WE COUNT DOWN our top 10 worst uses of motoring’s greatest badges.
Car makers have to make money to survive, that’s a fact (ask SAAB). But they are still car makers at heart and they care about making good cars. Sometimes though, the accountants and the marketing men stick their oar in where it wasn’t needed and create some truly blasphemous creations, sticking historic and legendary badges to truly undeserving cars in order to drum up some excitement and ‘buzz’. These are our top 10:
10. Renaultsport Gordini
Renaultsport make the finest hot hatches in the world, there can be no dispute about that. So when Renault announced it was reviving the Gordini name, petrolheads around the globe rejoiced. However, when they found out that the Gordini models were just normal Renaultsports painted blue, given some stripes and a few interior touches, they were livid. It wasn’t even the right shade of blue either!
9. MK3 VW Golf GTI
I’ll let you into a secret; I’ve always quite liked the MK3 Golf GTI. It’s still a handsome car and I even toyed with the idea of buying one a few years ago. I didn’t though, and for one very good reason: it’s crap. It didn’t help that its predecessors were simply sublime, but it also wasn’t very fast, was too heavy and didn’t handle very well. But, as you’ll see further down, things would get worse.
8. Ferrari 599 GTO
It might seem shocking, but the 599 GTO is fully deserving of its place in this list. GTO stands for Gran Turismo Omologato, and herein lies the problem. Unlike its two iconic forebares, the 250 GTO and 288 GTO, the 599 GTO is not a homologation special. It is not a ‘racer for the road’, it has no motorsport pedigree and it has done nothing to earn its very special moniker. It is a fraud.
7. Fiat Punto HGT Abarth
Abarth started out as a racing team and an independant Fiat tuner, but after many years Fiat decided to buy them out. They would go on to use the Abarth name on some of their most legendary performance models. In the 1990’s though, Fiat forgot how to do fast cars and the Abarth badge was unceremoniously stuck, without any mechanical changes whatsoever, onto the lukewarm HGT Punto to try and inject some excitement. It didn’t.
6. MINI Countryman John Cooper Works
John Cooper would turn in his grave if he could see what products BMW are sticking his name on. The renowned Formula One genius spotted performance potential in the Mini and, after being given the nod by Issigonis and BMC, began tuning. A legend was born. These days MINI attatch the Cooper and more special JCW badge to all manner of cars, but the massive (in Mini terms) Countryman ‘soft-roader’ has to be the least worthy.
5. Peugeot 207 GTi
The 205 GTi is still considered to be one of the best hot hatches ever made. The 206 GTi, therfore, had a lot to live up to. It missed the mark though, and was bitterly disappointing. You’d think Peugeot would have learned their lesson but the 207 GTi continued the mediocrity. What is did add though (ensuring it beat the 206 to make it onto this list), was a new level of ugliness thanks to its big mouth, surprised headlights and dumpy rear end.
4. BMW X5 M
BMW’s Motorsport division are gods amongst the motoring community. Generating decades of goodwill by creating hit after hit after hit. Sweet engines, sublime chassis’ and wonderful styling, the M team could do no wrong. Then the X5 M happened. Four-wheel-drive, 1.7m tall and 2.3 tonnes do not an M car make. Not only that, but it is too brash and gawdily styled. It won’t be BMW’s worst sin on this list though!
3. Aston Martin Cygnet
Even the best PR man or woman can’t explain their way out of this one. You don’t have to be a cynic to realise the reasons for taking a £12,000 Toyota IQ city car, performing a few mild cosmetic tweaks, and selling it on as an Aston Martin for over £30,000. This is badge engineering at it’s best (or worst) and it is utterly shameless. It worked though, because people actually bought them.
2. MK4 VW Golf GTI
If the MK3 GTI was crap, the MK4 was a travesty. An affront to the GTI badge and to the history of the MK1 and 2. It was far too heavy, not nearly powerful enough, dull to drive and lacked any kind of styling flair to separate it from every other normal Golf on the road. The MK4 was the darkest period in the GTI’s history and it caused VW to have a major rethink, giving us the simply brilliant fifth generation GTI. The MK4; a necessary evil.
1. BMW X6 M
The X6 is a car that should never have existed in the first place. However, having already filled every automotive niche in existence, BMW decided to invent the SUV Coupe. It was too big, too ugly and absolutely pointless. But BMW soldiered on, deciding to sully their highly coveted M badge by creating a ‘performance’ version. This, in turn, led to motoring writers and petrolheads everywhere proclaiming that BMW had “lost it”. BMW’s M department survived this, but not without having their credibility dented.