In case you’ve missed the hype, the new series of Top Gear is set to start on Sunday 29 May, created under the watch of lead host Chris Evans. Ahead of the show, Evans, who’s a regular columnist for the Daily Mail, has picked his top 50 cars of the year so far. It’s an interesting mix of stuff, listed in no particular order (although categorised into car segments), with one car selected as his car of the year…
Family hatchback: Skoda Fabia
So, we start with the family hatchback category, kicking off with the three-star Skoda Fabia. It’s surprising to see it make the cut, as Evans concludes his review by describing it ‘by no means great’. But he raves about the three-cylinder engine and auto gearbox combo of his test car.
Family hatchback: Citroen C4 Cactus
Everyone loves the quirky Citroen C4 Cactus. Evans describes it as ‘funky’, and we’ll go with that. From its retro interior to its trolley-bouncing ‘air bumps’, the Cactus is well worthy of Evans’ four-star review.
Family hatchback: Vauxhall Astra
The new Vauxhall Astra came a bit of a shock when we first drove it in September. Despite its fairly anonymous looks, it’s so much better than its predecessor. Although Evans says he wouldn’t go as far as comparing it to the Volkswagen Golf, it’s good enough to make his top 50 cars of 2016.
Family hatchback: Fiat 500X
Er, we’d class the Fiat 500X as a crossover rather than a family hatch, but we’re big fans of the beefed-up 500 – so it’s no surprise to see it in the Daily Mail top 50. Only, Evans gave it one star in his review, describing it as ‘the ultimate car by committee’.
Family hatchback: Mazda 3
The Mazda 3 is often overlooked by those shopping for a Ford Focus-sized car, but it’s actually quietly good. Evans says the steering wheel and dials set-up is ‘almost identical to the McLaren 650S’. Why haven’t we noticed that?
Family hatchback: MINI Clubman
This is the car that gets the family hatchback crown, according to Evans. The five-star MINI Clubman, in sporty Cooper S guise, is ‘much more credible than the silly-shaped modern MINI Countryman’ and proves ‘an excellent driving experience’, says the Radio 2 DJ.
Family hatchback: Hyundai i20
The Hyundai i20 is more supermini than family hatch, but who’d argue with the new Top Gear presenter? ‘As dull as ditchwater’, he says, ‘but fairly solid, fairly good-looking and the perfect dog-and-kids, A-to-B mobile’.
Supercars: Lamborghini Huracan
And now for the juicy stuff. The supercars. Of which three make the grade.The first is the £182,400 Lamborghini Huracan, which can hit 62mph in 3.2 seconds and is good for a top speed of 202mph. Although Evans says ‘a pleasure-bomb will explode inside you every time you turn the wheel or dab the throttle’, he complains that the sound system isn’t good enough for a car of this price.
Supercars: Mercedes-AMG GT S
Because of that, perhaps, Evans’ supercar pick of 2016 is the Mercedes-AMG GT S. Although many would rave about the GT’s performance, Evans is bowled over by its looks, finding it hard to believe that it’s a Mercedes. ‘Go online to see how many tyres she can eat in a minute and all the other insane stuff,’ he says.
Supercars: Dodge Viper ACR
The Viper has never been as technically as accomplished as European rivals, but the latest 8.4-litre V10 ACR ticks all the right boxes for Evans. He gives it five stars, saying ‘she snaked and smoked in all the right places, right up to 167mph’.
Saloon: Tesla Model S
Although Evans complains about struggling to get more than 180 miles out of the Tesla Model S (despite its official range of 240 miles), he says he loves the ‘Starship Enterprise vibe’, while it remains his son Noah’s favourite test car ever. He gave it four stars, but it wouldn’t be his saloon car choice…
Saloon: Ford Mondeo
Where else would you find a Ford Mondeo competing with the likes of the Tesla Model S? Evans states ‘this Mondeo costs less than £25,000 yet does the job of the Mercedes S500, Jaguar XFR, Audi RS6…’. Bold statement.
Saloon: Skoda Octavia vRS 230
This is the saloon that grabs the title of Chris’s pick. Even though it’s technically a hatchback. The Skoda Octavia, in hot vRS 230 trim, offers performance to take on the Volkswagen Golf GTI, hitting 62mph in 6.7 seconds.
Saloon: Jaguar XE
Despite driving ‘a lot better than [he] thought it would’, the Jaguar XE only takes three stars from the scathing Evans. He describes it as ‘trying to be a bit too German’, but not good enough to have Audi, Mercedes or BMW trembling in their boots.
Sports: Ford Mustang
There are three things Evans doesn’t like about the Ford Mustang: the fuel economy (‘20mpg was the best average I could achieve’), the location of the drink holders (‘put any beverage in there and it will render changing gear nigh-on impossible’), and the boot space. Despite that, he gives the Mustang four stars, describing it (with the 5.0-litre V8) as ‘as exciting as 99.9% of any of the cars I’ve ever driven’.
Sports: Porsche 911
OK, this isn’t exactly a car of 2016 – not in naturally-aspirated GTS spec, anyway. But as a car Evans tested in 2016, it makes the cut. One of the last N/A entry-level 911s before they went turbocharged, Evans is a huge fan of its Sport Plus setting, which blips the throttle on downshifts.
Sports: Audi R8
Despite slating the cost of options (£2,400 for Alcantara headlining and £2,950 for gloss-carbon engine bay trim), Evans is a huge fan of the new Audi R8 – giving it the title of his sports car pick. ‘Five stars all the way,’ he says.
Estate: Audi A4
Although Evans is a big fan of the Audi A4’s strobing indicators, along with its ‘punchy engine’, he describes it as a ‘mid-range, mediocre family estate car’, and criticises it for being too expensive. Although it’s not cheap, we think his three-star review is perhaps a little harsh.
Estate: SEAT Leon X-Perience
Despite its silly name, the SEAT Leon X-Perience is actually quite a sensible family car. Essentially a jacked-up Leon estate with four-wheel-drive (ideal for those who regularly drive in the snow or across muddy fields), Evans seems to be quite a fan of the X-Perience. So why only three stars? It’s nearly £30,000…
Estate: Volvo V60 Cross Country
We do hope Evans stops describing cars as females in the new series of Top Gear. Writing about the Volvo V60 Cross Country, he says ‘her charm crept up on me, as did her grunt – she loves a quick run’. Hmm. It’s enough to bag the V60 Cross Country the honour of being Chris’s estate pick.
Estate: Volkswagen Passat
The anthropomorphism continues with the Volkswagen Passat. ‘I was taken with the VW Passat GT the moment I set eyes on her,’ says Evans. ‘I find her quite alluring’. Slightly creepy review aside, we agree with Evans’ inclusion of the Passat in his top 50 – it’s a commendable estate car.
City cars: Smart Fortwo
It would seem that Chris Evans doesn’t test many city cars. That’d explain why only two make his 50 cars of 2016. The first, and indeed the DJ’s pick of two, is the Smart Fortwo. His wife described it as ‘so cool and so fast’, but also praised its incredible turning circle.
City cars: Vauxhall Adam Grand Slam
Powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine producing 150hp, the Grand Slam is the hottest Adam you can buy. It brings out Evans’ yobbish side, apparently, launching into a ‘full-on front-axle wheelspin’ after letting out the clutch.
Luxury: Porsche Panamera
‘Like all Panameras before her, she looks stupidly big.’ We wonder how Evans has been married three times with lines like that. He complains that the Panamera has three clocks and three windscreen-washer clusters, but no reversing camera. However, he still gives the four-seat Porsche four stars.
Luxury: Rolls-Royce Ghost
As the previous owner of a first-generation Rolls-Royce Ghost, Evans claims he’s more qualified than most to write about the new model. Only, he struggles to tell the difference. Once his local dealer explains that’s all about evolution rather than revolution (why mess with a winning recipe?), Evans warms to the Series II Ghost.
Luxury: Range Rover
It’s no ordinary Range Rover tested by Evans. It’s a £156,000 SV Autobiography, produced by JLR’s Special Vehicles Operations department. For that money, you get super-soft leather, crystal-effect tail lights and unique 21-inch alloys. Evans is a fan, giving the pricey Range Rover a four-star rating.
Luxury: BMW 7 Series
‘I have no idea what this car is actually like to drive,’ admits Evans, ‘because I got my mate Tim to chauffeur me around for a morning while I sat in the back.’ Only Evans could get away with writing car reviews without actually driving them, but it kind of makes sense for the luxurious BMW 7 Series. He gave it five stars, and awarded it his luxury pick.
Coupe: Nissan 370Z Nismo
The Nismo 370Z looks like something out of Gran Turismo but, as Evans points out, it’s a bit disappointing. The 3.7-litre V6 doesn’t sound particularly special, and the performance doesn’t live up to its looks. We’re not sure why it appears in Evans’ top 50 cars, either…
Coupe: BMW M4
It sounds like Evans is a fan of the BMW M4, comparing it with the Ferrari 488 at four times the price. His mate Tim (the chauffeur of BMW 7 Series fame) described it as the ‘best burnout island doughnut car I’ve driven so far’. Evans gave it five stars, but it’s not his pick of the coupes…
Coupe: Volkswagen Scirocco
“There’s no better-looking coupe – or hatchback – in the world’, writes Evans. Bold statement. Justified, looking at the Scirocco in hot GTS trim? Hmm… we’re not so sure. Evans likes it, though, giving it five stars and awarding it the title of Chris’s coupe pick.
Convertible: Audi TT
The Top Gear presenter reveals that he feels sorry for the new Audi TTS Roadster. Why? ‘TTs will always be perceived as too personal trainer and hairdressery’. He has a point. We were similarly impressed when we drove the new TTS Roadster, which can hit 62mph in 4.9 seconds. It’s a bold look, but if Evans can pull it off…
Convertible: Mazda MX-5
The 2016 World Car of the Year, but not according to Chris Evans. ‘She feels a bit all out front’, he says, ‘like the car is taking you where it wants to go, instead of the other way around.’ That seems at odds to most reviews of the new MX-5, but who are we to argue?
Best of British: Aston Martin DB10
We’re on to the ‘Best of British’ category now, and approaching Evans’ car of 2016. First we have a supercar fit for Bond, the Aston Martin DB10. Chris admits he ‘didn’t really drive it’, leaving the lion’s share of the driving to Spectre’s chief stunt driver Mark Higgins. The experience from the passenger seat alone was enough to justify five stars.
Best of British: Zenos E10 S
We really rated the Zenos E10 S when we drove it last year, awarding it five stars in the Motoring Research review. Chris Evans isn’t a fan, however, criticising its lack of visibility, complaining about the flimsy roof and awarding it three stars overall. We kind of feel he might have missed the point…
Best of British: Ariel Nomad
The lack of practicality doesn’t seem to concern Evans when it comes to the bonkers Ariel Nomad, however. ‘At times it felt like I was strapped to the wing of a jumbo jet during take-off’, he said.
Best of British: MG Abingdon Edition
The best of British in 2016, according to Evans? A modern-day MGB, the Abingdon Edition is built by Frontline Developments. Powered by a 2.5-litre Mazda engine, it hits 62mph in 3.8 seconds and costs a whopping £95,400.
Best of British: Twisted T80 Land Rover Defender 110
Production of the Land Rover Defender as we know it finally came to an end earlier this year. Tuning companies love to modify the old British workhorse, bizarrely, with Twisted Automotive being one of the biggest. The T80 costs an incredible £93,416 and, in Evans’ words, ‘smells of leather as opposed to actual cows’.
SUV: Honda HR-V
We ran a Honda HR-V for six months and found it a likeable crossover, but Evans isn’t much of a fan. He gave it one star, saying: ‘frankly, the car bored the pants off me’. Unsurprisingly, the HR-V isn’t Evans’ pick of the SUVs…
SUV: Land Rover Discovery Sport
This, however, is. Evans tested the Discovery Sport with the original Freelander-borrowed 2.2-litre turbodiesel, rather than the newer (and better) 2.0-litre Ingenium engine. That didn’t seem to put him off, despite him saying ‘she sounds more like a Land Rover than I expected’.
SUV: Kia Sportage
‘The Sunday Dullster, and then some’. That’s how Evans reviews the Kia Sportage, but he does admit to driving it after reviewing a pair of Rolls-Royces for Top Gear as well as a power test of the Audi R8. He gives the Sportage three stars.
SUV: Volvo XC90
Evans likes big boots and he cannot lie. The XC90 has a boot ‘the size of Perthshire’, as well as legroom, which ‘is more Airbus than omnibus’, he writes. The Volvo XC90 was one of our favourite cars from last year, and a huge improvement over its ancient predecessor.
SUV: Audi Q7
Finally for the SUVs, is the five-star Audi Q7. Five stars because ‘the pin-sharp, colourful graphics… were glowing BBC Radio 2 from the moment [he] started her up’, perhaps?
Hot hatch: Honda Civic Type R
The Honda Civic Type R has gone down a storm, with some reviewers even rating it above Ford’s stonkingly good Focus RS. Evans describes it as ‘a pensioner’s shopping trolley transformed into a marauding beast’, which sounds fairly accurate to us.
Hot hatch: Vauxhall Corsa VXR
Evans describes the Corsa VXR as an ‘Essex boy’s cruiser’, which makes us think more of the Fiesta ST than this hot Vauxhall. But there’s one thing he’s definitely right about: ‘those with a heavy right foot could be heading for the hedgerow’.
Hot hatch: Peugeot 208 GTI
Chris’s hot hatch pick is this modern day 205 GTI, the 208 GTI. He describes it as an ‘absolute zinger’, and claims ‘no one can deny Peugeot has recaptured a sense of what made the original Pug hot hatch the catch of the Eighties and Nineties’.
Family crossover: Nissan Juke Nismo RS
Back down to earth with family crossovers. Oh, maybe not – as this is the 215hp Juke Nismo RS. Evans gives it five stars for performance but just one for design, describing as ‘the aesthetic motoring equivalent of the entire cast of TOWIE’.
Family crossover: Renault Kadjar
Evans reveals that, once Top Gear finally airs, he’ll have a lot more time for a ‘normal’ life. But, he says, hopefully not more ‘normal’ cars like the Renault Kadjar. To try and make the review for Renault’s two-star Kadjar more entertaining, he slipped in random automotive facts. Did you know that, if a car in Malaysia is too successful, competitors can have its price raised?
Family crossover: Mazda CX-3
Chris Evans takes up about a third of his review of the Mazda CX-3 complaining that it’s not really a ‘supermini’. But we’re not sure why he expected it to be a supermini. Mazda doesn’t claim it’s a supermini. Still, he gives it four stars and the title of his crossover pick.
Family crossover: Infiniti Q30
The final car before revealing Evans’ car of the year. This time it’s the not-really-a-crossover Infiniti Q30, which he describes as ‘a natty-looking motor car’. He admits, like us, he doesn’t really see the point of the Q30 – the car Nissan’s premium brand Infiniti is hoping will be a game-changer.
Car of the Year: McLaren 675LT
So Evans’ favourite car of 2016? That’ll be the Woking-built McLaren 675LT. Praising McLaren for establishing itself as a serious player in a market dominated by Italian rivals Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini, Evans questions: ‘How is that even possible?’