Currently reading: Give a little respect: Cars that deserve more love
Plenty of great cars have probably passed you by. We think these are worthy of your attention
Autocar
News
6 mins read
25 July 2020

There are cars everyone raves about and others only diehard fans covet. These are the cars our writers think should be celebrated more than they are…

Mercedes-Benz S560 Coupe - Richard Lane

The S-Class Coupé flies so far beneath the radar of public perception that you’d swear Mercedes had undertaken some form of adverse marketing. The saloon is everywhere, yet people simply aren’t bothered about the coupé, focusing instead on rivals such as the Aston Martin DB11 and Bentley Continental GT. When the coupé does get some love, it’s almost always the S63 and S65 AMG derivatives, but the model you really want is the S560 – the world-class loper so laid back that it’s practically horizontal.

Details? The glasshouse is almost total and the curvaceous interior similarly vast, so while other marques can only promise a ‘lounge ambience’, this car delivers it. With the most sophisticated suspension options fitted, there’s no finer-riding car – not even the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Lexus LS 400 - Rachel Burgess

Lexus’s first car shook up the premium car industry in a way that no-one expected. Toyota engineers had six years and a near-unlimited budget to develop a luxury car superior to rivals in most ways. The LS was designed for purpose, sharing no part with any Toyota. It was whisper-quiet, was incredibly smooth and had exceptional build quality. An innovative sandwich steel construction minimised vibration, while design touches such as airflow-enhancing components and flush door handles and windows helped with the unbeatable refinement. Then there was the Nakamichi stereo, around a £7000 option in today’s money, which is still considered a benchmark for in-car sound. All that and it was still cheaper than a six-pot Mercedes E-Class

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The self-proclaimed 'best car in the world' gets a touch more luxury, a heap of new technology and a mild hybrid electrical system, but is it enough to hold off the latest attempts from BMW and Audi?

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Mazda 323F - Lawrence Allan

When was the last time you saw one of these? The humble 323F, in my view, is the only mid-1990s family hatchback that still looks good – and there was substance to the style. It was marketed as a four-door coupé way before Mercedes kicked off the modern trend, and it even came with pillarless doors. Novel, too, was the super-smooth 2.0-litre V6 that top versions were offered with – showing Mazda’s left-field engineering to be alive and well. With a limited range and Mazda’s small dealer presence back then, it never sold strongly in the UK, sadly.

Vauxhall Insignia - Matt Saunders

I’ve got plenty of friends who want a big, second-hand family car to use and abuse – and who know they really don’t want an oversized box-on-wheels SUV or MPV. It’s always interesting to discover if they’re still friends after I tell them to buy an Insignia. This is one of the most underrated cars of the past two decades. Not dynamically, granted, but in terms of how much space, usability and mechanical spec it afforded. You want a ‘normal’ family car with three Isofix points across the back seats and 60:40 second-row seats split to best facilitate right-hand-drive, two-up, front-seat-folded tip runs and flat-pack missions? Then trust me: you want an Insignia.

The car had a platform engineered for both Saab and Alfa Romeo, don’t forget. Towards the end of its life, it gained torque-vectored four-wheel drive, adaptive dampers and a 192bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel motor that would allow close to 50mpg on a run and approaching 8.0sec 0-60mph sprints. A 2014 or 2015 Country Tourer wagon in the aforementioned mechanical trim (which also had a bit extra suspension travel for boosted ride comfort) would be my pick.

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Citroen C1 - Steve Cropley

It’s always been a wonder to me that the world doesn’t love the C1 more. We keep telling anyone who’ll listen that cheap, 3.6-metre-long, do-it-all cars are on the point of extinction, yet here’s a car with a track record of faithful service in earlier iterations that shows no signs of going away.

The fact that the C1 isn’t rushed in showrooms might just be because it shares nearly everything with the Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo, and its appeal is thus divided by three. But in my opinion, Citroën has done well with the C1’s looks. And because the mechanicals and build procedures are Toyota-standard, it’s a really good proposition.

Volkswagen Golf V5 - Felix Page

Golf GTI fans were vocal in their disappointment of the fourth generation of the hallowed hot hatch. But there was a punchy alternative that, today, is no more than a footnote on the fast Golf tapestry: the V5.

Its 2.3-litre motor, the only narrow-angle five-cylinder under the bonnet of a production car, sounds like nothing else on the road and, with top-spec cars packing 170bhp, is capable of up to 139mph. It’s extremely thirsty, but the V5 is one of the last true Q-cars, and rapidly rising prices show that enthusiasts are finally wising up.

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Citroen C4 Cactus - Jim Holder

For everyone else there was bigger, faster and better. For Citroën, there was an existential moment of realisation that the brand’s heritage didn’t just give it licence to be different – it demanded it was. The resulting car was a shocking shift away from what nigh-on everyone else was offering, from its wacky Airbump external styling to the deep and comfy ‘lounge seats’ in the front. Its makers declared it a car to love or hate. To be first on your shortlist or last. In that regard, it succeeded. The pity was that it sat last in too many buyers’ minds. Citroën is still different today, and in that regard the C4 Cactus fulfilled a role, but the resultant rowing back on some of the more extreme aspects of its purpose to deliver wider appeal still feels like a loss.

Honda Jazz - James Attwood

Clearly, Jazz owners don’t overlook this Japanese hatchback: they love it. They’ll buy one, look after it and then buy another, with nary a furtive glance at other models. The trouble is that, well, they’re Jazz owners: somewhat elderly and more concerned with practicality, reliability and value than driving dynamics, style and so on. But give Honda its due: it’s not easy to build such a loyal customer base, and it has done that by listening to them. While other firms aim to go upmarket, the Jazz delivers exactly what its buyers want and nothing more. For that, if nothing else, it should be appreciated more.

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Alfa Romeo Stelvio - Kris Culmer

The Stelvio hasn’t been a surprise smash hit for Alfa – partly, I suspect, because the Giulia saloon is more appealing to its traditional customers, while premium SUV drivers know it’s not German. But just look at that uniquely handsome front, with its triangular grille, and those well-balanced proportions. While the V6-engined, four-wheel-drive Quadrifoglio is mega, even the regular 2.0-litre turbo petrols and 2.2-litre diesels are very enjoyable. Added to that, the interior is appealing and has a comprehensive, BMW-style infotainment system. You can get some serious deals on the nearly new market, too.

Suzuki Ignis - Matt Prior

If you’re in the market for a small hatchback or SUV, the Ignis should come higher up buyers’ lists than it does. Suzuki’s small, practical, slightly tall hatchback gives most people all the height they’ll need but none of the inefficiency they don’t.

Our tests show Suzukis tend to return seriously impressive fuel economy figures and, in the Ignis, the very-mild-hybrid system really works to add pep and reduce fuel bills. It’s as spacious as a supermini, drives better than most cars of its size and, with pricing from £12,250, starts at less than virtually all superminis and seriously undercuts small crossovers. I even think it looks good.

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Fiat 124 Spider - Mark Tisshaw

The 124 Spider is the Alfa Romeo that became a Fiat when Alfa decided it could only sell cars made in Italy. So the deal to twin the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 with a reborn Alfa Spider was switched to include a Fiat. And the 124 Spider is a better car than the MX-5. There, I’ve said it. It doesn’t look better, nor handle quite as sweetly. For me, it comes down to the turbo. The MX-5, especially with the 1.5-litre engine, always felt gutless. The 124 Spider with its 1.4-litre Multiair engine felt an even more rounded driver’s car for it. It offered the chance of more laugh-out-loud fun in more scenarios. Sometimes just putting your foot down is all you want to do. In terms of power and torque, Fiat got the overall package spot on with the 124 Spider.

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Comments
14

25 July 2020

We have a new ignis SZ5 in the house bought new last September, and took it to Cornwall last week, adding 600 miles to it over 5 days. It really is a brilliant little car, comfy, quiet, full of equipment, returns 60mpg, and the sub 900kg weight means the little hybrid engine can pull it along very well. It also looks fantastic, and i as a 6'3 guy, can easily sit behind the front seats set back for when i have been in the front. To round it all off, its built extremely well, is exceptionally reliable, with not a rattle or squeak appearing or any issues appearing in the 10 months since buying.  

25 July 2020

I've always liked the Ignis and looked at one in a showroom just out of interest even though I was not in the market then.  It's about the only handily small car still in production with a bit of character and it really is like a Tardis inside. This article prompted me to research the Ignis on the internet and came across Which? declaring it as a "don't buy" because of its NCAP rating.  I would not let that influence me as I believe safety is at least 90% due to one's own driving; NCAP ratings are all over the place as the goal posts seem to be moved almost daily and whenever I read a Which? car report and compare it with a test written in a proper motoring magazine, you wouldn't think it was the same car being written about!

26 July 2020

The confusing thing with the Ignis is that the higher spec models such as SZ5 have the camera aided safety pack, so have city and auto braking and lane keep assist, with NCAP require for higher ratings, whereas the lower spec dont. Choose wisely, and you'll be as safe as in any other car of its size

26 July 2020
Ignore the overall rating and just look at the scores for the actual crash test, the Ignis is more or less on par with other city cars. Ncaps constantly changing test procedures and test criteria makes cars very difficult to compare.

25 July 2020
The Ignis is an obvious great little car and you'd think, with the obsession for SUVs, it'd be a huge seller being an SUV city car.

The Mazda 323f was a great looking car, though I preferred the first one with pop up headlights over the one you pictured, so swoopy and stylish compared with a golf.

I find it really surprising that fiat pulled the 124, with only the mx5 out there as a direct competitor I'd have thought it would sell well.

25 July 2020

I nominate the Toyota iQ

25 July 2020
abkq wrote:

I nominate the Toyota iQ

Absolutely true! On a similar subject, the UK has an odd relation with Japanese cars, they are bullet proof reliable, good performers but still buy inferior Eurotrash alternatives instead. Unlike the US where European mass market cars are a flop because of their crap reliability Japanese cars rule. But the contradictory UK buyer tends to be backwards and buy more alfas, fiats, Renaults, Citroëns, dagenham dustbins, VW’s etc on a whim or perceived value even if it was a money pit or had 1970 british Leyland build quality… In the 90’s Lexus LS outsold the jag xj 10-1 in the US but that figure was the total opposite in the UK, why is this? Xenophobia, jingoistic rule Britannia backwards boomers? Lack of awareness and failure from Toyota to advertise the superiority of their cars compared to the browns lane junk? British car market makes no sense!

25 July 2020
nimmler wrote:

abkq wrote:

I nominate the Toyota iQ

Absolutely true! On a similar subject, the UK has an odd relation with Japanese cars, they are bullet proof reliable, good performers but still buy inferior Eurotrash alternatives instead. Unlike the US where European mass market cars are a flop because of their crap reliability Japanese cars rule. But the contradictory UK buyer tends to be backwards and buy more alfas, fiats, Renaults, Citroëns, dagenham dustbins, VW’s etc on a whim or perceived value even if it was a money pit or had 1970 british Leyland build quality… In the 90’s Lexus LS outsold the jag xj 10-1 in the US but that figure was the total opposite in the UK, why is this? Xenophobia, jingoistic rule Britannia backwards boomers? Lack of awareness and failure from Toyota to advertise the superiority of their cars compared to the browns lane junk? British car market makes no sense!

Ah another idiot, who thinks anyone who buys British is a right wing racist, perhaps its because we like care builtand designed with a bit of soul, not designed with the same passion as white goods, Japanese cars may be well built, and very reliable, so are Bosch washing machines, and just because something is popular in America does not make it suitable to European tastes, honest..  The best selling car in America is an F-Series pickup, and has been for decades, that sort of loses you the argument, there is also a reason American cars dont sell well in Europe, they generally have the build quality of melted lego, but great cup holders and massive, dirty, uneconomical V8 engines... 

 

26 July 2020

The top selling cars and SUV's are dominated by Japanese and Korean brands. Trucks are in a different category. Even in the current difficult market the Toyota Camry is moving over 30,000 cars per month! Most people will lease European brands but not own them as the repair bills are astronomical and the resale value shocking for three year ownership. BTW the Ford F-150 only has one V8 engine as an option. The rest of the lineup are V6 , V6 Turbos and a V6  Diesel when combined with the mostly aluminium chassis are quite efficient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

26 July 2020

That Americans do buy bullet proof reliable British built cars. They just happen to be made by Honda and Nissan.

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