The best British-made cars

Shopping for cars made in Britain rather than abroad is a simple way of reducing your impact on the environment. And with so many renowned brands manufacturing their cars here, there’s really no need to go elsewhere. We look at some of the best of the British-made cars.

Shopping for cars made in Britain rather than abroad is a simple way of reducing your impact on the environment. And with so many renowned brands manufacturing their cars here, there’s really no need to go elsewhere. We look at some of the best of the British-made cars.

Daniel Hutson
Motor insurance expert
7
minute read
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Posted 26 JANUARY 2022

Britain’s car-manufacturing industry is full of legendary historic brands, from iconic racing names like Aston Martin and McLaren, and quirky British classics like Mini and Morgan, to stylish sports cars like Jaguar and Lotus, and luxury brands like Bentley and Rolls-Royce. 

Even though many of our car companies are no longer owned by Brits, many of their cars are still manufactured in the UK, along with international companies who have a long tradition of making their vehicles here – such as Nissan and Toyota. 

So, whether you’re looking to cut down on your environmental impact, or you’re just feeling particularly patriotic, why not consider a British-made car? We look at some of the best British-made cars on the market.

Mini 

The Mini is a truly British icon of international fame, just like red buses, phone boxes and the Beefeaters outside Buckingham Palace. The Mini dates back to the late 50s, when fuel rationing was in place in Britain due to the Suez Crisis. In response, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) decided to build a small, cheap, economic city car, and so the Mini was born. 

Although no longer cheap, Minis are still zippy cars with excellent handling. The Mini has a glorious history in the world of motorsport, and the Mini Cooper model gets its name from a partnership with British racing legend John Cooper. Over the years, the Mini has become a fashion symbol – thanks to its stylish, compact design – and a cultural icon, too, particularly famous for its starring role in The Italian Job film. 

In 2000, Mini was bought by the German company BMW but they’re still manufactured in Britain, at the Mini production plant in Cowley, Oxford. The Mini Electric is the latest model. It’s as fun to drive as all the other Mini models, and features the same quirky design.

Vauxhall 

Vauxhall is Britain’s oldest car manufacturer. It has been producing cars since 1903 , including the world’s first sports car and Britain’s first 100mph car. Vauxhall pulled out of motorsport some time ago and decided instead to focus on the needs of everyday drivers. 

Although bought by French manufacturer Groupe PSA in 2017, Vauxhall has been headquartered in Luton since 1905. The Bedfordshire town is the base of its Vivaro van plant, but Vauxhall’s cars have been manufactured at its Ellesmere Port Plant in Cheshire since 1963. It continues to make popular models like the Corsa, the Astra, the new fully electric Mokka, the Combo, the Crossland and the SUV Grandland.

Aston Martin 

Aston Martin is a legendary name in classic British sports cars. It’s been on the scene for more than 100 years, and its cars have competed at the highest levels of British motorsport. It’s an internationally renowned luxury brand, famed for its elegant design and high performance. And, of course, it’s the choice of Britain’s most famous spy: the DB5 model is famed as the quintessential James Bond car. 

Aston Martin’s popular sporty models, like the DB11, the Vantage, the Rapide and the Vanquish are made in Gaydon in Warwickshire, where the company is headquartered. It’s also recently introduced a new SUV model, the DBX, which is a first for the brand, and is being made at its facility near St Athan in Wales.

Land Rover 

Britain’s answer to the Jeep, Land Rover has been building the iconic Range Rover since 1970. The UK’s long-time 4x4 specialist offers a mix of luxury and off-road capabilities, perfect for the UK’s well-heeled farmers and adventurers.

Along with its sister company Jaguar, Land Rover has been owned by Indian group Tata Motors since 2008, but it still manufactures most of its new vehicles in England. They have plants at Solihull, in the West Midlands, and Halewood, near Liverpool. Land Rover’s modern range of cars includes new versions of the classic Range Rover, the Defender 4x4 models and the Land Rover Discovery range of SUVs. It’s now producing some plug-in hybrid versions of popular models to help customers lower their carbon footprints.

Jaguar 

Jaguar was originally named the Swallow Sidecar Company, back when it was founded in 1922 in Blackpool by William Lyons and William Walmsley. It introduced its breakthrough model in 1935 – the SS Jaguar – and the car became so popular that the company renamed itself after the vehicle a decade later. Today, it’s still famous for making eye-catching, sleek and powerful sports cars. 

Jaguar has been owned by India’s Tata Motors since 2008 and in 2013 it merged with Land Rover. Its current line is manufactured at two plants in the West Midlands, at Castle Bromwich and Solihull. The F-Type is perhaps its best-known car today, but it also makes the XE and XF saloons, plus the E-Pace, F-Pace and I-Pace SUVs.

Bentley 

Bentley Motors, another famous name in the world of classic British motors, has been making cars in the UK since 1919. A permanent fixture on the motorsport roster ever since, Bentley is also synonymous with luxury and status. They’re high-end cars with high-end price tags. 

Although Bentley Motors was bought by German car giant Volkswagen in 1998, it still makes all its cars at the historic Bentley factory in Crewe, Cheshire. It’s perhaps best known for the luxurious two-door Continental GT model, but there’s also the Flying Spur, its luxury sedan range, and its popular Bentayga SUV model.

Rolls-Royce 

Like Bentley, Rolls-Royce is one of the UK’s classic luxury car brands. Henry Royce built his first car back in 1904 and teamed up with luxury car seller Charles Rolls to manufacture cars under the now prestigious name of Rolls-Royce. A couple of years later, it launched with the release of the iconic Silver Ghost. 

It may have started with classic English cars, but Rolls-Royce used its engineering expertise to develop jet engines during the First and Second World Wars, and its name is just as important in the aviation industry as it is in car manufacturing. 

Rolls-Royce has been owned by BMW since 2003, but its cars are still built at a state-of-the-art factory in Goodwood, West Sussex. It makes stylish performance models like the Phantom, Ghost and Wraith, alongside SUV models like the Cullinan and Black Badge.

Nissan 

Japanese car brand Nissan has been building cars in Washington, near Sunderland, since 1986 and is one of the biggest car manufacturers in the UK. 

In Britain, Nissan makes a range of innovative car models that look towards a more sustainable world. Its all-electric Leaf car is one of the more affordable all-electric cars on the market and its popular Qashqai model – a family hatchback styled as an SUV – is also available as a hybrid.

Toyota 

Another Japanese car manufacturer, Toyota has been making cars in the UK since 1992. Toyota has two manufacturing plants in the UK; it assembles vehicles at its Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, and it builds engines at Deeside in North Wales. Over the years, it’s built several popular models in the UK including the Carina, the Avensis, the Corolla and the Auris.

McLaren 

New Zealander Bruce McLaren founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing in 1963, a few years after coming to the UK to compete in motorsport. His aim was to develop high-performance cars alongside his career as a Grand Prix winning F1 driver. In 1964, Bruce and his small team built the first true McLaren sports car – the M1A – and they’ve been making top-end sports cars at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey, ever since. 

Obviously not a popular (or affordable) choice for the school run or daily commute, McLaren’s range of supercars includes the 540C, 570GT, 570S, 600LT, 720S and Senna GTR.

Morgan 

If you’re looking for a vintage British car, and you can afford to buy one, you can’t go wrong with a Morgan. Its factory in Malvern, Worcestershire, has been operating since 1909 . The company is still run, in part, by the Morgan family, (now in its fourth generation), although the company Investindustrial bought a majority stake in the company in 2019 to secure its long-term future building cars in Britain. 

Quintessentially British in style, demand for Morgan cars seriously outstrips supply, and if you want one, you’ll have to be prepared to wait – sometimes up to a year. It still makes its classic Plus Four car, a model that has been around since 1950, with the same iconic silhouette, but with modern technology and performance.

Lotus 

Once upon a time Lotus was a big contender with Ferrari on the racetrack. Founded by Colin Chapman in 1952, Lotus is now owned by Chinese company Geely, but is still based at Hethel in Norfolk. It makes super sports cars that only the truly rich can afford, like the Elise, Exige and Evora. It’s also recently introduced a new model– the Evija, its first 100% electric supercar – but you’ll need to be a millionaire to buy one. 

Interestingly, one of Colin Chapman’s designs, the Seven – a racing car that can be built by drivers themselves – is still produced by one of the more niche British car manufacturers, Caterham Cars.

Frequently asked questions

Which British car manufacturers make electric vehicles?

Currently: Jaguar, Land Rover, Lotus, Mini, Nissan and Vauxhall manufacture electric vehicles in the UK.

Does Honda still make cars in the UK?

Sadly, in July 2021, Honda closed its factory in Swindon, after 35 years manufacturing cars there.

Which of the famous English car brands are still owned by British companies?

Of the major, well-known car manufacturers founded in the UK, only the Morgan Motor Company and McLaren Automotive are still British-owned.

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