Barry's top five cars of 2018

Motoring editor Barry Green breaks down his favourite cars of 2018.

Lotus Elise 220 Sport

When the opportunity came to punt an Elise 220 Sport around Lotus’s historic test track at Hethel in the UK, I jumped at it. Like all Lotus racing and road cars, the Elise is a product of founder Colin Chapman’s ‘add lightness’ philosophy. Weighing in at a trim 914kg means it has the wherewithal to thoroughly exploit every skerrick of its supercharged, 1.8-litre Toyota engine’s output. Evidence a quickfire 0-100km/h time of 4.2 seconds. Driving engagement? One word: subliminal.

Lotus Exige And Elise

Mazda MX-5 RF GT

So accomplished is its beautifully-balanced chassis and handling dynamics, there are those that feel the MX-5 deserving of a little more zip. In 2018, Mazda delivered, extracting more power and torque, balanced with linear response, from both the MX-5’s 2.0-litre and 1.5-litre engines. In the case of the former, there’s a noticeable zing to the mid-range and, from 5500rpm on, it just keeps on keeping on. And, yes, that classic chassis copes nicely with the extra urge – just as we suspected.
  Mazda MX-5 GT

Renault Megane R.S. 280 Sport

Less is more with the new Megane R.S. 280. Despite displacing 200 fewer cubic centimetres than its predecessor, the R S. 265, the new, 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder pumps out more power (+10kW) and torque (+30Nm). Just a tickle of the throttle elicits rapid response and an eagerness to please. The Megane R.S. was always an epic handler and the addition of four-wheel steer and hydraulic bump stops further heighten the 280’s brilliance.

Renault Megane RS

Range Rover Velar P250 SE 

Premium brand SUVs sometimes over-promise and under-deliver driving refinement, but not the Velar. It rides and handles with outstanding levels of NVH (noise/vibration/harshness) suppression. The whisper-quiet drive is not just due to superb cabin insulation, but the combination of silky-smooth powertrain and drivetrain that you might expect to find more in a luxury saloon car than a high-riding SUV capable of serious off-road work.
 Range Rover Velar

Suzuki Swift Sport

We’ve said of previous generations of Swift Sport that its well-sorted chassis was crying out for more oomph and grunt. Now, with its new third-gen, Suzuki has obliged. The 1.4-litre, Boosterjet turbo-charged four-pot that replaces the 1.6-litre normally-aspirated engine has a real elastic quality. A boost in torque – some 70Nm – to 230Nm and a comparative lack of weight (just 970kg, some 90kg lighter than before) further enhance the Sport’s ability. Smiles per hour is what this little jigger is about.

Suzuki Swift Sport Action