Every now and then a manufacturer will come up with a car that is, for one reason or another, completely anonymous. It might be too bland to stand out, so terrible we erase it from our minds, too expensive to merit serious consideration or just crafting a niche so small we miss it.
We’re taking a look at some of these cars that you can head into showrooms and buy today as alternatives for their better known rivals.
Chimaeric cars rarely do well and they don’t get much more mongrel than the Ypsilon. On the same platform as the FIAT Panda and 500 (and by extension,the Ford Ka), the Ypsilon might be badged as an all-American Chrysler, but it’s actually a Lancia. Confused? So are potential buyers.
The Chrysler’s position is as a luxury supermini and it’s priced accordingly, but the challenging looks and unfancied badge means it doesn’t command the public image of other chic choices in the sector – the likes of MINI, Citroen DS3 or even the slightly pricier stablemate Alfa Romeo MiTo. Despite the price, it also looks a great deal cheaper than it actually is.
It’s not actually a bad car though, driving just like the cars that share its underpinnings, so it’s worth a look if you’re after a premium small hatch and don’t object to a bit of a goofy looker.
It’s probably harsh to suggest that much of Suzuki’s range these days is a little bit background – the Swift is an excellent little car and the Jimny is, if a smidgen too focused, a great miniature offroader – but you’re doing well if you can name more than three of their current offerings. While the Kizashi saloon is probably the rarest of the bunch, the SX4 gets the nod here for being forgotten despite its talents rather than through lackingany.
In essence, the SX4 is a Tonka supermini. You get a slightly higher driving position, chunkier looks and four wheel drive all wrapped up in a supermini body. The boot is small, the engine is small and the pricetag is small, but it nets a reasonably satisfactory 7.4 aggregate carwow score.
Surprisingly, the SX4 was sold in an even more forgettable form by FIAT as the Sedici. This was withdrawn from sale in 2012 following – what else – dreadful sales.
You may not realise this, but Cadillac actually sells four different models in the UK market. Its huge Escalade SUV is probably the best known, but it also sells the CTS ATS sedans and this luxury crossover.
On the face of it, the SRX doesn’t seem to be worthy of such anonymity. Pitched as a luxury crossover, the SRX is roughly the same size and price as the BMW X5 and Audi Q5 – leading lights of the class – and comes loaded with standard kit including full leather, memory seats, reverse camera, 8 touchscreen and so on. It even has a bigger boot than either competitor (losing out to the X5 only in seats down configuration) and a clever extending boot divider to stop your shopping rolling about.
However, the dealer network is tiny by comparison to the German powerhouses, so your 40,000 Cadillac is not as convenient to service. There’s also only the one engine option – a 314hp, 3.6 litre V6 petrol allied to a 6 speed automatic which barely cracks 26mpg. VED weighs in at a pretty hefty 475 a yeartoo, and though it’s 4WD and will hustle to 60mph in only 8 seconds, the thirsty SRX does not make a good case for itself in these frugal times.
Even the biggest manufacturers can occasionally churn out something invisible and the blue oval is no exception.
With the Nissan Juke blazing a trail for city car-based SUVs it’s little surprise to see other manufacturers following suit, but Ford was a little late to the party – behind even the Vauxhall Mokka to market – and, on the face of it, it’s hard to see why they bothered.
The EcoSport does precious little better than the Fiesta on which it’s based. The boot’s bigger, but it’s behind a side-hinged tailgate that opens the wrong way for us drive-on-the-left types. When we drove it in December, the impression was of a car that really belied its overseas market roots – the diesel option in particular was massively underwhelming. In fact the car is generally perceived as underwhelming by the industry, rating it an average of 5.9 – a clear case of a car being forgotten simply through not being good enough.
It takes some effort to produce a completely missable eco-car these days, but Peugeot has hit the mark. Developed in collaboration with Citron (as the C-Zero) and Mitsubishi (as the iMiEV), the iOn stands out from its siblings as the car you can’t actually buy.
This has its benefits of course. As a lease car (at 300pcm over 3 years) you don’t have to worry about servicing (well, for another 26pcm), mechanical failure or depreciation – you just plug it in, charge it up (for around 2, according to the claims of all three manufacturers) and drive. Admittedly not very far or very fast, as the 63hp iOn has a range of just 93 miles, but like all electric cars it’s Congestion Charge exempt and qualifies for zero rate VED.
However, it remains one of those gawky electric cars that filmmakers of the 1980s thought we’d be driving on Mars by the early Noughties. Stacked up against more conventional rivals like Nissan’s Leaf, Volkswagen’s e-up! or the Renault ZOE, the value for money offered by the iOn and siblings is clearly wanting.
It’s quite hard to pin down what the Subaru XV actually is, or at least what it’s for. Subaru’s position in the collective consciousness of carbuyers was clear – farmers bought the Legacy, families bought the Forester and lads dads bought the Impreza. The cancellation of the Impreza brought that to an abrupt halt and Subaru replaced it with the XV – a car with the same body as the Impreza, but jacked up a bit.
The XV is somewhat of a fall from grace for the Impreza, ploughing a gravelly furrow through rally stages in the hands of McRae Burns one decade only to become a ruggedised crossover SUV the next. At its launch it was also fabulously expensive too, with Subaru responding last year by slashing over two grand from the price of every XV – but it’s still sitting at a similar price point to its own bigger and better brother, the Forester.
If it looks tough fighting for sales in-house, there’s sterner competition from other manufacturers. The XV’s price rivals include the new Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-5, which both offer a sound demolition of the Subaru in just about every department.
However, if you just want a small car that’s great offroad and a bit wipe-clean in construction, the XV’s the car for you. That or the Suzuki SX4 we mentioned earlier for around half the price…