Vintage Mini line up
Beth Twigg

Beth Twigg

Beth is a Digital Copywriter in the Carparison marketing team, tasked with creating great articles to keep you both entertained and informed. She has two years previous experience, but has been writing and scribbling for much longer.

Read time of 6 minutes.

Which cars have stood the test of time and remain just as popular today as they were at launch?

These modern classics have pushed boundaries and defied critics to become some of the most beloved motors on our roads today.

It's easy to get caught up in the newness of the automotive world, especially with the advance of electrification and the cool vehicles that are being released by the likes of Tesla, Volkswagen, and Kia

But by continually pushing boundaries, and trying new technologies, manufacturers from Ford to Honda to Nissan have kept up with the times and made sure old models stay fresh and new, with generations of drivers discovering the lasting power of a vehicle proven to be safe, reliable, and fun.

We've rounded up six of our favourite modern classic vehicles, so if you're looking for a new car that's proven time and time again to be a fantastic choice, look no further than this list.

Ford Fiesta Mk1

Ford Fiesta Mk1

1. Ford Fiesta (1976)

There's no denying that the Ford Fiesta has long been one of Britain's favourite cars. And for very good reason.

It's now an iconic supermini, but when it was first launched back in 1976 this tiny car was a huge risk for American manufacturer Ford. It had already turned down the idea of creating a small rival to BMC's Mini over a decade before, citing high production costs.

But the 1973 oil crisis brought with it a need for affordable, compact vehicles, and so Ford launched the Fiesta to almost instant success.

By 1980 it had sold over a million, from 1996-1998 the Ford Fiesta Mk4 had become Britain's best-selling car, and by 2014 the Fiesta was Britain's best-selling car of all time. It was a favourite among young families, first-time drivers, and those who just needed a set of wheels to get them from here to there and back again, and it's retained the same popularity throughout its long lifespan. 

Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

It really was a game-changer for Ford.

Tough, easy to maintain, and affordable, the Fiesta is also durable - it's outlived many of its rivals, and even older Fiestas can still be seen on the roads today, ticking along like they're only two years old, not twenty.

Ford have been smart with the Fiesta; part of its lasting popularity is not because of its easy drive and reliability, but because with every new iteration, Ford has brought the styling of the Fiesta smack up to date, adding in the latest technology of the era, like power steering, anti-lock brakes, and connectivity.

And it's always been affordable - if you need a compact car that's fun to drive, can whizz around town with ease, and carry a lot of stuff, there's not many that can rival the Fiesta for value for money.

Volkswagen Golf first generation

Volkswagen Golf first generation

2. Volkswagen Golf (1974)

Another firm family favourite, the VW Golf is a staple on our roads.

Over 35 million units of the Golf have been produced since its launch. If you do the maths, that works out roughly to someone somewhere around the world buying a Golf every 40 seconds. So by the time you've read this article around six Golfs will have been sold.

There's no denying its popularity.

It's been considered as the precursor of the compact class - with the class even being coined the 'Golf class' - and every rival released since has had to compete with the German heavyweight. VW have said that the Golf's success is down to the sum of its parts, and that it's the 'perfect companion to everyday life, embodying versatility, functionality, reliability, and quality like no other car'.

VW is definitely not wrong.

Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf now

The step from the iconic Beetle to the Golf was a huge one - the infamous rounded shape was traded in, replaced by an angular car with a water-cooled front engine and an entirely new vehicle layout.

But the German manufacturer knew what it was doing. The main design elements of the original Golf can be traced through all the subsequent variations, and haven't been lost to the annals of history; the silhouette with the upright C-pillar, the striking wheel arches, and the horizontal front with the slim grille are still found on every Golf today.

The VW Golf defined Volkswagen as a manufacturer, and continues to do so today - it still tops best-selling Volkswagen model lists. 

It's reliable, safe, and crosses classes to be a car that's suitable for nearly everybody. Whether you're looking for your first car, your fifth car, or your fiftieth car, there's something to love about the Golf for everyone.

Original Mini Cooper

Original Mini Cooper

3. MINI (1959)

This tiny car is a huge British icon.

Starting life in 1959, the Mini was created by the British Motor Corporation in reaction to the fuel shortages and petrol rationing of the time (starting to see a pattern here?) People needed more efficient city cars, and BMC was ready to deliver.

It became an icon of the '60s, beloved by the public as well as a firm favourite among rock stars, actors, writers, and debutantes. It was even used in The Italian Job, where several Minis demonstrated just how nippy the diminutive vehicle was as it evaded the police.

The two-door, four-cylinder engine car with its monocoque shell did exactly what BMC wanted it to do, and brought an affordable, economical city car to the masses at a time when big cars were becoming more and more expensive.

It promised fun, freedom, and adventure - and it delivered. 

3-door MINI

MINI

The Mini was a huge success worldwide, and it remained popular until BMC finally ceased production on the Mini in 2000, after manufacturing over 5 million cars and selling 1.6 million in Britain alone.

It had also enjoyed huge successes in the world of motorsport, winning victories in races like the Monte Carlo Rally and the 1000 Lakes Rally.

But the Mini being pulled from production in 2000 wasn't the end of the line for everyone's favourite box on wheels - BMW took over and shortly afterward announced a successor to the original, aptly named the MINI. Yes, they just put the old name in capitals.

The new MINI shares the FWD architecture of the original, but is much more of a premium car with a luxe experience.

While not as affordable as the original, it retains the iconic look and remains just as popular. There are several iterations of the MINI available to buy today, including an estate version, an SUV version, a convertible model, and even the MINI Electric.

With the latest models featuring the best technology, latest performance engineering, and a finely tailored interior, the MINI is a fashionable and desirable vehicle, oriented towards the pleasure of driving.

Nissan Qashqai 2006

Nissan Qashqai 2006

4. Nissan Qashqai (2007)

The Nissan Qashqai was revolutionary when it launched, transforming the family SUV sector.

People said it couldn't be done - but luckily for us, Nissan didn't listen.

It was the early 2000s, and Nissan knew it needed to change its European product portfolio. Vehicles like the Almera weren't selling well, and COO Carlos Ghosn wanted its replacement to offer something better. At the time, SUVs were rising in popularity, offering something a little different to the traditional estate, saloon, or hatchback.

But there were still barriers to widespread adoption - people were still reasonably conservative in their vehicle choices, and hefty SUVs were a little on the mammoth side for everyday urban use.

And so Nissan bravely went where no car manufacturer had gone before, setting out on an adventure to create a vehicle that combined the desirability, practicality, and versatility of an SUV, but with the size, nimble-ness, and running costs of a hatchback.

Nissan Qashqai

Nissan Qashqai

It had no direct competitor, so Nissan was free to set the parameters of what a compact crossover could look like, ending up with the higher seating position and large wheels of a typical SUV, but with a cabin engineered to feel like you're sitting in it, not on it.

A high armrest position and a  passenger car-inspired centre console sealed the deal, making sure traditional hatchback customers would feel just as at home.

The Qashqai was initially unveiled at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show - and met with immediate scepticism. The media didn't think that there would ever be a market for Nissan's weird hybrid.

But by the time the Nissan Qashqai made its debut at the Paris Motor Show in 2006, there was already demand for the vehicle, with the Sunderland factory that had won the production of the crossover already upping initial plans to build 120,000 a year.

Nissan's clear vision and faith in the compact crossover SUV paid off, and today the brand stands as a market leader in what is becoming an increasingly crowded market, with over 2.7 million Qashqai's having been sold in Europe alone.

Mercedes-Benz 190 E

Mercedes-Benz 190 E (W201)

5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class (1993)

No other car on the market has come to define the compact executive class quite like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class saloon has.

Seeing off rivals like the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4, the C-Class still remains a popular option and has been one of Mercedes' bread and butter models for years.

The C-Class began life as the Mercedes W201 in 1982, marketed under the 190 badge. It was the German giant's first foray into the compact saloon segment and featured cutting-edge tech like ABS brakes, seatbelt pre-tensioners, and airbags.

It was a hugely significant car for Mercedes and opened up the brand to a whole host of new customers.

The 190 marked the first time a brand known for Big Luxury Cars had dipped a toe into the small saloon world, and it brought with it that typical Mercedes feel; safe, reliable, crammed with tech, and good fun to drive. 

Mercedes-Benz C-Class saloon

Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Then, in 1993, the W202 was born. The spiritual successor to the W201, it was the first to be badged as a C-Class. A lot of the similarities between the two were down to market positioning, but there was clear inspiration taken from what US customers had nicknamed the 'Baby Benz'.

Though not much longer than the W201, the new C-Class had increased interior space and was a lot safer.

Each subsequent successor has got a little cleverer and a little safer, but even the current variation retains that special C-Class sparkle that Mercedes have been honing over the past few decades. It was a true market leader for technology and comfort in the compact executive class, setting new benchmarks time and time again with innovative technology, and it's spawned many rivals.

The C-Class story definitely isn't over yet.

These days, the C-Class is available in four different variants: as a saloon, as an estate, as a coupe, or as a cabriolet. It remains a popular choice with company car drivers, and it's an excellent option if compact luxury is at the top of your wishlist.

Honda Civic 1970s

'70s Honda Civic

6. Honda Civic (1972)

Released in 1972, the Civic is nearly single-handedly responsible for turning Honda's fortunes around.

The Japanese manufacturer had been considering pulling out of car manufacturing, but with the rise in demand for smaller and more economical cars thanks to - say it with us - the oil crisis, Honda released the compact Civic.

It was a case of 'right car, right time'.

The Honda Civic became a huge success all over the globe, mostly thanks to its reliable engine and great fuel efficiency. It was also unique in taking both unleaded and leaded fuel, and people loved this flexibility.

The 1975 model broke new ground once more, with technology that meant the Civic's engine had lower emissions, more specific combustion, and didn't require a catalytic converter or unleaded fuel to meet rigorous Environmental Protection Agency emission standards.

Honda Civic

Honda Civic

Honda's ability to not just keep up with the times, but to continually innovate and push boundaries kept both the brand and the Civic at the forefront of the market.

The sixth generation, released in 1995, brought new developments with it once again. Honda knew that a family-friendly car needed to do more than just take you there and back - it needed to be somewhere you're happy to spend time.

This new generation included an agile-three door and a practical five-door and was the first to be fitted with a CD player. Not just any CD player - this snazzy model had a crisp sound and the ability to skip tracks. A simpler time, eh?

The seventh-generation saw the introduction of the Civic Hybrid and the more powerful Civic Type R - proving once again Honda's ability to move with the times - while the eighth generation heralded the start of the futuristic look of the Civic we know and love today.

The tenth-generation Civic has cemented its continuing popularity in a crowded market, with a comfortable cabin and engaging drive. It remains a fantastic family car, and has positioned Honda as a safe and reliable brand.

With over 24 million Civics sold worldwide, this is one car that's definitely not going anywhere any time soon.