Tesla Roadster second generation
Beth Twigg

Beth Twigg

Beth is a Digital Copywriter in the Carparison marketing team, tasked with creating great articles to keep you both entertained and informed. She has two years previous experience, but has been writing and scribbling for much longer.

Read time of 7 minutes.

If you're after exciting and innovative cars, these are the manufacturers to watch.

The automotive world is one of constant innovation and boundary-pushing, with manufacturers trying to outdo both themselves and each other.

Since the invention of the wheel all those years ago, automotive innovation has been slow and steady. From horse-drawn carriages to the very first motorcars, it has taken time for new concepts to be developed, produced, and introduced to the public.

At least, that was the case.

Since Henry Ford invented the production line and made cars much more affordable for the general public to buy, the automotive industry has boomed, with innovation following innovation with little room to breathe. Over the past decade or so this has only accelerated, with cars becoming slicker, safer, and more efficient, and companies like Tesla heralding the arrival of the electric future.

But which brands are the most exciting?

We've rounded up five of the most innovative manufacturers on the market to see just why their popularity is so widespread. And - spoiler alert - a lot of the coolest developments at the moment involves the new kid on the block, electric driving.

Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf

1. Volkswagen

Iconic German manufacturer Volkswagen has been a staple on our roads since 1937 and shows no sign of going anywhere.

From day one, VW has positioned itself as an innovative brand, managing to change with the times and adapt its future vision to stay ahead of the game. Its core concept has always been front and centre, with 'Volkswagen' translating to 'people's car'.

And it's achieved that, from the launch of the Beetle in 1938 to the launch of its first all-electric car in 2019.

Year after year VW has proved why it's one of the German heavyweights, producing incredibly popular cars like the Golf and the Passat. But it's in the last few years as VW pivot to creating electric vehicles that it's really shown why it's still such a popular car brand.

The new ID line - with 'ID' standing for Intelligent Design - has propelled VW into the 21st century, with the company positioning the release of the ID.3 in 2019 as the start of a 'new era'.

Volkswagen ID.3

Volkswagen ID.3

The Volkswagen ID.3 has proven incredibly popular, with the ID.4 following in its tracks. VW have honed in on the basics, with a sleek design and minimalist cabin - but haven't compromised on the performance. Both the ID.3 and ID.4 have competitive claimed ranges and fast charging times, as well as bags of practicality in the boot and clever cabin storage.

The latest release is the ID.5, tipped to join the ID family in the first quarter of 2022.

The news on the ground is that ID.5 will boast a claimed range of 323 miles - better than the ID.4 - and three powertrain options, with the performance-focused GTX variant bumping the output to 295bhp to create an incredibly fun car.

And it's not just brand new EVs where Volkswagen stands out. In September 2019 the manufacturer announced a programme that allows old Beetles to be converted to run on electric power - a seriously cool concept.

What's next from VW?

The German manufacturer is increasing its investment in electric and self-driving cars and will continue to provide incredible, and incredibly affordable, cars to the masses.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

2. Tesla

You can't mention exciting and innovative car brands without mentioning Tesla.

It's one of the most valuable companies in the world and claims the most sales of electric vehicles. Tesla have dominated the EV space since it shot onto the market with its first-generation Roadster back in 2008.

The Model S cemented Tesla's supremacy in all things EV, but it was the launch of the Tesla Model 3 in 2017 that changed the game.

The desirable saloon was more affordable than previous models, and it brought a premium electric experience to a wider audience. In fact, it's the all-time best-selling electric car worldwide, and in June 2021 became the first EV to sell one million units globally.

Not bad going for a brand with little physical presence and an online selling model.

Tesla Semi

Tesla Semi

Tesla's latest launch, the Model Y, is a compact crossover utility vehicle. It's smaller and less expensive than the Model X, but more practical than the Model 3. It hits UK shores at the beginning of next year and is able to accommodate up to seven people with a range of up to 326 miles.

And the next couple of years will see even more exciting releases from the American manufacturer.

Set to launch in 2023 is the second-generation Roadster. It's the successor to the original, and Elon Musk claims it will have a phenomenal 620-mile range thanks to the 200kWh battery, will hit 60mph in just 1.9 seconds and will have a top speed of over 250mph.

Also coming in 2023 is the Tesla Semi, Tesla's answer to the semi-trailer truck. There are two variants confirmed, one with a 300-mile range and one with a 600-mile range, and will include some of Tesla's most innovative technology, including capacity for self-driving on motorways when software and regulations allow.

And when it comes to self-driving, Tesla are probably the best-known brand for their attempts to create an autonomous vehicle. Currently, all Tesla's are shipped with the capacity to support self-driving in the future, and it really is just a matter of time.

But one thing is for sure; Tesla's innovative ideas aren't going anywhere any time soon.

Cupra Formentor

Cupra Formentor

3. Cupra

Once the sporty subsidiary of SEAT, it's now one of the most exciting brands on the market.

You might recognise the name from several beloved SEAT models, but since the launch of the Formentor in 2020, Cupra has established itself as a fantastic standalone brand.

But one thing that hasn't changed? Cupra's passion for performance.

The brand aims to create not just fantastic cars, but a lifestyle that builds on and celebrates the sporty heritage of the company. If you're looking for something that little bit different to the mainstream manufacturers, Cupra is an exciting choice.

And though its lineup is small, its ambitions are lofty.

Cupra Born

Cupra Born

Familiar names include the Cupra Ateca and the Cupra Leon, with the latest models Formentor and Born representing the break away from parent company SEAT.

The Formentor pays homage to the Catalonian heritage of the brand. You can just imagine zipping around the island of Mallorca in the Formentor, surrounded by beautiful vistas with the sun shining through the open windows. Though the reality might be a little different - we all know and love the commute to work on an overcast British morning - the feeling remains the same.

The Cupra Born is the brand's first venture into the EV market. With the same base as the popular ID.3, this will be an excellent car when it hits the UK if you're looking to switch from an ICE vehicle into an electric one.

Cupra have also announced exciting concept cars like the all-electric Cupra Tavascan, and are also involved in Extreme E - a sport where electric SUVs race each other in some pretty tough conditions. It's the same racing spectacle we all know and love, but with a sustainable edge.

It's a brand to watch over the coming years and promises to continue being a real competitor in a crowded market.

Kia e-Niro

Kia e-Niro

4. Kia

The South Korean manufacturer best known for its reliable family cars, Kia is not a brand to ignore.

Founded in 1944, it was originally a bike and motorcycle manufacturer, before pivoting to cars in 1970 with the Kia Brisa launching four years later. Since then, Kia has gone from strength to strength, cementing itself firmly in the family car market.

With models like the Sportage, the Rio, and the Picanto proving popular with drivers year after year, Kia's continued success is a testament to the brand's innovation and drive to always stay ahead of the curve and never rest on its laurels.

In 2006, Kia moved to a design-focused model, identifying the look of its cars as its 'core future growth engine'. More recently, Kia's focus has been on electrification, releasing both hybrid and all-electric vehicles like the quirky Kia Soul and the fantastic e-Niro, which remains one of the best affordable electric cars on the market.

Kia EV6

Kia EV6

Kia's latest launch, the Kia EV6, is the brand's first bespoke EV - and it's an absolute triumph.

The EV6 is a snazzy crossover sitting on the same architecture as the Hyundai Ioniq 5, and it's good fun. Featuring a sporty drive, a 328-mile range, and plenty of in-car tech, the EV6 stands out in what can be quite a crowded market.

Kia's forte is practical, well-equipped cars that tick every box. But the brand also puts its money where its mouth is, with its market-leading seven-year warranty and chart-topping reliability, consistently scoring over 90% in the What Car? Reliability Survey.

If it's a well-built, sensible, good-looking car that you're after, Kia's forward-thinking models are for you.

Polestar 1

Polestar 1

5. Polestar

After emerging in recent years from relative obscurity, Polestar has shot to the top of the electrification game, releasing one of the most exciting EVs in recent years in the form of the Polestar 2.

Beginning life as a racing team headed by Swedish champion Jan 'Flash' Nilsson, Polestar enjoyed many successes on the racing track before turning its attention to producing powerful road cars, many based on popular Volvos.

In fact, Polestar was so good at producing performance-heavy Volvos that the Swedish manufacturer bought the performance division of Polestar in 2015, aiming to use the knowledge of the brand to improve its own performance.

Together Polestar and Volvo produced cars that are as balanced, safe, and reliable as they are good fun to drive.

But in 2017 Polestar once more became a standalone brand with the launch of the Polestar 1; an exciting that hybrid that, for a first foray into the world of electrification, was very well received.

Polestar 2

Polestar 2

The Polestar 2, the first all-electric car to come out of the brand, was unveiled two years later. 

A car designed to rival the Tesla Model 3, it's designed for maximum performance and style but without compromising on the safety and Swedish sensibility Volvo is known for. And it really is good fun, with a claimed range of up to 337 miles, and a seriously quick drive.

Polestar's future is shaping up to be a bright one. The brand is pivoting to become fully electric, with all its future cars building on the Polestar 2 base.

The Polestar 3 has already been teased, with Polestar confirming that it'll be an all-electric SUV with around a 300-mile range. Entering production in 2022, it's looking like Polestar is continuing the trendy styling with a boxy look.

And as though that wasn't enough for a brand that's barely out of training wheels when it comes to producing electric cars, the Polestar Precept - or the '5', as it will be known - has been confirmed for 2024. It's a four-door coupe, offering a range-topping alternative to popular EVs like the Tesla Model S, the Porsche Taycan, and the BMW i4.

The environment continues to be a huge driving force behind the brand, with Polestar wanting to produce efficient performance vehicles that look good but are a lot kinder on the environment. And it's succeeding, with its future developments proving to be just as innovative as its past successes.