Time was when the world drove British cars. Far from lamenting the decline of the British motor industry, we'd say that time is here again. Whether you're considering that new limousine, the world's most fashionable small hatchback or your choice of grand tourers and supercars, there's a wealth of choice among British marques. Some have a storied history going back to the dawn of the car, while others have arisen off the back of Formula One success. Here's our pick of the best British car brands.
Best British car brands
Rolls-Royce may be owned by BMW these days, but the luxury motor cars hand built at the company's Goodwood headquarters still lay claim to being the best in the world. The Spirit of Ecstasy graces the bonnet of each model, from the "affordable" Ghost through the controversial Cullinan SUV all the way up to the super-luxe Phantom. Bespoke options extend to your very own one-off coachbuilt Roller. Perfect if you're a ruling monarch or a billionaire of refined taste.
Founded by maverick engineer Colin Chapman, whose Formula One cars won multiple world championships, Norfolk-based Lotus has produced some of Britain's greatest - if sometimes fragile - sports cars. "Simplify and add lightness" was Chapman's motto, the current Elise very much in that vein. Chinese owners Geely have funded its replacement, the Emira, as well as the Eletre, a svelte battery SUV, and the extraordinary Evija, an all-electric supercar.
Really? Yes, really. Luton's finest might have produced the archetypal motorway repmobile - step forward Insignia - but they've also been responsible for the minimalist VX220 and the Lotus Carlton, a 140 mph super-saloon before there were super-saloons. Corsa and Astra are among the nation's favourites, even if they don't set pulses racing. Remember that, in actual racing, Vauxhall have won multiple touring car championships. More interesting than you'd think.
The original Defender was the four-by-four that ruled the world. The Range Rover was the first luxury SUV. Today's Land Rovers - from the boxy new Defender, through the Evoque, Discovery and Velar to the now super-luxe Range Rover - may have a natural habitat on the King's Road in Chelsea, but are still just as good up hill, down dale and fording every stream. Ownership by India's Tata Motors has largely kept production in the West Midlands. One of the greatest.
Now part of Jaguar Land Rover, the big cats of the motoring world still live up to their famous sixties slogan of "grace, pace and space". Who could forget the E-Type, such a symbol of the Swinging Sixties? Its spiritual successor, the F-Type, is a Porsche challenger, while the I-Pace is a class-leading electric SUV. F-Pace and E-Pace cater for more conventional crossover tastes, while the XE and XF are sports saloons in the great Jag tradition.
The world's most fashionable hatchback? We'd say so. BMW's reinvention of Alec Issigonis's 1959 classic was not without its detractors, but its cheeky looks, sporty handling and character-filled interiors have won over a new generation of Mini lovers. The electric Mini E is a particular new favourite, while the basic Mini hatch can be customised in as many ways as aficionados have always done with the original. Still made at Cowley in Oxfordshire, original home of Morris.
Chassis might be bonded aluminium these days and ownership by an Italian investment group, but your next Plus Four or Plus Six not only looks like it was made in the 1930s - all sweeping wings and long bonnets - but has more structural wood than H F S Morgan's originals. Still handbuilt in Malvern, Worcestershire, Morgan can lay claim to being the archetypal eccentric British sports car. Fast, too, with BMW engines. Three-wheelers available - and an electric future beckons.
Crewe proudly remains the home of the company founded by W O Bentley and which made its name winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times in the 1920s. Fast super-luxury saloons - think a drawing room on wheels and you have the idea - are what Bentley, now part of the VW Group, are great at. Order a Flying Spur for swift progress to your penthouse in Monaco, a Bentayga SUV for the Alpine lodge and a Continental GT to hurtle down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans in memory of the Bentley Boys.
One of the greats of the Formula One world - Ayrton Senna won all three of his world championships in a McLaren - is now a stellar sports car maker too – one of the best British car brands, in fact. Gordon Murray's no-compromise F1 was a limited production one-off. Now Woking's finest offer a range of carbon fibre tubbed supercars from the - relatively - everyday Artura and 720S to the outlandish Elva roadster which has everything but a windscreen. The blisteringly quick Senna is a fitting tribute to the world's greatest F1 driver.
Where would James Bond be without his? Aston Martin's DB5 remains the company's best-known thanks to 007 behind the wheel. Aston's mixture of hand-built luxury allied to supreme handling and speed has produced some of the most desirable grand tourers ever made. Today's spies - or just the average well-heeled enthusiast - can choose from the DB11 or DBS sports cars or, for the more challenging assignments, a DBX SUV, more than capable of chasing villains up mountains.