Remember these? Eight cars whose time in Britain was short-lived

Graham Hope

14 Oct 2020

Car companies spend millions and millions of pounds launching new models – but they don’t always produce winners. There can be a variety of reasons for this. Sometimes, the time spent on research, development and testing is so lengthy that buyers’ tastes have changed irreversibly from when the car was originally conceived. Sometimes the vehicle may have been executed to perfection, but it’s simply wrong for the UK market.

And occasionally the whole proposition is fatally flawed from the outset, which makes you wonder what on earth the manufacturer was thinking in the first place. Whatever the reason, if a car is not selling, or costing the maker too much money to produce or import, the result is inevitable: it will be pulled from sale. Here we look at eight cars whose time in UK showrooms was particularly brief.

Mercedes X-Class

The rationale behind the X-Class always seemed rather ambitious from the outset. Would there really be a market for a premium posh pick-up? The Merc had an immediate obstacle to overcome in that it was essentially a Nissan Navara with a swisher cabin, a more desirable badge, and of course, a higher price. The Navara is, of course, one of the established players in this area of the market and a very convincing pick-up. But that just added to the X-Class’s problems: why pay more for the Merc? Few were prepared to, and it was little surprise when its demise was confirmed after little more than two years in production.

Aston Martin Cygnet

This was another case of all not being quite as it seems. The idea of Aston launching a city car seemed preposterous when the Cygnet was announced in 2011, although the reasoning behind the move was actually sound enough: the company had to do something to reduce the average emissions of its range of thirsty sports cars. And by basing the Cygnet on Toyota’s iQ, Aston avoided the expense of development of a small car on its own. But customers were hard to come by, probably on account of the mind-boggling £31,000 price, double that of the iQ. The ill-fated project was brought to an end after only three years in 2014.

Hyundai Veloster

Sometimes daring to be different can be a positive. On other occasions, it can confuse buyers. And in hindsight, it’s probably fair to surmise that the boldness of this Korean coupe was a step too far for British customers. The Veloster pioneered an unusual design that featured one door on the driver’s side and two on the passenger’s, to no obvious benefit. Despite being reasonably good value and featuring turbo power, the calculated quirkiness of the Hyundai always seemed to hold it back and it was pulled from the UK after only three years in 2014.

Renault Avantime

Where to start with the Avantime? A luxurious MPV coupe with wonderfully weird styling, it caused quite a stir when it was revealed in 2001 as an avant-garde alternative to German’s more reserved expressions of prestige motoring. It really did look like nothing else on the road, which in hindsight has added to its cult appeal, but at the time did little to entice buyers. There were all sorts of oddities, including pillarless side windows, massive doors and a dramatic rear end, but sales in this traditionally conservative area of the market were slow and by 2003, the game was up for this radical Renault.

Renault Wind

And here’s another Renault that tried, unsuccessfully, to conquer a niche area of the market. On paper, the Wind sounded promising – a tiny two-seat roadster, based on the Twingo with Renaultsport-tuned suspension and a clever roof that disappeared into the boot. And it actually proved a reasonable car to drive. But its misfortune was to arrive at the end of the Noughties, when the world was entering financial meltdown. Renault UK in particular was suffering, and by 2011 had decided to concentrate purely on its more profitable models. The Wind’s fate here was sealed and by 2013 it had been axed in Europe, too.

Nissan Cube

One of the most unmistakable silhouettes on the road over the past decade was that of the Nissan Cube, a boxy mini-MPV based on the firm’s Note that proved a smash hit in its home market of Japan. Nissan decided to import the distinctive model to the UK in 2010, and the Cube received a generally positive response from the motoring press, who were charmed by its quirkiness. However, while some buyers took the plunge, a lack of promotion and advertising – due to the low profit margin on the model – didn’t help sales and the poor exchange rate between the yen and the pound ultimately caused the company to stop imports in 2011.

Fiat 124 Spider

The 124 Spider’s short spell on sale in the UK is all the more frustrating and perplexing when you consider how hotly it was anticipated. Developed alongside its sister car, the Mazda MX-5, great things were expected – a combination of Japanese reliability (the car was built in Hiroshima) and Italian design promised an irresistible proposition to many. And it was launched in Britain to general acclaim in summer 2016, even though it was destined to remain a rarer sight than the Mazda. But by March 2019 it had disappeared from British showrooms, with tighter emissions regulations blamed.

Suzuki Jimny

The case of the current Suzuki Jimny is a curious one. With the previous version on sale in Britain for 20 years, excitement was understandably high as the new model was released in 2018. This was reflected by strong demand in showrooms. But by 2019 rumours were already circulating about the junior 4x4’s future. And these seemed to be confirmed earlier this year when it was announced that it would no longer be possible to order the car from new, because of the adverse effect the 1.5-litre petrol model has on Suzuki’s average carbon dioxide emissions across its range. But recent weeks have seen a reprieve – of sorts. Exploiting a loophole in the emissions regulations, Suzuki will sell the Jimny as a commercial vehicle from next year, although buyers will have to accept the removal of the rear seating to justify its new status.


Graham Hope

14 Oct 2020

YesAuto>News/Reviews>Remember these? Eight cars whose time in Britain was short-lived