249-mile range in Long Range spec.
It constantly finds itself in and out of the best-selling car charts and you’ll struggle to walk around central London without seeing an Uber driver making use of its efficiency and value for money.
BYD Atto 3
Your parents might not have heard of BYD (Build Your Dreams). But anyone au fait with the internet probably has.
The company tops the charts for innovation and sales, but it has only recently entered the UK.
The Atto 3 is the firm’s first car over here. Social media users were dazzled by its infotainment, which switches from portrait to landscape at the awkward prod of a touchscreen, as well as its guitar string speakers, which, to be frank, didn’t work very well.
Look beyond the gimmicks and you’ll find a spacious, well-thought-out electric SUV. It will easily cover 200 miles in the real world, and its four-year/74,500-mile warranty and separate eight-year/124,000-mile battery warranty is reassuring.
Another brand you might not have heard of. But Aiways has come on leaps and bounds since starting out in 2017.
The company prides itself on its ‘clean sheet’ approach to car making and, we have to admit, it is refreshingly simple.
For instance, it doesn’t come with an in-built sat-nav. It offers phone mirroring instead, because of course your smartphone has the best software built in.
To drive, it is relaxing, if a little unremarkable. Its softly sprung suspension deals with road imperfections well, but its 201bhp isn’t going to get Tesla fans out of their Model Ys.
BYD is hoping its second car in the UK will make a big splash (sorry) in the electric hatchback market.
In terms of size, it sits between the Vauxhall Corsa Electric and Volkswagen ID 3, but it’s usefully cheaper than both.
Entry-level Active cars make do with 94bhp but they should eke out 211 miles (officially) from the little battery. Mid-spec Boost cars get a bump in power to 174bhp while Comfort and Design models get 201bhp and a 60.4kWh battery, giving an official range of up to 265 miles. In other words, there’s almost something for everyone.
The Dolphin shares a lot of mechanical bits with the Atto 3, and predictably the pair are quite similar to drive. So it’s comfortable but won’t set your socks on fire.
Ora Funky Cat
You may have seen a few adverts for these unusually named cars floating around. None of which explains that the Ora Funky Cat is made by Great Wall Motors, a company already trading in the UK.
That’s right, the builder of the Great Wall Steed pick-up truck has gone all mainstream and is offering an electric supermini.
The Ora Funky Cat is designed to take on the likes of the Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Corsa Electric, comes with a tiddly (but cheap-to-charge) 48kWh battery and should do 150 miles between the plugs, even in real-world conditions.
Truth be told, it isn’t quite as well thought out as either the Fiat or the Vauxhall, but it does offer more room for less cash.