What cars defined the 90s?

Drive Like it's 1999

To paraphrase that famous Robin Williams quote - if you can remember the Nineties, you probably were there.

This was the decade that gave us ground-breaking TV shows such as Friends, TFI Friday and the X-Files. We rushed to the movies to be terrified by The Silence of the Lambs, shocked by Reservoir Dogs and fall in love with Titanic.

Britpop and band spats hit the headlines on an almost daily basis and fashion was, well, largely absent (be honest - did you sport double denim?).

Politically the landscape was changing too. The Labour party swept to power in 1997 ousting the Conservatives from Downing Street on a wave of fervour fuelled by the D: ream hit ‘Things Can Only Get better’.

Speaking of music, teenagers listened to their favourite sounds on the go with personal CD players, while their younger siblings obsessed over their virtual pets, Tamagotchis. And if technology was your thing, you could have been one of the first to embrace the erm, ‘mobile’ phone or possibly you were even an early adopter of that newfangled thing, the internet.

Equally there may be things you want to forget - the Macarena anyone? And possibly the less said about Noels House Party or anything by Britney Spears the better.

But what of the cars we were driving then? Whether you were a young first driver, had a family to shuttle around or were enjoying driving to work in the latest model by your favourite marque, our little homage will have you driving like its 1999 all over again.


Ford Fiesta

Originally launched in 1976, the Fiesta celebrates the big 4-0 this year. Considered a stalwart of the Ford brand, the Fiesta was credited with being one of the most popular cars of the 1990’s. Today its popularity is as enduring as ever and while hurtling toward middle-age, this compact hatchback is now celebrated as being the UK’s best-selling car of all time.

It was during the 90’s that the Fiesta underwent its biggest post-launch transformation. From boxy and angular, a new engineering platform and shape ensured it emerged complete with smooth lines making it popular with young drivers.

Was the Fiesta your first car?

Volkswagen Golf

Providing as much enjoyment on screen and they did on road, Volkswagen were as well known for their TV commercials in the 1990’s as they were for their cars. From squeaky earrings to business men and even the Bluebells singing ‘Young at Heart’, the award winning ads drew on influences from pop culture through to timely societal trends.

For many the Golf – especially the GTI version - was the epitome of cool. Its versatility meant that it was equally at home functioning as a small family car as it was as a car for young professionals.

With reportedly nearly 140,000 still on the roads today, its mantra ‘If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen’ proves itself to be true.



Renault Clio

Hearing the words ‘Nicole’ and ‘Papa’ in the 90’s could only invoke the image of one thing – a Clio, mais oui. The ads were so popular that in 1996, one survey found the word ‘Nicole’ was recognised by more Britons than the Prime Minister at the time (John Major in case you'd forgotten), actor Bob Hoskins and presenter Chris Evans.

Originally introduced in 1990, the Clio has gone onto become one of the consistently best-selling cars of its generation. Voted European Car of the Year twice, in 1991 and then again in 2006, it is credited with restoring Renaults presence and stature after a difficult period of trading in the 1980’s.

Its on-screen popularity helped propel it to the overall best-seller list for the 1990’s with demand fuelled in particular by the Williams hot hatch – a favourite with drivers due to its agility and out-right fun factor.



BMW 3 Series (E36)

With a lifespan of 7 years (1991 – 1998) the 3 Series went on to find itself named annually in Car and Driver Magazine’s ’10 Best Cars List’. Driven by Pierce Brosnan in ‘Goldeneye’ in 1995, the 3 Series has enjoyed its time in the spotlight with appearances in movies such as The Chase, Hangover 2 and Beverley Hills Cop. Last year a 1996 3 Series which had featured in one of the madcap Top Gear challenges (driven by Richard Hammond in Germany) was auctioned off. Probably best to check the suspension with that one….and the steering column…..and the engine…and…well, pretty much everything.

Originally available with four and six cylinder engines, rear suspension was the ‘Z-axle’ Multilink suspension, as used in the Z1.

With approximately 88,000 on the road today, there is still plenty of scope for more celebrity moments.


Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Introduced in 1993 as a replacement for the 190 range, the C-Class was the smallest model in the marque's line-up until its sibling, the A-Class, came along in 1997. The first C-Class (W202) sedan was first produced on 1 June 1993 and ceased manufacture in 2000.

Almost unrecognisable from today’s sophisticated and sleek C3, nonetheless this German-built classic marked a shift toward greater interior comfort and the inclusion of more standard equipment such as power-steering, a 5 speed-gearbox, and central locking. Indeed, many of the things we take for granted in 2016.

Back in the day a brand new 1995 C-Class would have cost just shy of £30,000 – today on the second hand market this could be picked up for a few thousand, with owners describing them as ‘the best of the marque’ and ‘the best car so far in my life’. Makes the C-Class sound awfully tempting doesn’t it?


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