There’s no such thing as a bad new car. That’s the theory, anyway. But while the days of deathtraps and shoddily built motors are thankfully behind us, some new cars are better than others. Indeed, there’s a few you really ought to steer clear of.
We’ve selected 20 cars that might be fine in isolation, but must live with a ‘must try harder’ tag when viewed alongside their key rivals.
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A mirage: something that seems to be far away but doesn’t really exist. Oh, if only that were true of the Mitsubishi Mirage. While it should be cheap to run, and ultimately reliable, you could say the same about an A-rated energy efficient fridge-freezer. It’s just so lacklustre and not exactly cheap. Our money would be on the infinitely superior Skoda Citigo.
If you manage to get beyond the challenging styling (good luck with that), you’ll find a compact SUV that’s outmuscled in just about every department. The EcoSport was designed and built for emerging markets and it simply cannot compete in the UK. It’s not particularly practical, while the side-hinged tailgate is straight outta the 1990s.
Alfa Romeo MiTo
That the Alfa Romeo MiTo looks great is in no doubt. In fact, we’d go as far as saying it’s the best looking supermini you can buy. But having been on sale since 2009, it’s really showing its age, with the interior a real weak point. It’s not that the MiTo is a bad car, it’s just that it’s outclassed in most areas. But not the styling, which has aged beautifully.
You can understand Fiat’s desire to create larger spin-off models based on the cutesy 500. But that doesn’t mean we can get behind the decision, especially when the result is the 500L. The fact is, an Italian company shouldn’t put its name to something that looks like this. The 500L MPV is even more of a horror show, but at least it boasts the practicality of seven seats.
In the future, DS Automobiles will throw off the shackles of its Citroen heritage and start building unique and interesting vehicles. In the meantime we’re left with a range of cars that are more style than substance. The DS 4 is a Citroen C4 that doesn’t ride as well and condemns your rear seat passengers to a life of misery. There’s little room in the back, the doors are too small, while the rear windows don’t open.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to recommend the Infiniti Q50 as a credible alternative to the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class? Sadly, we’re unable to do that, because the Q50 is let down by a poor quality interior and a lacklustre driving experience. If you want to stand out, go ahead, but a pair of red trousers will have the same effect and you won’t need to spend upwards of £30,000 for the privilege.
In the US, where the Vauxhall Cascada is sold as a Buick, this convertible might make more sense. Cruising Palm Springs Boulevard in your Toasted Coconut Metallic Buick sounds quite appealing. But spending upwards of £26,000 on a Vauxhall Cascada, then watching it depreciate faster than a brick in water is a less attractive proposition. Evacuate the showroom floor, as that German dance act nearly sang.
Volkswagen Beetle Dune
Driving a ‘Baja Bug’ along California’s Golden Coast is the stuff dreams are made of. The Volkswagen Beetle Dune, on the other hand, is more ‘sick bucket’ than ‘bucket list’. Paying homage to one of the coolest vehicles of the 1960s is filled with risk. Time has moved on and the Beetle is nowhere near as cool as it once was. A lick of ‘tanning shop’ gold paint and a small increase in ride height isn’t going to change that.
A carmaker without a crossover or SUV is akin to an episode of Game of Thrones without a grizzly death. Little wonder, then, that MG decided to add the GS to its range. As first attempts go, it’s not too bad, with a decent level of kit and a fair amount of space. It’s also reasonably cheap, but if you’re in search of value, the SsangYong Tivoli and Dacia Duster are more interesting.
Imagine, if you will, that you’re in a restaurant and placing an order for dinner. Having chosen your main meal, the waiter proceeds to offer you an alternative that is less tasty and more expensive than your first choice. You’re not going to change your mind, are you? The BMW X4 is less practical, uglier and more expensive than the BMW X3, so why would buy one? Answers on a postcard.
Hyundai i20 Coupe
A coupe is supposed to be alluring, drop-dead gorgeous, even. The Hyundai i20 Coupe is neither of these things. Instead, it’s little more than a three-door version of the hugely likeable and more practical Hyundai i20 hatchback. It’s not that the i20 Coupe is a bad car – because it isn’t – it’s just that Hyundai has made a rod for its back by calling it a coupe and creating a false impression. Our money would be on the excellent i20 Turbo Edition – in five-door guise.
The Fiat Punto is the only supermini to offer ‘squint hard and it’s a baby Maserati’ styling, but beyond that it’s hard to recommend this ageing car. Aside from a few tiny tweaks, the Punto is largely unchanged since its 2005 launch, and the sector has moved on. Fine if you’re hiring a car in Milan, Rome or Turin, but as a purchase consideration there are plenty of better options out there.
In 2015, Citroen updated its C4 hatchback, but this was little more than an exercise in papering over the cracks. The new C3 supermini highlights what Citroen can do when it puts its mind to it, whereas the C4 is outclassed by the likes of the Kia Cee’d, Hyundai i30, Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus. Its one saving grace: discounts will be available.
In 2006, Nissan waved goodbye to the lacklustre Almera and embarked on a crossover-shaped future. Given the success of the Qashqai and Juke, you’d forgive Nissan for not looking back. Only it did, at which point it decided the world needed an Almera for a new generation. The result was the Pulsar: a competent, comfortable and capable hatchback. Fine if you’re after mediocrity, not so great if you’re after anything more.
In the United States or the Middle East, the Infiniti QX70 might make some sense. But over here, where we have things called corners and narrow streets, it’s almost impossible to recommend. The choice of a 3.7-litre V6 or 5.0-litre V8 engine might sound appealing in isolation, but in the real world a Range Rover, Cayenne or X5 would make more sense.
If you mourn the death of the old-school SUV, you might find the SsangYong Rexton rather appealing. It’s certainly cheap, with prices starting from £22,995, while the five-year limitless mileage warranty holds undoubted appeal. But if you intend to spend most of your time on the road rather than off it, you should look elsewhere.
We’re big fans of Subaru, whether it’s the imperious Outback off-road wagon or sublime BRZ sports car. The XV is harder to love, especially in the face of some seriously accomplished rivals. It’s uncomfortable, expensive and let down by a poor quality interior. Just as well Subaru is unveiling a new XV at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show.
Controversial? While the woeful Euro NCAP safety rating doesn’t change how we feel about the Mustang as a driver’s car, it casts a shadow that’s hard to ignore. It’s the first car to be awarded a two-star rating since the Lancia Ypsilon in 2015, while the 32% child occupant and 16% safety assist scores are even more damning.
Perhaps it’s unfair to pick on the Mercedes-Benz GLA. It is, after all, just one of a number of hatchback-based premium crossovers that seem to offer little in the way of advantages compared to their host vehicle. But the GLA suffers from being too expensive and lumbered with hideous styling that makes us yearn for the days when Mercedes-Benz built tasteful and elegant cars.
Nobody has ever grown up wanting to own a Vauxhall Meriva. It’s the automotive equivalent of a pair of beige slacks and a loose fitting cardigan. Pull yourself together, man, go and spend your £20,000 on something with a little more passion and style. Yes, you read that right: a top-spec Meriva costs £20k. It’s enough to make you spill barley water on your freshly-ironed slacks.