Like all ‘best-of’ choices, there is an early need to qualify why some cars from the past decade are in my Top 20 and some are not. These are the models I’ve driven over the past 10 years that I feel meet core criteria: these include exceptional innovation, safety, technical advances, relevance and practicality.
Some had a bit of ‘magic’. To list any fewer than 20 would do scant justice to the years of massive change – some self-generated, some imposed.
So, after a trawl of a period that will be remembered for its recession, recovery and Dieselgate, these are the cars that have stood, and still stand, the test of time for me.
I’m sure you have five alternatives to every one for which I have plumped. So be it.
In no particular order, here goes…
It was ahead of the (small) herd of electric cars and made the headlines as well as the advances.
We tend to forget just how few of its ilk were around until recently.
It didn’t define the decade but it certainly helped to change mindsets long before governments (ours among them) became belatedly ‘converted’ to electric power.
It is easy to overlook how quietly and consistently it has become part of the family-car (and taxi) market.
It improved generation on generation over the course of the decade. Has to be in the list.
Peugeot 3008 SUV
This makes the cut because of the way it has revolutionised the interior of compact SUVs/crossovers. Its exceptional and innovative i-Cockpit sets it apart from rivals. Although a latecomer in the decade, it deserves its slot on that basis.
With each generation, ŠKODA significantly improved and expanded the Octavia – not least the manner in which they shifted it upmarket from its initial base attraction of low price.
Like some others, it has been around for a lot longer than the past 10 years, but where is there anything to beat a good BMW 520d?
It may have evolved gradually and I’m not as enamoured with the new one as I have been with forerunners, but it is only when you drive it that you realise what a great machine it is.
This is the car that has what others will have. It is the technological titan that consistently breaks new ground and locks down so many patents. It hasn’t been perfect and rear-seat room is poor for a car of its size. But it’s a prime example of consistent technological strides.
Hyundai Tucson (iX35)
The Tuscson (ix35 for a while), has been a bestseller in Ireland for years.
They haven’t revolutionised the business but they have crafted the crossover/SUV into an exceptional package of the genre.
The same goes for the evergreen, and closely related, Sportage. There are others, of course, but for me it and the Tucson capture what mainstream crossover means.
Tesla Model S
Tesla has become central in so many ways so I could not pass this by. The Elon Musk initiative lit a fire under the backsides of traditional carmakers doodling along with their petrols and diesels.
The S model isn’t the best built, is expensive and is something of an acquired taste, but it is something of a benchmark, too.
It scrapes in if only for its ability to bring a bit of driving verve to the small-family car segment.
The only crossover to feature in the country’s Top 10 bestsellers a decade ago.
And it hasn’t failed to be included ever since. It remains a quintessential family motor and has to be given credit for so successfully spawning the modern phenomenon.
What can you say? It has been a rock for so long – and now it starts a new era as a hybrid.
The latest generation is due in March. There is no doubt it is worth its place for year-on-year consistent service.
We seem to love our Golfs. Big challenges looming though.
This little sports car is mostly impractical but absolutely tremendous fun.
It takes all sorts and this is one I have to include. Love it.
It changed how we looked at car values with its arrival in the middle of the recession. Yes it’s a tad old-fashioned but it put new-car purchases within the ambit of ordinary people at a time when they couldn’t afford anything else. The same still applies for many.
There is one bought every minute – and it’s 30 years on the go. Can’t argue with that. Latest generation is a big improvement again.
They tore up the script and started all over with this large seven-seater SUV.
It outstripped everyone with its modern cabin design and interactive system. Huge favourite, but the rivals are catching.
I was going to leave it out because technically there are equals but the one thing that swung it was the way they revolutionised the infotainment display.
It set a new visual standard. It also majored on a high level of ‘self driving’. It ‘drove’ me to Belfast more or less on one occasion.
Probably one of the three cars currently on the road that I would dearly love to own.
It hasn’t been a megaseller because price is a factor, especially for the big-performance versions.
But there aren’t many better combinations of beauty and the beast. It’s a drive that can banish the real world for a while.
Only that another friend mentioned it, I’d have forgotten it. Why? Because it isn’t a prominent seller but it’s a car that goes forever and holds its value extremely well.
Alongside the cars were key designs and technologies that grew with them over the decade.
Crossover/SUVs, reversing cameras, voice control, plug-in hybrids, auto dim lights were more the exception than the rule in the earlier years. Now they are commonplace.
I wonder what will we be taking for granted in 10 years’ time.