Decade in Review: 10Best of the Aughties

The 10 cars that dominated the past 10 10Best lists.
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2009 BMW 3 Series
BMW 3 Series

Nineteen eighty-three was the first year of our annual 10Best competition, in which we test the coming year’s newest metal to find the top 10 cars in the U.S. Every year, we drive thousands of miles, slurp gallons of coffee, munch hundreds of doughnuts, and get tangled in some raging arguments, all in the name of crafting another 10Best list.


Like any competition, there are rules. A changing price cap based on vehicle transaction price is the only variation each year. If a car wins the previous year, it is invited back, but all other competitors must be new or significantly altered for the coming model year. Our three main questions are: How well does a car perform its intended purpose? Is it a highly engaging, fun-to-drive vehicle within its category? And what kind of value does it represent?


We’ve compiled another 10Best list to mark the end of the decade, this time running down the cars that dominated our competition over the past 10 years. For all you Car and Driver historians out there, note that we had a five-way tie for the ninth and tenth spots, and a recount—hanging chads were detected—determined what made the cut and what didn’t among our 10Best Cars of the Decade.


BMW 3-series: 10 10Best Appearances

Ten, count ’em, ten consecutive titles from 2000 through 2009 (with another nine in a row before that). Simply slide behind the wheel of one, and you’ll understand why the 3-series is considered the benchmark entry-luxury sports coupe, sedan, wagon, and convertible.


What We Said:


“The 3-series' effortless competence also manifests itself in responsive handling, consistent and powerful brakes, and notably linear and progressive controls.” —January 2000


“For a car enthusiast, everyday drivers don’t come any better.” —January 2007


Honda Accord: 10 10Best Appearances

2009 Honda Accord Sedan
2009 Honda Accord Sedan

Also winning 10 trophies over the past decade—among a noteworthy 24 total honors—the Honda Accord continues its reign over the family-sedan class, offering the best complete package and fun-to-drive zeal.


What We Said:


“By delivering so much more than anyone expects, the Accord has become a perennial bestseller, as well as a 10Best fixture.” —January 2001


“It’s equally clear that the Accord has evolved steadily to maintain its position as a mainstream pacesetter.” —January 2009


Chevrolet Corvette: 8 10Best Appearances

2008 Chevrolette Corvette
2008 Chevrolette Corvette

America’s sports car made lengthy strides this past decade, improving build quality and shaming the world’s supercars in sheer competence. Offering a highly proficient chassis and high horsepower at an affordable price, the Vette earned itself eight 10Best crowns.


What We Said:


“But if you want comfort, convenience, and uncanny competence in one handsome package, the Vette is in a class by itself.” —January 2003


“This combination of heritage and sophistication gives the Corvette a uniquely American blend of performance, swagger, and everyday livability—characteristics that are all amplified in the 505-hp Z06 version.” —January 2007


Porsche Boxster and Cayman: 8 10Best Appearances

2009 Porsche Cayman
2009 Porsche Cayman

When yet another “entry level” Porsche arrived in the late ’90s, many expected it to fail like the earlier 914 and 924. As it turns out, the brilliance of the mid-engined Boxster—and, later, the fixed-roof Cayman—would bring the existence of the mighty 911 into question. Eight 10Best appearances (the past three shared with the Cayman) in the past 10 years have sent the naysayers packing.


What We Said:


“That appeal begins with its chassis, which delivers an intoxicating blend of agility and stability.” —January 2002


“This is the essence of the car-and-driver connection, and few sports cars do it better.” —January 2009


Ford Focus: 5 10Best Appearances

2001 Ford Focus
2001 Ford Focus

You’re probably as surprised as we are to find the Focus on this list, with five titles. But remember that, when the car debuted a decade ago, it was a fresh global product with class-leading styling and a frisky chassis. The Focus was one of the first small cars to show that economy didn’t have to mean sacrifice. Sadly, the Focus went 11 years without a thorough mechanical overhaul, allowing it to slide to the bottom of the class by the end of the decade. The all-new 2011 model can't come soon enough.


What We Said:


“As a result, the Focus proves that a limited budget need not preclude driving quality and enjoyment.” —January 2000


“Unlike most other compacts, however, the Focus also delivers a generous measure of driving fun, thanks to an exceptionally sturdy chassis.” —January 2003


Mazda MX-5 Miata: 5 10Best Appearances

2009 Mazda Miata MX-5
2009 Mazda Miata MX-5

Prizing simplicity and lightness above all else, Mazda drew on the principles of old British sports cars to reinvent the affordable (and reliable) roadster. The result: a cult following all over the world and five 10Best wins during the 2000s. Unchallenged until the Pontiac Solstice came along in the middle of the decade, the Miata still came out aces.


What We Said:


“For those who find rapture in the act of driving, nothing satisfies like a small, light car with instantaneous reflexes, and the fun is multiplied in a roadster.” —January 2001


“It all makes for an immensely satisfying drive and proves that a car doesn’t need pavement-wrinkling horsepower to deliver driving enjoyment.” —January 2008


Honda S2000: 4 10Best Appearances

2008 Honda s2000
2008 Honda s2000

Honda’s sports car is now just a memory, but the joy and capability baked into this high-revving roadster keep the S2000 among our all-time favorites. Four 10Best titles say that Honda definitely got it right, but we have to wonder: Was this Big H’s last hard-core car?


What We Said:


“Turn the car loose on a racetrack, and you quickly find an outstanding chassis with tremendous grip, excellent balance, and racy-quick steering.” —January 2000


“This is a pure sports car — extra virgin, first pressing.” —January 2002


Infiniti G: 4 10Best Appearances

2009 Infiniti G37
2009 Infiniti G37

Infiniti has long been chasing the BMW 3-series with its line of G coupes and sedans. Despite never quite hitting the target, the G makes up for what little ground it gives in value. With an extremely sporty demeanor, an athletic chassis, and competitive powertrains, all at a price thousands less than an equivalent Bimmer, the G has earned recognition four times.


What We Said:


“Infiniti trumps BMW in the sedan's interior and trunk space, and both G35s undercut their similarly performing BMW 330 competitors by $4000 to $5000—call that the prestige discount.” —January 2004


“The chassis engineers have maintained the G’s agile handling while simultaneously taking the hard edge off the ride quality, a particularly welcome improvement in the firmer Sport edition.” —January 2009


BMW 5-series: 3 10Best Appearances

BMW E39-5 Series
BMW E39-5 Series

Although the most recent E60 5-series failed to win us over with its overwrought exterior styling and cold interior design, its E39 predecessor remains ensconced among our favorite cars, racking up three 10Best awards at the beginning of the decade. Here’s hoping the all-new 2011 5-series can rekindle the love inspired by that nearly perfect sedan.


What We Said:

“Most important is the superb chassis that not only delivers what many of us regard as the world's finest ride but also provides grip and precision that even sports-car aficionados find satisfying.” —January 2000


“That's why it's always such a pleasant surprise when we strap into a BMW 5-series sedan and reacquaint ourselves with its uncanny ability to transform our wishes into fluid motion.” –—January 2001


Honda Fit: 3 10Best Appearances

2009 Honda Fit Sport
2009 Honda Fit Sport

The Fit’s entry into the U.S. was brilliantly timed by Honda, as the little runabout appeared just as rising fuel prices had us questioning our gas-guzzling way of life. The fun-to-drive spirit, versatility, and extreme value of the Fit have earned it a place in our hearts and three elections to the 10Best pantheon.


What We Said:

“Not only is it endowed with an impressive array of standard features and an upscale interior, but its dynamics rival the responses of cars with much fancier pedigrees and price tags.” —January 2007


“If there’s a better combination of thrift, practicality, and fun-to-drive, we haven’t seen it yet.” —January 2009


Photography by Brian Blades, David Dewhurst, Patrick M. Hoey, Aaron Kiley, and the manufacturers.

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