No motor shows, dealerships shut during lockdown and sales through the floor – it’s been a very unusual year for the car business.
But the good news is we’ve not been short of new cars to test and better still, many of them have been really good.
Actually, it’s been a vintage year making it difficult to narrow it down to a top 10.
The big news is that four of the 10 are electric.
That’s not because we’re trying to be right-on – they just happened to be brilliant cars.
America’s sports car is coming to Britain and with the steering wheel on the right-hand side. The new Corvette is a sensational car that blends supercar looks and performance with a good old-fashioned big V8 engine that kicks out 495bhp.
In America an entry level Corvette will set you back five bucks under $60,000 but once exchange rates and taxes have been taken into account it’ll be near to £80,000 once it arrives here.
That’s still not a lot of money for a car that will do 194mph and 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds.
And it’s not just about purchase cost because the Corvette will be far cheaper to run than a Ferrari or Lamborghini thanks to its extremely simple 6.2-litre V8 engine.
We drove the car in California in February and I can’t wait to drive one here some time nextyear.
Land Rover Defender
What a triumph. It isn’t easy to replace an icon but Land Rover has carried it off brilliantly.
That the new Defender is unstoppable off road is crucial for the image but what will make this car shift in the showroom is its brilliant styling both inside and out.
We drove 90 short-wheelbase three-door and 110 long-wheelbase five-door models.
Both are brilliant: the 90 better looking and more nimble on the road.
This Defender, unlike the old one, is as at home on the motorway as it is in forests. A five-star car. From £45,600.
Porsche tends to do things properly, so no surprise its first electric car is a belter. We drove the Taycan Turbo which has a mind-boggling 680bhp spread between its two electric motors.
If that isn’t enough clout for you then the Turbo S has an overboost facility that lifts the power up to 750bhp. The Turbo is more than fast enough even if the car does weigh a hefty 2.3 tonnes.
It doesn’t feel that heavy when you’re driving it. There’s just a massive rush of acceleration and terrific road holding.
A Tesla Model S P100D is cheaper than the £115,858 Taycan Turbo but doesn’t drive as well or feel as well finished.
That and the fact I reckon the Porsche wins it on looks, too. From £83,580.
Honda E Advance
Not particularly cheap and with a range of only 137 miles are the only criticisms I can raise against Honda’s first ever electric car.
The new Honda E is extremely cute on the outside and full of original ideas on the inside. We drove it early in the year in Spain and since then I’ve had a change of opinion on range. Big range equals expensive and heavy batteries.
If we have a really comprehensive public charging infrastructure then range ceases to be an issue.
This little Honda is the most appealing EV yet. From £27,160.
Toyota Yaris GR
The Toyota Yaris GR is not necessarily the best car I’ve ever driven but it’s the best in its class. By that I mean hot hatch or pocket rocket. A small car that packs a sports car punch.
It is very special. It has a chassis no other Toyota uses and an engine not currently fitted to another model.
Three cylinders, 1.6-litres and 275bhp. Four-wheel drive and a lovely manual gearbox. Handling and grip are phenomenal.
Best of all, at just over £30k the Yaris GR is affordable.
The Polestar 2 is the first large-volume electric car to come from Volvo’s stand-alone brand. It is a direct rival to Tesla’s huge-selling and extremely good Model3.
The Polestar 2’s styling is difficult to pigeonhole – it’s part-saloon part-fastback but it almost has the stance of a crossover. I think it looks superb.
A 78kWh battery pack powers two electric motors that each drive an axle – meaning four-wheel drive is standard. The total power available is 402bhp and it’s a quick car with 0-62mph taking only 4.7 seconds.
That puts the car firmly into the performance car category but as usual with an EV, regularly using the full performance will savage the car’s range. Which for the Polestar 2 is a maximum of 292 miles.
Great performance and stunning looks, the Polestar2 hits the spot. From £46,900.
Seat Leon FR
This came as a surprise. The Leon is based on the same platform as the new VW Golf which we’d already driven so we were expecting a very similar drive in the Seat.
In reality the Leon turned out to be much more fun and enjoyable to drive than the Golf. We tested the FR version with a 130bhp engine and manual gearbox, and bespoke suspension that includes a ride height lowered by 15mm.
The Leon’s interior is as close to the Golf’s in quality as you need and shares the same infotainment system. From £23,515. A better car for less money.
The new Peugeot e-2008 is one of the best electric family cars to come on the market. There have been plenty of EVs launched this year but the e-2008 is one of the most appealing.
We tested it in GT Line spec in metallic blue and it looked really sharp. And the great thing about the 2008 and the 208 hatchback is that they look just as stylish on the inside.
The hero feature is the 3D digital instrument pack that’s standard in all but the cheapest trim level. The company claims it reduces driver reaction times by half a second. Who knows? It certainly looks cool.
You’re also getting a very pleasant driving experience for your money. If you’re new to the world of electric cars you will love the absence of engine noise, particularly if you’re used to diesels.
The only thing you’ll hear in the e-2008 is a little bit of wind noise at speed on a motorway and some tyre noise.
The choice of EVs is constantly expanding with, as the e-2008 shows, some first-class machines on offer. Prices start at £32,680.
Hyundai i20 SE
Another surprise of the year. The Fiesta-rivalling Hyundai i20 is a simple car.
Excellent three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine that has plenty of character. Simple dashboard with plenty of knobs and dials for controlling essential features such as the heating.
On top of this, enough space inside to make you query buying the next size up. Quality is good where it matters and for a car with only 99bhp the i20 is surprisingly good fun to drive.
Comfortable, too, with a smooth ride.
If an EV doesn’t work for you, buy this and keep it for 20 years. From £18,595.
Sneaking in at the end of the year is this thought-provoking city car called the Citroen Ami.
It’s electric, as you can probably guess, has a top speed of 28mph and a range of 43 miles. Both numbers are perfectly suited to town driving.
Citroen hasn’t made up its mind if it’s going to import this £5,000 gem into the UK but my hope is that it will.
This will also be very good news for youngsters because as the Ami is classed as a quadricycle you can drive it when you’re 16 as long as you’ve taken a CBT test – the same as you do to ride a scooter or moped.