From compact city cars to luxury SUVs: there’s a new car for everyone. But that doesn’t stop us peering across the English Channel to gaze longingly at some of the European cars that we’re denied access to in the UK. Here’s a selection of Euro motors we wish were sold on these shores.
Renault Megane Grand Coupe
When is a compact saloon not a compact saloon? When it’s a Grand Coupe. The name makes no sense, but there’s no denying the Renault Megane Grand Coupe is a good looking saloon. It actually boasts a larger boot than its hatchback counterpart, but while it will be sold in 20 countries worldwide, UK buyers will be denied the privilege of driving the attractive Renault.
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio manual
We still have to pinch ourselves about this one. A genuinely handsome, rear-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo with a top speed that puts it at the top table of the supercar elite. Thanks to the small matter of 510 raging horses, the Giulia Quadrifoglio will hit 191mph, all for a shade over £60,000. Yes, you can buy it in the UK, but the cost of converting to right-hand drive means we don’t get the manual transmission. Shame.
The original Mehari is a bit of cult vehicle within Citroen circles, so this beach buggy for the new millennium has a lot to live up to. The signs are good: a potential range of 125 miles, 70mph top speed and a maintenance-free body are amongst the highlights. It’s already on sale in France, but a UK-launch is unlikely. On the plus side, it’ll be the coolest car at the holiday rental compound.
The Citroen C6, Renault 25, Peugeot 605, Renault Vel Satis and Peugeot 607, to name but a few – lessons from history warning French carmakers that shifting big cars is a big ask in the UK. Which helps to explain why the Renault Talisman isn’t available here. Nobody would buy it and it would depreciate faster than you could say ‘financial ruin’, but that doesn’t stop us wanting one.
We’re not fans of small saloons in the UK, preferring the practicality of a hatchback. Thus the C-Elysée – a staple of the French taxi trade – has never made it to these shores. On the one hand, that’s a positive; Jalopnik journalist Doug DeMuro described it as the worst car he’s even driven. On the other, the championship-winning WTCC racer looks pretty cool.
Spend some time across the Channel and it won’t be long before you stumble across a Fiat Freemont, especially in its native Italy. Actually, that’s a bit of a moot point, because the Freemont is based on the all-american Dodge Journey. It was unveiled back in 2007, so it’s hardly a spring chicken and is currently being phased-out. If we’re honest, that’s probably a good thing.
Dacia Lodgy Stepway
The Dacia Lodgy offers space for up to seven people and traditional Dacia value for money. OK, so the Stepway version does inflate the price, but it looks a million Euros. Practical, wipe-clean motoring for a bargain price. Where do we sign? Oh, we can’t. Shame.
The Renault Espace helped to establish the people carrier segment in the early 1980s and it soon became part of the UK furniture. The fourth generation Espace offers styling that doesn’t say to the world you’ve given up on life and are well past your prime. In fact, it looks more appealing than the majority of crossovers. Being denied access to the Espace just isn’t playing fair.
The original Vauxhall (and Opel) Ampera was one of the first production plug-in hybrids. Sadly, it was too far ahead of its time and sold in tiny numbers. This second-generation car – renamed Ampera-e and only available in left-hand drive – looks more conventional and is now fully electric. Opel claims a range of 236 miles using the latest WLTP test cycle.
If you want a new G-Wagen in the UK (and we do), your only option is the blood-and-thunder 585hp AMG G63. However, many consider the detuned 422hp G500 a better all-rounder. It’s quieter, smoother and more efficient – and considerably cheaper to buy, too. But only if you live on the continent…
Volvo S60 Polestar
We’re fortunate enough to be offered the Volvo V60 Polestar, but the S60 is strictly off limits. This is due in part to the fact that we prefer wagons to saloons, but there’s something delightfully old-school about the S60 Polestar. Avoid the Rebel Blue paint job and it’s one of the world’s ultimate sleepers.
Skoda Rapid Spaceback ScoutLine
On character count alone, this is one of the biggest names in Europe. The Skoda Rapid Spaceback Scoutline could be the Rapid you always dreamed of. Don’t let the looks deceive you, because this particular Skoda has about as much off-road ability as a Mini Moke, but it looks wonderfully cool in Pistachio Green.
The Camry made its UK debut in 1984, soon establishing itself as the flagship of the Toyota range. It majored on equipment and refinement, but there was a Sport model, complete with 2.2-litre 16v engine. The Camry lived on until 2004, but hasn’t been seen in the UK since. However, it will make a comeback later this year…
Lada Granta Sport
Who doesn’t want a budget-priced compact saloon with sporting credentials? The Lada Granta Sport is powered by a distinctly old-school 1.6-litre 16v engine, delivering a distinctly old school 0-62 mph time of 9.5 seconds. For some reason we’re really keen to drive it. We have visions of being transported back to the 1990s. And that’s a good thing.
Renault Clio Estate
Small estate cars aren’t hugely popular in the UK, with the Skoda Fabia and SEAT Ibiza representing the best of a rather niche breed. But we feel we’re missing out by not having the Renault Clio Estate on sale in the UK. One for Nicole’s more practical sister, perhaps?
The Toyota Highlander is a seven-seat SUV built at Toyota’s plant in Indiana, along with its assembly plant in China. It’s not widely available in Europe, but customers in Moldova and Ukraine are able to get their hands on Toyota’s “sophisticated” SUV. We’d like a single Highlander to be sold in the UK, just to enable us to use the ‘there can be only one’ gag.
Lada 4×4 Urban
The word ‘urban’ is often synonymous with cutting-edge cool. Not here. Lada’s 4×4 Urban is essentially a reworked version of the ancient Niva, with a 1.7-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine and (slightly) more modern dashboard. Like the Land Rover Defender or Suzuki Jimny, though, it has a certain back-to-basics appeal.
Fiat Tipo saloon
While UK buyers will be able to buy to the Fiat Tipo as a hatchback or estate car, we’re being denied the compact saloon. Taking into account the fact that small estates are a hard sell in the UK, we think the Tipo saloon looks rather stylish. A budget alternative to the Audi A3 saloon and Mercedes-Benz CLA?
The Indian-market Renault Kwid is set to enter Europe and there’s every chance it could arrive in the UK as a Dacia. Remarkably, prices in India start at the equivalent of £2,945, so it could present astonishing value for money in the UK. A decent addition to the Dacia range? We think so.