The best German cars

German brands are known for making high-end luxury cars to high performance models and more affordable hatchbacks. Here are the best

Sam Naylor
Oct 21, 2020

Fancy an upmarket hatchback, a plush SUV or a desirable sports car? Chances are that a good number of your best options are going to be German. The German car industry routinely grabs headlines around the world, and there plenty of good reasons for that. German car brands have become some of the biggest and most recognisable in the world; look down your street and you can pretty much guarantee that there’s at least one German car there.

That’s because you can get a German car to suit virtually any situation. From the back-to-basics Volkswagen Up city car to the luxurious Mercedes S-Class limo, whatever type of car you're looking for, there's bound to be a few German options - typically of extremely high quality. German cars are traditionally known for their solidity and ability to keep going, decade after decade, but in more recent years it's their desirability which has made them even more popular.

Another reason the German car industry is so successful is its huge range of upmarket car brands. Audi (which is part of the same company as Volkswagen), BMW and Mercedes are the trio of car makers that we think of as being more desirable than Ford, Peugeot or Hyundai, for instance, and that means they can charge more for their products.

However, with a vast majority of drivers paying with PCP finance - where the car's predicted value at the end of the contract is just as important in determing your monthly payments as the initial cash price - German cars, whether new or used, can often cost less per month than less desirable cars that may have lower initial prices but lose value quicker.

German cars typically have sharp looks, a modern-looking interior and excellent build quality. Some brands focus on different areas more than others, so you’ll find some German brands build cars that are fun to drive, while others are more comfort oriented, for example.

In our list of the best German cars you’ll find anything and everything. We’ve included SUVs, hatchbacks and sports cars, among others, so you’re sure to find something you love.

German cars

1. Mercedes A-Class

Best German car for affordable luxury

Our pick Mercedes A200 Sport 5dr Auto (2019)
Used deals from £19,750
Monthly finance from £276

The most recent version of the Mercedes A-Class is a great choice if you’re looking for a car with an upmarket interior packed with the latest technology, that doesn’t come with a huge price tag. There are plenty of models available to choose from, so you’re spoiled for choice - we picked out a 2019 car with less than 10,000 miles for around £280 per month on PCP finance.

That looks pretty affordable considering what you get for the money. The A200 model’s 1.3-litre petrol engine may be small, but it offers plenty of power and the automatic gearbox is smooth and the ride comfortable.

The real selling point of the A-Class is the interior, though, and especially the media system and its slick voice controls. The A-Class features everything you could want, including sat-nav, smartphone connectivity and digital dials. There’s even a mode that uses a camera and augmented reality to point out exactly which turn to take next if you have the right option pack on the car.

MERCEDES A-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

2. BMW i3

Best German car for zero-emission commuting

Our pick BMW i3 125kW 5dr Auto
Used deals from £12,690
Monthly finance from £234

The BMW i3 was a revelation when it launched in 2013. A totally bespoke electric car using carbon fibre - to reduce weight and increase how far the car could travel per charge - recycled materials in the cabin and one that drove like nothing else around. That it was faster from 0-30mph than the high-performance BMW M3 at the time was the icing on the cake - it was brilliant.

Even better, it’s still one of the best electric cars you can buy. BMW was so far ahead of the game that other companies are still catching up today. Get yourself into a 2016 model with low miles - which have lost a large proportion of its original value, but still feel fresh - and you can enjoy all of those great aspects of the i3 at a very good price.

A ‘Range Extender’ (Rex) version was available until recently and this model was popular, so you’ll see them about. They get a small petrol engine that can charge the batteries if they run out of charge, giving you a bit more leeway should a public charger you're relying on be out of order or unavailable, as you can just fill up with petrol and go.

The tiny fuel tank means it’s not great on long trips, though, so we’d save the money and choose the basic version. As it's lighter, it's more efficient and faster than the Range Extender version, too. An electric car needs to suit your lifestyle anyway, so you might as well do away with petrol altogether.

BMW i3 BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Volkswagen Up

Best German car for young drivers

Our pick Volkswagen Up 1.0 Take Up 5Dr (2015)
Used deals Limited stock

The Volkswagen Up looks like a typical small hatchback, and in many ways it is. But don’t overlook it, as we think the humble city car is one of the best German cars of the past decade. It might not look it, but the Up drives just as well as cars several times larger, brilliantly combining a comfortable ride and fun handling.

The Up manages to do all this - along with having an ultra-economical 1.0-litre engine, a slick gearshift and way more space inside than you’d expect - despite being the cheapest car here. That’s why we think it’s so great: you can drive one for less than £100 per month, yet it does everything you need from a small car.

We’d go for a five-door model as it’s more practical, but the year doesn’t matter too much. All versions of the Up have the same basic traits - and later models actually did away with the mini sat-nav you got with the older ones. That’s why we’d pick a 2015 model, especially as you can benefit from a cheaper price, too.

VOLKSWAGEN UP BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Audi TT

Best German car for showing off

Our pick Audi TT 2.0 TFSI S Line 2dr (2018)
Used deals from £11,199
Monthly finance from £207

The launch of the original Audi TT was a big moment for the German brand, as it looked unlike anything that had come before. The latest version of the Audi TT isn’t such a revolution but it’s still a fantastic choice for those looking for a bit of style who don’t want to sacrifice technology or comfort.

The Audi TT’s interior is a real highlight, with a fantastic minimalist screen-free dashboard and high build quality. Don’t worry about missing out on a media system, though, as it’s all contained in a clever digital dial set-up in front of the driver. You can display everything from radio to sat-nav info right in between the speedometer and rev counter.

We’ve picked out a 2018 2.0-litre petrol model, which looks good value because it delivers strong performance for around £280 per month, but there’s no shame in picking the less powerful 1.8-litre model or even the diesel if fuel economy is a concern. These are still very desirable machines.

AUDI TT BUYERS' GUIDE

5. BMW 5 Series

Best German car for comfort

Our pick BMW 520d SE auto (2020)
Used deals from £14,298
Monthly finance from £230

The large BMW 5 Series won’t work for everyone, but if you’ve got space for one on your driveway, it’s bound to be an excellent choice. That’s because it’s a true all-rounder, with few faults and so many great aspects.

Even the base model 520d SE is a superb choice, especially as you can get one that’s nearly new for around £400 per month. It’s one of the most comfortable cars on the road thanks to plush seats and supple suspension, yet it’s also excellent to drive. The 2.0-litre diesel engine is frugal yet also punchy and fun to use.

The 5 Series is good in just about every other area, too: it’s practical thanks to a big boot and loads of passenger space, standard equipment is extensive, the media system is as good as they get and the car looks sharp, too.

BMW 5 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Mercedes S-Class

Best German car for luxury

Our pick Mercedes S350d L AMG Line Premium (2017)
Used deals from £23,980
Monthly finance from £356

If you need something small and easy to park, the Mercedes S-Class isn’t for you, as it’s a rather large saloon car that won’t easily fit down many of Britain’s tight country lanes. However, if you’re buying a car to do a lot of motorway miles - perhaps you’re giving up flying and are going to drive to Europe from now on - the S-Class is unmatched.

The biggest reason for this is how comfortable it is. The suspension is set up perfectly for this - it can make a really bumpy road feel like brand new tarmac. Few cars can match how well the S-Class rides, and the smooth six-cylinder diesel in the S350d model is ultra-quiet as well.

The S-Class is packed with technology, is really luxurious inside and has plenty of performance, too. Be aware that the S-Class loses value quickly from new, though. This means you can buy a 2017 car for the price of a family hatchback - saving you tens of thousands compared with a new model, but the value will keep dropping for a while, so do expect to get another chunk less back when you come to sell whether thats in a year or two or a decade down the line. Either way, it's still a bargain for the amount of comfort on tap.

MERCEDES S-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Porsche Macan

Best German car for practicality

Our pick Porsche Macan S Diesel PDK (2016)
Used deals from £30,100
Monthly finance from £414

German car makers all have a wide variety of SUVs in their line-ups, and you can’t go too far wrong with any of them. The best of the bunch, however, is the Porsche Macan. It’s smaller than the supersized Cayenne, but is nearly as practical, while also being better value.

The reason the Macan is our pick as the best German SUV is that it manages to be good to drive as well as being excellent for families. Many SUVs feel heavy and lead-footed, but the Macan is agile and fun to drive, while also being comfortable, even on rough roads.

Few people ever actually use their SUVs to go off-road, so on-road handling and comfort matters a lot. We’d go for the diesel version as it will be cheaper to run than the thirsty petrol models, and it’s still more than fast enough.

PORSCHE MACAN BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volkswagen Golf

Best German car for general use

Our pick Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI EVO Match (2019)
Used deals from £16,990
Monthly finance from £230

We couldn’t reconmmend a list of German cars without including the Volkswagen Golf, could we? It’s an icon of not just the German car industry, but globally too, and there's a good reason for that, as it really is the car of the people. There’s a model in the range to suit nearly all tastes, and it’s affordable and good at all the most important tasks you ask of a car.

The basic Golf - we reckon a 1.5-litre petrol in Match trim is really good value - is great for those who just want a practical, comfortable family car with up-to-date tech like smartphone connectivity. It’s good to drive, frugal and has lots of room inside.

But then there’s the Estate version for those needing more room, the GTI model for those who love driving, the e-Golf for electric car fans, the Bluemotion diesel for those with long motorway commutes and the GTE model for people looking to dip their toes in the electric vehicle waters with a plug-in hybrid.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF BUYERS' GUIDE

 

Read more about:

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Best cars for golfers

  2. Best cars for executives

  3. Best cars for cyclists

What our customers say