20 Cars Canadians Can Drive But Americans Can't

I'm not sure if this is something that has ever really occurred to me...has it occurred to you? Have you ever really thought about what cars you might find in other countries like perhaps the "friendly neighbor to the north?" In case you don't know who I mean, I'm referring to Canada. Which should be made obvious by the title of the article to begin with.

Either way, no matter how observant you may or not be as a reader, I still find it very interesting to see just which vehicles can and cannot be found in the U.S. Especially when it comes down to the fact that Canada has no issue claiming these cars. And not a single one of these cars below is Canadian-made. They are all either American, European, or Cold War-era machines.

And that is very interesting. Seeing what Canada would pull in on the cheap because the U.S. was too busy with the Soviets. Either way, please enjoy these 20 cars that you could buy in Canada but can't quite manage to find down south of the border, in the land of opportunity

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20 VW Transporter


This is probably both one of the silliest and coolest cars on this list. I don't know why I love it so much. I would almost certainly never buy one but the idea of this camper van makes me smile and think about just wandering the country with a guitar in the back and a little space to sleep. It could be fun. Either way. I'm sure you're all shocked to hear that the VW Transporter was never actually a very successful model for the company.

That being said, those who own the bloody things are pretty defensive about them. The Transporter made its way into the North American market back in 1992. It did sell both in Canada and the Unites States.

That also being said, it only sold in the U.S. for that first year and then all sales North American sales were completely focused on Canada until 1996. Of course, eventually, when the trend turned back around the Americans did see their way to grabbing onto this van again in 1999, at least until 2003. So, this is an example of the U.S. falling off the bandwagon and waiting for the time to be right to jump back on. Can't blame them though...it might be cool...but it's not very pretty.

19 VW Golf Wagon 


Before the Gold Wagon appeared on the scene, the Jetta was probably the better-known car and it was sold in both the United States and Canada. There was also a version of the VW Golf that came out in 2008. This was the 6th generation Golf. Now, for some reason, without actually mixing up the Golf and the Jetta, Volkswagen decided that it would be a good idea to change the name of the Jetta to the Golf Wagon and sell it only in Canada.

There was only really one clear reason why this name changed occurred though I'm still not sure why VW decided to skip the American market. VW's older version of the Jetta did not come with the TDI diesel engine that the newer model would and so to make sure that people knew which one had which engine, they came up with the Golf Wagon. Now, it is bigger and nicer than this but it makes me feel like VW are simply just calling their car a golf caddy, and I don't know why you'd want to do that. Of course, this is coming from the same company that in 2007 decided to call their Canadian and American version of the Golf the Rabbit.

18 TVR 300M


Hands down, this is the hottest car on this list and I have to say that I'm actually sort of shocked that this is a car that could be purchased in Canada but not in the United States. However, there is a good reason for that. Basically, there was a guy living in Toronto who really seemed to like a certain type of English-made car. He must have loved the bloody things, because he went out of his way, in the 1970s, to become the only distributor of these hot little roadsters in Canada.

And why did these cars never quite make it south of the border? It's not known for sure why that is but the guy who distributed them in Canada (a man named John Wadman) actually actively discouraged the British carmaker, Trevor Wilkinson, from getting involved with the American car market.

He also discouraged prospective American customers who wanted to get the cars shipped to the States from Canada. Unfortunately for Wadman, the company that sold his precious roadsters was itself sold in 2004 and the production of the cars came to a screeching halt. It's too bad because it's nice to think that there was actually a pretty good-looking car that managed to be sold in Canada but not the U.S.

17 Smart Fortwo Diesel


I'm sorry to all of those environmentally conscious people out there who think that the Smart car is the epitome of everything that will save the planet and keep us on the road...but you're wrong. I cannot stand this car. If it can't fit myself, a friend, and a guitar all at the same time, then it's not worth buying. And there are more energy efficient vehicles out there anyway. Regardless, when the supposedly Smart car first arrived in North America, it was tested out in Canada before it hit the United States. That was in 2005. Surprisingly, at least to me, the Smart car started out as a diesel-running micro-machine.

When the Smart car did finally make its foray into the American market, the United States never received a single diesel-run Smart. I'm not exactly sure why this is but that is the difference here for this entry. Some of you may have started up as soon as you saw this entry saying "You can get Smart cars in the U.S. easily." And that's true now. But Canada was the first of the two countries to take the Smart car into its market, and it is the only one of the two countries to have a diesel version of it.

16 Skoda Rapid


This is the Skoda Rapid. It's nothing too incredibly fancy by any stretch of the imagination but it was just what the doctor ordered for those who wanted a little hatch that could run the low quality rural roads or fit in the tight spaces of the big city streets in Canada. This was a Czech car, it still is a Czech car actually. There are still models of this vehicle kicking around. I think perhaps 2012 may have been the latest version?

I'm not entirely sure but rest assured that Skoda lasted through the Soviet Union and into the modern car world. And that has to be applauded, I think. And given their history, it seems likely that Skoda makes cars that are virtually indestructible. You might not want to be seen driving them but they won't just die on you. This particular fastback Rapid was produced between 1984 and 1990 and was based on the 120, which was a previous little car that also sold on the Canadian market while excluding the Americans, likely because of the Cold War. This car even did well in the U.K. Of course, the only reason that was the case was that a British car company took them and turned them into convertibles.

15 Skoda 120


Back in the 80s (if you couldn't tell when this car was from already) Canadians were eager for fairly cheap and compact cars. This opened up a good relationship with the Czech market which, for some reason, didn't see the need to open up to the United States for sales.

Either way, the Czech car manufacturer, Skoda, came onto the scene in the Canadian market and started pushing its 120 model which was a rear-engined, RWD car that sported a 1.05 liter engine.

It was nothing fancy and nothing really special but it was an affordable car at a time where a lot of people didn't have too much to spend on wheels. When this car came out, Skoda had built it with the crap roads of the Soviet Union in mind and so, while this wasn't exactly a stellar car by any means, at least in terms of Canadian standards, it could really take a beating and could run the roads even in spite of it only being a 2WD car. That being said, most of its success remained in Eastern Europe and not in Canada but it did make a pretty good splash in the cold Canadian market.

14 Pontiac Wave


Alright, I have to start off by saying that sometimes I think certain companies just actually want to sell Canada the stuff that they just really don't want and that their people really won't buy. Maybe some people enjoy the look of this car to some extent but I really just cannot get behind it, I'll be totally honest. But hey, as far as exclusivity goes, Canada is the only country who could sport the Pontiac Wave. I guess that's an accomplishment or feat of some sort if you actually like the look of this thing. But any Canadians out there reading this, who actually do like this car, don't consider yourselves too special yet. Just because the rest of the world didn't have the Pontiac Wave doesn't mean that they didn't have the same car. It was just simply rebranded and sold as the Daewoo Dentra, which is both a company and a model I have never heard of in my entire life. It was also known as the Suzuki Swift at some point in time. And all of that being said, Once Pontiac went under in 2010 (we'll forever miss the Sunfire and Firebird) and GM dropped it all, Chevy started selling the car under even a different name Some of you may better know the Chevy Aveo.

13 Nissan X-Trail


First of all, right from the start, I'm sorry Nissan, but this is a very ugly car. It just is. I don't know how else to put it really. But that's sort of beside the point...as far as I can tell right now. So, the Nissan X-Trail is one of those SUVs that just never made it to market in the United States.

The car has been in production since 2001 but never seemed to find its way into the American market. And you know what? I actually think that my opening point could be the reason. Nissan wants to hand off ugly-looking vehicles and the Canadians are just too darned polite to turn these monstrosities away.

Now, that being said, I think even Canadians got kind of tired with it since the SUV only ran in Canada for two years before being replaced by the Nissan Rogue which is open to both Canadian and American markets.  I think that's saying a lot about your cars when you can only manage to get two years of life out of them in a foreign market before you have to introduce a new machine for people to buy...and I mean, come on, just look at the thing.

12 Nissan Micra


Here is another bloody "hot hatch". Every single time I see one of these things I get sort of sad about the future of the automotive industry. Of course, then I see a muscle car and I feel better...but not in this article. At any rate, Nissan does sell in the United States, for sure. But you know what doesn't sell in the States at all and never has? The Nissan Micra.

The Micra does sell in a number of other countries around the world and not just in Canada, which makes perfect sense, but it hasn't broken the American market. And perhaps Nissan doesn't care for it to. Who knows? 

Anyhow, the Nissan Micra made its Canadian debut in 2015...and I have to say that it feels like it has been out for much longer. It's not a bad car to drive if you're renting an economy car but I still have to harp on the fact that I can't stand those hot hatchbacks. When this car did make its debut in 2015 Nissan was so proud of it. Why? Because the base model (which had virtually nothing on or in it) was pushed as the very least-expensive car in the entire country for only $9,988.

11 Mercedes B200


There has always been some sort of hot hatchback craze around the world, and even Mercedes dug into it for a while. And where better to test this sort of thing than in Canada? I guess if looking to push into the American market, it makes sense to try out a  Euro car in Canada first, except I think it's pretty clear that Canadians are a little closer to Europe in style and taste than the U.S. is, and that's not a slight of any sort. It just seems to be pretty accurate. At least when it comes to cars.

Now, this hot little hatch made its Canadian debut in 2005. The run of this car didn't last an incredibly long time though. It only ran for six years, ending its time in the Canadian market in 2011. At least for a time. It made its way back and then eventually also made its foray into the American market only a few years ago. I guess Canadians can't always have their own little toys. Sometimes they must also share their treasures from Europe. And when I say treasure, I suppose I only mean that because of the surprising power that these little guys actually had. The base model would punch 136 hp. The turbocharged version would clear 193 hp.

10 Lada Niva


Back in 1979, for those of you who know their history or were actually alive at the time, may know that there was something going on between the United States and the then Soviet Union. It was something called the Cold War. Well, during the Cold War, the United States wouldn't deal in anything Soviet in terms of goods and services because that would be supporting Communism or whatever.

Well, AvtoVAZ, which was a Russian car manufacturer decided that it would make and sell Fiat knockoffs to other countries. And what country could they sell to that might make the Americans mad?

That's right. They went straight to Canada with their Fiat ripoffs and sold them in Canada from 1979 all the way up to 1998. That's not a bad run. And that being said, as bad as I'm sure the Lada Nivas were in that time, I bet they were also virtually indestructible. The Soviets had a knack for building things that seemed to be rather jalopy but would last for ages. And even as late as 2006, Lada was still using some of their cars for rallying and doing a damn good job of it. I'm some Americans have these cars now.

9 KIA Rondo


Here's the interesting thing about the KIA Rondo. This car started out in the United States. So I don't even really understand how this car could make the list. But, it seems that the American market doesn't seem to really get behind the whole hatchback thing. Which I have to say I appreciate from the Americans. I can't stand hatchbacks.

AutoFocus.ca said of the American car market that "...it’s a country that generally doesn’t care for hatch doors unless they’re attached to SUVs the size of Texas." I think that's hilarious and probably not an overly mistaken theory. Either way, when this car debut in 2007, it was a part of the American car market. But not even a full four years later and it was discontinued in the United States. The car continued to sell in Canada and released a fairly nice and new shiny version in 2014 that did fairly well up north but never bothered to even consider venturing south of the border.  Surely there is nothing being missed in the United States. And besides, if someone really does, for some reason want one of these KIA Rondos then they can surely import the little guy. I'm sure the size helps lower the price of the shipment.

8 Hyundai Pony


Alright, considering how old this car is and what it is and where it's from I have to say that it's actually not all that bad-looking a car. Now, something I find very interesting is that back 1984 when Korea first brought Hyundai to North America, they completely skipped over the United States and stayed away from the American market. Maybe they wanted to test the waters. So, they introduced the Hyundai Pony. Which is a pretty silly name for this car, I think. I get "pony" as a classification of car but not the model name. Oh, well. Either way, this little car was not exactly something to write home about. It only produced 70 hp and it really couldn't handle the winters. It was made for climates that are always warm and it basically fell apart to nothing in the Canadian winter.

That being said, because it was dirt cheap it actually ended up becoming one of the best-selling cars of that era. The Hyundai Stellar was the next car to join the Canadian market the year after the Pony but it was not until a year after that when the United States was finally tapped into for market potential. But they started out with the Hyundai Excel. Not the Pony or Stellar.

7 Chevrolet Optra


This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Chevy Optra. It's by no means an overwhelmingly exciting car, but it does its job...in that it gets you from point A to point B. That's all you can really ask for a car in the long run, I think. At least one like this. Anyway, the Chevy Optra is not exactly the only car of its kind. There are several versions of this car under different names all over the world. The best known of these would likely be the Chevy Cobalt which is the American version of this car.

I find it interesting that Chevy would just release the same car under a different name in the U.S. After all, the car starts out in the U.S. anyway. I realize that there is a Cobalt that can be purchased in Canada so that could have something to do with it. The Optra, though, is exclusive to Canada. I suppose the U.S. figured if they named the car something that sounded at least slightly more sophisticated and maybe more European than "Cobalt" Canadians might be more inclined to purchase one. I mean, almost everything is the same between the Cobalt and the Optra so it must be a specific marketing tool. That and the Canadian version of the car is apparently cheaper.

6 Chevrolet Orlando


This is something strange. I have a feeling that Chevy built this car with the specific idea that they should build cars for the rest of the world, but that were not quite good enough for the U.S. itself. Why do I think this? Well, Chevy went out of their way to build this car without ever thinking about selling it in its own market. And to be fair, it's not like they dropped it right into the Canadian market either.

But, because of where the Americans were selling the Chevy Orlando, it was easy enough for Canadians to order one. They'd get it from places like South Korea, Russia, or Vietnam. These are all places where Chevy has had/has manufacturing contracts.

I can kind of see why it is that the States might not want to sell this car that was built in Russia or Vietnam though. It's not like they have the best relationship with either country (in spite of Chevy's factory presence there). This car is pretty well sold the world over save for the United States. And I'm thinking that must have made the vehicle a bit cheaper than usual. This machine runs just under $20,000. That's not too shabby for a vehicle of its size and overall capacity.

5 Chevrolet Epica


It seems that Chevy noticed it was doing a pretty good amount of business thanks to the Canadian market and decided to release more than just something like the Optra. In fact, that was probably the introductory car to test the market with these alternate models. And that brings us to the Chevy Epica. What's interesting about this car is that it's hardly a Chevy in the first place. It's pretty well just a renamed version of the Suzuki Verona, and I have to say that the Verona is a much nicer name but it's not like Chevy could just steal the name for the same car and slap a Chevy badge on there and call it done.

This car made its debut in Canada in 2004. And while I guess Chevy had figured they landed a pretty sweet market in Canada, even this car could not hold strong like the Optra. Sales were so low for this machine that they discontinued it altogether. And that was only two years later, in 2006. It's got to suck for an American company when it thinks it sees a gold mine in the market, pushes a specific model to be purchased only in Canada, and then watch it all come up bust.

4 Buick Allure


The Buick Allure. I have to give the car at the very least this one bit of praise: it's got a great name. And you know what? All things considered, it is a fairly alluring car. So that's a good step in the right direction. The Allure is technically classified as a luxury car and I suppose this would kind of be Buick's attempt at a cheaper version of the Bently or Lincoln Continentals. Something of a luxury town car. This car has been rolling around Canadian roads for about 13 years now after it replaced the Buick Century Regal (the previous model in that class).

This Buick Allure, even today, is apparently well-respected and well-used in the Canadian business world. It has outlasted several models in its class and continues to impress. In the U.S. they don't have the luxury of the Buick Allure.

Instead, their equivalent is the Buick Lacrosse, which is pretty funny considering that lacrosse is Canada's national sport. I know that many of you will probably think it's hockey but it isn't. It is most certainly lacrosse. Either way, I always find it interesting when an American company gives Canada its own models. Is it because Americans think Canadians aren't deserving of the original?

3 BMW 320i


So, it shouldn't be a shock to anyone that BMW sells in both the United States and Canada. However, the U.S. seems to get the much more powerful versions of the BMW cars than Canada does. For example, the BMW 320i is a Canadian exclusive and in comparison to some Beamers that can generate well over 200 hp, the 320i can pump out only 181 hp. I"m not sure why some Canadians seem to like this better. Maybe it's a smoother ride. Or maybe its because the car, with its tamer sort of ride can manage about 40 miles per gallon. I suppose that's not all that bad. I know a lot of people who would rather fuel efficiency to power. And this efficiency-to-power ratio must be the deciding factor for the Canadian market because if this car sold in the States it would run just shy of $34,000. That's not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. I would personally be more inclined to go the extra mile and just get a Mustang with that money but I'm more into muscle cars than I am into Beamers. The point is, this car is about on par with some of the American-sold Beamers which pump much more horsepower out than the 320i, but it seems that's favorable up in Canada.

2 Asüna Sunrunner


I don't know if you've ever seen a Geo Metro before. They're a pretty dated car now but that doesn't mean that you can't find them around still. Well, apparently, this car was the Canadian equivalent of the Geo in some respects. What respects, you might be very much inclined to ask? Well, let's put it this way, the Asüna Sunrunner was actually nothing more than a Geo Tracker (also known as a Suzuki Sidekick depending on where you are) with different badges on it. It's amazing just how little work some car companies seem to do every once in a while.

The Sunrunner came out in 1991 (only a couple of years after Geo started) and it was pretty easy for them to rip off whatever Geo had already come up with. That being said, Asüna wasn't all bad. They did sell a car called the Optima (not the Nissan) that ended up being the very basis for the relatively well-known Pontiac LeMans. It's a crazy small world out there in the auto industry, it seems. Either way, the Asüna Sunrunner only lasted from 1991 to 1995...which is still a better run than some of the cars on this list.

1 Acura CSX


Does this car look at all familiar? I mean, think about if maybe you've seen this car but with a different badge on the front end. Maybe the badges was a big red 'H' of some sort? Yeah, that's where you know it from. This Acura is essentially just the Honda Civic with a different badge on it. I mean, that's almost the only difference between the Acura CSX and the Honda Civic. The only other notable differences are altered front and rear panels on the body. Otherwise, it is pretty well exactly the same.

It's amazing what people will try and do to make an extra buck off other people. Either way, the CSX was built exclusively in an Ontario Honda factory to sell only in Canada.

I'm not sure why since we can get Honda Civics here pretty damn easily and they are one of the biggest-selling cars in North America. Either way, this car hit Canadian roads in 2005. And in terms of other cars that just don't make it south of the border, the CSX was actually a replacement of another Canadian exclusive which was the Acura EL. If there's one thing I can really say here, it's that Acura needs to come up with some better names for their cars and then maybe they'll start selling well in the States.

Sources: PopularMechanics.com, CanadaDrives.ca, AutoFocus.ca, Wheels.ca

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