There are very, very few new cars that I would consider branding with the title ‘best car in the world’. Yet I got to thinking about this because I found myself bandying the phrase around more often than ever before in the past year or so, and I started to wonder whether I was being overly generous, or whether the recent crop of star cars really are that good.
So the question is this: what makes 'the best car in the world’? Of course, it’s subjective, but I do think there's a formula that works for me and which might apply to a lot of enthusiasts.
For the sake of this blog ever ending, we’ll stick to cars that are currently in production.
Next, I’m afraid hypercars are out. I would undoubtedly be woozy with delirium if I ever drove a LaFerrari, Porsche 918 or McLaren P1, but for me, that sort of level is too extreme for practical road use and too expensive by half to be remotely viable for being labelled the best car in the world. They may well be from an engineering point of view, but otherwise, no.
My ‘best cars in the world’ all have to be much more accessible. In fact, to my mind, they have to be attainable to a large audience. Elite cars are all well and good, but if the average person (forgive the vagueness) is never going to be able to buy or run one - even used - then it feels too aspirational to deserve the title. Basically, these have to be the best cars in the real world, not the world in which we've all won the lottery.
The car also has to be fun on road and track. By which I mean it has to be able to deliver The Buzz – that simple feeling of elation at how flipping brilliant driving is – both at ordinary speeds on the road and when given free rein on a circuit.
There also has to be an element of practicality. Boring, I know, but while I probably have a higher tolerance and level of affection for flyweights than most, to be the best car in the world there must be some portion of comfort to make it enjoyable as an everyday motor.
I could live with two seats, so with that I’m down to three ‘best cars in the world’. In no particular order, they are:
1. The Ford Fiesta ST. If the Peugeot 205 GTi has a spiritual successor, this is it.
2. The new Mazda MX-5. A complete delight. Feels and looks special, without 'special' costs attached.
3. Porsche Cayman S. Manual, of course. I’d go for the GTS or GT4, only a high price and a distinct unwillingness to depreciate suggests they might fall short of my 'average person' attainability requirements.
Yes, it’s a cop out to have three winners, but I don’t think there has been another time in my 10 years at Autocar and What Car? when I’ve been so willing to stick such a weighty label to this many cars. Rejoice, for we’re clearly in a golden age of some sort, and that heralds equally remarkable things for the used market in a few years.