Vote Leave or vote Remain – soon we’ll know which way the UK public has voted in the EU referendum. The crucial vote got us thinking – if we were voting to decide the future of European cars, which ones would we keep and which ones would we send packing? We took a virtual tour of the European plants to find out.
AUSTRIA: Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen – REMAIN
It might be long in the tooth, but there’s something reassuringly old-school about the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. In the absence of the Land Rover Defender, it stands shoulder to shoulder as a last bastion of the traditional full-size SUV. Since 1979, the G-Wagen has been built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria.
AUSTRIA: MINI Paceman – LEAVE
Meanwhile, the Austrians are also responsible for the MINI Paceman. Production started in 2012, two years after the MINI Countryman. MINI describes it as a “VIP lounge on wheels… with a rocket up its backside”. For that reason alone, we’re asking the MINI Paceman to leave.
BELGIUM: Volvo XC60 – REMAIN
Belgium once had a proud automotive industry, with the Ford plant in Genk responsible for the production of some 14 million vehicles over 50 years. Today, the Volvo XC60 is the best new car to come out of Belgium.
CROATIA: Rimac Concept One – REMAIN
It might sound like the name of your girlfriend’s hair removal cream, but the Rimac Concept One is the best thing to come out of Croatia since Luka Modric. The Croatian-built all-wheel drive electric hypercar offers in excess of 1,000hp and can sprint from 0-62mph in just 2.6 seconds. This is one European car we love. Still want that Tesla Model S?
CZECH REPUBLIC: Skoda Superb – REMAIN
Into the Czech Republic and it will come as no surprise to find the Skoda Superb topping our list of cars that should remain. It’s one of the best new cars in Europe and a genuine rival to so-called premium badge rivals.
CZECH REPUBLIC: SEAT Toledo – LEAVE
SEAT – the supposed fun-loving and sun-drenched part of Volkswagen Group. So why on earth is the Spanish firm lumbered with the instantly forgettable Toledo? It’s built alongside the equally lacklustre Skoda Rapid at Mlada Boleslav, Prague.
DENMARK: Zenvo ST1 – REMAIN
There are many reasons to love Denmark: Lego, bacon, butter and pastries, to name but four. We could also add the Zenvo ST1 to the list – the 7.0-litre V8 supercar, arguably most famous for bursting into flames during an episode of Top Gear.
DENMARK: Garia Mansory – LEAVE
Not all golf carts are created equal. Danish firm Garia loads its carts with the kind of features you’d find on an entry-level S-Class. You can spec anything from a refrigerator to a heated windscreen. It’s all very country club and that’s perfectly fine. But the Mansory treatment, complete with clear-coat carbonfibre, is a stretch too far.
FINLAND: Fisker Karma – REMAIN
While hardly a powerhouse of the European automotive industry, Finland has a history of car production. Various Saab models were produced there between 1969 and 2003, while the Porsche Boxster and Cayman were also built in Finland. Our pick would be the Fisker Karma, which is now available with a V8 engine from the Corvette ZL1.
FRANCE: Renaultsport Megane 275-S Cup – REMAIN
We’re unable to gaze into our crystal ball to predict whether or not the UK will vote to say goodbye to EU membership, but we can say with some confidence that the Renaultsport Megane is about to face the final curtain. But what a way to say au devoir: the cut-price 275-S Cup. Ooh la la!
FRANCE: DS 4 – LEAVE
Meanwhile, France can keep the DS 4. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the DS 4, it’s just that it smacks of an ageing product, with a recent refresh doing little to make it any more appealing. The current DS range is just a hor d’oeuvre while we wait for the real DS cars to appear.
GERMANY: Ford Focus RS – REMAIN
Choosing a German car to represent Remain is a tough, but not because we’re struggling to find anything decent. Quite the opposite, in fact. Our choice is the Ford Focus RS, which just happens to be built in Saarlouis, a town situated within drifting distance of France.
GERMANY: BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer – LEAVE
It’s hard to criticise the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer, because it does exactly what it sets out to do. If you’re after a premium seven-seater, it’s hard to beat. But it, along with the Active Tourer, is a radical departure for BMW – we can’t quite get our head round a front-wheel drive people carrier from Bavaria. And ask yourself this: does that driver look good behind the wheel?
HUNGARY: Audi A3 – REMAIN
Europe’s most popular premium family hatchback wears a German badge, but some A3s are built in Hungary. Audi Hungaria Motor is based in Györ and started series production of the A3 Saloon and A3 Cabriolet in 2013. A year later, the plant also started series production of the TT Coupe and TT Roadster.
HUNGARY: Mercedes-Benz CLA – LEAVE
Amazing, isn’t it? When the Mercedes-Benz CLA was complete, somebody, somewhere, took a look at the car and said: yes, that looks very smart indeed. The Audi A3 is an example of how to create a good looking medium-size saloon. The CLA, on the other hand, isn’t. Hungary – you can keep it.
ITALY: Ferrari 488 GTB – REMAIN
There are many Italian cars we love – take your pick from the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Pagani stables for starters. Others include the Fiat Panda, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Abarth 595. Our choice would be the Ferrari 488 GTB, because it encapsulates all that we love about Italian cars.
ITALY: Fiat Punto – LEAVE
The Fiat Punto is the unfortunate victim here, but that’s only because our first choice, the 500L, is built in Serbia, a nation currently outside of the EU. We like the Punto for its ‘mini Maserati’ styling, but alongside more modern superminis it’s feeling very dated.
NETHERLANDS: Spyker C8 Preliator – REMAIN
We don’t know what they’ve been smoking at Spyker, but if the C8 Preliator is anything to go by, we suggest they keep puffing. Adding a supercharger to Audi’s 4.2-litre V8 engine creates a 525hp hypercar wrapped in a body said to be inspired by aircraft design. Enough power to take off and leave – which is something the Remain campaigners won’t want to read.
POLAND: Fiat 500 – REMAIN
The quintessentially Italian small car just happens to be built in Poland. The Fiat Auto Poland plant has a long history of building Fiat cars, dating back to the construction of Polski Fiat 126p.
POLAND: Lancia Ypsilon – LEAVE
For a short while, the Lancia Ypsilon was available in the UK as the Chrysler Ypsilon. The car was facelifted in 2015 and subsequently subjected to a Euro NCAP safety test. It’s miserable two-star rating suggests it’s time to, er… call time on the Lancia with the hard-to-spell name.
PORTUGAL: SEAT Alhambra – REMAIN
The original SEAT Alhambra, Volkswagen Sharan and Ford Galaxy rolled off the same AutoEuropa production line in Portugal. When Ford and Volkswagen went their separate ways, the plant continued to produce the Alhambra and Sharan, along with the Volkswagen EOS and Scirocco.
ROMANIA: Dacia Duster – REMAIN
The Dacia Duster is a truly global SUV, produced in far away places such as Romania, Brazil, India and Indonesia. It’s our favourite cut-price SUV and therefore wins the right to remain.
ROMANIA: Ford EcoSport – LEAVE
It’s fair to say we’re not big fans of the Ford EcoSport, but with European sales more than tripling in 2015, not everyone agrees with us. To capitalise on its success, Ford is set to invest 200 million euros in its Craiova plant to build the EcoSport for European markets. To paraphrase Barry Davies: look at its face, just look at its face.
SLOVAKIA: Volkswagen Up – REMAIN
We’ve run out of superlatives to describe the really-rather-good Volkswagen Up and its SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo siblings. Bratislava can be rightly proud of its brilliant city car.
SLOVAKIA: Porsche Cayenne – LEAVE
We have to thank the Cayenne for enabling Porsche to do fun things with the 911, but we find it hard to love the SUV. We’re not sure if it’s the styling, the price or the image. Probably a combination of the three.
SLOVENIA: Renault Twingo – REMAIN
A rear-engine, rear-wheel drive city car – yes please. We like the Twingo for its different take on the city car recipe and we’re salivating over the prospect of the new GT model. Is this French fancy Slovenia’s finest export?
SLOVENIA: Smart Forfour – LEAVE
The Smart Forfour rolls off the same production line and adds some extra practicality to the Fortwo/Twingo. But it comes at a price and we’re not sure many passengers will thank you for confining them to the rear seats.
SPAIN: Citroen C4 Cactus – REMAIN
The Citroen C4 Cactus – so chic, so innovative, so different, so French. Only it isn’t French at all. The C4 Cactus is built in Spain. Sorry Gareth Bale, when it comes to flair and panache, this is the real star of Madrid.
SPAIN: Citroen C3: LEAVE
Meanwhile, the Citroen C3, which forms the basis of the C4 Cactus, is an ageing supermini that’s well past its sell-by date. Fortunately there’s a new version waiting in the wings, which is expected to land this summer.
SWEDEN: Volvo XC90 – REMAIN
Sweden has given so much to Europe – Abba, IKEA, meatballs, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Roxette and Saga from The Bridge. Oh, and not forgetting the new Volvo XC90 – a near faultless SUV and contender for the cliched all-the-car-you-could-ever-need award.
SWEDEN: Volvo S60 Cross Country – LEAVE
For some reason we have a soft spot for the Volvo S60 Cross Country – the high-riding saloon car that answers a question nobody ever asked. But it’s a niche too far, which is why we’re asking it to leave.
UNITED KINGDOM: McLaren 675LT – REMAIN
It’s only fair that we include the UK in this virtual tour of Europe. The question is: which car should represent the nation teetering on the edge of EU membership? A Nissan Qashqai? Jaguar F-Pace? MINI Hatch? No, it has to be the McLaren 675LT – a charismatic and entertaining example of British engineering.
UNITED KINGDOM: MINI Coupe – LEAVE
As for the MINI Coupe, we would be quite happy if it packed its bag and headed across the English Channel, never to be seen again. Perhaps it can live on a desert island with only a MINI Paceman and a Wilson volleyball for company.