To make our list the car had to be on sale in the UK and be in production for less than 5 years. Some may have been or still are available in other countries but didn’t last long on the British market.
First on our list is the Audi A2 a five-door hatchback that was far from the sporty style Audi is well known for, although reasonably equipped the A2 series only lasted 5 years in the UK from 2000 - 2005 and despite the 173,000 sold across Europe there are as few as 11,281 of them still driving and registered in Great Britain. While the price and style would have affected the sales of the Audi A2 ultimately the death of the A2 paved the way for Audi’s entry-level A1 which was met with both critical and commercial success. We may not have liked the A2 but its legacy has to be respected.
One of the American manufacturer’s least successful ventures in terms of sales, design and promotion was the 1999 - 2002 Ford Cougar, a variant of the popular Mondeo. A sports Coupe for the European market to compete against rivals that included the Hyundai Coupe or the lesser-known FIAT Coupe. Apart from a lack of inventive naming, the cars were all very similar and the Ford Cougar was just a larger less attractive and fun version of the Puma. Today there are estimated to be 1177 Cougars still registered and on the road from a measly 13,000 sold across Europe.
A classic swing and miss from Honda came in the form of the CR-Z an automatic that uses the impressive single gear continuously variable transmission (CVT) coupled with a Civic inspired chassis and style. The issue was the attempt to make a hybrid sporty and fun, while forced fun in usually anything but, the Honda audience wasn’t ready for a hybrid that lacked both performance and economy. 0-62 mph was dealt with in an average 10 seconds while fuel consumption was just 56.5 mpg. European sales peaked at 13,184 in the three years it was available with a third of those still registered on the road today.
While every Alfa Romeo is considered for its beauty and the Spider didn’t immediately inspire potential buyers to part with their hard-earned, and while this may have been a mistake in hindsight as the car is slowly becoming a modern classic in part thanks to its short run of just 4 years on sale. The model name calligraphy at the rear of the car with the roof down gives the car a very appealing aesthetic. However, the 2.4-litre diesel was uninspiring and lacked in every department. The Alfa Romeo Spider 2007 - 2010 just failed to get the same appeal previous generations achieved.
From 2011 until 2015 while Chrysler was on sale in the UK, a small style-focused hatchback was conceived and put on sale for the British market. Chrysler as a manufacturer was short-lived along with Dodge and Chevrolet and perhaps deserve their own special mention on this list. The Ypsilon is the perfect example of style over substance, arguably good looking the car was too small to be compared with a Polo or Fiesta but too large for city driving like the Yaris or FIAT 500. The engine options were also very limited and the depreciation was so fast that most have hit their rock bottom even after four years. Because of the short run and limited sales, aftermarket and spare parts are difficult to come by.
Smart is a company with an unusual history, the companies name comes from Swatch, Mercedes ART and the Roadster was a long time coming, the first debut was at the Paris Motorshow in 1998 but did not go on sale until 2003 the four-year run finally ended in 2007. Available as a coupe as well as a convertible the Roadster was low, with great handling, a unique styling approach and a relatively frugal engine which also leads to the cars biggest negative which was its lacklustre performance.
The Wind was sold by Renault for just 2-years from 2010 - 2011 a small city-coupe convertible that used a 1.2-litre engine, the long sloped windshield and elongated body left many questioning the design, other liked the idea of a convertible Clio with a boot the interior on even the highest level trim was both simple and refined. While a great success in Europe, UK sales suffered and almost a decade since the Wind was available new from £12,865 for an entry-level model to the top of the range £15,205 GT Line, just 2172 are still registered today.
Suzuki has typically made great cars that fit both the European and British markets well, but their venture to produce a European style executive saloon somehow failed to hit its mark. The Suzuki Kizashi was a four-door family or executive saloon that was well priced and equipped from the entry-level. But whether it is because the customer base doesn’t associate the manufacturer with luxury or comfort but visually the Kizashi is an average looking car, that wouldn’t stand out in the office car park if it wasn’t for the badge on the front. Unfortunately, the single price of £21,520 wasn’t enough to get the sales moving in its short life span and in just a year less than 5,000 units were sold and with only 325 on the roads in the UK drivers are more likely to see the new Bentley Bentayga than one of these unicorns.
Nissan has been making the Pulsar since 1978 beginning with the N10, however, the last generation C13 was pulled from the European market in 2018 after just four years on sale. More than 21,500 were sold and registered in the UK over that period which makes it one of the most popular cars on our list, the Pulsar was presumably removed to avoid cannibalising the sales of the Micra. A wide selection of trims and engine, transmission configurations were available varying more than £5,000 from the cheapest to the most expensive. The style of the C13 Pulsar was in keeping with the Nissan brand and price ranges.
3 long years the Toyota Urban Cruiser was on sale, pushing 43,346 cars in Europe a mere 4,500 of which are still around in Britain today. The Urban Cruiser was a Yaris that was lifted for to compete in the modern crossover market, directly in competition with the Nissan Juke. City cross overs always struggle with the interior room, compromising either the rear legroom or luggage space the same story affected the sales of the Urban Cruiser from 2009 - 2012.
Now 20 years old the Vauxhall Sintra is our oldest entry on the list, a mini-van that failed to connect with its audience, the car was in development longer than it was on sale. From 1997 until 1999 Vauxhall customers could consider the Sintra for their family car, a five and seven-seat variant was available. A total of twelve cupholders were spread over the Sintra which was more than the Ford Galaxy and Renault Espace both of which outsold the Vauxhall, after two decades only 24 cars are still registered which means that not only were initial sales not positive but time has also not been kind to the Vauxhall Sintra.
Another manufacturer that didn’t stand the test of time in the UK or Europe, Chevrolet was a flash in the pan when compared to some of the manufacturers on our list. The Volt was an American style hybrid, carrying a 1.4-litre petrol engine used to power the batteries that lacked anything considered as a reasonable range by today’s standards. The interior was complex, to say the least with a button for each possible function. Despite its short run, the Volt was the partner to Vauxhalls relatively unknown Ampera, however despite the promise of customers wanting a hybrid they seemingly didn’t want the Chevrolet Volt with just 118 registered in 2018 after just 4 years from being discontinued.
An Icon for cars that were quickly defunct is the Aston Martin Cygnet, during a brief period when automotive manufacturers would be charged according to the average CO2 emissions of their vehicle range Aston Martin decided to produce a cheap and economical car as an offset to their super and sports cars. The plan was quickly scrapped by governments, but Aston Martin had spent time developing the Cygnet and was going to take it to market regardless. To nobodies surprise a luxury Toyota IQ with an Aston Martin price tag of £30,995 all of those available today second-hand cars have appreciated in value as a result of the obscene asking price and the ridiculous car being offered. Surprisingly 137 vehicles are still registered, from the 593 sold all over Europe over the two-years the car was on offer.
The top entry from Peugeot 1007 beat the RCZ into second place on our list in part thanks to its unique approach to city cars but also because of the number of cars sold in its short three-year life span. More than 115,349 1007s were sold throughout Europe with 5000 registered in 2018, which is made more surprising when the last one sold new was in 2008 and is now over a decade old. Part of the Peugeot 1007’s charm was its remote activated sliding doors, negatives included the lack of boot space and rear legroom for the two rear seats, vibrant upholstery was made worse by the cars complicated centre console and lack of tech which fails to distract from the challenging performance, steering and reliability all of which have been resolved in modern Peugeot 108 models.
The best car on short-lived cars list had to be the oddly satisfying Nissan Cube, an asymmetrical monstrosity that fits the Japanese Kei Car culture, the long wraparound rear window couples with the cars off-centre style which makes it stand out in any car park or event. A staggering 1058 were sold across the UK with 1050 still being driven to date. The car continued to increase in registration numbers year on year despite no longer being sold in the UK. A very short 12-month life saw the Cube go as quickly as it arrived, although in its third generation it was the first for the European market and many of those who were unable to get their hands on it have resorted to importing cars from America and Japan. Both cheap and well equipped the Nissan Cube cost between £13,850 and £16,150 when on sale in Great Britain.
For a short period between the mid-00s and mid-2010s manufacturers in particular french manufacturers decided to make coupe convertible variants of their cars often referred to as CC, during this period both Renault and Peugeot released a Laguna and 407 coupe variants respectively. These didn’t last long as expected but weren’t quite enough to make our top 15 list.
An obscure choice that didn’t make our list but still deserves a mention is the Sagaris a car from seemingly defunct manufacturer TVR that failed to make it to market let alone sell any cars 117 cars were registered last year a dozen or so years after the car was on sale in the UK
Sold briefly before the demise of the car arm of Saab, the 9-5 was supposed to be the companies saving grace but with only a year on sale the second generation with its saloon and estate variants was the writing on the wall for Saab and the struggling sales that killed this once beloved manufacturer is why it deserves a dishonourable mention. Despite poor sales, the 9-5 was a good practical car that was well made, timelessly styled and competitively equipped but drivers had already migrated from the Sweedish manufacturer into German rivals.