Posts Tagged worst cars

Other People’s Cars: Citroën 2CV

Citroen 2CVThe Citroën 2CV or deux chevaux is essentially France’s version of the Volkswagen Beetle, and was very surprised to find one at work yesterday morning. I’m not sure where it came from, but it definitely looked out of place parked among the late model sedans. I wish I had my camera with me; the above photo is of a 2CV I saw in Paris awhile back.

The 2CV is a “people’s car.” Like the Beetle, Fiat 500, and Mini, it provided basic but economical transportation and helped mobilize a nation. It’s also a cultural icon and boasts one of the longest production runs of any car.

The last 2CV rolled off the assembly line in 1990, after 42 years of production. That puts it in the same club as the original Mini, which was produced from 1959 to 2000, and the Beetle, which was produced from 1938 to 2003. Considering that most cars are redesigned after four years, these people’s cars’ long lives are very impressive.

Key to the 2CV’s longevity was its simplicity. It featured a small engine that was easy to work on, rugged suspension for dealing with less-than-optimal road conditions, and front-wheel drive for better traction.

Durability was the 2CV’s only real positive quality, though. The engine and suspension may have helped mobilize French farmers after World War II, but they could not provide enjoyable performance or handling. “Comfort” was not on the list of priorities either.

As its styling makes abundantly, clear, the 2CV is a car from another time. It was designed for a world that viewed cars as tools, not lifestyle accessories. Whereas car designers today try to model their products on smartphones, Citroën’s designers looked to the cockroach for inspiration.

Today’s Western buyers can’t tolerate a car as unrefined (or, it has to be said, as unsafe) as a 2CV, which shows just how far technology has progressed since 1949. It’s just too bad that new cars aren’t as bulletproof as this French wonder.

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Other People’s Cars: Suzuki Kizashi

Suzuki KizashiThe car in the photo is about to become a rarity, at least in the United States. It’s a Suzuki, which means it’s made by a Japanese manufacturer of cars and motorcycles that recently decided to leave the U.S. market. Should anyone care?

Suzuki has been the butt of jokes for years, so it’s not surprising that the company is giving up, or that it’s hard to muster the sentimental feelings that came with Saab’s departure about a year ago. Yet even the most maligned carmakers have some good qualities.

In a sure sign of the impending “Fiscal Cliff”/Mayan Apocalypse, Suzuki’s sales are actually increasing. Despite being bankrupt, Suzuki’s American division is buying 2,500 more cars to fill inventory before it makes its exit.

Apparently, buyers are so thrilled by the idea of a bargain that they’re willing to ignore Suzuki’s bankruptcy and the future lack of factory support for the cars they are purchasing. After all, Suzukis were among the cheapest cars sold in the U.S., so a “Store Closing” sale should yield some epically low prices.

It might be a long shot, but Suzukis could even become future collectibles because of their rarity. Then again, maybe not.

As a bargain basement brand, Suzuki never had the esoteric caché of a Saab or Peugeot, and it made some of the worst cars ever built. The Samurai is a favorite of off-roaders, but everyone knows it will tip over if you look at it funny. Suzuki is also to blame for America’s most egregious economy car, the Cultus, a.k.a. Geo Metro. In addition, Suzuki could never match its fellow Japanese companies’ sterling reliability.

However, there were some bright spots. The Aerio was, at least, unique, and it was Top Gear’s first Reasonably Priced Car. Some of the current models, the Kizashi sedan (pictured), SX4 hatchback, and Nissan Frontier-based Equator pickup specifically, aren’t that bad either.

These cars never offered the flashy styling, million airbags safety, or technological overload of their competitors; they were either incredibly cynical or incredibly honest. They were either trying to trick undiscerning buyers, or being unpretentious.

In the past five years, cars have started morphing into Apple Stores; many are more like platforms for tech than transportation. Suzuki never had the resources to pull that off, so it had to focus on making cars. Maybe there is a reason to care about its departure, after all.

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