Here is part four of the much-heralded and long-awaited top fifty most brilliant cars ever. There are pub arguments waiting to be decided in the light of this.
19: Rover threw everything they could at the 45 in a game attempt to impede the sales success of the perennial Golf and evergreen Focus: wood, leather and a 2.0 litre V6. This car then is the spirit of the Battle for Britain, manifest in the metal of a car. Hmmm. You’d never think there was any 1992 Honda Domani underneath the reserved, Saville Row exterior of this classy vehicle. Above all, it was a Rover.
18: It is not very widely known that Giorgetto Giugiario and Walter da Silva penned the 1978 FSO Polonez (below) based on a concept that became the Fiat 125. And it is also not widely known that the Rover K 1400 engine was used in this car towards the end of its long run. The Polonez platform was versatile, spawning an estate, van, saloon and pick-up. While it may lack the outright performance of most West European cars, it was robust and easy to service, much like early Porsche 911s.
17: The 1999-2006 is here because it was one of the cars that put Kia on the map in Europe. Practical, spacious, well-priced and equipped with a powerful 2.5 litre V6 (supplied by Rover), it offered a cheaper alternative to VW and Ford´s Sharan/Galaxy combo.
16: W638 is how Mercedes-Benz afficionados know this vehicle. For everyone else it’s a Vito. Mercedes are well-known for their large and imposing vehicles and there is little that’s larger or more imposing than a Vito bearing down on you on the motorway, close enough to your exhaust to suck the fumes directly into the Vito’s immense, comfortable and practical cabin.
Volkswagen supplied some of the power for these leviathans. The same engine that has propelled Corrados into hedges backwards is used in some versions of the Vito. The mind trembles at the thought of how much fuel is required to push that much frontal area from Berlin to Neuilly-Sur-Seine in seven hours. For many, the Vito is the arch modern Mercedes: front-drive and with strakes down the sides.
15: The first compact-class car to be made in Germany, claims Audiworld and over 180,000 units were made before production was cancelled in 1978. Who are we to argue? That’s the inimitable Audi 50 (above). If you think this car is just a warmed-over Polo, you’d be right but it was also part of a long-term strategy that rocketed Audi into the top-tier of car makers and which cost Peugeot its chance of ever being taken seriously as a maker of prestige vehicles.
14: By the time 1972 arrived. the ADO17 body had been on sale for a good six years. The 1972 Wolseley Six (below) was the finest iteration of the series which relied on Sir Alec Issogonis’ unique vision for its genesis. Front driven, spacious and like nothing else, the Six built the foundations that set Wolseley firmly on its 1970s course. Pininfarina had a hand in the design too. These cars are rather rare now and recall an era when unconventional engineering was de rigeur in the large car class.
13: Ford’s Consul aka the Granada. One could choose any one of the several series to bear this illustrious name as Number 13. It needs no commentary but invites plenty. We choose a 1975 Consul, run by our acting assistant editor-at-large Myles Gorfe. Long gone, the Granada and then the Scorpio defined a generation of driving for a legion of motoring fans. Even if you never sat in one, you knew someone who did and these once were so common as to be invisible. Now they actually are. Nobody did accessible executive motoring like Ford who knew their customers inside out and always had a vehicle that was right for them. Insiders say the 1973 3.0 V6 GLX is the one to go for.
12. The 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado is part of that range of cars that marked the zenith of American auto styling. The Olds here came with a choice of 6.6 and 7.5 litre V8s, the latter being the much-lauded Rocket that became part of Oldsmobile’s logo long after the firm was reduced to selling rebadged Chevrolets and undistinguished sludge like the 1980-1984 X-body Omega. It was as if Arnold Schwarzenegger was replaced half-way through a film by Danny de Vito. The car here, a Custom, has lavishly complex pressings, a grille larger than the Parthenon and a massive boot. No wonder people loved these machines. It’s a BOF car too.
11: The 2001 to 2008 Peugeot 307 (designed in-house) heralded a new era at Peugeot. It had a spacious and roomy cabin and much uprated interior trim compared to the smart-handling, elegant Pininfarina-designed 306 that it superceded. Made in France, Argentina and China, the distinctively styled 307 could be had in 3 or 5 door hatch versions, as an estate or as an eye-catching saloon which was made for the Chinese market. The pick of the bunch has to be the 4-cylinder in-line diesel to exactly capture the character of this archetypal mid-size family hatch.
11b: Alternatively there is the KA9 series of Honda Legends, sold from 1995 to 2004. While it looks deliciously anodyne, it packs an incredible amount of high technology but only one engine, a 3.5 litre V6. Essentially, Honda said, this is all the engine you need for a car like this. Wool upholstery was still an option. While Mercedes, Jaguar, Lexus, BMW and Audi fought it out for who could offer the largest displacement and most chrome adornments, Honda stepped calmly out of the fray and made a quieter, more agile vehicle for the thinking buyer. A car for connoisseurs.
10: Seat Cordoba estate. Not the saloon or the hatch. The estate in 1.9 diesel guise. This is pretty much all the car 80% of us will ever need. The 1992-2003 version shared mechanicals with the VW Polo but had some sparkle, some elan, some Iberian joie de vivre (or whatever that is in Spanish).