What am I looking forward to most in 2021?
Being part of that group in a restaurant, the ones making too much noise, laughing too loudly and irritating the people around them who aren’t having quite as much fun. Dancing at a wedding far earlier than anyone else would think acceptable, too. Essentially, what I am really looking forward to is finally spending quality time with my family and friends.
But because cars are deeply ingrained within my life, my list of hotly anticipated events in 2021 will mostly be centred around vehicles. Here are nine of the best things to expect from next year.
1. Actually, properly socialising again. With our cars, like we used to.
Before I get the chance to be obnoxious in pubic or ruin anyone’s special day, I want to get out in my car with the people I am close to. I want to go for drives with my brother and dad, scare my girlfriend on my favourite road, and get everyone involved in a track day – if they’re not completely fully booked already.
And, of course, I can’t wait to go to some car shows. Remember them? Every single one like a mini Mecca for those who pray at the altar of the internal combustion. We’ll get to bump into old friends and meet new people. We’ll be able to take the piss out of mates for spending vast sums of cash on their silly car, all while doing the exact same thing in secret. We’ll be able to see the result of everyone’s lockdown projects for real, rather than in a 1080 pixel wide picture. The highlights of next year, the long-awaited catch-ups, the biggest laughs, will undoubtedly happen because there was a car involved.
2. The revolution that the GR Yaris will hopefully start.
I’m under no illusion, I know the Toyota GR Yaris is not the next Audi Quattro. It just isn’t going to spark a competition where car manufacturers make increasingly bonkers homologation specials so they can out-do each other on rally stages. Not least because the GR isn’t actually going to dictate anything about Toyota’s next rally car.
But early signs suggest that there is one hell an appetite for small and relatively expensive hatchbacks with all the fizz and pent up energy of a furiously shaken soda can. If I were making cars, I’d want some of that action. I’d be raiding the factory parts bin and eyeing up floorpans to see what engine and components could be beefed up, made exciting and then shoved in the smallest available model.
We’re unlikely to see any real rivals to the GR Yaris next year, but hopefully we’ll see glimmers and intentions from other marques following in Toyota’s tracks.
3. The next Porsche 911 GT3.
God we’re boring and predictable, aren’t we? Motoring journalists I mean, not you lot. Anyway, yes, I cannot wait for another fast, rear-engined car from Porsche’s motorsport department.
It’s almost a guarantee that this car is going to be wonderful. Remember back to 2012 when we thought Andreas Preuninger, the head of Porsche’s GT car department, had messed up the 991 GT3? It was paddle-shift only and had intrusive rear-wheel steering. We thought it would be cold, clinical and not suitable for our purists’ tastes. But actually, it turned out to be terrific. Yes, it was made better by the manual ‘box in the later cars, but still, it had an engine capable of drilling right into your brain and flooding it with dopamine. And then, to really emphasise what a triumph it was, the chassis was a match for the motor, too.
The biggest change to the new 992 car, the thing to get us furious and sneering? The McPherson strut front suspension has been ditched for a double-wishbone setup. That’s not controversial at all. How are we even supposed to pretend that it’ll be a failure?
4. Going on a big road trip.
Unless you’re a bazillionaire sat up in first class, hopping across the Atlantic in the Concord – so, unless you’re Joan Collins or Elton John – flying is horrible. The food, the airport security, other people in airports, queuing in airports. Airports are the worst. That was until we all became petrified and disgusted about breathing the same air as hundreds of other people while stuck in an oversized Pringles tube.
I’m really looking forward to not having to get on a plane for the whole of 2021. But I still want to go on holiday. I want to visit different countries. I want to order the wrong food in a restaurant because my grasp of foreign languages is terrible. I want to stay in a dubious hotel run by someone I think might be a murder… but who turns out to be delightful and welcomes me with to a hearty breakfast every morning.
I’ll still be able to do that, and I’ll get to travel in the best way possible: by car, on a road trip. Glovebox full of Haribo, road atlas with pages missing (because where’s the adventure with a satnav?) and the low-level fear you’ll breakdown and never get your precious car home. Nothing is more fun.
5. The Hyundai i20n.
Hot hatches are best when they’re small. I would say that, I own a Clio. Yet, when it comes to new cars, there’s not a lot of evidence to justify my theory. It’s the big boy hot hatches where all the action is. There’s the Renault Sport Mégane, Hyundai’s boisterous i30N, the much-improved Ford Focus ST and the expensive but marvellous Mercedes-AMG A35 and A45. Then there’s the Honda Civic Type R, which is simply astounding. Yeah, so it looks a bit naff and its 2.0-litre turbo wouldn’t make the shortlist of anyone’s best-engine awards, let alone Hondas. But its chassis, the way it grips, how it drives, they’re things worthy of a car with a six-figure price tag.
You want a decent small hot hatch? There’s the anomaly that is the GR Yaris, which is priced like a grown up hot hatch so doesn’t really count, and the remarkable and exuberant Fiesta ST, that’s it. But next year, Hyundai fancies its chances against Ford. It’s going to add its N badge to the i20 and make a Fiesta ST rival. Take a look at the larger hatches, and you’d guess the Hyundai would have the competition wrapped up; the i30N has the Focus ST well and truly beaten. But there’s something magical about the fast Fiesta, that’ll make it hard for Hyundai to beat.
6. The Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio is the best sports car Alfa has made in 40 years. It doesn’t matter that it’s a four-door saloon, the 503bhp Giulia makes the carbon fibre 4C look like an embarrassment, all those front-wheel drive coupes a massive waste of time, and the SZ just some styling exercise.
Think of the Giulia as Alfa’s sports car and the GTAm version, that’ll be launched next year, makes perfect sense. It’s like a GT3/GTS/Black Series version of the Giulia, it has carbon fibre body panels and less weight, wider wheels and arches, more power and a sharper chassis. The front seats are fixed buckets, it has 6-point harnesses, and there’s a roll cage instead of a rear bench. It’s even got a gigantic wing that’s been tested in Sauber F1’s wind tunnel.
It only becomes faintly ridiculous when you remember that all that stuff has all been added to a saloon car and the cage renders the two rear doors completely and utterly pointless. But, I can’t deny it, that sort of silliness makes me like it even more.
7. The satisfaction of seeing that car you love increase in value.
There’s a point when, all of a sudden, people go from ignoring a model of car to loving it. Sometimes the shift in attitude is clear, the car might appear in a film or TV show, or someone achingly cool might be spotted driving one. Often there’s no real reason at all. But the moment is always signified by a sharp increase in values.
What’s great is when you see a car you love start to be appreciated by enthusiasts and collectors. It happens at least once a year, and I have no reason to think 2021 will be any different. There’s a warming, smug sensation that you were right all along, and that your expert eye can spot a future classic.
It’s a lovely feeling. Sadly, it’s not quite as delicious as the corresponding emotion of anguish that comes with it. One of deep despair as you see the prices of a car you love, but don’t actually own, grow exponentially and further out of your grasp. But we’re focussing on the positives here guys, so let’s not dwell on that side.
8. The Ford Bronco.
You’d have thought we’d be over overly nostalgic retro designs by now, wouldn’t you? That we might be a bit too sophisticated to be swayed by shameless sentimentality. Well, Ford knows that’s not the case and this year showed off the new Bronco.
It’s one part toy and two parts concept car. That chunky design, with its oversized wheels and brash Bronco lettering, appeals to some primal part of us. The inner caveman that wants to camp out in the woods, fish for our own dinner, stay warm by an outdoor fire as we whittle twigs into a cutlery set. But only if we can have a massive off-roader full of all the comforts we’ve come to rely on as back up. One that can whisk us back to our homes when we’re bored of all that fresh air.
9. Proudly loving cars.
If 2020 has taught us anything, its that we need to take time and enjoy the things we truly love. And we need to that without fear of being judged. That’s not so easy for car enthusiasts. Cars are increasingly being vilified and the people who love them are bearing that scorn more and more.
I know I would say this, but that’s unfair. Cars aren’t just some frivolous fad, something we own just to make loud noises with and help create our signature scent of Eau de Exhaust.
Cars are valuable commodities to people. Not just financially, they’re calm and solitary spaces, they’re shelter from the elements and, above all, they provide genuine freedom. And those are just the basics, the things everyone with a car can benefit from.
For us, for people whose pastime is cars, they’re also an escape, a way to mentally reset. If you love them, there are therapeutic qualities to being around cars, whether it’s wrenching on them or driving them. They also expand our knowledge. If you care about vehicles you want to learn and, without really knowing, you develop skills and understanding about mechanics, physics, or even data. And, as mentioned above, our social lives revolve around them too.
As we learn more and more about mental health, there’s nothing on that list that wouldn’t be described as essential for a person’s wellbeing. So cars might not be the environment’s best friend, personal transport, whether it’s a petrol, diesel or an electric vehicle, is never going to beat mass public transport. But cars play a vital role in our lives, far beyond just a means of transport, and that should not be dismissed.
This year has been, at best, tedious. Sadly, for many, it has been much worse.
A sort of normality is now visible on the horizon, so what are you going to do to next year to compensate for drudge and misery of 2020? Are there any cars you’re looking forward to in 2021? Do you have something special already planned? Let us know in the comments section below.