The best cars the CarExpert team drove in 2023

2023 is coming to a close and it’s time to start reflecting on the year that has passed.

The CarExpert editorial team have driven countless new cars during this year, ranging from small city hatchbacks to large pickups.

The following are what each member of the team deem the best car they drove during 2023.

Anthony Crawford: Honda Civic Type R

While we are all so lucky these days to have so many affordable performance cars to choose from, including the Hyundai i20 N, i30 Sedan N and hatch, GR Corolla and Yaris, and Subaru BRZ, the standout of 2023 was the Honda Civic Type R.

There are so many reasons including its more resolved design, its exemplary chassis and engineering, as well as its incomparable driver feedback it delivers on road or track. It’s utterly superb in either Championship White or even Sonic Grey Pearlescent.

I think I summed it up better in my launch review verdict:

“The Civic Type R is an attainable engineering triumph and a far greater achievement that the sum of all its incremental revisions. How they will ever better this thing, I have no idea.”

MORE: Buy a Honda Civic

Honourable mentions:

At the other end of the scale, it’s simply impossible to separate any of the cars above as they’re all winners but in slightly different ways.

The Aston Martin DB12 will go down in history as one of the greatest grand tourers ever to come out of the UK, period.

Its drop-dead gorgeous design is as much art as it is handcrafted form, while its ride and handling skills are up there with the very best supercars.

The Ferrari 296 GTB/GTS is without doubt one the best models ever to roll out of the Maranello factory.

Its V6 hybrid powertrain should in no way be considered a step back on the previous V8 turbo models, rather it’s a step up in terms of performance, ride and handling.

It’s also another stunningly beautiful car from Flavio Manzoni design team and wickedly quick whenever you give it the beans. The handling is off the charts as is the driver feedback.

The McLaren 750S makes the previously incomparable 720S somehow feel inferior. On track, at the international launch at the Estoril circuit in Portugal, every journalist got out of the car utterly speechless.

Not just for the car’s insanely fast acceleration out of a corner, or the late breaking at 280km/h down the main straightaway, or even the neurone-firing feedback from the pedals and steering wheel.

It was as much about the insane levels of science and engineering that also allows the latest McLaren to drive on age-old cobblestones with a level of subtleness equal to that of a Bentley Continental. And that’s what it can do right out of the box.

Paul Maric: BMW M3 Touring

I know it’s not exactly the most logical car in the world – neither the most attainable or purposeful, but the BMW M3 Touring.

I love that it exists in 2023 and that BMW still has its enthusiast pulse racing. Say what you will about BMW’s design strategy but it’s a car I thoroughly enjoyed for everything that it was.

MORE: Buy a BMW M3

Scott Collie: Honda Civic Type R

I’ve been lucky enough to drive some pretty special cars this year, but the Honda Civic Type R is the one that sticks out.

It’s expensive for a Honda hatchback, but the range of things it can do for the price is remarkable. Our launch review showed you could drive it every day thanks to its supple ride and practical interior, and it’ll demolish a back road like few cars this side of a Porsche 911.

On track, it offers close to the perfect blend of approachability and capability. It flatters from the second you leave pit lane, and pushing harder just reveals more and more capability.

There’s more than just a hint of Porsche GT about the way all the controls feel, which is about the highest compliment you can give a car.

MORE: Buy a Honda Civic

Jade Credentino: Hyundai Sonata

I don’t think I’ve ever sat in a car and instantly thought, “Yes, I can see myself buying one of these”.

It ticked a lot of boxes for the lifestyle I live but is big enough so that when “I get older” it can grow with me.

Although it’s a little more than what I’d like to pay for the sedan, I am still impressed by the kit and the value.

MORE: Buy a Hyundai Sonata

Jack Quick: Mazda CX-30 G20 Pure manual

It has now unfortunately been discontinued, but I grew really fond of the Mazda CX-30 with its sweet-shifting six-speed manual transmission.

We had a red Mazda CX-30 G20 Pure manual for a couple of weeks and I got to spend a fair bit of time with it. Jade also learnt to drive a manual in it.

I’ve driven plenty of cars, trucks and tractors with many different varieties of manual transmissions, but the CX-30’s manual is one of the best I’ve experienced to date.

I love how short the throw is between gears, how precise it is, as well as how stubby the actual manual shifter is. It’s also wild to me that it has engine idle stop/start, as well as an auto-hold function.

Sure you can still get a manual transmission in the MX-5 roadster, but you can’t get one in a more passenger-friendly Mazda SUV anymore in Australia.

MORE: Buy a Mazda CX-30

William Stopford: Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

I’ve driven plenty of competent, competitive electric vehicles (EVs) this year but none have stirred me quite as much as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.

The dynamics of Hyundai’s petrol N cars can already be tailored extensively to your tastes, and this electric N takes it to the next level.

Want to send 100 per cent of torque to the rear? Press a button. Make it sound like an i30 N? There’s a button for that. You want to firm up the suspension, add weight to the steering, add simulated gearshifts? Press, press and press.

You might think the idea of fake engine sounds and simulated gearshifts in an EV is absurd gimmickry. But ultimately, if I’m going to be shuffled from a petrol-powered car to an EV, I want something that will offer some level of engagement.

People who say “the best part of an EV is how quiet and smooth it is!” are missing the point of the Ioniq 5 N entirely.

MORE: Buy a Hyundai Ioniq 5

James Wong: Honda Civic Type R

I think the car that left the biggest mark on me was the new Honda Civic Type R.

The past iteration left me quite cold as while it was very capable at tearing up a B-road or a race track, it lacked the character and cohesion that I personally prefer in performance cars. This new generation hits different.

Not that I’ve driven a Porsche 911 GT3 on track – or at all – but this is what I imagine a more attainable version of that formula feels like based on the recounts from colleagues. It truly is the best driver’s car under $100,000.

Honda has been steadily getting its mojo back with its latest range of products, and nothing says it quite as well as this Type R. It’s really, really hard to fault.

Maybe one day I’ll buy one.

MORE: Buy a Honda Civic

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