There are very few cars on sale today which qualify as bad…there may be ugly ones, there may be inefficient ones and there may be ones which are viewed by some as socially unacceptable. But neither does every car currently on sale qualify as good, and in this little ‘Top 5’ list I’ll give a quick run down of 5 of my least favourite cars on sale in the UK market. I say cars because I’ll be excluding any pick-ups or vans from the list as they are usually bought with different criteria in mind.
Subaru Impreza: Subaru is a company who seems to do either excel or under perform. Oftentimes they will come out with a cracking car such as the last generation Legacy or BRZ, but other times they will give a good model bonkers styling (like the Tribeca) or rubbish interior. The company’s current image of offering affordable yet sport-edged models has been based around the Impreza WRX. Usually painted in bright blue with massize spoilers, the WRX (alongside its Mitsubishi Evo arch-rival) has become the go-to car for those after rally car performance in a road-going model. But both Evo and WRX are based on very underwhelming car, and the standard Impreza is the car I am referring to as one as the worst in the UK. Outside the car is bland yet has fussy detailing, the interior is dated and low-quality, and to drive they are nowhere near as sharp or quick as the sporty version. Admittedly the diesel engine is great and they come with AWD as standard, but as a buying proposition most buyers would be better off with any rival.
Nissan Micra: As I have said before, I have some history with Nissan’s littlest car. Although I have never been especially taken with any generation, I have developed a begrudging respect for the second generation, and the third generation car I think compares very well to the current Fiat 500 in most aspects. But with the current Micra, Nissan have taken a massive step back, somewhat deliberately, in almost every area. To start with, it looks older and less sophisticated than its predecessor…which was launched in 2002! Very bland and with no stand out design cues they are no longer cutesy or even modern. Inside things get even worse, with the dashboard being made from cheap plastics with obvious cost-cutting on display; again many reviewers have commented on how the new car looks a generation behind the 2002, even rear space is more restricted. Handling is very tame, and although the new 3 cylinder engine is a great addition it seems to get lost in a bland package. The problem is that the new Micra was designed as a world car, and as such the tastes and expected prices of the rest of the world had to be taken into account when designing it. For European buyers the focus has been on the Juke and indeed the Juke has taken the Micra’s assembly place at the Sunderland plant. Nissan also has the Note for people looking for a less controversially styled hatchback, but I feel they are missing out on alot of customers looking for a reliable yet interesting supermini.
Lotus Elise: It might be a little unfair to place the Elise in this list, after all it has sustained the legend that is Lotus for nearly 2 decades. Great handling with sporty (if slightly dated) looks, the Elise has soldiered on with few changes bar chassis updates in 2002, but this is precisely the problem in many ways. Inside the interior is horribly sparse, and the roof takes an engineering degree to assemble…on the road refinement is not great, and the car still shares its engine with the humble Toyota Corolla. Over the past 30 years, the Elise has seen its competition come and go in what has always been a small market segment; cars like the MGF, MR2 and S2000 have stopped production, and rivals for the car consist more of the BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLK (both of which are vastly more sophisticated) and the Mazda MX5 (which is slower and cheaper…but still quite abit more advanced). For a weekend to the Elise still meets the brief, but as a modern car it is lacking.
Toyota Verso S: Another small Japanese hatchback, and as ever pretty underwhelming. For the world’s largest car manufacturer, Toyota does not show much initiative when it comes to introducing new models: the Verso S is essentially a slightly taller version of the Yaris, so a rival to the Honda Jazz or Nissan Note in terms of size and audience (ie over 55). The problem is that it has no stand out features compared to its rivals, and is so bland that many potential customers probably don’t even realize it exists! What’s worse is that Toyota sees fit to charge more for its baby MPV, so to be honest anyone would be better off with a Jazz or even a Citroen C3 Picasso if they want a practical yet cost-effective small car. I actually forgot the Verso S existed until I saw one yesterday and was inspired to write this list, which speaks volumes.
Smart Fortwo: So now we come to what is probably my least favourite car on the road, the diminutive 2 seater that is the Smart car. Mercedes’ small car venture has had some varied success over the years…the original car was initially quite popular but suffered from some quality issues, as well as a horrendous gearbox. ForFour and Coupe/Roadster models were also available, but whilst interesting alternatives to mainstream cars they never really found much success and were quickly discontinued. Currently the Smart brand has refocused on its core model, a second generation of which was launched in 2007 and offered improved driving dynamics, interior and engine choices, although the horrible gearbox remains. I do actually like the Fortwo as a vehicle, but as a car? Well to me it demonstrates a total lack of enthusiasm for motoring, and judging from the drivers who I see in them today it also seems to be the choice of ride for douchebags!