2018 was a terrific year for cars, though we have a hunch that the next twelve months are going to be even more exciting. There are obviously dozens of new models – hundreds, even – set to launch in 2019, but these are some of the upcoming automobiles that we're most excited by.
Honda Urban EV
Honda’s little Urban EV concept stole the show at Frankfurt in 2017. Its chunky retro looks captured the imaginations of almost everyone who saw it, showing that electric cars don’t always have to be ultra-futuristic messes of swoops and curves. What’s more, it reminded us all that urban mobility isn’t always about driverless pods - the car will still have a place on our streets for years to come.
It’s an all-electric battery-powered electric vehicle, modelled loosely on the first-generation Civic. It’s reminiscent of a lot of Seventies hatchbacks, with cuboid styling and a cute little ‘face’ that can display messages. Or at least the one at the show could display messages - we’re not convinced that this feature should make it into production!
We’re not sure how much it will cost, though we’d be happily surprised if it fell short of £30,000.
On paper, this Japanese hatchback isn’t anything particularly special. It’s a slightly cheaper rival to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, with a range of reliable, workaday engines that will please buyers without thrilling them. It’s the epitome of family motoring - efficient, boring, dependable, and comfy.
Then you look at it. Mazda has somehow injected this dull market segment with the type of design we rarely see outside show concepts and the occasional supercar. It’s just brilliant to look at, and reminds us how cars used to be exciting things to behold, rather than generic grey lumps of jacked-up, ultra-masculine nonsense.
Expect to pay around £20,000 for a Mazda 3, with prices rising commensurate with equipment levels.
For ‘car people’, this is one of the most hotly anticipated performance cars of 2019. Built as part of a rare joint venture between Toyota and BMW, the Supra is closely related to the Z4, though both manufacturers have been keen to point out the differences.
We’ve already driven the Z4 and, frankly, found it wanting. We expect Toyota’s interpretation of the formula to be more to our tastes, and indeed those of other enthusiasts. Whether it will live up to expectations remains to be seen, however, as the old Supra is one of the most highly regarded Japanese sports cars in history.
It’ll cost around £50,000, which puts it in a slightly awkward market position. You’ll see a fair few of these on the road, but we’re not sure how many people will choose a Toyota over a Porsche at the same price.
Hydrogen mobility has been ‘the future’ for decades now, but as fuel cell vehicles improve and the roll-out of filling stations gathers pace, the technology is starting to seem like a reality. The practical and environmental advantages are legion, even in comparison to battery electric vehicles, but - as with EV charging networks - infrastructure remains a key obstacle to adoption.
Which is a shame, as it means hardly anyone will get to own a Hyundai Nexo in this country. It’s one of the best cars we drove in 2017, with a gloriously ergonomic interior and the kind of understated class not often associated with a Korean crossover. What’s more, it emits only pure, drinkable water at the tailpipe, takes a couple of minutes to fully recharge, has a range of over 400 miles and can run on entirely renewable hydrogen.
Expect the Nexo to sell in low numbers due to the current scarcity of refuelling stations. It’s anticipated cost is just north of £60,000.
Land Rover Defender
A replacement for the much-loved Defender is likely to appear in showrooms next year, but expect the model to be fully revealed at some point in 2019. Of all the cars being launched over the next 12 months this one probably has the greatest expectations resting on it - the old Defender (and its ancestors) were not only cult classics, but also unparalleled utility machines that so far have not been replaced.
We're cautiously optimistic about this car. Many people have been mildly disappointed by Jaguar Land Rover products over the past few years, and it's fair to say that Land Rover's recent efforts have been a far cry from the no-nonsense go-anywhere farm wagons of yesteryear. But there's a chance that JLR will have found the perfect recipe for this Slovakian-built British icon.