Top Gear’s Top 9: best cars with literal names edition
A tribute to nine cars that, refreshingly, do exactly what they say on the can
Remember this boxy curio-van? No? Oh, okay then.
Before the world fell head-first into the oh-look-another-crossover black hole, car makers were merrily experimenting with different types of bodystyle for big families and elderly folks. One wacky idea was the ‘supermini spliced with a van’ monstrosity, as demonstrated by such delights as the Toyota Yaris Verso, Mercedes Vaneo (really) and the echoingly spacious Skoda Roomster. So much headroom, it’s like driving a church, but slower.Advertisement - Page continues below
The Nissan Cube was, once upon a time, the best-selling car in Japan. This is why we love Japanese car culture at Top Gear – they tend not to buy boring cars. Even today, the best-selling Japanese car is Nissan’s own Note, a mini-MPV with a range-extender petrol engine and electric motor just because that’s more interesting. Is it as good as a Ford Fiesta, the UK’s favourite car? Probably not. Is it more remarkable? Undoubtedly.
But we’re getting off track. The second-gen Cube really ran with the boxier-than-a-box-of-Rubik’s-Cubes-in-a-phonebox styling vibe. You could even spec an electric motor to make it four-wheel drive, reducing fuel consumption when accelerating. Handy – the aerodynamics probably weren’t up to much...
Ferrari 812 Superfast
Ferrari’s two-seat mega-GT is powered by a 6.5-litre, 789bhp V12. All those rampaging horses and the small matter of 530lb ft are channelled to the rear wheels via a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox of seamless shift quality. It can, as a result, scorch from 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, and top out beyond 211mph. Super fast? As our American cousins are apparently fond of saying in all the films: you do the math(s).Advertisement - Page continues below
Toyota Hilux Invincible
If you’ve been down a deep enough Top Gear YouTube wormhole, you’ll remember the film off the telly show from many years ago when Jeremy and James subjected a well-worn Toyota pick-up truck to a series of damaging tests, to see if it could be broken. Incredibly, despite being drowned in the sea, set on fire, hit with a wrecking ball and placed onto a momentarily-demolished tower block, it kept running, and kept driving. So, if any car in the world car truly claim to be ‘Invincible’, it’s the cockroach-tough Hilux.
This name’s become a millstone around the ‘new' Mini’s neck. Because ‘mini’ is defined in the dictionary as ‘anything of a small, reduced, or miniature size'. And while a current Mini Cooper is smaller than, say, an ocean liner or a space station, it’s not as small a car as it’s possible to make. And the original… kinda was.
The latest Mini remains enormously successful and huge fun to drive, though. And besides, the “eurgh, it’s not a small car any more” brigade can always help themselves to…
… a clever car that seats strictly two people. Hmm, wonder what to call it?
Problem is, since Smart went fully electric, this car is now actually called the ‘Smart EQ ForTwo’, to tie in with its parent brand Mercedes’ burgeoning family of EVs and hybrids. So, it’s not as literal as it might’ve been. Still, at the other end of the size scale…
... there’s the original MPV – the very, um, spacious Renault Espace. We ought to also give an honorary mention to the Mitsubishi Space Tourer, another van-with-windows with oodles of room, but gaining a handful of extra cool points for wearing a name that sounds like a hero craft out of Star Wars.Advertisement - Page continues below
Could Jaguar or Bentley pull off naming a new model the ‘Four-Door’? It’s short, snappy, and it even rhymes, so perhaps they just might. But it wouldn’t have the lyrical quality that makes Maserati’s equivalent such a joy to roll around your mouth.
If you’ve just snorted into your face-mask with derision, then we’re afraid the joke’s on you. Skoda’s flagship barge has as much space as a Mercedes S-Class inside, it’s quiet, convincingly put together, and if you choose the estate it’s like driving around in Mary Poppins’ magic handbag – a bottomless storage space that’s impossible to fill.
Yes, folks will continue to (wrongly) sneer at the badge, and every now and again strangers will mistake you for an airport taxi and demand to be driven to Heathrow at 3am. But it doesn’t stop this being a genuinely brilliant, mega value-for-money car. What’s the word we’re looking for again?Advertisement - Page continues below