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What we were driving in the ‘90s

A nostalgic look at some of the most popular cars of the 1990s.

You were likely to be listening to your music with one of these in the '90s

You were likely to be listening to your music with one of these in the '90s

What were we driving in the '90s?

Ford Escort

Of all the cars in the '90s the Ford Escort could be the most popular. Although the first and second generation Escorts had been among the best selling cars in Britain it was the third and fourth generation Escorts that spanned the late '80s and '90s.

The third generation was launched in 1980 and was given a facelift in '86, from the launch there were five trim levels available and several versions of the model released; the Sporty XR3, XR3i, RS 1700T and the commercial 2-door Escort Van.

The third generation Escort underwent a facelift in 1986 (MKIV) with a few changes including revisions to the dashboard, rear lights and nose.

The fifth generation Escort dates from 1990 to 1996, it was launched in September 1990 with a new bodyshell but similar engine than the Mk3. Ford added a Zetec 16-valve in 1992.

Ford Escort RS Cosworth launched in 1992 with a 2.0-litre Cosworth engine giving 225 horsepower. One for the boy racers, it was intended for rally driving but road-worthy versions were produced and were in high demand by car enthusiasts so after the initial 2,500 were sold Ford made more. The model has already achieved classic status after production was stopped in 1996.

What was playing on the cassette player?

Number ones in September 1990 were The Steve Millar Band with The Joker and Maria McKee with Show Me Heaven.

The Ford Escort

Nissan Micra

The first generation Micra was launched in 1982 and was available with either an automatic or five-speed manual gearbox. The Micra gained a reputation for being a reliable economic car. There were additional models available the sporty Super S (1989) and the powerful Super Turbo (1988).

The first generation Micra was superseded by the second-generation model in 1992. The second-generation model was notably different with a more bubble-shaped body along with that change there were additional safety features that had not been seen before as options in a car of this ilk. Features such as a driver’s airbag, pre-tensioning seatbelts, and a toughened safety-cage and side-impact door beams.

What was playing on the cassette player?

Number one in October 1992 was Tasmin Archer with Sleeping Satellite, which spent two weeks at that position.

Nissan Micra K11, 2nd generation

Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen started producing the Golf in 1974 it was popular from the off, although the rise in popularity came with the second (1983–1992) and third (1991–2002) generations of the model. It was the Mk3 that really epitomised 90s style for the Golf. Launched in the UK in March 1992 it won European Car of the Year in the same year due to its high quality build and strong image. The Golf is one of only two cars to win the award twice; its second was awarded to the 2013 model. People loved the reliability and practicality that came with the Golf, and still do.

What was playing on the cassette player?

Number one in August 1991 was Bryan Adams with (Everything I do) I Do It For You, which spent a massive 16 weeks at number one.

The Volkswagen Golf

Vauxhall Nova

Between 1983 and 1993 the Corsa A was badge engineered as the Nova. The supermini was available with three engine size options when it launched. It was a popular small car released as a direct competitor to the Ford Fiesta. Style-wise it didn’t stand out from the crowd but its popularity was down to the choice on offer. There were numerous engines and trim levels to choose from, something for everyone. However, Vauxhall went back to the Corsa after just under 10 years.

What was playing on the cassette player?

Not technically the '90s but the number one at the beginning of April 1983 was David Bowie with Let’s Dance.

Vauxhall Nova

Saab 900

A luxury car that was probably driven by your friend’s dad and made you green with envy. Saab produced the 900 from 1978 up until 1998, with two generations over this period. The second generation 900 was launched in 1994. It was a solidly built premium car, with a large curved windscreen offering plenty of visibility.

What was playing on the cassette player?

The biggest number one in 1994 was Wet Wet Wet’s single Love Is All Around from the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, which spent 15 weeks at number one.

A '97 Saab 900

Peugeot 106

Sold from 1991 to 2004 its 13-year production period is one of the longest running in Europe. The French supermini had a wide selection of engines including 1.0- and 1.4-litre options and for the speed demon there was the 1.6 16v GTi. Its small size, good handling and low running costs made it popular with young drivers.

What was playing on the cassette player?

For the first two weeks of 1991 Iron Maiden were at number one with Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter. Lovely.

Peugeot 106

Renault Clio

With a name like mine I couldn’t leave this '90s gem off my list. Launched in 1990 this supermini is the other of the two cars that was awarded the European Car of the Year prize twice. It was available in a 3-door or 5-door body style, the addition of two rear doors making it ideal as a small family car.

What was playing on the cassette player?

In June 1990 there were two artists who each got to number one, first there was New Order with World In Motion then Elton John took the spot for five weeks with Sacrifice/Healing Hands.

A five-door Renault Clio

About the Author

Nicole Ferguson

Staff writer at Arnold Clark