The automotive landscape would be a dull place if we all bought the same vehicles. While it’s easy to agree that the latest Audi A4 is A Good Car, and the Mitsubishi Mirage is a car no one should spend their own money on, there’s a plethora of cars in between that will divide opinion. A bit like Marmite. We’ve picked out a selection of cars you’ll probably love or hate. Personally, we love ‘em…
- Revealed: Jeremy Clarkson’s worst cars of the year
- More car features on Motoring Research
It cost more to buy than a Volkswagen Sharan, was less practical than a Volkswagen Sharan and was about 100 times more likely to leave you stranded than a Volkswagen Sharan – but who wouldn’t love a Renault Avantime? A quirky two-door people carrier with a reputation for going bang (expensively), the Avantime is truly a terrible car. But one we’d love to own.
When it was new, the XJ-S was a disappointing replacement for the beloved Jaguar E-Type. It was a cross-continent cruiser rather than an outright sports car, and safety regulations meant its dowdy looks weren’t improved by the addition of big, plastic bumpers. Over the years, it’s earned a reputation for going wrong, so values remained in the doldrums for a long time. But, all these issues aside, we’ve got a lot of love for the XJ-S. Time has even been kind to its looks.
Citroen C3 Pluriel
Citroen did something wacky when it brought out the C3 Pluriel in 2003. It was a car that could be used as a convertible in the summer, a cosy supermini in the winter, and a pick-up truck when you needed something moving. An unconventional idea – and one that never really took off amongst customers. Age hasn’t been kind to the Pluriel, either – with it developing a reputation for iffy reliability and a roof that goes wrong. A modern day 2CV it is not, but we still see the appeal.
In Harris Mann’s early design sketches, the Austin Allegro was a very sleek-looking car. But that changed as practicalities were realised. For example, it had to accommodate a (very deep) heater, which had already been designed at great expense. As a result, the Allegro looked frankly disastrous. It frequently tops polls for the worst car ever sold, but we love its charm. It sums up the 1970s British car industry. And for that, we’d love one on our driveway.
It’s frankly astonishing that, practically unchanged since 1998, the utilitarian Suzuki Jimny is still in production. The interior feels dated, the ride is uncomfortable, it offers all the performance of a tired tortoise, yet we’ve got a lot of time for the Jimny. It’s a quirky off roader (that can genuinely show up Land Rovers in the mud), and should never break down.
As a toy, the Caterham Seven is arguably the most fun you can have for its £15,995 starting price. But in reality, it’s far from perfect. It’s uncomfortable, has no creature comforts, and the roof is a nightmare to put down (and, more importantly, up). And, unless you pay extra, you have to build it yourself. Still… we’d have one in our lotto-win garage.
The Rover Streetwise was essentially a jacked-up Rover 25 with slightly increased ride height and chunky, off-roader-esque bumpers. It featured the standard two-wheel-drive drivetrain despite the 4×4 looks, in a bid to appeal to young, fashion-conscious buyers. It was, however, a sales flop – but you could argue it was ahead of its time.
‘Terrible’ might be a bit harsh on the original TT, but it certainly didn’t deliver the enjoyable driving experience its sporty looks promised. The front-wheel-drive TT shared a platform with the Skoda Octavia and initially developed a reputation for being unstable at high speeds, resulting in a recall in 1999. But its design has aged so well in our opinion – it’d make for a great used buy.
When the Ford Probe went on sale in the UK in 1992, there was a great deal of excitement over the modern-day Capri. But the Mazda-based Probe proved to be disappointing, with stodgy looks and dull front-wheel-drive handling. It’s finally starting to get a bit of a following, however, and we quite fancy buying one while we still can. Numbers are falling, with fewer than 718 believed to be left on UK roads.
Ford Fiesta XR2i
How motoring writers laughed when Ford released the much-anticipated Fiesta XR2i, complete with its wheezy, thrashy CVH engine, ultra-low-geared and twirly steering, wooden chassis and precision more akin to a blunt knife. Compared to the scalpel-sharp Peugeot 205 GTI and effervescent Renault 5 GT Turbo (and later Clio 16v), the Fiesta was laughably off the pace. But still they sold – it’s a Ford, after all. And still, despite the standard car’s soapy lines, Ford’s hot hatch designers managed to make it look like the exciting, racy car it wasn’t. It even had a blue pinstripe: the epitome of cool. Conventional wisdom is to lust after a 205 GTI. Us, we’ll stick with the people’s choice, warts and all.