It’s undoubtedly more fun to drive a car than be driven in one. But everyone needs a lift sometimes, as the ever-expanding market for ride-hailing services demonstrates. And while there’s little sense of occasion in a late-night cross-city hop in a Toyota Prius, there have been some terrific taxis created over the years to get you home with a real sense of style. Here’s our pick of eight cool cabs that everyone would love to ride in.
This absolute gem never made it on to the road, more’s the pity. Created by Heuliez, a French design company who worked extensively with Citroen and Peugeot, the H4 taxi was based on the underpinnings of the latter’s 204 small family car and was presented at the 1972 Paris Motor Show. Despite its obvious resemblance to a wedge of cheddar cheese, it managed to look both cool and distinctive – too distinctive, in fact, because it was considered excessively futuristic to be put into production. Fast forward 49 years and it’s not preposterous to suggest the H4 seems to have served as some kind of unacknowledged influence on Tesla’s Cybertruck. One thing is for sure – hitching a ride in the Peugeot would attract Cybertruck levels of attention…
Mention the Multipla to anyone under 30 and they will instantly think of the clever, but, er, aesthetically flawed – or, if we’re being unkind, supremely ugly – MPV of the late 90s. Some 40 years before it arrived on the scene, however, another Fiat carried the Multipla badge with a bit more aplomb. The 600 Multipla, launched in 1956, was a genuinely innovative car, ingeniously packaged with the engine at the rear and the passenger compartment advanced over the front wheels, freeing up six seats in total. Although you could argue it looked back to front, the design has aged well and the 600 Multipla Taxi still passes muster as an extremely stylish and smart piece of Italian engineering.
Fiat’s flair for designing a desirable taxi was in evidence again at the 1968 Turin Motor Show when this impossibly cute version of the firm’s 850 was presented. At only 3.2 metres long, the City Taxi was undeniably diminutive, but it was designed from the ground up to work as a cab and delivered on its brief of offering good accessibility thanks to a long, electrically operated sliding door on the right. Fiat’s expertise in packaging meant that despite the tight dimensions, there was room for four passengers – three at the rear and one at the front on an occasional folding seat beside the driver. Despite what seemed like a winning blend of panache and practicality, the City Taxi was another cab destined to never hit the ranks, failing to get beyond concept stage.
And while we’re on an Italian theme, how about Alfa’s contribution to the world of colourful cabs? Created by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro, the New York Taxi can legitimately be considered a work of art, as it was produced for an exhibition of ‘cabs of the future’ at NYC’s world-famous Museum of Modern Art in 1976. The Alfa featured the sharp lines Giugiaro had pioneered on some of the era’s classic wedge cars, but more significantly adhered to MOMA’s requirements of efficiency and economy, with a footprint 30 per cent less than a traditional Big Apple cab – yet it still had sufficient space for five passengers (and a driver). Regrettably, this perfect blend of flair and function also remained a concept.
The name is a giveaway that this cab was also a study in potential innovation rather than a vehicle which saw active service. But it’s no less appealing for that, and it certainly had one unique idea which, in hindsight, seems rather remarkable: a rollercoaster-style safety bar which locked occupants into place in lieu of seatbelts. Wonder what Euro NCAP would make of that in crash tests, eh? Like the Alfa, the Volvo was created for MOMA’s 1976 exhibition, and although more conventional in its design than its Italian counterpart, this boxy wonder has a definite sprinkling of Seventies magic about it.
Unlikely as it may be, for some the Experimental Taxi may not go far enough in terms of sheer Volvo bonkers boxiness. This incredible vehicle is the solution. Looking like something that might be more at home on a press release issued by the Swedish company on 1 April, the 245 Transfer Taxi was, in fact, very much a real thing. It was launched in 1978, and brochures of the era give an insight into the company’s thinking: “Volvo’s aim when designing this car was to offer an option which would fit in between a taxi and a small bus – still with sensible dimensions!” Whether an extended wheelbase of 3.37 metres and a cargo bay 1.88 metres long are ‘sensible’ is debatable, but it certainly meant it made light work of airport or hospital transfers (with room for stretchers, naturally). A taxi you’d never forget riding in.
Here in the UK, we arguably take the London taxi for granted and forget just what an iconic symbol of our country it is for the rest of the world. Well, the humble black cab just got a whole lot cooler courtesy of an ostentatious customisation by the coachbuilding division of luxury car specialist Clive Sutton. Among the options showcased by the VIP LEVC Taxi are leather clad, electronically reclining rear seats, electronic self-closing doors and even a fibre-optic starlight roof. One thing is abundantly clear, though – at £121,480, you could expect fares in this cab to be a little bit higher than the norm. And at that price, there would be no justification for not taking you south of the river.
Think of an American taxi and it’s most likely a Checker cab will spring to mind. Regular appearances in movies over the years ensured that, for a while, it became as much an icon of America as the black cab is for London – it was, for example, a Checker that Robert De Niro drove as Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese’s legendary Taxi Driver. Undoubtedly this was down to the familiar, ‘same again’ styling adopted by a series of models starting with the A8 (pictured below) in 1956. After decades of success, the last Checker taxi was produced in Michigan in 1982, but the durability of the cars – a necessity given the hard life they led on the streets of US cities – meant it was 1999 before time was finally called for the last one on service in New York City. Fancy enjoying a ride in a piece of true Americana? A couple of companies in the UK offer models for hire.