Top 10: Short lived cars
The amount of time, money and market research that goes into developng a new car means that, generally, success is almost a given. It the reason why most modern cars are relatively bland, but also why there aren't many stinkers either.
But occasionally a car comes along that gets it so wrong, or is so bad, that it's dropped in its prime. Here are ten of those cars, each picked because here in the UK they failed spectacularly.
Sold in the UK: 1995 – 1997
The Suzuki X-90 failed because it was way, way ahead of its time. A two-door SUV-coupe crossover built for the yummy mummy market, it clearly formed the inspiration for the Range Rover Evoque. Clearly.
It took almost two years before the embarrassment felt by the Suzuki dealers charged with flogging them was felt by Suzuki itself, and the company pulled the plug. X-90s can still be seen in town centres with giant Red Bull cans strapped to the back, angled at 45 degrees and ostensibly ready to explode in a burst of sugary irony.
Sold in the UK: 2005 – 2007
Another car ahead of its time, the Fiat Croma was a crossover before anybody knew what a crossover was. And because of that, Fiat’s marketing people didn’t have a fancy word to explain why this Vauxhall Vectra-based estate was unusually tall and ugly.
A five-star Euro NCAP rating couldn’t even save it. After just about hitting four-figure sales after a couple of years in the UK, Fiat UK sent it to the big car crusher in the sky.
Sold in the UK: 2011 – 2014
General Motors created an MPV by numbers when it made the Orlando, by dipping into its vast parts bin and creating a relatively spacious, safe, seven-seat people carrier with a reasonable price tag and a good range of…what were we talking about, again?
...oh yes, the Orlando. The Orlando was dropped by Chevrolet due to poor sales, closely followed in the UK by Chevrolet itself, for the same reason.
Sold in the UK: 2011 – 2014
The Hyundai Veloster is proof, if it were needed, that a fancy door configuration does not a big selling car make. It makes people think "that’s weird," before getting distracted by something else.
With no real purpose, the ‘2+1’ door layout may have been a ploy to draw attention from the Veloster’s mind-numbingly average driving experience and quality. Unfortunately, there are only so many times a salesman can shout "doors!" during a test drive before it comes across creepy. The Veloster was found out, and didn’t sell. Hyundai dropped it.
Sold in the UK: 2005 – 2008
Electric sliding doors are a canny idea for an MPV – anyone that’s felt the nerve-spiking horror of hearing their child slam their door open into another car door in a car park will know why.
However, sliding doors are heavy and complicated, so while fitting them to a big family car makes sense, fitting them to a small runabout is like using a digitally encrypted lead padlock on a packed lunch box. The 1007 was sluggish and overpriced - qualities at odds with cars that sell well.
Sold in the UK: 1981 – 1982
The story of the DeLorean DMC-12 doesn’t need to be told again...
Nonetheless: gullwing doors, Back To The Future, Ireland, embezzlement, Back To The Future, Lotus, Back To The Future, the end, Back To The Future.
The oft-overlooked fact in the story is that the DMC-12 was absolutely rubbish. But still, it’s probably the most exotic and interesting pile of rubbish this side of Hugh Heffner’s ‘rejects’ pile.
Toyota Urban Cruiser
Sold in the UK: 2009 – 2012
A lame attempt to drive squarely onto the fast moving crossover bandwagon in 2009, the Toyota Urban Cruiser missed the ramp completely, flipped onto its roof, then exploded.
Not literally – though at least that would have served up some excitement, a quality that Toyota’s dreadfully mundane fake 4x4 did not have an ounce of. There’s the name, for a start, which was like Birkenstock rebranding its sandals as ‘gangsta ghetto sneakers’ and expecting rap artists to start wearing them.
Sold in the UK: 2002 – 2003
The archetypal story of modern automotive failure, as per the DeLorean, there isn’t much else left to say about the Avantime – it’s a classic ‘French company tries something different, French company fails’ narrative.
One saving grace is that the few surviving examples today exude that ‘I’d love one of those’ sort of appeal among car geek types, which, DeLorean aside, is not something that could be said for anything else on this list.
Sold in the UK: 2009 – 2013
You can’t imagine that someone at SEAT HQ in Spain woke up one morning and thought, ‘you know what, this brand needs to produce a car for sales reps that’s more depressing than the Vauxhall Insignia. Let’s ask Audi if there are any old A4s spare in order to accomplish this.’
Sold in the UK: 1997 – 1999
Like the famous actor who knows that, somewhere, there’s a set of old Polaroids knocking about whose existence is a career-threating embarrassment, Vauxhall has the Sintra.
The big MPV was an unmitigated disaster for the company, starting with the fact that it was built in the US, so it was expensive, insatiably thirsty and absolutely rubbish. Then it was crash tested by Euro NCAP, who discovered that Sintra occupants may well be decapitated in the event of a relatively minor frontal collision.