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Ten worst cars tested
The ten worst cars we've ever tested

You’ve read about the greatest icons from the last 100 issues. Here are the dogs

Which car was so embarrassing to be seen in thaat no-one would drive it? Which long-termer was so bad we sent it back? Which car was so ugly we refused to feature it? The answers lie below.

Cars that don’t quite make the top ten of awfulness include the Invicta S1, which even John ‘It’s got four wheels, so it must be at least four stars’ Simister couldn’t bring himself to love, the not-a-patch-on-its- predecessor Peugeot 206 GTI, and the Lexus GS430, of which Harry wrote, ‘I simply have no desire to drive the GS430 ever again’.

Hayman wanted to nominate 'every single non-exotic car that has a semi-automatic gearbox. Also, every “fast” Saab we ever tested.’

Then there's the Grinnall Scorpion IV – 'Loads of power that it couldn’t cope with and it felt like you were going to fall out of it through the turns’ according to Roger Green – and the current Mazda MX-5, saved from inclusion by the lingering suspicion that we’re still yet to drive a properly set-up example.

And finally, a special mention for the one car that we refused even to feature in the mag, simply because it looked so goddamn awful. Who could forget – and God knows we’ve tried – the FBS Census? (Not pictured - ever).

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VW Beetle RSI
Daihatsu Copen
Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR
Strathcarron SC-5A
1. VW Beetle RSI
‘It’s a girl’s car, the new Beetle, which is sort of OK, with half the world’s population being female. But the RSi version was trying to be a bloke’s car, leading to a nasty mix of testosterone, muscles and handbags. A bit like one of those pill-popping female shot putters from Bulgaria in fact. Not a pretty sight. Apparently they don’t handle very well either’
Harry Metcalfe

2. Daihatsu Copen
‘It’s a fun-size Audi TT! Only without the fun! In fact it was dreadful to drive – utterly gutless. But the worst thing was you felt such a prat driving it. When Antony Fraser and I went to drive it, we really did feel like Noddy and Big Ears. It was such an embarrassment we decided not to put it in the mag’
John Barker


3. Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR
‘I remember the CLK-GTR being dreadful. It had an awful transmission that combined paddle-shift with a clutch pedal, which demanded you had the hand/foot rhythm of John Bonham. It also had horrible turn-in, power-on and lift-off oversteer. It also broke down during the test. Still, at least it didn’t take off’
Richard Meaden


4. Strathcarron SC-5A

'Looked fun on paper, but proved curiously heavy-helmed and roll-oversteery around Cadwell Park and wasn’t any better on the road. With a 125bhp bike engine in the back it wasn’t dramatically quick either, yet given the fact that it had no doors, no roof and minimal trim, its only purpose was as a fun car. Which it wasn’t. And it cost over £22,500.'
John Barker



AC 212 S/C
Saab 9-3 Viggen
Smart Crossblade
Lexus SC430
5. AC 212 S/C
‘The idea of putting a Lotus twin-turbo V8 engine in a Cobra was like ordering custard on top of a pint of bitter. In isolation they both have plenty going for them, put them together and the result is a disaster. No V8 rumble, but furious wheelspin combined with zero steering feel and no grip (and that was in the dry). No wonder nobody bought one’
Harry Metcalfe


6. Saab 9-3 Viggen
‘Saab’s engineers reckoned a little torque-steer was no bad thing, that it allowed the driver to “feel the challenge of the power”. In the wet it would spin alternate front wheels so violently out of junctions and on uneven surfaces that it was possible to travel from one side of the road to the other without turning the wheel. The convertible married rampant torque- steer to a wobbly body and was probably the worst thing I’ve ever driven’
Peter Tomalin

7. Smart Crossblade
‘When this arrived at the office I decided to drive it to the local Tesco at lunchtime. It was a warm, sunny day. I thought it would be a laugh. It wasn’t. Within two hundred yards I realised I’d need a helmet to drive it even moderately briskly. Then I realised how stupid that would look. Oh yes, and it did 0-60 in 17sec and cost £16,000. I seem to recall they planned to sell about 50 of them in the UK. Bet they didn’t’
Jethro Bovingdon

8. Lexus SC430

‘I’d just been handed the keys to an SC430. Andy Morgan’s phone rang as we headed to the exit to begin the drive. “It’s Harry - he wants to know what the car’s like,” said Andy. “Tell him it’s rubbish,” I replied. First impressions count for a lot’
Roger Green

‘Looked like a scaled-up Daihatsu Copen, drove like a bad ’50s Yank tank’
John Barker

‘It’s like the design brief was, “Can you just get everything a bit wrong?”’
Richard Porter

Toyota Corolla T Sport
Deronda F400
 
 
9. Toyota Corolla T Sport
‘Famous for its manically high-revving engine and a woolly, reluctant chassis. Probably the most chronically mismatched engine and chassis EVAH!’
Richard Porter

‘Even the Elise with this Honda VTEC-like engine and the shortest, most favourable gearing available struggles for torque and to stay in the power band. So imagine the same engine in a much heavier car with lousy gearing and grey slip-on looks. Awful. We were sent a long-termer and it was always the car left in the car park on Friday evening – if the evoactive van was around, we’d take that instead. After a few weeks we sent it back’
John Barker


10. Deronda F400
‘Looked like it had been built from a bad photocopy of the design, and seemed to drive like it too’
John Barker

‘Where to start? OK, it wasn’t the finished car when we drove it, but even so it was pretty awful. I think we drove it on two separate occasions – the first time it would oversteer wildly as you turned in, the second time it was suffering chronic understeer. Without lock-stops, I guess you would eventually chafe through the suspension arms and crash. It didn’t do anything well, but worse, it wasn’t trying to do anything original either. Had it been trying something different but failing valiantly in the attempt, we might have cut it some slack. But it didn’t’
Richard Meaden