Every decade produces iconic cars. Think of the 1960s and Jaguar E-Type, Mini and Ford GT-40 may spring to mind. 1970s might conjure up Ferrari’s 512 BB or Ford’s Capri and Mk2 Escort. Or some of my favourite decades for cars; 1980s with Ferrari F40, Audi UR Quattro, Peugeot 205GTI, Sierra Cosworth, E30 BMW M3 and 1990s with Toyota Supra, R33 Skyline GT-R, Mclaren F1 or Escort Cosworth.
Obviously there are others from each decade that cross the boundaries. Lamborghini’s Countach may have launched in the 1970s but its status was probably cemented in the 1980s. Or the Porsche 911 – an icon of motoring that has spanned six different decades. Cars like the Mk1 Golf GTI or R32 Skyline GT-R that launched just at the cusp of one decade and disappeared soon after in the next are also iconic, but which decade would you put them in?
Three years into the ‘teenies’ it’s quite good fun to try and think of cars that will be considered icons of the previous decade. Here are the top five ‘noughties’ icons that we’ve come up with (in no particular order) and the reasons why. The only proviso being they had to start and finish production in the ‘noughties’ to qualify…which makes it a lot tougher.
1. Mitsubishi EVO (Generations VII-IX) - 2001-2008
It was a toss-up between Mitsubishi EVOs of this era and the Subaru Impreza, as you’d expect, but the classic shape Impreza which launched in the 1990s is probably more iconic than the subsequent generations. Plus, the EVO VII was the first official EVO that came to the UK so that cements them as icons here at least. Competition with Subaru aside, Mitsubishi’s EVO deserves a place here for being a little more hardcore and uncompromising. It’s also a car that has spawned a tonne of well-known rally, Time Attack and road tuned models, which have gone on to inspire aftermarket fans around the world. Enthusiasts make icons and there’s going to be plenty of car fans looking back at the 00s with fond memories of Mitsubishi’s turbocharged beast. Oh, and any car with an ‘FQ’ edition earns legendary status straight-off!
2. Nissan 350Z – 2003-2009
It’s a rebirth of the ‘Z’ car, so that should be enough to qualify. However, put the launch of Nissan’s V6 rear-wheel drive coupe in context and it’s quite momentous. Mazda, Toyota and even Chrysler coupe models were released around the same time, but none had the same driver appeal or reliability of the Nissan. In some ways you could argue that the 350Z put rear-wheel drive back on the map for the average man in Europe (who couldn’t afford a similarly powerful BMW or Porsche) and may have even heralded the coming of Toyota and Subaru’s latest rear drive coupes. In other words, the 350Z proved people still had an appetite for affordable rear-wheel drive performance and we should be quite grateful for that.
3. Audi RS4 Avant – 2000-2001
Audi’s RS4 Avant – not a bad way to start a decade. Building on the RS2 theme Audi produced the B5 platform Audi to be a top spec, top speed…estate car. Just for deciding the world needed a 375bhp estate car with pumped arches, Quattro all-wheel drive and a load of practicality included as standard, this car deserves to be on the list. However, it may escape iconic status for it’s lack of prowess amongst the masses and limited production run…stuff that makes it all the cooler to us. More mainstream and sharing this spot (just cos we can) is the E46 M3 from BMW. A bit down on power in comparison and naturally aspirated, it sold in bigger numbers, offered a similar practical/performance ratio and delivered proper rear-wheel drive fun. The incredible, carbon fettled M3 CSL was probably a decent comparison for rarity to the RS4, but the base M3 models will surely become an icon of the decade for being one of BMW’s high points of attainable driving purity.
4. Honda S2000 - 2000-2009
The two-seater Honda just pipped the EP3 Civic Type R into our top five. The CTR was and still is quite brilliant – a reliable, high revving, 200bhp hot hatch with a totally unique style when it launched. However, the S2000 was probably the car that put the V-TEC engine on the map for many people, as it surrounded that engine in a ‘sexy’ package that the general public wanted to know about. Later models are said to be less lethal than the early ones…which were seriously frustrating in fast corners thanks to an in-built desire to try and give drivers a close-up of hedgerow wildlife. With tuning though, those early ones can be made to handle just as sweetly as they shove and look. Will they really go on to be iconic cars of the decade though? Japan, the US and the UK remain keen on the S2000 and in some ways the little two-seaters seem to be getting better looking all the time, so who knows?
5. Renaultsport Clio v6 - 2000-2005
Let’s get this straight, the rear-engined Clio V6 is so brave, so unique that it can’t escape this list. It’s almost a cult car rather than a performance classic but it’s one of the coolest things to come from any auto-maker in the noughties. It’s famed for being a bit of a handful, but everything else makes that seem more of a challenge than a problem. However, perhaps a retrospective view of the noughties proves how good Renault’s sport division was in that period as the Renaultsport Clio 172, 182 and especially the 182 Trophy were also fantastic more-realistic options. In fact the Clio 182 Trophy was the cream of that crop and will surely grow into being a cult classic in its own right.