It hardly seems possible, but 1995 was 20 years ago. That’s a sobering thought for this writer, as it was the year I started secondary school.
It doesn’t actually seem that long ago, but then I realised that kids born that year are already well advanced at university.
Anyway, some good cars were launched in ’95. We’ve already seen Lotus’s 20th Anniversary edition Elise, but there were many others as well.
This is Only Motors pick of the top five cars of 1995.
Alfa Romeo GTV & Spider
Alfa’s once-great Giulia Spider was looking decidedly decrepit as it reached a quarter century of production in the early Nineties. A replacement was needed, and the new ’95 Spider was it. While they were at it, Alfa took the opportunity to re-enter the coupe market with the GTV, reviving a name last seen in ’85.
The pair was closely related, based on the same platform as the Fiat Tipo. Enrico Fumia of Pininfarina came up with the very pretty styling; the Spider was literally simply a roofless version of the GTV, exaggerating the wedgy profile.
Power came Alfa’s glorious 2.0-litre Twin Spark and 3.0-litre V6 engines, with drive going to the front wheels. If we’re honest, neither was much cop to drive, but they were lovely things. Lovely to see, be seen in and be around generally.
It was always a rarity, but has yet to acquire much of a following. Buy one now while they’re still cheap.
Audis were always good, but the company never made much money. That started to change during the Nineties and the A4 was one of the cornerstones of the turn-around.
It replaced the well-regarded 80 saloon and estate as a rival to the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class. It was more of the same really, with handsome styling, a first-rate interior and unbreakable build quality. Only a lack of space and uninvolving handling let it down.
There was huge choice, with specs ranging from prison cell to luxury bachelor pad. There were fast ones and quattro models, and it was turned into a dominant touring car racer.
It was the class-leading diesels that really marked the A4 out from the rest of the pack though, proving very economical and refined for the time, and capable of racking up enormous mileage. Early A4s are a rare sight now, though.
Fiat Bravo & Brava
Whether or not the Fiat Bravo/Brava deserved to be named European Car of The Year for ’96 is debatable. But it was certainly much more interesting than its main rivals, the Ford Escort, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf.
The pair replaced the Tipo. The Bravo was the thee-door version, the Brava the five-door. They were by far the best-looking cars in their class, both inside and out. They were pretty good to drive too, with willing engines. The diesels were particularly impressive.
They were good value but deprication was catastrophic. Coupled with sub-par build quality, many were consigned to an early grave. Along with many cars of their vintage, the Bravo/Brava virtually disappeared during the infamous Scrappage Scheme of 2009.
Ford Galaxy & Volkswagen Sharan
Renault didn’t actually invent the MPV, but it popularised the concept. The Espace had the market almost entirely to itself until ’95 when other manufacturers started introducing their own models.
PSA/Fiat had a go with the Eurovan-based Citroen Synergie/Fiat Ulysse/Peugeot 806 triplets, while Ford and Volkswagen got together to build the Galaxy and Sharan – the SEAT Alhambra was added to the triumvirate in ’96.
With their distinctive, sharp-nosed, one-box styling, they differed only in trim and minor styling details. Each manufacturer used its own petrol engines, the same VW diesel and shared a factory in Portugal.
Both offered car-like handling and refinement and huge interior space, with seats that folded, swiveled and removed. They sold in big quantities, despite uniformly terrible build quality – a problem that seemed to inflict all MPVs until well into the 2000s.
As The Nineties dawned, the once great MG marque was a bit of a joke, a name carried on sporty versions of some rubbish Austin Rovers. It hadn’t been seen on a sports car since the ancient MGB was finally retired in 1981 – we’ll discount the flawed but charming MGB-related RV8, built in tiny numbers largely for the Japanese market.
It came back with a bang when BMW-owned Rover launched the MG F. The mid-engined layout – MG’s first – surprised many, but this was a thoroughly modern little roadster. It you gloss over the fact that the chassis wasn’t too far removed from the Metro’s.
Power came from Rover’s state-of-the-art 1.8-litre K-Series – we’ll gloss over the head gasket problems – and the handling was suitably entertaining – we’ll gloss over the problematic early Hydragas suspension. We’re doing a lot of glossing here.
Whatever. The MG F did much to revive MG’s reputation in the late Nineties and now it’s a good, cheap, fun little car.
Images courtesy of Favcars.com
By Graham King