20 cars that think they’re 4x4s
Rover kicked off the whole modern urban on-roader craze with the decidedly dodgy Streetwise. Launched in 2003, its life was terminated early when MG Rover imploded in 2005. But the Streetwise has since enjoyed a second life in China, badged as the MG 3SW. It's even had some success in the Chinese Rally Championship!
We're not sure exactly how you pronounce it, but the Xross is the car that will finally replace the MG3 SW/Streetwise (it's due to reach the market in 2012). Based on the all-new MG3, it also has an increased ride height, standard roof bars and plastic body side cladding.
Forget the Rover Streetwise, the Matra Rancho was the world's first-ever 4x4 wannabe. This chunkily styled front-wheel-drive estate was way ahead of its time when it debuted in 1977. Trouble was, it was way behind in every other area: poorly built, unreliable and dynamically outdated. Some 56,700 Ranchos were built between 1977 and 1984.
Fiat Palio Adventure
If you have no idea what a Fiat Palio is, we don't blame you. It's Fiat's cheapest car, designed for developing markets. It was also voted the worst car on sale in Italy in 2000. But in 1999, it became historic (in a way) when the Adventure version premiered the off-road look in a front-drive car not intended for off-road use - beating the Rover Streetwise. The current-model Adventure is pictured.
Fiat Doblo Adventure
This almost unknown Fiat was the first car in the world after the Streetwise to get the false 4x4 look. September 2003 was the date that Fiat launched its Fiat Doblo Adventure in Brazil, featuring bigger bumpers, side mouldings, a spare wheel on the tailgate and a 60mm higher ride height. Despite its looks, it was strictly a 4x2.
Volkswagen Polo Dune
Volkswagen launched its first Streetwise-like car with the Polo Fun at the end of 2003. However, it took until 2006 to arrive in the UK, where it was rebadged the Polo Dune. In Germany, it was a marketing sensation, with one out of every 10 Polos sold in 2007 being a Fun. UK buyers never had the same enthusiasm, which explains why the new-generation Polo Cross isn't sold here.
Citroen C3 XTR
After VW, Citroen was the next company to leap on the Streetwise bandwagon. It gave the regular C3 hatchback a host of black plastic cladding (bumpers, grille, wheel arches and sills) and hey presto, it looked like an off-roader. Like most of its ilk, though, mechanically it was totally unaltered. One clever idea was standard roof rails that could also be mounted transversely to carry bikes or skis.
Volkswagen Cross Fox
What's a Cross Fox? Something to keep well away from the chickens - boom boom! But it's also a version of the Brazilian-built VW Fox sold in Latin America from 2005 (though we never got it in the UK). The main changes were chunkier tyres, raised suspension and a spare wheel mounted on the boot lid, which looked butch but was utterly impractical.
Volkswagen Cross Golf
Sounding like a nightmare round with Tiger Woods, VW's Cross Golf was launched in 2006 across Europe. In the UK it was rebadged as the Golf Plus Dune, which was more accurate, since it was based on the 'bloated pig' Golf Plus MPV. It was the usual scenario: a 20mm taller ride height, matt plastic wheel arches, chunky new front and rear bumpers, roof rails and side rubbing strips. On the whole, buyers preferred the Golf-based Tiguan.
Volkswagen Cross Touran
Completing the full flush of VW 'Cross' models, the Cross Touran arrived in December 2006 throughout Europe - but never in the UK, where buyers really didn't 'get' the Cross idea. This was easily the least appealing of all VW's Cross models, with half-hearted add-ons that really didn't add anything to the Touran.
Ford Fiesta Trail
Brazilians love the false 4x4 thing. The Ford Fiesta Trail is a good example: chunky bumpers, running boards, stick-on side strips, a big roof rack and even neoprene-lined front seats - yum. Initially launched as an accessory kit in 2005, its popularity (50% of buyers went for the Trail package) quickly saw it become a standalone model built by the factory.
Peugeot 207 SW Outdoor
The off-road look arrived on the Peugeot 207 SW in 2007 with the Outdoor. The naff name was basically a stick-on package of grey plastic styling add-ons, increased ride height and unique alloy wheels. Are you feeling bored yet?
Peugeot Partner Escapade
Possibly the world's dullest car ever, the Peugeot Partner got some semblance of interest when, in 2005, the French carmaker launched the Escapade version. It claimed it offered 'rugged styling' but buyers weren't impressed and the Escapade escaped the market in 2008. Fiat Idea Adventure
Was the 2006 Idea Adventure the world's first-ever mini-MPV crossover? Frankly, who cares? Revised suspension, chunky Pirelli tyres on unique alloys and an obligatory body kit do not a great car make. Another 'sensational' first came in 2008, when it became the world's first front-wheel-drive car ever to get a locking differential (in the intriguingly badged Idea Adventure Locker).
Ford Ka Trail
If you don't recognise this Ford Ka, it's little surprise: this is the Brazilian Ka, based on the platform of the old Ka, and which shares nothing in common at all with the European one. The Ka Trail has the usual addenda: roof rack, bumper appliques, running boards, rubbing strips and extended wheel arches.
Chery Riich X1
When it was first seen in 2009, the oddly named Chery Riich X1 was described as the first domestic mini-SUV made in China. It was definitely 'mini' but despite appearances, it certainly wasn't an SUV, with a weedy 1.3-litre engine driving the front wheels only.
Great Wall Florid Cross
Don't you just love Chinese names? What rich fantasies of angry wall-flowers this creates in the mind. But in reality the Florid Cross is a rather dull bodykitted hatchback that resembles the Toyota-designed Scion xA rather too closely for comfort. That plastic front bumper guard looks as if it wouldn't protect against stray flies, let alone rocks in the road.
Geely may well be the first Chinese brand to land in the UK when it arrives in late 2012. Will UK buyers be offered the GX2, we wonder? Probably not. It's one of the world's smallest crossover-style cars, about the size of a Toyota Yaris. Based on the Geely Panda, it's powered by 1.3- or 1.5-litre engines.
Dongfeng H30 Cross
Any guesses what platform lies underneath this rather anonymous Chinese crossover? We can't quite believe it ourselves, but it's the Citroen ZX. That's right, a car that first saw the light of day way back in 1991, and has been going strong in China since 2002, made by Dongfeng. Funny old world.
The Ford Fusion has to go down in history as one of the blue oval's greatest disappointments: it was bland, tinny and unpleasant to drive. Despite this, the Brazilians really took to the Fusion and, in 2005, made something better out of it: the faux-4x4 EcoSport, which is now in its third generation.