The industrial revolution didn’t end with the Victorians. It now moves faster than ever, not least in cars. 2010 probably saw more visionary production and concept cars than any year, ever. Gavin Green picks the top 10 cars of the year.
1. Nissan Leaf
Electric cars are the future. And this is the first production EV (electric vehicle) that offers similar performance, price (ish) and practicality (ish) to a normal petrol hatchback. But with the key EV benefits (no stink, less CO2, no noise). The Leaf is the first step: EVs will get much better (and less petrol car-like in architecture). But Nissan, and its alliance partner Renault, jumped first. Will it sell? Hard to know. But, whatever this car’s commercial success, its place in history is assured.
2. Chevrolet Volt
The first ‘range extended’ electric car, very possibly as influential as the Leaf, just about to hit the showroom in America. Its back-up petrol engine stops range anxiety and ‘always gets you home’. The downside is you’re lugging around a mostly redundant Astra four-pot motor. Future range extenders will have much smaller and more efficient petrol or diesel ‘range extending’ engines (see Jaguar C-X75 below).
3. Renault Twizy
Another Renault-Nissan alliance EV, the Twizy also breaks new ground by being a fresh take on urban transport. It’s small, light and fun, as much four-wheeled motorcycle as small car.
4. Jaguar C-X75
Forget the fabulous style (if you can). What’s important is what’s underneath. Two compact jet turbines generate ‘back-up’ electricity when you need it. Very possibly, the sequel to the range-extended Volt EV.
5. Fiat 500 Twin Air
EVs – range extenders, battery-only, fuel cells possibly – may be the future. But there’s plenty of life in the petrol engine yet. The new Twin Air petrol engine, from those small car masters at Fiat, offers plenty of driving fun with astonishing economy, plus clever fuel-saving tech like stop-start and regen braking.
6. Mazda ‘Sky’ engines
Soon to be fitted to most small Mazdas (sales start next year). Another ‘new generation’ engine, previewed to journalists this year, offering astonishing improvements in economy and power, in both petrol and diesel guises.
7. Porsche 918 Spyder
90mpg capability meets 200mph. Though not at the same time.
8. Lamborghini Sesto Elemento
The fat boys are all dieting – because weight saving will matter, tomorrow, as much as fuel-efficient engines. This concept carbon Lamborghini – even the wheels and exhaust are carbonfibre – showcases the new lightweight philosophy and does it with style.
9. Ferrari 458 Italia
Because, naturally, one of the all-time great Ferraris is worth celebrating. Plus it’s proof that supercars will keep getting better and better.
10. Ford Focus
The new one (on sale early next year) is the nearest thing to a true ‘world car’ and it’s the follow-up to one of the greatest cars of the past decade. The Focus also helped to save Ford from bankruptcy (a fate neither GM nor Chrysler could avoid). The latest, to be sold from London to Los Angeles, from Sydney to Shanghai, is a sign of the converging tastes of world motorists.