Top Gear & Fifth Gear are two great motoring shows from Britain.  Every car enthusiast should be watching one of the two or both.  Each has their brand loyalists but many are like me and waver somewhere in between.  With the lack of any American shows tackling automotive content in the same way I routinely watch both.  I confess I much prefer Top to Fifth.  An in-depth breakdown will explain why.  Let’s talk about both shows based on their history, hosts, production value, and segments.




While Top has a longer lineage then Fifth, Fifth first aired in 2002 as a replacement to Top which was cancelled in 2001 due to low ratings.  While Fifth has pushed on since then, Top’s return in 2002 has built so much momentum since it’s return it is now estimated to have a viewership of 350 million worldwide.  Top is a BAFTA, multi-NTA and International Emmy Award-winning show while Fifth lacks any major accolades.  While there are no American versions of either show Top has branched out and now has both Australian and Russian series in full swing.  Give Top Gear the point here.




Tom Ford,  Vicki Butler-Henderson , Jason Plato , Jonny Smith and Tiff Needell represent the Fifth.  Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May round out the crew for Top.  While it is true that many of the present and past hosts for Fifth were on the old Top staff it is Clarkson who is the most recognizable of all of them.  He is largely crediting with carrying through the format changes that solidified the return and dominance of Top in 2002 that carries on today.  The main reason I like the hosts on Top better come down to one word; chemistry.  Clarkson, May & Hammond’s personalities contrast each other so well that a peppering of sarcastic humor spun at each other culminate together in a rolling bravado that is unmatched when comparing it to Fifth.  The hosts on Fifth seem stagnant when compared.  Maybe its the shows formatting but their personalities seem like their show; segmented, aloof, fractional.  Sure Tiff is the real deal and Vicki adds the female angle missing from Top but it just isn’t enough. Top’s host’s top’s Fifth’s (quadruple apostrophe score right there!).  Give Top Gear the point here.


Production Value


In this category Top wins hands down again.  Top obviously has a higher budget and a better film crew so while I will acknowledge it I certainly am not going to slight them for it and let the evidence speak for itself.  First reason is the studio audience during the sound stage segments.  Interaction with the audience is limited but it gives the show a more inclusive appeal.  Fifth pales in comparison with chopped up segments that lack any cohesive flow in their “cafe”.  Fifth seems so much more stiff and scripted. 

 Second reason comes down to location shoots.  Top’s locale’s for shoots really scale the globe while Fifth’s mainly stick to their home of Birmingham and surrounding area’s.  From the North Pole to Transylvania to Dubai,  Top really spans the globe.

Third reason is home office.  Top is filmed at an old airfield that has been converted into a racing circuit.  Pretty ideal conditions there.  Fifth is currently filmed at the Ace Cafe in London. On all three give Top Gear the point here.




Some might argue that Fifth is a much more down to earth show with more sensible econoboxes and they would be right.  The budget segments on Top are scarce and I appreciate Fifth trying to cater to that portion of the audience that doesn’t so much care about Lambo’s latest Murcielago lp-650F Spec-S Superlegerra SV Edition.  What Top lacks in serious contemplation of sub $30,000 (some might even argue ($100,000) automobiles it makes up for with the shinning “Star in a Reasonably-Priced car” segment.  Jeremy Clarkson interviews a celebrity and then shows a clip of their driving on the Top Gear track, filmed earlier. They are then put on to a board and ranked.  In the stable there have been two reasonably-priced-cars, a Suzuki Liana and a Chevrolet Lacetti. 

Lastly I’ll just mention The Stig, no explanation needed.  Point goes to Top.




While I enjoy both shows it is hard to compare them directly (as shown above), as they each satisfy viewers in different ways.  Fifth Gear is much more focused on the cars, and Top Gear is more focused on the entertainment.  Different? Yes.  Better? Yes.  Top Gear sweep!


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