Believe it or not, this week marks the middle of 2020. That’s right, we’re already half way through what must go down as one of the strangest years in recent memory.
However, while there here and now is a little unusual to put it mildly, this time-based idea got us thinking, and we dug out our Top Five classic cars celebrating their birthdays this year.
What’s more, we’ve lined them up with their modern-day production or concept successors to see how far things have come. On that topic, if you haven’t already signed up for our free Automotive Safety and Security Online event, please feel free to do that below.
Here are our Top Five picks:
#1 – Renault Clio – 30 years old
Cast your mind back to 1990… you’d be listening to songs like Madonna’s Vogue, Another Day in Paradise by Phil Collins, or perhaps cranking up Sinead O’Connor’s cover of Prince’s classic Nothing Compares 2U.
As for cars, if you were lucky you might catch sight of a brand-new Honda NSX in 1990, but, if you were in Europe at the time, you’d be very likely to see plenty of new Renault Clios running around. Launched at the Paris Motor Show, the Clio replaced the ageing Renault 5.
The fifth generation Clio was recently launched, bringing with it new ADAS functions including auto city braking, and an E-TECH PHEV version. This uses a rear-mounted 1.2kWh battery to power two e-motors that supplement the ICE. It’s built on the CMF-B platform, which we covered in our EV Platform’s Top Five just last week.
#2 – Fiat Panda – 40 years old
One of designer Giorgetto Giugiaro’s classics, the original Fiat Panda arrived in 1980 as a response to Fiat’s quest to create a then-modern rival to utilitarian cars like the Citroen 2CV or Renault 4.
The Panda was super simple, and launched to great success at the Geneva Motor Show of that year. It also spawned the first mass-produced electric car 10 years later. The Fiat Panda Elletra had a range of 62 miles from its 12 lead-acid batteries, powering its 9.2kW motor. A 1992 update brought a 17.7kW motor and a switch to NiCad power.
Fast forward to today, and Fiat created the excellent Centoventi concept, which appeared at the 2019 Swiss show.
Called 120 in Italian, in reference to Fiat’s 120th birthday in 2019, the car previews modular personalisation options that will be part of the next Panda’s makeup, along with modular batteries to extend the EV’s range from 62 miles up to 311 miles.
#3 – Audi Quattro – 40 years old
Sharing its birthday with the Panda, the Audi Quattro also made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in 1980. Designed to take advantage of four-wheel drive being allowed for Audi’s factory rally team, the Quattro road car remained in production for 11 years.
Today, the Quattro lends its name to any Audi with any kind of four or all-wheel drive system. That includes the Audi e-tron Quattro electric SUV, launched in 2018.
The EV has a total output of 408hp, and completes the 0-62mph sprint in 5.7 seconds. The Ur-Quattro meanwhile, featured a more modest 200hp, and could reach 62mph from a standstill in 7.1 seconds.
#4 – Citroen SM – 50 years old
Winding the clock back another decade, 1970 saw the debut of not one but two new Citroens. The economy class Citroen GS slotted into the range between the 2CV and Ami, while the larger, sportier SM – complete with oleo pneumatic self-levelling suspension and swivelling headlights – was the firm’s flagship car.
Citroen no-longer competes in the premium segment, but has just launched its latest C4, which competes in the price-conscious C-segment, but comes with features that would have been seen as out of this world in 1970.
This includes an e-C4 with a 136hp electric motor, 50kWh battery, and range of just under 200 miles, Citroen’s latest infotainment and safety tech, plus the firm’s hydraulic cushion suspension and ‘Advanced Comfort’ seats to mimic the plush ride of its predecessors.
#5 – VW Type 2 – 70 years old
Last but by no means least on our list is the VW Type 2 – or the Transporter, Kombi or Bus, depending on where you’re from. Famously inspired by a converted Type 1 (Beetle) chassis that was being used to carry parts around VW’s factory, the Type 2 has become a cult classic that lives on to this day.
The Bus was especially popular in the US, where VW’s reputation has been most directly hit by the dieselgate scandal. In a move to restore some goodwill, VW announced the ID BUZZ concept, which previews a new, EV Bus, due in 2022.
Built on the firm’s MEB platform, the new van will feature a 369hp output from two e-motors that power all four wheels, and an electric range of up to 373 miles.