Ten years is a small proportion of the average human lifetime, but it’s an age in the motor industry. In this run-down of cars launched in 2009, you’ll find ones you remember well, almost none of which are still on the market in their original form.
On the whole, though with some notable exceptions, they seemed very modern back then, yet today most of them would be considered old-fashioned, with levels of refinement and equipment (and often Euro NCAP scores) which would now be considered unimpressive unless you were interested in buying a very cheap new car.
If you want to know how cars will have progressed in ten years’ time, a good guide is to look back at how far they have progressed since ten years ago.
Aston Martin One-77
There are of course exceptions to the point we made in the introduction, and one of those appears right at the start of our alphabetical list. The One-77 was a phenomenal car which would still be considered remarkable today.
Based on a carbonfibre tub, it had a 7.3-litre V12 engine which produced 750bhp without the benefit of supercharging. The UK price was over £1 million. Only 77 were ever built.
BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo
The Gran Turismo was a 5-Series with a suggestion of a large SUV about it combined with coupe-like styling.
This was a daring mixture. Making such a vehicle look elegant would have been extremely difficult, and BMW notably failed to do so.
BMW essentially invented the premium compact class with the X1. At its launch, the company suggested that it was a rival to the Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan, but its real opposition came from the Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque.
These cars were introduced after the X1 came on the market. Both had more space for rear passengers and luggage.
The first Z4, launched in 2002, came with a choice of solid or folding fabric roofs. Market research revealed that there were potential customers who would not buy a Z4 unless it had a folding metal roof, so BMW made that standard for the second-generation model.
At the same time, it produced a car which, in the words of one reviewer, “holds its predecessor’s head below the water line and keeps it there until the bubbles stop”. The new Z4 was larger (and therefore easier to get into for tall people), more comfortable, better to drive and arguably much better-looking.
The 2009 Camaro was the fifth in a line which stretched back all the way to 1966. It was designed partly to look like a 1970s muscle car, and had a 6.2-litre V8 engine, though a surprisingly quiet one with a relatively modest maximum output of 426bhp if fitted with manual transmission or 399bhp in automatic form.
Unlike muscle cars of the classic era, which were not designed with cornering in mind, UK versions of this one handled pretty well, thanks largely to a suspension development programme aimed specifically at making it cope well with European roads.
Completely unrelated to the Camaro in everything except its brand name, the Cruze was actually introduced in 2008 but didn’t come to the UK until the following year.
Although Cruzes developed by the Wellingborough-based RML Group dominated the World Touring Car Championship from 2010 to 2013, the standard cars were very ordinary. The feeling among some journalists was that they best suited to people who were not merely ambivalent about cars but actively disliked them. Chevrolet’s claims about “premium styling and build quality” were not taken seriously.
Citroen DS 3
One of the few cars still on sale today in more or less its original form, this was a heavily restyled upmarket version of the Citroen C3 and the first model in Citroen’s DS sub-brand. It went into production in 2009, though sales did not begin until early the following year. Variants included the fabric-roofed Cabrio and the high-performance Racing.
In 2016, DS became a brand in its own right. Since then there has been no Citroen branding on the DS 3.
The car’s appearance is the work of British designer Mark Lloyd. Around a quarter of all DS 3s ever built have been sold in the UK.
Ferrari 458 Italia
The 458 Italia was the successor to the F430 with much more modern styling. Its 4.5-litre direct fuel injection V8 engine was developed jointly with Maserati and produced a maximum of over 560bhp. The standard gearbox was a dual-clutch semi-automatic seven-speed.
The car remained in production until 2015, when Ferrari replaced it with the 488, which has a smaller but turbocharged V8 engine.
Much less radical than its curious little predecessor, the second-generation Insight was nevertheless similar in that it was a petrol-electric hybrid, launched at a time when such things were still rare.
It was also possibly Honda’s worst car of the 21st century. Some aspects were good, but the engine was noisy, the ride and handling weren’t up to scratch, the rear visibility was terrible and the dashboard and door trims appeared to have been intended for two entirely different models.
Honda addressed some of these problems during an early facelift, but it couldn’t fix them all. Sales were never impressive, and the car was withdrawn from all markets after just five years.
The Mercedes reputation for solid build quality took a big hit around the turn of the century and was not fully restored until the fourth-generation E-Class was introduced in 2009.
This car also had more aggressive and sharper-edged styling than its immediate predecessor, following a general trend in Mercedes design at that time.
The i-MiEV was the electric version of the Mitsubishi i, a tiny city car launched three years before. It was also on the market as the Citroen C-Zero and the Peugeot i0n, the only significant difference being that you leased the Peugeot for four years and bought the other two outright.
These were excellent little cars, but sales dropped as larger electric vehicles became more common.
The 370Z is still on sale today, a decade after its launch, so we’ve had plenty of time to get used to it and perhaps to forget how shocking it was when it first appeared.
It was clearly based on the earlier 350Z, but a great deal had changed. The 370Z was shorter, more powerful, noisier and felt like an angry pitbull terrier on the end of a short chain.
In fact it was quite easy to drive, even in glorious high-performance Nismo form, but it was a world away from the softer and more ponderous coupe it replaced.
A close relative of the 308 hatchback, the 3008 was an SUV which won awards within a year of going on sale. The HYbrid4 of 2012 was an extremely early example of a production car powered by both a diesel engine and an electric motor.
The first 3008 remained in production until it was replaced by the slightly larger current model in 2016.
Introduced at the same time as the 3008, the 5008 was based on an extended version of the same platform and was essentially Peugeot’s equivalent of the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso, which was launched slightly earlier.
Peugeot’s marketing campaign was based on the slogan, “Enjoyed by families. Loved by drivers.” The first half seemed more likely than the second, though the most powerful version, with a 156bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine also found in Citroens, MINIs and other Peugeots, was surprisingly good through corners.
Having outraged purists by bringing out the Cayenne SUV seven years earlier, Porsche created further havoc in 2009 with the introduction of the Panamera, which differed dramatically from the iconic 911 in that it was a front-engined, four-door luxury coupe.
There were many versions including a diesel and a hybrid, and depending on model the Panamera might have either rear- or four-wheel drive.
The original car was replaced by the current one in 2016.
The Fluence was a saloon version of the Renault Megane which, with one exception, was not sold in the UK because of our preference for hatchbacks and SUVs.
The exception was the Fluence Z.E., an electric version which was briefly imported to the UK starting in 2012. It was only the second family-sized electric car of the modern era after the Nissan Leaf, and had the advantages of being reasonably good and impressively cheap, but it didn’t stay on the British market for very long.
Skoda’s first compact SUV was very popular among UK buyers who found that it suited their lifestyles exceptionally well.
Although it was starting to feel its age by the end of its production run, it lasted until 2017, when it was replaced by the Karoq.
The fifth-generation Legacy was the first to be fitted with a diesel engine. It was also available in the UK with a 2.5-litre petrol unit, but we weren’t offered the larger, more powerful, less economical and – most importantly – more CO2-emitting engines provided in other markets.
Subaru had hit a rare high point of interior design with the previous Legacy, but fell back from it with this one. On the plus side, the new car was roomier and, like all the best Subarus, had exceptional handling and ride quality.
Suzuki GB made an odd decision about the Kizashi. Faced with a maximum allocation of 500 cars, it chose to import only those with four-wheel drive and CVT automatic transmission.
This was the heaviest type of Kizashi possible, the least economical and the one with the highest CO2 emissions (and therefore also the highest Vehicle Excise Duty payments back in the days when the two were related).
In other words, it was the version least likely to be popular in the UK, which was a shame because in other respects there was a lot to be said for it.
The 2009 Prius was the third of four models so far to bear that name.
Like all the others, it was a petrol-electric hybrid, and from 2011 it was available in plug-in hybrid form, which meant that the battery could be charged from the mains and not just through energy regeneration under braking.
Early examples were said to have brake problems, and although some of the cases seemed very suspicious Toyota had to recall many thousands of cars.
The Verso was a small MPV based on the Auris hatchback. It’s perhaps not the first car of its type that a British driver would think of if asked to name one, but it soldiered on well enough for nearly a decade.
The Verso was never sold in Japan. UK models were built at a Toyota factory in Turkey.
The sixth Vauxhall (and fourth Opel) to be given the Astra name was a big improvement over the previous car, with greatly superior interior and exterior styling. The handling on all versions, including the Sports Tourer estate, was also impressive thanks to a very clever rear suspension set-up.
The most dramatic model was the VXR, a serious hot hatchback with a 276bhp two-litre turbo petrol engine. Vauxhall took a class win in the 2013 British Leaders Hillclimb Championship with the VXR, and set a new world 24-hour speed record the same year with a diesel model.
More famously, this generation of Astra was the fourth and last model used for Top Gear’s Star In A Reasonably Priced Car segment from 2013 to 2015. Its fastest celebrity driver was the singer-songwriter Olly Murs.
Volkswagen’s fifth-generation Polo was based on a platform already used for the SEAT Ibiza and later the basis for the Audi A1. The new car was a big advance on the one it replaced, with excellent build quality and handling, though it didn’t score so highly for rear passenger or luggage space.
Despite that, it won the World and European Car of the Year titles (among several others) in 2010. It was also the basis for an enormously successful rally version. Sebastien Ogier, Jules Ingrassia and Volkswagen Motorsport won the World Rally Championships for drivers, co-drivers and manufacturers respectively every year from 2013 to 2016.
The standard car remained in production for eight and a half years before being replaced by the current model in 2018.