So why don't we build cars as clever and practical as the Corolla Verso in Britain today? It's a good question because, not so very long ago, we did. It might not seem like the cutting edge of technology now but the Austin Maxi of 1969 was a fine example of a decent, innovative design for a family car.

The Maxi was based on the Austin 1800 but given a hatchback rear door and a back seat that could fold fully flat. The suspension was initially Hydrolastic, as favoured by British Leyland at the time, but was improved with the introduction of Hydragas on later models.

So it was spacious and comfortable, and boasted five gears and great practicality, but unfortunately quality and reliability were lacking. The gear change was atrocious, the engine feeble and breakdowns were commonplace. It also rusted appallingly. The Maxi was the first line in what's been called the longest suicide note in industrial history: the death of the British car industry, which concluded with the passing of Rover.

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