It’s fair to say that we’re arriving at a crossroads in the automotive world. The ongoing electrification of the industry means that a new generation of future classics is en route – a fresh wave of car models that are set to make their mark on the market for years to come. It also means that some of the long-time mainstays on our roads will steadily drift out of circulation – including a few big names that you might think it inconceivable to lose.
This is nothing new in the auto industry, however. In decades past, we’ve seen many once-ubiquitous cars disappear off our roads and fade into the obscurity of the occasional car show and car club meet-up. In this article, we’ll look at the some of the most iconic cars that once lined the streets and driveways of the UK but are now on the verge of extinction.
While it arrived back in 1975, it wasn’t until the late 80s and the release of the third-generation Cavalier that Vauxhall’s premier saloon really established itself as a favourite in the family segment. The Mk3 launched in 1988 as a direct response to the then-best-selling Ford Sierra – and succeeded in trumping its American rival to become one of the best-selling cars of the early 90s.
A sleek family saloon that offered efficient engines, punchy performance and a high-quality interior, the Cavalier continued in production until 1995 until it was replaced by the similarly familiar Vauxhall Vectra. At that point, there were over 1.2m Cavaliers registered in the UK. Today? Just 1,400.
The boxy Uno supermini was a big seller over here, but a mammoth success on the continent. Across Europe, nearly 9m units of the Uno were shifted, two-thirds of those in Italy alone, which makes it one of Europe’s best-selling cars of all time. While still a curiously designed hatchback up until very recently in Brazil, it was the Mk1 and Mk2 versions of the Uno (produced up until 1989 and 1995, respectively) that will be remembered most fondly.
A uniquely chunky small hatchback that differed from the lower body shapes of the time, the Uno’s practicality, ride and handling made it a fan favourite. Replaced by the also-super-popular Fiat Punto in 1995, there are fewer than 200 to be found on domestic roads today, compared to 224,000 at the end of its production cycle.
There’s an all-electric Renault 5 set to be released in a few years’ time, but its conventional blueprint ceased production over 25 years ago. Renault is well known for its hatchbacks, with its best-selling Clio still doing well today, but the Renault 5 was the manufacturer’s first supermini that enjoyed a quarter-of-a-century reign starting in 1972.
For petrolheads, the Renault 5 Turbo is the best example in the car’s timeline – a rally favourite with distinctive bodywork – but the regular Renault 5 was a design classic in itself. A super chic pioneer of the supermini segment, the Renault 5 was once one of the most popular cars in the UK – there are fewer than 800 left currently.
The third-gen 5 Series represented a big leap forward for BMW in 1988. Packed with new-wave tech like stability and traction control and boasting a superb range of engines that included four-, six- and eight-cylinder options (you could even get a natural-gas model in Germany), the E34 offered a livelier alternative to Mercedes’ more sensible E-Class.
Of course, the BMW 5 Series is still going strong today with the seventh-generation model, but its third-gen predecessor that was a turning point for the model range is hardly anywhere to be found, despite still being a great car to drive.
There are over 300,000 Audi A4s on our roads today, with the A4 a long-standing success since its release in the mid-90s. That success was well timed for Audi, which had seen its star in the luxury segment fade in the years prior to the introduction of its new family saloon. The A4 made waves for the brand thanks to its sleek and contemporary design, clever engineering and typically Audi driving dynamics.
It’s a car that changed Audi’s fortunes for the better but one that is no longer to be found swanning around UK roads thanks to high-maintenance parts and electrics. The good news is that the A4 name is still going very strong.
It’s an exciting time to be buying a car at the moment, with plenty of great new options arriving across the electric, hybrid and conventional markets. If you’re looking for your next vehicle, new or used, we’ll be happy to help you as one of the UK’s leading luxury car retailers.
You can browse our full range of new and used luxury cars straight away online or visit your nearest Jardine dealership today. You can also book a virtual appointment with a member of our team and start your journey to finding your next car.
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Together we share a passion for all things cars. At Jardine, we understand putting your vehicle in the trust of someone else is hard, so we have made it smooth and painless. Every Jardine Motors Group location is fully equipped with cutting-edge diagnostic and repair equipment, allowing us to pinpoint any potential issues with your vehicle model.