For Top Gear magazine’s 300th issue, we celebrated the best 50 cars over 299 issues: here’s our pick of the best practical cars
Forgive me, friends, but this isn’t going to be pleasant. Let me accompany you back to a dark and depressing age, when cars for the rest of us were either bad or boring. Often both. Montego estate: those two words sum up how grim things were for the ordinary person looking for a reasonably priced useful car back in 1993. Or how about Skoda Favorit? Its sole virtue was to be less grim than expected, so its adverts told us not to laugh at it – and because we were so cowed by the tide of mediocrity engulfing us, we complied. The British public lay supine before the car industry’s plot to foist wheeled gruel on us all.
In the early years of Top Gear, our nation’s car buyers allowed the vile Daewoo Nexia and Espero (a recycled Vauxhall Cavalier) to become a proper force in the market. No, ordinary cars just weren’t very good. Good ones demanded extortionate prices. A 1993 BMW 3 Series Touring was the old, boxy, E30 kind – the one with treacherous wet-road handling, a small boot and a pricing strategy so avaricious it shunted electric windows onto the options list.
On top of all that, the choice of cars on sale was Soviet in its narrowness. Even the big carmakers fielded ranges of just half a dozen cars. If you wanted a car that had a useful interior, there were big MPVs. But they mostly looked like packing cases. If you wanted something for hauling or off-roading, there were 4x4s, but they had truck-type chassis and were mostly a chore to drive. The Nissan Terrano II deserves to be forgotten, but it made a bit of a splash in its day.