Not all cars are destined for huge sales. We recall fantastic failures that should never have left the factory production line and trailblazers that were too far ahead of their time

It's easy to recite the cars with extra-long production runs; the Land Rover Defender, first-generation Volvo XC90 and Rolls-Royce Phantom VI are three that spring to mind. 

But what about the cars that didn't last so long? Some were ahead of their time; too forward-thinking for their own good and axed before they could make a difference. Others were plain wrong and put out of the public's misery. Scroll through to see the best of both. 

ONE YEAR ON SALE: 

Chevrolet Epica - 2008-09

How many left? 414

Sorry, but only these words will do: epic fail. You’ve likely forgotten that it’s a very tedious family saloon. 

Chevrolet Trax2013-14

How many left? 1670

Crossover’s name and semi-digital dashboard were interesting, but it was killed by Chevy’s European withdrawal.

Honda Legend 2006-07

How many left? 1083

This car ought really to be a legend, because it offered optional kit such as automatic, self-steering lane-keeping (an industry first), forward collision mitigation and a pyrotechnic bonnet as long as a decade ago. Active front-lighting, Bluetooth and a rear-view camera also appeared on an amazing roster of kit. Less impressive, surprisingly, was the 3.5 V6 petrol (low-rev lethargy slowed it), but what really did for this technical marvel was the lack of a diesel engine in the range. 

Honda Logo 2000-01 

How many left? 1444 

A dated, dull supermini memorable for absolutely nothing. Except, after a couple of years, for becoming the most reliable car in Britain, according to some independent research. That was partly because it had so little kit that there wasn’t much to go wrong, but also because it was Japanese. The Logo was introduced not long before the first Jazz (a vastly better car) to give Honda a toehold in this segment. Though only with bus-pass holders.

Nissan Cube2010

How many left? 1064

Looked great on Japan’s city streets, but somewhere between weird and foolish on Britain’s.

Renault Fluence EV 2012-13

How many left? 75

Renault sold only 79 before pulling the plug (sorry) on this pricey, short-range electric saloon.

Renault Koleos 2008-09

How many left? 2615

It takes an effort to miss-hit the SUV boom, but Renault aced it with this Samsung makeover.

Saab 9-5 2010-11

How many left? 26,278

Cut off in its prime, when Saab’s woefully underfinanced, over-ambitious new owners went bust.

Subaru B9 Tribeca 2006-07

How many left? Unknown

With a snout even odder than its name, this SUV disappeared as quickly as a rallying Impreza WRX.

Suzuki Kizashi 2012-13

How many left? 332

Four-wheel drive, a 2.4-litre petrol, automatic, 191g/km and no diesel mean low sales. 

TWO YEARS ON SALE:

Aston Martin Cygnet 2011-13

How many left? 144

Allegedly dreamed up on the golf course. A weird way into Aston ownership.

Cadillac STS 2009-10

How many left? 25

GM tooled these for right-hand drive – and sold just 45. Ouch.

Chevrolet Volt 2013-15

How many left? 119

Chevy’s withdrawal didn’t help, but it was selling slowly anyway despite its brilliance. Just too dear.

Chrysler Delta 2011-13

How many left? 872

A miserable, short-lived, badge-engineered travesty and another example of Fiat Chrysler’s periodic abuse of brands – the Delta being a Lancia. This quietly elegant hatch was true to the standard, pre-rallying Delta of 1978. Not that anyone cared. FCA rebranded the Delta over here because it figured that Chrysler badges would smother sales less completely than a Lancia shield. Either way, the Delta’s career was brief. 

Chrysler Sebring saloon 2007-09

How many left? Unknown

A US budget rental fleet special that made you pleased to get back in your own car. Nasty.

Dodge Avenger 2007-09

How many left? 893

As per the Sebring, but this was meant to be a budget performance car.

Dodge Journey 2008-10

How many left? 1795

Launched just as the people carrier segment’s implosion gathered force.

Dodge Nitro 2007-09

How many left? 2181

In a chunky kind of way it was quite good-looking, which matched its roughedged manners. Another failed Dodge.

Fiat Croma 2005-07

How many left? 878

Made the troubled 1980s original look good. Hard to believe Da Vinci flourished in the nation where this was born.

MG SV 2003-05

How many left? Unknown

Handsome-as-a-hippo rework of a failed De Tomaso project, the SV allegedly sold zilch before MG XPower went bust.

Renault Vel Satis 2002-04

How many left? 354

A classic “What were they thinking of?” machine. It was outstanding at almost nothing.

Renault Wind 2010-12

How many left? 2243

Curious niche roadster developed by Renault Sport. Euthanised during the Renault UK range cull of late 2011.

Rover CityRover 2003-05

How many left? 2166

Just over 2000 left and the numbers are falling fast. Excellent.

TVR Sagaris 2004-06

How many left? 115

There would be more (and 53 are on SORN) had TVR not gone bankrupt.

Vauxhall Sintra 2007-09

How many left? 62

Even Vauxhall insiders thought this relabelled US import was rubbish.

THREE YEARS ON SALE:

Alfa Romeo Spider 2007-10

How many left? Unknown

More two-seat cabriolet than sportster. Overweight, over-quivery and all over pretty quickly.

Fiat Idea 2004-07

How many left? 2766

Not bad looking for an people carrier, but a noisy, choppy, low-rent drive did little for its prospects.

Honda CR-Z 2010-13

How many left? 4072

It’s only just gone off-sale in the US, but Honda’s dinky little CR-Z hybrid disappeared from British showrooms four years ago. The idea was great – combine the cheeky verve of the 1980s CR-X coupé with the low-emissions, low-guilt ownership of a hybrid. But the CR-Z wasn’t quite quick enough to reignite the frenetic zest of its ancestor (although the volume of noise was there), while an ordinary diesel supermini easily matched its economy

Mercedes Vaneo 2002-05

How many left? 1547

Developed by Daimler’s commercial vehicle arm, as suggested by a name designed to put buyers off. Which it did.

Seat Toledo 2005-08

How many left? 2685

The third-generation Toledo was essentially an Altea with a big fat boot, to which many buyers said a big fat no.

Toyota Urban Cruiser 2009-12

How many left? 4600

Cool name, almost cool shape and a cool-to-cold reception from buyers.

Vauxhall Ampera 2012-15

How many left? 1278

Brilliant, brave and soon to bomb, this was skewered by a high price and buyers’ indifference to green machines.

FOUR YEARS ON SALE:

Cadillac BLS 2006-10

How many left? 421

Amazing that this one lasted as long as it did, but perhaps stocks took time to clear. A reskinned Saab 9-3, the BLS was unusual for being the only Cadillac not sold in the US, besides being built in Sweden and available with an Italian diesel engine. Nothing wrong with the international confection, but the BLS’s limited talents turned it into a cut-price Saab. Did the wagon version help? No.

Chevrolet Aveo 2011-15

How many left? 15,642

Stalled by Chevy’s withdrawal, the Aveo briefly sold in decent numbers before fading as fast as a Snapchat message.

Chevrolet Orlando 2011-15

How many left? 5504

One of Chevy’s better efforts, snuffed out by the brand’s withdrawal from the European market.

Chrysler Ypsilon 2011-15

How many left? 5561

Quirkily appealing little Lancia – for that is what it really was behind the Chrysler badge – but troubled. 

Jeep Patriot 2007-11

How many left? 4660

Uncertain off-road, miserable on it, what with its Poundland-standard cabin plastics and yelling VW diesel engine.

MG Magnette 2011-15

How many left? Unknown

Booted version of the MG6 hatch, badged with an ancient MG name in desperation. Handfuls sold.

Peugeot 1007 2005-09

How many left? 6053

Peugeot’s answer to… who knows what? It looked truncated, like its career in the UK market.

Peugeot 407 Coupé 2006-10

How many left? Unknown

Well-made, but not made for long. Survival stats unidentifiable among those for other variants.

Renault Laguna Coupé 2008-12

How many left? Unknown

The existence stats are buried among Laguna hatches and wagons. But believe us: it’s rare.

Smart Roadster 2003-07

How many left? 4043

Clever, roadgoing concept car whose frustrating transmission helped strangle sales.

Ssangyong Kyron 2006-10

How many left? 920

Good off-road, but felt like it was still there when returned to Tarmac. Later offered with five year, 250,000-mile warranty, but even that wasn’t enough to bolster its fortunes. 

FIVE YEARS ON SALE

Alfa Romeo 159 2006-11

How many left? 8431

The preceding 156’s poor reliability and dire dealer support doomed the handsome 159 from the start.

Audi A2 2000-05

How many left? 14,763

A rare off-target car from Audi, though only relatively, as you’ll see from the numbers remaining. Functional low-drag styling produced a sophisticated but earnest look that put off some, while others loved its lightweight aluminium construction and high-rise seating. A firm ride and the need to pay extra for a fifth seat were minor annoyances in a car that was way ahead of its time. High production costs combined lethally with slowing sales to kill it prematurely.

Peugeot RCZ 2010-15

How many left? 12,169

The pretty sports coupé was barely promoted by Peugeot post-launch, with obvious, sad consequences.

Vauxhall Signum 2003-08

How many left? 9959

With hindsight, it is amazing that this pointless, long-wheelbase oddball remained on sale for five years.

Our Verdict

Aston Martin Cygnet

The Aston Martin Cygnet is perfect for inner-city fans of the brand. For the rest, it's an expensive and quirky distraction

Join the debate

Comments
22

30 July 2017

Disingenuous, click bait title, followed by low quality article. Most of these cars has standard length production runs, and many sold in large quantities globally. Low uk sales doesn't necessarily mean they were a flop, and had short periods on sale here for various reasons. 

30 July 2017
Bob Cat Brian wrote:

Disingenuous, click bait title, followed by low quality article. Most of these cars has standard length production runs, and many sold in large quantities globally. Low uk sales doesn't necessarily mean they were a flop, and had short periods on sale here for various reasons. 

Thus spake a Sintra owner.

31 July 2017

Exactly - the article says its about the shortest production runs, but in reality almost all the cars had perfectly normal prodcution runs they just wrent sold in the UK for long, this article is absolute innacruate rubbish and I d expect better from Mr Bremner who is a very experienced motoring writer and even used to work in the motor undustry. Autocar is going downhill, I thought that it was just Auto Express that was the Daily Mail tabloid of motoring publications, seems like Autocar is going that way too.

30 July 2017

Renault are optimistic (or too lazy to find a new name) in reviving the "Koleos" name this year - perhaps they'll have better luck with the 2017 version

31 July 2017

Were you too lazy to make up your own screen name, sierra ? !:)

30 July 2017

on that list. I wasn't aware most of the other cars on that list existed.

30 July 2017

Some reminders there of cars that probably should have sold better than they did. 

The one that saddens me the most is the 9-5, which had the potential to be long running and successful if the company finances hadn't been such a disaster.

30 July 2017

What no Kia Magentis/Hyundai Sonata??

if I remember rightly you could of picked up one of these large executive saloons new for about £9k and one internet broker was doing them for buy one get one free around about 2009 ish

30 July 2017

peugoet's answer to... actually being able to open a door properly in a car park. i thought this was a good idea, fastened to a daft car.

30 July 2017

Autocar writes:   "...ought really to be a legend, because it offered optional kit such as automatic, self-steering lane-keeping (an industry first), forward collision mitigation and a pyrotechnic bonnet as long as a decade ago. Active front-lighting, Bluetooth and a rear-view camera also appeared on an amazing roster of kit  ...but what really did for this technical marvel was the lack of a diesel engine in the range."

It now appears that was forward thinking too!  Or at least it is if you believe the current hype that a 20mpg 3.5 v6 petrol is in someway less polluting than a small 60mpg Euro6 tdi.

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