“Gentler, kinder and all the better for it.”
The Guardian’s TV critic is among those welcoming the return of Top Gear with its new line-up of professional driver Chris Harris, retired cricketer Freddie Flintoff and comic Paddy McGuinness.
“There was likeability as the hosts opened the show,” reported entertainment website Digital Spy.
The Telegraph said the presenters’ “chemistry was immediate, their camaraderie warm”.
Overnight viewing figures showed an average of 2.5m viewers which represented a 12.7% share of the audience, making it BBC Two’s most watched programme of the day.
The second-highest rating for BBC Two on Sunday was The Ranganation, with an average of 1.1m.
“The larky, bad-tempered chemistry that existed between [Jeremy] Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond has been replicated in a slightly sunnier form,” added the Guardian review.
The show has gone through several line-up changes since Clarkson was dropped and May and Hammond left with him in 2015.
Former Radio 2 host Chris Evans tried and failed to impress viewers while former Friends star Matt LeBlanc came on board for a couple of seasons, leaving in 2018.
“When people saw the names, they probably went, ‘hang on, a cricketer and a comedian?'” Harris told the BBC this month.
“But why not? If you had three people like me, people would fall asleep. I think we’re a good, broad team, we cover lots of bases.”
“Clarkson-era Top Gear was already passing its sell by date by the time Jeremy lost his temper with his producer,” said the Irish Times. “So the introduction of younger and frankly less offensive presenters was probably going to happen sooner rather than later anyway.”
The first episode, broadcast on Sunday night, saw the new trio pit their first cars against each other across Ethiopia.
In a scene which symbolised the new show’s apparent attempts to become more relatable, Flintoff admitted selling his original Porsche Boxster because he was getting too carried away with fame as a star sportsman and it was having a negative impact on his cricket career.
In an upcoming episode, still to be broadcast, the show will show support for LGBT rights, spraying two cars used in filming in Brunei in rainbow colours in opposition to the country’s threat to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death.
The praise for the new format has been been universally praised, however.
“Three male presenters, the usual stunts, the usual format: dull, dull, dull,” said The Independent.
“Like the average punter taking on a used Nissan Almera diesel, I wasn’t hoping for much from series 27 of Top Gear. I was right.”
And some fans noted the lack of a female presenter.