Cars rarely stay on the market for as much as a decade without being replaced or at least thoroughly revised, but there are exceptions.
One of these is the classic Mini, which remained in production for an incredible 41 years. There were detail changes during that time, of course, but the 2000 Mini was in most respects a very similar car to the one you could buy in 1959.
By comparison with the Mini, other models sold in the UK have been mayflies, surviving for three years or less, and in some cases just a few months.
There can be several reasons for this. The cars may have been special edition models introduced near the end of the production run, or built in very small numbers, or simply very unpopular. In some cases they came off the market very quickly because the company that built them collapsed.
Here’s a selection of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cars which you might have bought if only you’d realised they were on sale at all.
Aston Martin Cygnet
The Cygnet was barely an Aston Martin at all. Instead, it was a Toyota iQ city car whose bodywork and interior were restyled by Aston.
The main idea, though others were also mentioned, was for Aston to have an economical, low-emissions car in its portfolio. The fact that the Cygnet cost over £30,000 (more than double the price of the iQ) wasn’t seen as a problem, since its initial customers were expected to be people who already owned larger Aston Martins.
The project got almost nowhere. The Cygnet went on sale in 2011 and was discontinued two years later, having failed spectacularly to reach its annual sales target of 4,000.
Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin has used the Virage name several times, most recently in 2011. This version had an even shorter lifespan than the Cygnet, but for almost exactly the opposite reason.
The Cygnet, as we’ve seen, was completely different from any other Aston. The Virage occupied the very small space between the DB9 and the DBS. Essentially, it was discontinued because there was no need for three Aston Martins in this sector when two would do.
BMW M3 CSL
The CSL was lighter than the regular M3 (largely because anything designed to provide passenger comfort was removed in the interests of weight saving), more powerful and, at £58,455, substantially more expensive.
It was on the UK market for only a few months in late 2003 and early 2004, but that was always the intention. BMW built 1,400 examples, of which just under a third came to the UK.
Caterham Seven Supersprint
Caterham has an impressive record of building special editions which sell out almost immediately. The most extreme example is the retro-styled, Suzuki-powered Seven Supersprint.
It was unveiled at the Goodwood Revival Meeting on Friday 8 September 2017, with an announcement that only 60 examples would be built, half of them for the UK market. Caterham sold the whole lot in seven hours.
The Orlando was a seven-seat MPV whose best feature was that it offered quite a lot of space for not much money.
That wasn’t enough to satisfy anything more than the simplest tastes, but it’s not why the car was removed from the UK market. General Motors abandoned sales of all Chevrolet products (other than sports cars) in 2014, three years after the Orlando was launched here.
An electric car based on the same platform as the Chevrolet Orlando and the Vauxhall Astra, among many others, the Volt was named European Car of the Year in 2012.
It was supposed to be able to cover up to 60 miles in all-electric mode, but a range-extender engine (previously used in the first-generation Vauxhall Corsa) was used to charge the battery when necessary.
Despite the enthusiasm of the Car of the Year jury, the Volt was on the market for only about three years.
Actually a Lancia, this car was rebadged as a Chrysler to avoid all the trouble of relaunching the Lancia brand in the UK.
It arrived here in 2011, several years after its European launch, and was not particularly well received. Chrysler pulled out of the UK in 2015, but by then attempts to sell the Delta here had already been abandoned.
Named after a famous race circuit in Florida, the Sebring made a brief appearance on the UK market between 2007 and 2010.
No doubt it has its fans, but it wasn’t rated highly by British journalists who drove it. At least one was led to believe he didn’t get the chance because Chrysler knew his review would be unfavourable.
Like the Chevrolet Orlando, the Dodge Caliber was notable for being roomy and cheap but not much else.
It went on sale in the UK in 2007 but was removed from the market in 2010, shortly before attempts to sell any Dodge product at all here were abandoned.
Another short-lived Dodge, the Nitro SUV had a very aggressive appearance which did little to help its sales in this country.
Like the Caliber, it arrived here in 2007 and was dropped three years later.
Fiat has built two quite different cars called Croma. The first survived from the mid 1980s to the mid 90s, but the second lasted for only five years globally and two in the UK.
A cross between an estate car and an MPV, this Croma was introduced here in 2005. It was withdrawn from the British market before Fiat gave it a facelift in late 2007.
Reasonably roomy for a supermini, and quite well-equipped, the Logo was nevertheless becoming out of date by the time it arrived on the UK market. Journalists on the press launch found it could also be quite alarming to drive on country roads.
UK sales began in April 2000 and stopped in January 2001. The Logo’s replacement, known as the Fit in other markets but the Jazz here, showed that Honda did actually know how to make a good small car after all.
The Veloster was an odd-looking coupe with two doors on one side and one on the other. It was originally sporty in the sense of being agile rather than quick, though a more powerful Turbo version was later introduced.
It first appeared in 2011 and was still being built for other markets up until 2017. In the UK, though, it was axed after just three years.
Mercedes insisted, correctly, that this seven-seat MPV version of the contemporary A-Class definitely wasn’t a van, but didn’t help its case by calling it Vaneo.
Launched in 2002 and immediately criticised for its looks and less than premium quality, it was abandoned in all markets three years later.
MG XPower SV
As it plummeted towards financial collapse, MG Rover made the odd decision to buy the rights to the Qvale Mangusta (an Italian sports coupe with an American Ford V8 engine) and use it as the basis for its own new high-performance model.
Closely related to the Mangusta, but looking far more aggressive thanks to the work of designer Peter Stevens, the MG XPower SUV did not sell well. Production started in 2003 and ended two years later, around the time that MG Rover finally went into administration.
The third-generation Cube was the only one Nissan ever sold outside Japan. It was introduced to the UK in early 2010 to a generally favourable reception from the press, though the sun visors were uncomfortably far away from the front passengers and a Nissan spokesman’s claim of ‘perfect’ rear visibility was simply nonsense.
A year later, the Cube was withdrawn not only from the UK but from all European markets. Nissan said that an unfavourable exchange rate between the yen and the euro made it impossible for the car to be profitable.
The 1007’s unique selling point was a pair of sliding doors which made entering and leaving the car very easy. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to compensate for the odd appearance and the fact that the car was far more expensive (over £15,000 if you chose enough optional extras) than it looked like it should be.
By the end of 2006 it was one of four small Peugeots you could buy new. The others were the 107, the outgoing 206 and the new 207. Those were the ones customers showed an interest in as they walked straight past the 1007 in showrooms.
The 1007 was withdrawn from the UK within three years, and didn’t hang around for much longer in other markets.
An unusual cross between a three-door coupe and an MPV, the Avantime was marketed as a Renault but co-designed and built by Matra, much as the first-generation Espace had been.
Production started in 2001, but within two years Matra decided it didn’t want to build cars any more, and that was the end of the Avantime.
Renault Fluence Z.E.
In other parts of the world, the Fluence is simply the saloon version of the Renault Megane. In the UK, the name has been used only for the electric version, which was sold here as the Fluence Z.E.
It was a decent enough car, but despite Renault’s efforts to make it cheaper here by leasing rather than selling the battery there wasn’t much interest. Within two years of you first being able to buy a Fluence Z.E. from a British dealer, you no longer could.
The Twingo-based coupe-convertible was officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010 and was abandoned three years later.
Its life here was particularly short. Early in 2012, faced with severe financial difficulties, Renault cut its UK dealer network by a third and withdrew five models from the market.
The Wind was one of these, along with the Modus, Kangoo, Laguna and Espace.
The CityRover was little more than a rebadged version of the Tata Indica, a supermini built by the company which later bought Jaguar and Land Rover.
Rover launched it in late 2003 and betrayed lack of confidence by not making it available to journalists. The very few who did drive it (notably James May, then of Top Gear) were deeply unimpressed.
The CityRover disappeared from UK price lists when MG Rover collapsed in 2005.
The second-generation 9-5 was the last new Saab ever brought to market. There was a sense that its development had been rushed, but the real issue was that Saab, which had been designing fascinating and innovative cars since the 1940s, was on its way out.
Production of the 9-5 began in 2010, almost at the end of Saab’s history. Despite attempts to revive it, the company essentially ended the following year.
Subaru B9 Tribeca
Despite being built by a Japanese company, the B9 Tribeca (named after a neighbourhood in New York) was never sold in Japan. It was intended for North American markets but also appeared in other ones including, from 2006, the UK.
There was no diesel option, which made sense in the US but, in those more innocent days, absolutely trashed its chances of success over here. IM Group, the British importer, gave up trying to sell it within three years.
Suzuki made a very odd choice when it decided to sell the Mondeo-sized Kizashi in the UK. Only 500 examples were to be imported in the first year, and they all had 2.4-litre petrol engines, CVT automatic transmission and four-wheel drive.
Other drivetrains were available, but this one was chosen because it would make the Kizashi seem special. That certainly worked, and the fact that Suzuki was able to offer it for under £22,000 was deeply impressive even back in 2011.
The problem was that this Kizashi had worse fuel economy and a higher Vehicle Excise Duty rate (based on CO2 emissions in those days) than any other. UK buyers were very sensitive to such things, and avoided the Kizashi to such an extent that Suzuki abandoned the project.
The Chevrolet Volt mentioned previously was also sold in China as a Buick, in Australia and New Zealand as a Holden, in mainland Europe as an Opel and in the UK as the Vauxhall Ampera.
This electric car with a range-extender petrol engine lasted no longer here with a British badge than with an American one. Three years after being named 2012 European Car of the Year, it was gone.
Since the 1970s, most Vauxhalls have been designed in Germany by Opel. One exception was the Sintra, imported from the US where it was built alongside other large MPVs based on the same platform.
This, as it turned out, was not a good idea. The Sintra finished last in a JD Power customer satisfaction survey, and was very heavily criticised by Euro NCAP, which discovered during crash testing that there was a significant chance of the driver suffering a fatal neck injury in a frontal impact.
UK sales began in March 1997 and were abandoned in May 1999. Vauxhall had far more success with the European-designed Zafira, which was smaller but much, much better.