IN MEMORIAM: THE CARS WE HAVE LOST IN 2018
It's been a tough year in the motoring world. With the spectre of 'Dieselgate' still hanging over us, the Brexit deadline looming large on the horizon, and Donald Trump wandering around the place sticking tariffs on everything he can find like a chubby, deranged toddler with a glue gun.
Small wonder then, that the world's car manufacturers have been feeling a bit jittery, and then to add to their pain, the new, stricter WLTP emissions regulations have been implemented globally. A combination of these factors, as well as some models coming to the end of their natural lives, means that some of our favourite cars have tragically met their fate.
So as we start to near the end of 2018, I thought it would be a nice idea to take a tearful look back at some of the cars that we have lost this year.
FORD FOCUS RS (Mk3)
Considering the fact that it only hit the showrooms in 2016, you might feel that the third-generation Focus RS has been taken too soon, I know I do! But the harsh reality is that everyone's favourite 345 horsepower, all-wheel-drive monster hatch is based on the underpinnings of the 2011 Focus. In car years, that's about a century. So with the introduction of the Focus Mk4 this year, the RS breathed it's last.
There are a few cars left in showrooms though, so if you want a new RS, and you're a card carrying mentalist, there's a barely used Heritage Edition car for sale at a Ford dealer in Essex. A snip at £80k. Yes. Eighty Thousand Pounds. For a Focus. I'll miss it, but I won't miss it that much.
BMW F80 M3
Perhaps the most major casualty of the new, more stringent, WLTP emissions regulations. BMW had to take the latest M3 round to the back of the factory with a blindfold and a Luger.
For reasons that literally nobody can quite explain, the M3's turbocharged, straight six engine couldn't meet the incoming legislation, whilst the (much uglier) M4 Coupe, fitted with exactly the same power unit could and remains on sale. Even though the F80 may not go down in history as the greatest car ever to wear the badge, there was still lots to like about this M3, and the world is poorer without it.
A world without the Jaguar XJR is a world in which I'm not sure I want to live. I adore the XJR, and everyone I know who has driven one loves it too. Oh sure, an S63 or a 7 Series might be more advanced and more modern, but nothing less than a Phantom or a Ferrari can hold a candle to the big Jag's sense of occasion.
Time waits for no man though, and there's no escaping the fact that Jaguar's 5.0 litre supercharged V8 engine is getting long in the tooth. Even though it was uprated for 2017's glorious XJR 575, since the summer the only XJ available to order has been the V6 Diesel. Boo. Fortunately, the V8 F-Type and incredible limited-run Project 8 are still with us.
The XJ has been with us for 50 years now, and the XJR has been a staple since 1994. Here's hoping it comes back with a bang very soon!
FORD FIESTA ST (Mk7)
Yeah, yeah. I know the Fiesta ST isn't strictly dead. But 2018 saw the last of the seminal Mk 7 version of the Blue Oval's punchy little street fighter roll out of the showrooms. This is the car that brought the hot Fiesta back into contention in a world where Renault, MINI and Vauxhall have had it their own way for years.
It's nearly impossible to overstate just how much of a revolution this ST was when it hit the market back in 2012, but the fact remains that despite an onslaught of competition from newer rivals, not to mention it's own Mk8 replacement, the seventh-gen ST is still one of the best hot hatchbacks money can buy.
If you want to invest your money wisely, forget the banks. Buy a late ST now and stick it in a dry garage for a few years, because this is without question one of the all time greats.
VW GOLF GTD
Yep, it's a diesel hot hatchback, and a VW one at that! Stay with me here, I haven't gone totally mad. Despite being around since 2012, the Mk 7 Volkswagen Golf is still one of the most complete all-rounders on sale today, and the recently departed GTD is perhaps the most complete car in the entire range.
Whether you're looking for performance, value, economy, handling prowess, safety, technology or quality, the GTD covers all the bases more comprehensively than perhaps any other car I've driven in a long time. So much so in fact, that I've owned mine for two years and 14,000 very happy miles. VW say there are no plans for a new GTD at least until the Mk8 Golf appears in a couple of years time, which has left me rather scratching my head about what could replace mine.
SEAT SOMETHING OR OTHER
Here's one I probably won't miss too much. The SEAT Toledo is, or was, an old VW Polo with a rather ungainly saloon rear end grafted on. It was launched a few years ago and has since gone on to be beloved by nobody whatsoever. I only knew one person that bought one, he was a taxi driver, and once one of the wheels fell off.
Anyway, the SEAT Tomato is now dead. Never mind, eh?
This one might be a little bit sad. Even though it's now so ancient that a zimmerframe was a dealer-fit accessory, the FIAT Punto was a hugely popular little car with young drivers in the UK. With a lineage that stretches back to 1993, the amount of people who have learnt to drive, passed their test, and made all sorts of memories in the slightly shonky old FIAT must number into the millions.
But with the advent of the wildly successful FIAT 500 back in 2007, the poor old Punto was rather left out in the cold. FIAT never really updated the model and this year it was finally laid to rest after hitting the headlines with a slightly alarming 0 star score in the Euro NCAP crash test.
The longest-lived name of all 2018's motoring deaths, production of the legendary (or infamous, depending on who you ask) VW Beetle is finally coming to a close.
We all know the story, originally the brainchild of Adolf Hitler and Ferdinand Porsche, the "Strength Through Joy Car", as it was snappily christened originally, was little more than a con-trick to get unsuspecting hardworking Germans to pour their cash into the Nazi military coffers. After the war a British office by the name of Ivan Hirst had the Wolfsburg factory rebuilt and the rest is history, as now is the Beetle itself.
I was never a huge fan of the first two generations of Beetle, but the first one begat the Porsche 356, and by extension the 911. So we owe it for that. Also, I secretly kind of liked the latest Mk3 Beetle, with it's coupe-like profile and 220 BHP turbo engine. But not enough people agreed with me to keep it going, and VW have no current plans for a replacement.