Here are some of those cars that warmed buyers' hearts and loosened their purse string - some even became cult heroes. See what you think and let us know which others we could add.
The Essex boy's favourite was responsible for sending Ford sales into the stratosphere. Just six years after it started production, the Blue Oval announced it had made its two millionth Escort and it went on to find more than 4m homes in the UK. The first arrived in 1968 with rear-wheel drive and that famous 'dog-bone' grille. But it was the hot versions that really excited – the XR3i, RS Turbo and RS Cosworth cemented the Escort's place as one of the nation's favourites.
The Japanese marque was a relative minnow before success on the world rally stage with its Impreza catapulted the firm into the minds of many. With all-wheel drive standard across the range and some potent powerplants, the WRX version of the Impreza brought performance cars to the masses. It was a four-door saloon that could scare supercars, but its history isn't all rosy. The maker was panned for its bug-eyed version and the latest hatchback hasn't gone down well either. Still, rally star Ken Block doesn't seem to mind...
VW Golf GTi
Replacing the Beetle was never going to be easy, but we're sure not even Volkswagen guessed quite how successful the Golf would be. Many would argue it was down to one model in the range – the GTi. The lightweight, fun to drive car is credited with starting the hot-hatch craze and we've got some committed engineers to thanks for that. The GTi started life as a backroom project and was originally meant to be a limited edition of just 500. Now, 30 years on, it's added hugely to the 26m Golfs sold worldwide.
As a success story, they don't get much bigger than the Elise. The original car and its platform has not only been a sales winner, but has gone on to form the underpinnings of the Exige, 211 and Europa. The original Elise had few rivals when it arrived in 1996. Priced at £19k it cost the same as a well-specified hot hatch but was a two-seater sportscar that hit 60mph in under six seconds and looked stunning. Since then the car and its sister models have found more than 35,000 homes, which for a niche marque like Lotus is big news.
Quite simply, the little hatchback saved Peugeot. To understand why, you need to look at the state of the company before it arrived: Large, poor selling models were doing little for the firm. It was struggling. Then in 1983 it struck gold – the 205 took the fight to the Uno, Nova and Fiesta and, of all these cars, it was the prettiest. Designed by Pininfarina it was so successful it wasn't even face-lifted in its 15-year life! And that's before we mention the success of the legendary GTI. By 1991 the 205 accounted for three per cent of all UK registrations and was finding 50k homes a year. And, in doing so, saved Peugeot's bacon – quite how, with an advert like this, is beyond us...