'Welcome to my hand-picked Best Cars of the Year Garage'

Our chief columnist chooses, then blags, the all-new vehicles that he considers the best of the best (so far) in 2021

Imagine the scene: money’s no object, and you have an empty 12-car garage that needs filling with taxed and insured road-going new cars. Nice problem to have, right? It’s one I’ve experienced in recent days as I’ve been forced – dragging and screaming – to “shop” (well, sort of) for a dozen vehicles to occupy my Best Cars of the Year garage.

At this point I should point out that although I used my contacts at some of the world’s leading car companies to order, take delivery of, then drive my chosen fleet of “best cars” in and out of my Best Cars of the Year garage, I was borrowing rather than buying. The “garage” in question was my stand at the British Motor Show that has just been and gone, but is vowing to return in 2022. 

Around half the people who popped in for a chat said they couldn’t understand why four of my choices were such humble, inexpensive (that’s not the same as cheap) models. They were referring to the Fiat 500 Electric, Suzuki Jimny Commercial 4X4, MG5 EV and Citroen Ami, which all come in at well under £30k, or less than £10k in the Ami’s case. Each is a brilliantly modest product that combats claims that new cars are too pricey. 

Conversely, one or two observers criticised me for going too far the other way in picking cars such as the Bentley Flying Spur (from around £154,000) and the McLaren 765LT Spider, which weighs in at nearer £310,000. “Nobody needs cars like this,” I was assured more than once, by people who were politely reminded by me that they don’t need the posh jewellery and clothes they wear, never mind the large main and smaller holiday homes they own, or the flights they take to Barbados each winter. Really, whether we’re rich, poor or somewhere in between, if we can only access products that are deemed to be in “needed” territories, the world will become a more miserable place. And economies and jobs will be decimated.   

Others in my eclectic mix were the Land Rover Defender, an obvious choice, plus the not-so-obvious SEAT Tarraco and Skoda Enyaq – similar VW Group SUVs at face value, but with very different talents and range capabilities, because the former’s a traditional ICE vehicle, the latter’s pure EV. I’d happily have one or both as daily cars for our family. 

Yes, I know it’s more van than car, but I also went for the £70k Crafter-based VW Grand California because it’s the sort of mobile-office-cum-load-lugger and camper van I really need in my life. And the Auto Express Car of the Year, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 had to be, and was, in my garage. Its sister, Kia’s EV6, had to be there, too, but Kia UK withdrew it at the last moment for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the vehicle for display was “in bits”. Shame. Mind you, Kia’s loss was Citroen’s gain. Of all the real-world products at the show, the little Ami – the most affordable car in attendance – attracted more inquisitive glances, camera lenses, and smiles than any other exhibit. It’s further proof that the least expensive four-wheeled products really can be among the best... and most desirable.

Find out what it's like to live with a Citroen Ami here...

Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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