Hello, and welcome to the year 2020, which also marks the start of a new decade for all of us. Yes, I’m on team January 1, 2020 instead of team January 1, 2021, but let’s not get into a whole thing here, as that’s not the point of this piece.

As you’ve seen on paultan.org around the New Year period, each member of the team is required (by law) to compile a short list of cars they’ve driven in the prior calendar year that have left them impressed.

However, given that an entire decade has past us, a unanimous decision was made by the team to shake things up by not only expanding the list to ten cars (instead of the usual five), but to also factor in any cars that have debuted in the past ten years.

Before we begin, I should point out that you may see some repeat entrants from my prior “Top Five” lists, but I suppose that’s a testament to how much of an impression these cars have left on me. Also, there’s no specific ranking system in play here. Ready? Let’s go.

10. Porsche 718 Boxster

I wasn’t a big fan of the Porsche Boxster when it first burst onto the scene, and the second- and third-generation models did little to change that. However, all that changed when the fourth-generation Boxster arrived.

A lot more visually appealing than its predecessors, the 718 Boxster also impressed with its delicate handling, while the adoption of a turbocharged engine provided a lot more low-down torque. The downsized four-cylinder may be sacrilege to some, but the performance figures are proof that the loss of two cylinders didn’t make the 718 mechanically inferior. If anything, it got even better.

Add in the unique “wind in the hair” experience that only a roadster can provide, and it’s something that has quite some appeal to me. There’s a reason the Boxster has been the benchmark for many carmakers looking to make a sports car, and though some may come close, there’s nothing quite like a Boxster. I would like mine in the more modest Boxster S guise, please.

9. Toyota GR Supra

A car that has caused more verbal fights in the real and virtual world, the fifth-generation of an iconic nameplate was always going to be a topic of controversy when it was revealed that BMW would have quite a heavy hand in its development. Given the current automotive climate where bean counters must be appeased and emission regulations are tightening at a rapid rate, it would have been a tall order for Toyota to build a new Supra on its own.

On this point, entering into a partnership with a carmaker that has already produced a string of hits – M2, M3, M4 and M5 – certainly seemed like a logical decision, especially given the timing constraints and requirements put forth by Tetsuya Tada. Which carmaker made some of the best straight-six engines in the world at the time?

The end result may divide opinions, but there’s no denying the GR Supra is a truly capable and engaging sports car to drive. Toyota’s request to BMW for a short-wheelbase chassis and its own applied suspension tuning benefits the GR Supra, as it is responsive, well connected and quick, the last of which is thanks to the punchy B58 engine.

It’s a miracle the GR Supra exists in a time when most automakers are more focused on making more crossovers and SUVs rather than sports cars. Putting aside the “Zupra” jokes, let’s just be glad and celebrate the fact that there’s even a new sports car in today’s world.

8. Honda HR-V

Selling in record numbers here, the Honda HR-V has all the attributes to appeal to the masses. For starters, it’s easily one of the most practical B-segment SUVs you can buy, as we’ve demonstrated in a past Instagram post, and this extends to its spacious interior that is filled with plenty of nifty features that are actually useful in day-to-day life.

Couple that to an unconventional but welcoming design, a tall driving position, and a reliable 1.8 litre powertrain, and it’s clear to see why these things practically sold themselves, with a waiting list that stretched back months shortly after it was first introduced.

7. C117 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG 4Matic

Introducing entry-level AMG models to its line-up is one of the best decisions that Mercedes-Benz has ever made, as it allowed the brand to reinvent itself to be more appealing to the youthful crowd.

The first two offerings – the W176 A 45 AMG 4Matic and C117 CLA 45 AMG Matic – attracted a good number of fans, but it is the latter that appealed to me more. Both may have near identical specifications under the bonnet, but the sleek shape of the four-door coupe (still an oxymoron to me) just gives the CLA the advantage.

With the AMG Aerodynamics package, the appeal grows even further, and that’s even before getting behind the wheel. There’s a lot of raw power on tap here, and it’ll take a lot to push the car to its limits. During my time with one, it was clear there was an imbalance between the level of performance on tap and my driving skills, and it was more a case of how daring you can be rather than if the car can keep up, which is why it’s on the list.

6. Perodua Myvi (third-generation)

Tread lightly and carry a big stick is a phrase I personally associate with Perodua, and the Myvi is certainly one car that exemplifies this. The first-generation car proved to be a runaway success for the company by surpassing initial sales expectations, and its popularity would continue into the model’s second generation and beyond the company’s milestone of one million units produced.

The model would be rejuvenated again in its third generation. More visually appealing than its predecessors – just look at the Myvi GT concept – the latest version of the nameplate also came with advance safety systems that weren’t present in comparable offerings from other brands at the time.

The best part is, the core aspects of its predecessors – practicality and being affordable for the masses – were carried over as well. The original was a popular choice for many first-time car buyers – me included – and more than 14 years later, that still remains the case.

5. Volvo XC40

I like Scandinavian design and sensibility, and if I were to own an SUV, the Volvo XC40 would be among my choices. Simple in its design but with specific cues that give it a distinct character, the XC40 is certainly a pleasant-looking vehicle to my eyes.

It’s equally as nice on the inside, with various features that aim to maximise practicality, including large door pocket storage spaces, a sizeable centre console bin, a removable wastebasket, slots for your cards, and a built-in boot divider.

Adding to the above is an interior trimmed with materials that are lovely to the touch, and you also get a lot of nifty tech that is modern and relevant to city dwellers. It’s a well thought out package, and one that is rather fun to drive as well, although I would forgo those concept car-sized wheels for smaller ones to obtain a little more comfort.

4. Mazda 2

A car that I’ve personally owned, the fourth-generation Mazda 2 impressed me by being proof that B-segment hatchbacks and premium feel aren’t mutually exclusive. From the lustrous Soul Red Metallic exterior paint finish to an upmarket interior, the Mazda 2 is as pleasant to look at and a welcoming car to be inside of, even if it’s a little cramped.

Beyond the visual appeal, the driving experience is also rather engaging. It’s light on its feet with an eagerness to change direction, and when coupled to the peppy and rev-happy SkyActiv-G 1.5 litre engine, the Mazda 2 made for some great Jinba-Ittai moments.

3. FK8 Honda Civic Type R

Hot hatches should be fun and a bit garish, which is why I have a soft spot for the FK8 Honda Civic Type R. In the fun department, there’s certainly no shortage of performance thanks to the VTEC Turbo engine and sharp handling, plus it’s also engaging to play around with the slick-shifting six-speed manual – a rarity these days.

As for the styling, it isn’t subtle in any sense of the word, but it does appeal to my inner “boy racer.” Given the number of Civic sedans fitted with bodykits that attempt to mimic the look of CTR, I assume I’m not alone on this.

The latest CTR is also a lot more matured compared to its predecessors, as it doesn’t provide a bone-crunching ride that one might assume given the performance figures and aggressive styling. It was a toss-up between the Ford Fiesta ST and this, but the CTR just gets the forward nod.

2. F90 BMW M5

My answer to the “one-car garage” question, the F90 BMW M5 is a good balance of performance and usability. Looking back at its lineage, the sports sedan has always exhibited a “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” personality, capable of being a relatively docile daily driver one moment, and a performance-focused machine the next.

The latest generation of the M5 is the most capable of the lot, as it is the first to come with four-wheel drive, providing an added level of surety when you’re not in the mood for some spirited driving. However, with some fiddling, the M5 can return to the “old ways” of being a tyre-shredding beast, so purists shouldn’t be too upset.

There’s certainly no shortage of power either and the car does well to disguise its weight, although you’re reminded of the latter when braking too late into a corner. It’s also noteworthy that the M5 doesn’t compromise too much on what a regular 5 Series has to offer, so you can have your cake and eat it.

1. Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86/GT86

When the Toyobaru twins that are the Toyota 86/GT86 and Subaru BRZ were announced, the world was excited at the prospect of a back-to-basics sports car that was relatively affordable and fun.

I was among the excited folk, reading through the pages of Top Gear magazine – the Awards Issue – to find that the GT86 was not only named “Car of the Year” by the magazine but also by Jeremy Clarkson himself (refer to this link).

I did eventually sample one shortly after, being smitten further in the process. Unintimidating to drive and with enough performance for an enjoyable time behind the wheel, the Toyobaru duo offers a reprieve from modern sports cars that have become overly complex.

Fast forward a few years, I took the plunge to purchase a 2013 BRZ for myself in 2018 – I like the look of the Subaru better. It’s been more than a year since receiving the keys, and if anything, my love for it has gotten stronger.