DRIVEN's 10th anniversary: The top 10 cars of the last 10 years
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It’s DRIVEN’s 10th anniversary and so we couldn’t resist arguing amongst ourselves to establish what we reckon are the 10 most important and/or influential cars of the last decade. So let's get straight into it. We’ve looked globally but also thought locally – we make no apologies for including a good number that are of particular importance to Kiwi consumers.
THE HYPERCAR TRINITY
The LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder are very different cars. But they also really belong together. All were launched in 2013, all pushed the boundaries of what had been possible for their respective makers and all established the template for a bright “hypercar” future: electrified powertrains that enabled truly extreme performance.
For the record, La Ferrari was RWD with 708kW; the P1 was RWD with 674kW; the 918 Spyder was AWD with 652kW. Both the McLaren and Porsche were also Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), meaning they could travel on battery power alone for short distances.
And yes, we realise we’re counting three cars as one for this “top 10”. Just think of it as more hypercar for your money.
The Swift is globally admired, especially the thoroughly sorted Sport model.
But it’s also been a runaway sales success for Suzuki in NZ over the past decade, striking that difficult balance between desirability and value for money.
It’s the closest thing the NZ new-vehicle market has to a “classless” car: it’s driven by every demographic.
And while Suzuki had better get a hurry-on with plug-in models, the current range is clean and interesting, including a fun three-cylinder, the new hybrid and the turbocharged Sport.
TOYOTA RAV4 HYBRID
Around since 1994, the introduction of hybrid-for-the-masses was a game-changer for RAV4.
The electrified model is not just responsible for more than half its total sales, it helped boost the model to number one status in NZ by combining a negligible price premium with drive-and-forget tech... and created a queue to get certain models up to six months long. Not bad for a model launched in April 2019.
The 86 is important for a number of reasons. It was further proof that Toyota was intent on making cool cars again. As a back-to-basics sports car with not too much power and not too much grip it owed a lot to the Mazda MX-5, but it was executed in a very different way.
It also showed that there could be a future for the niche cars enthusiasts love, through companies collaborating and sharing the cost: the 86 (now "GR 86" in its new generation) was developed with Subaru. Toyota did the same thing again with BMW and the Supra. We like that one too.
The first true high volume production BEV and title-holder of the world’s best-selling EV, from 2010 the electric Nissan has been the go-to choice, and 11 years on it continues as a well-priced, practical city hatchback.
Of course it’s available brand new, but used Leafs outnumber all other used EVs in NZ 4:1, making it the most popular EV on the used car market, too.
DRIVEN’s launch year was also a landmark one for Ford: it launched the T6 Ranger, which helped established the template for “lifestyle” utes as we know them today.
Tough styling, good equipment levels and a clever focus on high-riding 2WD models helped Ranger topple Toyota Hilux back in 2015 to become NZ’s number one vehicle.
Special models like the Wildtrak and Raptor also caught the competition napping and are now much-copied in the one-tonne segment.
There are no two ways about it; the Ford Mustang is an icon. Its status as an all-American icon was only elevated in 2013 when the call was made to start producing the sixth-generation Mustang in a right-hand drive layout.
To view all Ford Mustang models currently listed on DRIVEN, click here
This meant, that for the first time ever, New Zealanders were able to buy a brand-new Mustang off the lot, and not have to dread going through the local drive-through. On top of this, the Mustang brand is also serving as a launchpad for Ford’s future electric projects with the Mach-E.
Medium SUVs are big business, but they’re not always… exciting.
The CX-5 (launched 2012) is a standout because it was the first Mazda to establish a distinctive new styling ethos for the company called Kodo, and also the first to feature “SkyActiv” platform and powertrain technology – essentially a design and engineering strategy that takes existing components and refines them to the nth degree with light weight and low friction.
In short, the CX-5 takes a very mainstream concept and makes it rather aspirational – as does the larger CX-9 in seven-seat form. SkyActiv also underlines Mazda’s belief that there’s still development potential in the internal combustion engine – witness the new SkyActiv-X engine introduced in the Mazda3/CX-30.
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV
Combining price and practicality with the peek-into-the-future, the plug-in electric Outlander offers that creamy combination of size and price. It was 2020’s best-selling PHEV by a mile, and contributes towards the success of Outlander as a model.
With up to 55km of EV range, it’s theoretically possible to drive it as a BEV without ever filling up, but the petrol engine is a great back-up that eliminates range anxiety – and offers just 1.9l/100km! And better yet, a new model is due later this year.
TESLA MODEL S
Tesla is great at grabbing headlines, no doubt about that. But strip away all the hype and everybody agrees that the Model S (launched in 2012) represents a revolution in the automotive industry.
It proved that Battery Electric Vehicles could be completely viable and, more importantly, hugely desirable. Premium makers like Audi and Mercedes-Benz are getting on board – but Tesla blazed the trail. At very high speed.