Traditionally classic cars were about 1960s roadsters, string back driving gloves and a gentle Sunday drive for a pub lunch. But even old cars have to move with the times and there’s now a new generation of enthusiasts going back in time in what are sweepingly described as ‘modern classics’.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what period these modern classics belong to but, it’s safe to say, certain cars from the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s are now as sought after and coveted as the MGs, E-Types and suchlike beloved of an older generation of car fans. Here are five fine examples of modern classics that can be enjoyed without delay.
Renaultsport Clio 172/182 – From £2,500
Most car enthusiasts will have a hot hatch or two in their car history and it’s no surprise that these are among the most popular modern classics around, with good examples in increasing demand. Everyone will have their own favourite but the second-generation Renaultsport Clio is a pitch-perfect intersection between modern manners and old-school thrills. All feature a powerful, normally aspirated 2.0-litre engine and lively handling that makes them not only quick, but also ridiculously entertaining. Base 172 and 182 models are still in relatively plentiful supply, and prices remain affordable. Special editions like the 172 Cup and 182 Trophy (pictured above), meanwhile, are coveted by enthusiasts and prized in original form as high points in hot hatch history.
Citroen C6 – From £3,000
From the DS of the mid-1950s onwards Citroen has always stood out in the saloon car market, its eccentrically styled and technologically bold saloons popular among those appreciative of single-minded design and engineering. The swansong for this tradition was the C6 of the mid-2000s, a typically stylish saloon packed with Citroen quirks but never selling well compared with equivalent BMWs, Mercedes or Audis. Belatedly, appreciation of its distinctive looks, supreme ride quality and wafty refinement is growing and this underrated big Citroen is maturing into an affordable modern classic with style galore.
BMW M5 – From £10,000
Since the mid-1980s the BMW M5 has been – and continues to be – the benchmark performance saloon, combining luxury and four-door practicality with supercar-chasing performance. Each generation has offered its own twist on the formula and all have their advocates but the V8-powered version sold between 1998 and 2003 is widely regarded as a high-point. Enthusiasts often use BMW’s internal model codes to differentiate between different generations – for this one the code to know is ‘E39’. The combination of understated looks, powerful naturally-aspirated V8 engine, rear-wheel drive and a manual gearbox ensure lasting popularity, though they are expensive to own and run, particularly if problems occur. Either way, the E39 M5 is a definitive modern classic.
Lotus Elise S1 – From £20,000
Arguably the car that saved Lotus and revived the brand’s reputation for smart, minimalist engineering, the original Elise of 1996 combined traditional English sports car values with incredibly smart and bold use of materials. With a chassis of bonded aluminium extrusions, classic double-wishbone suspension and a sensuous fibre-glass body the Elise is incredibly light, meaning even with a basic 1.8-litre Rover engine it has performance and handling that’s in a class of its own. It’s still built in evolved form today but the original ‘Series 1’ Elise is appreciated for its purity of handling and style. This is a bold reinvention of the traditional British roadster and a true modern classic.
Land Rover Defender 110 – From £15,000
The Land Rover Defender was arguably a modern classic even when it was still in production. A successor is on the way and is eagerly anticipated but it will be a very different vehicle from the utilitarian original and for that reason there will always be fans for the real thing. Safe to say it won’t be for everyone and, from ergonomics to driving style, the classic Defender is an acquired taste. That’s all part of the appeal though and if you’re willing to live with these ‘character’ features a Defender is an undoubted style icon. A long-wheelbase 110 Station Wagon will certainly stand out as an alternative to more modern family SUVs too.
In the market for a used car?
CarGurus makes it easy to find great deals from top-rated dealers. CarGurus compares price, detailed vehicle data and dealer reviews to give each used car a deal rating from great to overpriced, and sorts the best deals first. Find out more and begin your used car search at CarGurus.