The turn of the millennium signalled a big change for modern Britain – including car design.

Is it just us, or has our perception of time passing been totally screwed up by the millennium?

The 90s feel at once like they literally just happened, and like they were a long, long time ago.

It’s not totally bonkers when you think about it.

Technology has advanced so rapidly that things like cassette tapes and CDs are basically obsolete, but streaming services keep the music that once played on them alive and current even 20 years later.

As for fashion, it’s always gone in circles – we’re praying the return of low-rise jeans doesn’t last long – but go into any high street shop and you’ll understand why Gen Z are dressing like an extra on the set of Friends.

And if you’ve got a Netflix account, you’re probably still watching shows that first aired during your school days, because new releases are prone to being cancelled one season in.

No wonder we can’t make sense of how much time has passed, when we’ve created a world that keeps pop culture standing still.

And we’re not necessarily mad about it.

There is something to be said for being the last generation to grow up in a world before smartphones, streaming and social media existed.

Before we were all chronically online.

But despite our ongoing nostalgia for a time long passed, something has actually managed to escape this peculiar time warp.

Car design has continued to propel itself into the future, leaving many beloved models behind. But when you consider how safety innovation is shaping car design, the past is where those familiar favourites belong.

All the same, you’d better strap on your seatbelts for this journey back to the 90s – and the iconic cars from our youths that (just sometimes) we really miss.

Side view of a classic Mini in navy blue

The classic Mini

Is there anything more quintessentially British than the classic Mini?

During the 1956 Suez Crisis, petrol was rationed in the UK and sales of large cars slowed right down. There was a need to make small, economical cars that could compete with the growing German ‘bubble car’ boom.

And so, the Mini was born.

This small, two-door, four-seat car was a staple on our roads from 1959 all the way up to 2000 when production ended.

The many special editions of it seen on our roads in the 80s and 90s transformed it from a common UK car into a fashionable British icon.

And it’s a car with staying power.

The classic Mini was voted as Britain’s favourite ever car as recently as 2016, long after production ended.  And let’s face it – you can’t go wrong with a car chosen by Mr Bean.

BMW took on the MINI brand in 1994 when it acquired the Rover Group and has been producing newer, safer models since 2000.

While the classic Mini forever lives on in our hearts, if you’re looking for a more modern upgrade you can’t go wrong with a MINI car lease.

Ford Focus

1998 was a good year for us. It brought us the Good Friday Agreement, the founding of Google and the release of the second Harry Potter book.

It also brought us the Ford Focus.

This popular compact family car has been such a hit that it feels like it’s been on our roads for decades, but the first generation only appeared in Europe in 1998 as a replacement for the Ford Escort.

For many of us it was the family car of our childhoods. It may even have been the car we first learnt to drive in.

Twenty years on, this first-gen model might be nearing retirement to the scrapyard, but that doesn’t mean you need to leave the Focus behind forever.

Now on its fourth generation, the Ford Focus is sportier than ever and comes with all the upgraded tech you never would’ve dreamed of twenty years ago.

Whether you want to relive your youth, or you simply like to stick with a well-loved favourite, ask us about a Ford Focus lease today.

But hurry – with Ford discontinuing the Focus in early 2025 so it can give greater attention to crossovers and electric vehicles, this beloved car won’t be on our roads forever.

Get it before it’s gone!

Monochrome photo of a Toyota Corolla liftback

Toyota Corolla

It’s perhaps not the trendiest or most iconic of cars, but this is another 90s staple.

The Corolla has been around for yonks, and this writer will admit to having a particular soft spot for it, courtesy of a childhood and adolescence being carted around in various models from the sixth and seventh generations.

Toyota has a reputation for being reliable and the 90s Corolla’s were versatile, coming in many forms like practical family saloons, or sporty little hatchbacks with a surprising amount of oomph behind them.

A particular shoutout goes to the Corolla E90 1.3 Liftback, in which many half-terms were comfortably spent with siblings playing I-spy, while the parents navigated the 200-mile journey to see both sets of grandparents.

You just don’t see many older Toyota’s on the road anymore.

And given that this model first entered production in the late 80s, it’s no surprise why it’s all but vanished from the UK.

Reliable they may be, but 30 years is pushing it on the lifetime of any car.

Still, if like this writer you’re a Toyota loyalist, then the 12th generation might be for you through a Toyota Corolla lease. Even today it remains one of the best cars to lease, with competitive running costs and low CO2 emissions.

What more could you ask for?

Audi A3

We love an Audi, and the A3 is a model we’re particularly fond of.

With the first-generation hitting UK roads in 1996, it’s a car many of us have literally grown up with (as a matter of fact, it’s only two months younger than this writer’s youngest sibling).

It was only initially available as a 3-door hatchback to present a ‘sportier’ image, but subsequent facelifts and generations have seen the A3 evolve significantly since its inception.

Still, that unmistakable exterior and smaller body takes us right back to the turn of the millennium, and that strange period when both cassette tapes and CDs were in use, when most of us were still saving our work on floppy discs at school and certain royals were in the process of going through messy divorces.

Who wouldn’t want to relive all those fond memories?

You can enjoy the newest iteration with an Audi A3 lease deal today.

Vauxhall Astra

This one has been about since the 80s, but it’s the second and third generations most of us will remember well from our youth.

The Mark III made its appearance in the 90s and evokes strong collective memories from this time.

Think the appearance of Geri Halliwell in her iconic Union Jack dress, and (on a more serious note), the transfer of Hong Kong from British colony to Chinese territory.

Once a frequently appearing member of the early noughties school run, the Mark III has all but vanished from our streets in recent years.

The modern-day Astra looks quite different, but is just as easy to love.

Except, this time you’ll be cruising along to music on an infotainment system, not a stereo player with your homemade cassette mixtape.

A Mark III Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf

The Golf has its roots in the 70s, when it replaced the iconic Beetle.

But it’s the Mk3 model we’re thinking of when we reflect on our childhoods.

Released in 1991, this is a car we remember from our neighbourhoods. In fact, it was so popular that it won European Car on the Year in 1992, beating out competition from Citroen and the Opel Astra model.

With a distinctive and easily recognisable look, later models didn’t change too much in terms of exterior design – so it feels in some ways like the Mk3 has never really left us.

But after a significant facelift in 2019 with the Mk8, we’ve entered a new era of the Golf and anticipate seeing fewer and fewer of those older models as time goes on. We miss that iconic look already.

But we’re excited to see how this beloved favourite continues to evolve.

So why not ask us about a Volkswagen Golf or our other VW lease deals?

Looking for a familiar favourite?

Chloe Allen

Chloe Allen

Our Digital Marketing Executive Chloe is in charge of our e-newsletter. There's no one better placed to inform and delight you every month, so keep your eyes peeled for her newsletter hitting an email inbox near you soon.