It takes a lot of work to stay on top in the car industry. Brands come and go over the years, but there are some that manage to stay relevant. It’s one thing having a successful business and sometimes, another creating fun cars. Although purely opinion, here are five brands that I think have slightly lost their charm recently!
Number 1 – Mitsubishi
If you’re a car guy, you will more than likely remember the days of the Evo vs. STI battles. You were either an EVO or an STI guy, and you would fight religiously to defend your favorite. In the late 2000s, however, this rivalry started to break down for both brands. The 3rd generation Subaru became a little soft and heavy, but the EVO soldiered on. In the year 2011 however, Mitsubishi decided to discontinue the evo from the line-up completely. Mitsubishi also axed their fun and slightly mad 180 horsepower Colt CZT Ralliart in 2011 with no direct replacement.
What’s Mitsubishi up to now you may ask? Mainly just producing some fairly ordinary crossover SUVs like the ASX and outlander. Sure, they are good cars but not quite the excitement we want! Fortunately, there is hope for Mitsubishi as their president Osamu Masuko said that they would consider more performance models in the future, likely with hybrid drivetrains. We can only hope so!
Number 2 – Honda
Over the past 10 – 15 years, Honda has kind of lost their way a bit, in my opinion, of course. Although their cars are still reliable, well made, and affordable, their performance range has gone seriously downhill! The Hondas of the 80s and 90s really had the spirit of Sochiro Honda, their founder, ingrained into them. In fact, they were so good that you could buy even a non-performance model and it would handle well and be fun to drive. This is evident at track days now, in which ordinary Civics are often the car of choice. The days of the Accord Type R, S2000 and Integra Type R are long gone, unfortunately.
Sure, Honda still makes the Civic Type R, and they are starting to make progress on it, but there was once a time when Honda were market leaders! The CRZ wasn’t as punchy as its father, the CRX, although still good to drive. The FN2 Type R was also more sedate than its predecessor the EP3. The new NSX is an awesome car, although it does somehow lack the spirit of Hondas of old. Still, it’s a sign Honda is innovating so we could see some great stuff to come in the future. Additionally, cars like the funky all-electric Honda E are a sure sign of a promising future again!
Number 3 – Peugeot
Peugeot has created so many great cars over the years. However, in recent times, they seem to have lost their way a little. Currently, the only fast(ish) cars they make are the 308 GTi and the RCZ. Although they are both good cars, neither are class-leading, being outshone by their German rivals. The other cars are a selection of fairly dull crossovers and bloated hatchbacks.
Peugeot certainly has the talents to make some great cars though, with the lift-off oversteer machine, the 205 GTI, and Africa’s favorite, the 405 saloon. Other examples are the 106 Rallye with its light weight, zingy 1.3 100 horsepower engine and small size, as well as epic V6 405 coupe. If you’re American, I don’t think you got any of these, so hard luck! The new E208 looks fantastic though, so perhaps our opinions will be changed when it is released in 2020.
Number 4 – Saab
There was once a time where Saab was virtually unstoppable, especially thanks to the best selling Saab 900. Their expertise in building aircraft translated extremely well into their vehicles at the time, having a great run from the 1980s to early 2000s. Cars like the Saab 9-5 aero and epic 225 horsepower 9-5 Viggen will remain dear in enthusiast’s minds forever. In the year 2000, General Motors acquired a majority stake in the manufacturer, basing Saab’s vehicles entirely on the GM platforms.
Although the cars produced were cool, Saab had lost their way slightly resulting in enthusiasts changing to other vehicles. In 2012, Saab, unfortunately, declared bankruptcy. Hopefully, one day, we will see them return, especially with a new Viggen model!
Number 5 – Mazda
Before you say “what about the Miata?!” that’s just one car! Founded way back in 1920, Mazda’s history has been loaded with epic cars, with most of them appearing towards the end of the 20th century. These days, Mazda only produces 1 car for enthusiasts, the MX5. It’s not so bad though, as their normal vehicles are great to drive, especially the Fiesta derived Mazda 2. That still doesn’t account for the tragic loss of the Mazdaspeed 3 and Mazdaspeed 6, otherwise known as MPS models in Europe.
The 2nd generation Mazdaspeed 3 is really quite a sleeper, with a 0 – 60 time of just 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. Its brother, the Speed-6 is also fast and has 4WD for extra grip. Now that the RX7 is gone and the RX8 is gone too, there is a gaping hole left that really needs filling before their line up ends up becoming too boring. There are rumors brewing that a new RX7 will be released, although nothing has been confirmed. We can only dream!
Number 6 (Bonus) – Hyundai
I thought it was only fair to include a brand that is doing the opposite of this list. Hyundai is killing it right now. Over the past ten years or so, they are slowly but surely building up a range of great cars, seemingly from humble beginnings. With the RWD V6 Genesis coupe and now the highly acclaimed, 270hp i30N, we should be excited to see where the Korean brand will go over the next decade.
They are a good example that you can produce mass-market vehicles as well as make successful enthusiast cars. The Koreans have improved their cars amazingly recently, with Kia releasing a proper, rear-wheel-drive 3-Series competitor, the Stinger GT. Perhaps they are not there yet, but they almost seem to be doing what the Japanese did 30 years ago, so watch out Germans!