Motoring: The class of '99: and this year's dogs are...

From the small, cheap and cheerless to the large, expensive and clueless. James Ruppert looks at the year's worst cars and finds red faces everywhere

MOTORING PUNDITS may try to tell you that there is no such thing as a bad car anymore. I'm not so sure. While it's true that few cars make a hash of getting their drivers and passengers from A to B, there is at least one model which might actually end up killing you while doing it.

Other cars launched this year are clearly surplus to requirements, either because they are plainly inadequate or there are far better alternatives around already. So here is my deeply prejudiced guide to what's wrong with the class of '99.

Comebacks are always a bad idea. The Kia Pride had certainly outlived its welcome when it quietly disappeared from the price lists a few years ago. Unfortunately the Korean company has decided that we want more of the hopelessly outdated Pride, which was based on the undistinguished Mazda 121 in the first place. Maybe they think buyers will tolerate the bouncy ride because retail prices start at pounds 5,495. Well, for that you don't even get a radio. The warranty appears very generous, lasting for either three years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. But it isn't enough.

Buyers would be very stupid to shell out for a five-door 1.3SX costing pounds 6,495 when, for pounds 55 less, they could get a thoroughly modern Korean built Daewoo Matiz SE. It has plenty of mod cons, including driver and passenger airbags, power steering and metallic paint. Not only does it carry a three- year warranty, but the servicing is free for that period as well.

Road tax for the Matiz is just pounds 100 for a year while the Pride is taxed like a big car at pounds 155. Not a lot to be proud of then. And, while we are sticking the boot into Kia, they have also foisted a couple of other budget models on us in the shape of the hatch-backed Shuma and Clarus saloons. They might be able to boast power steering and airbags, but you would still be better off in the Daewoo showroom.

Not all bad cars are small, cheap and cheerless. Some are large, expensive and completely clueless. Take the Cadillac - and the sales figures indicate that few buyers have. Here is a stupid luxury saloon that should have stayed on the other side of the pond. Conveniently, Cadillac have positioned the steering wheel on the right (the first one in 50 years), but apart from that there are few concessions to British or European tastes. The ride is far too soft and the tacky interior furnishings inappropriate for something aimed at the upper end of the market. Surprisingly for such a huge car, rear seat passengers will find space at a premium. The pounds 39,755 price tag is not outrageous for a luxury saloon, but bottom-of- the-range Jaguar XJ8s, BMW 7-series and Audi A8 are all way ahead in terms of style, finish and shear ability. Only buy a Caddy if you own a nightclub or have a deep need to be publicly ridiculed.

Indeed, another way of enjoying the same experience is to saddle yourself with another unwise Yankee import - the Chevrolet Corvette. It's a legendary name, with plenty of V8 grunt, but it is left-hand-drive and isn't so special. The other cheaper Chevy import, the Camaro, is much better. However, we have lots of home-grown muscle cars and the TVR is the pre- eminent boys toy brand. Accept no substitute.

Obviously, the Germans have never been known to make a bad car, apart from East Germany's cardboard, oil-burning Trabant. Then again, there was the case a few years ago of the Mercedes A Class which fell over while avoiding a Scandinavian Elk. Mercedes revised the car and A Class sales are stratospheric, but Mercedes still shudders in corporate embarrassment at such a public cock-up.

Now it is the Volkswagen group's turn. It owns Audi and the underpinnings of the Audi TT coupe are essentially VW Golf. Fatalities in Germany and a crash in the UK have indicated that high-speed handling may not be the TT's strongest point. Even though there is evidence that driver error played a part in some of these incidents, clearly all is not right with the TT. Audi is revising the suspension for the 1,000 or so owners who took delivery in the UK this year. The TT may be a desirable and distinctive model, but an inadequate suspension system makes it a very bad car, until every last one is sorted out.

High-profile German embarrassment doesn't end there - take BMW. Its British subsidiary Land Rover has been having trouble building road-fit Freelanders. After almost two years in the market place, 1999 is the year when owners started to complain loudly. It is a brilliant on- and off-roader with lots of clever touches and bags of style. But they do seem to break down rather a lot.

British car builders get it wrong too. Reliant still makes the costly and indefensible three-wheeled Robin, but now it has made matters worse by importing nasty French microcars. Popular with teens across the Channel, the ridiculous Ligier Ambra, at pounds 6,495, makes a Kia Pride look like the bargain of the year.

Not all bad cars are brand new either. There are plenty of dreadful used cars in circulation (I wrote about them earlier in the year). They included a Mercedes that had been "clocked" by an astounding 170,000 miles and a BMW that was an insurance write-off.

When it comes to new rip-offs though, just about every model on sale is a bad buy, for the simple reason that they are overpriced. This was the year when the consumer finally woke up to the fact that cars in the UK cost too much.

The Competition Commission's report will be out soon and it may well contain bad news for almost every car manufacturer.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

    £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

    Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

    C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

    C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home