When foreign cars come up in a discussion, the conversation usually revolves around the most enticing models that aren’t sold locally. It’s easy to talk about the unobtainable performance that can be found in cars like the Nissan Skyline GT-R or the Ferrari 512 Boxer, given that they have driving characteristics that many Americans will never be able to experience. As early examples of these cars are now old enough to be imported into the States, some of the mystique has been lost. We’ll also see fewer of these US-dodging performance cars due to increased globalization. While this a good change, as Americans will be missing out on fewer amazing cars, vehicles sold locally are less desirable. After all, R35 GT-Rs aren’t as cool as the older R34 Skyline GT-R in the US. However, that doesn’t mean that Americans will see every foreign car that gets released.
When you obsess over the best cars that a country has to offer, it’s easy to overlook the normal cars that avoid American shores. Given that some of these vehicles aren’t too different from what’s already on the US market, it doesn’t make sense to sell another competitive model to the same consumers. Conversely, sometimes, unusual models never see the US because they're designed for a consumer base that only exists in certain countries. Given how the American automotive landscape is drastically different from the rest of the world’s, it’s no surprise that Americans probably wouldn’t buy these 20 foreign cars.
25 Honda City
The Honda Fit is a popular compact hatchback in the US. It’s a good option for those who want a fuel-efficient car that’s cheaper than the larger Civic. It can even potentially be the more practical option in comparison to the Civic sedan. However, there's an even cheaper sedan version of the Fit available in Asia and South America, one called the "City." Originally, the City was a tiny hatchback designed primarily for Japan, but it did see release in other Asian countries and Europe.
In its current state, the City resembles a smaller Civic and is available with sub-100-horsepower.
While there are plenty of small hatchbacks with sedan counterparts in America, they tend to be far less popular to the original hatches and there’s hardly a demand for another entry into the segment.
24 BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
BMW is known as a sports-car brand in the US. Even their small crossover models are designed to appeal to those who want a little performance in their daily drivers. The company even produces a lineup that’s almost entirely rear- or all-wheel-drive, which makes the company popular among car enthusiasts. However, there's currently an exception to that: the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. While the standard 2 Series can be an incredible performance car in its sportier configurations, the Active Tourer has little in common with those versions. While this could’ve been the first fun minivan, BMW played it safe and made it front-wheel drive and available only with four-cylinder motors. Even though there’s an M package, it’s hardly noteworthy. Needless to say, there are better minivans and BMWs on the US market.
23 Nissan Micra
Nissan is a rather diverse car company in the US. It produces a number of mid-level premium sedans and SUVs, a world-renowned supercar, and some of the cheapest new crossovers and cars. With the Nissan Versa being the cheapest car on the American market, it’s hard to believe that the brand sells an even cheaper and smaller car in other countries. The Nissan Micra is a tiny car that’s sold in Europe and in Asia. The model’s minuscule stature makes it perfect for navigating the narrow streets that can be found outside North America.
Given the price of fuel everywhere else, this car is powered by a small motor, with the smallest being a 90-horsepower 0.9-liter three-cylinder.
While it may be cheaper than the Versa, Americans aren’t interested in such tiny cars. Perhaps the cuter third-generation model could’ve found some buyers, but the current model with its restrained styling won’t.
22 Volkswagen Up
Tiny city cars will never be popular in the US, as Americans will always prefer large and powerful cars over small and economic ones, and that’s a shame. While cars like the Scion iQ and the Smart car aren’t noteworthy for anything other than their size, some of these vehicles can be fairly interesting.
One of these cars is the VW Up, a tiny four-seater hatchback that’s considerably smaller than anything available in the US, short of the Smart car.
What makes the VW more interesting than its competitors is its GTI variant. While it’s hardly a replacement for the larger Golf GTI, the Up GTI is still a quick car for this segment, and it allows people who live in a narrow city to have something fun to drive. However, such a car simply would never sell in large numbers in America.
21 Fiat 500 TwinAir
The Fiat 500 is a retro hatchback that was released to the US in 2011, but the model was first unveiled four years earlier to European markets. The US model is limited to three motor options: one for the standard model, an electric motor, and the turbocharged Abarth engine. Besides diesel options that wouldn’t catch on in the US, the European 500 is also available with the TwinAir motors. These are V-twin motors, meaning that they have only two cylinders.
It’s available in either a 60-horsepower naturally aspirated variant or an 85-horsepower turbocharged option.
Not only would this motor be too underpowered for the American audience, but it's also proven to fall short of its claimed gas mileage. Fiat claims these cars get 58 MPG, but Autocar achieved only 30, and their experience was hardly unique.
20 Volkswagen Gol
Volkswagen, much like other companies, has different branches of its business in certain parts of the world. One of these branches is in Brazil, which historically produced unique Beetle-based models that didn’t exist outside the South American country. One modern example not based on the Beetle is the Gol, not to be confused with the Golf. It’s a considerably smaller alternative to the Golf and the Jetta options and is intended to be a cheap car for the Latin American market. However, the American consumer would likely find the model to be too cheap and unrefined to be worthy of their money. These cars aren’t particularly safe either. The Latin NCAP rated it only one star out of five for safety without an airbag and three stars for airbag-equipped models. Thankfully, airbags are now required on such cars.
19 Ford Galaxy
In the US, minivans are large vehicles with three rows of seating that usually span about 200 inches in length. European minivans, which are referred to as MPVs, are generally much smaller. Also, due to the Dodge Caravan’s popularity, all American models feature convenient sliding doors, while MPVs tend to have four regular doors. The Ford Galaxy, not to be confused with the American Galaxie sedan from the ‘60s, is one of these MPVs, and it doesn’t have much to offer the American consumer. These cars are seven-seaters but don’t have the same amount of room that can be found in the Chrysler Pacifica and the Honda Odyssey. While they can get impressive gas mileage, the Galaxy isn’t what Americans will buy when they need to transport their families, especially when it’s no more practical than many better-looking crossovers.
18 Tata Nano
Cheap cars aren’t often considered to be all that good; nor do they tend to be cleverly engineered. Generally, such cars are just stripped-out versions of other models with every unnecessary option having been removed. The Tata Nano, however, is a little different from the Nissan Versa. This tiny car was designed to be as simple and as well-packaged as possible.
Despite its small stature, it manages to supply passengers with plenty of space and a decent storage area.
It does all that while being the cheapest car in the world. That said, despite the clever engineering, it’s still the cheapest car in the world. It hardly has the most refined interior or powertrain, and it even lacks a tailgate. While this model may be a wonderful form of transportation in some countries, it would struggle to sell in the US.
17 Ford B-Max
On top of the Galaxy, Ford sells a variety of other MPVs of varying sizes in the European market. Surprisingly, one did make its way to US shores. The Ford C-Max is available in the American market, and it’s hardly a sales leader. Even its standard hybrid powertrain, which is an option in Europe, isn’t enough to entice American buyers. The B-Max is a cheaper, smaller alternative to the C-Max. Despite being a smaller MPV, the B-Max does have at least one clever option that other MPVs, including the C-Max, lack—sliding rear doors. However, it’s a bit questionable why it has this setup, given that it only seats five. If the larger C-Max can’t succeed in the US, then the B-Max certainly doesn’t stand a chance.
16 Peugeot 108
Peugeot is a brand that has never had much presence in the US. It’s a bit of a shame that the brand never sold its best models, such as the 205 GTi, across the Atlantic. While the brand’s models have been getting better over the years, it's gained a reputation for building terrible cars after the brand’s greatest models finished production.
While the 108 isn’t bad enough to be among the horrendous Peugeots of the ‘90s and the 2000s, it isn’t good enough to be considered one of the greats either.
This city car was said to be rather bland to drive due to its less-than-ideal engine options and cramped rear seats, according to Top Gear. While few city cars could possibly be popular in the US, the 108 is certainly not the best option to introduce the segment to Americans.
15 Ford Ka+
Small cars have never been a strong point when it comes to American brands. Rarely are domestic compact cars as well built and designed as the Japanese and European alternatives. Ford decided to not even bother making an American compact car and instead just moved some of the compacts from their European division to the US market. The oldest model to still be sold in the US is the Focus, which is a popular model for the brand. The Ka is Ford’s smallest car and is meant to compete with models like the Peugeot 108 and the VW Up. However, it doesn’t offer the same unique styling or performance options of those two cars. However, besides city cars not being popular in the US, the larger Fiesta may be leaving the US market soon, and an even smaller model will likely be even less popular.
14 BMW 1 Series
Thanks to the M model, the BMW 1 series is seen as a terrific little sports car. That model had an excellent chassis and a matching powertrain. Unfortunately, this tiny performance machine had a rather short stay in the US before being replaced by the larger but still impressive 2 Series. However, similar to the 2 Series, America never received the full lineup of the 1 Series, and that’s likely for the best. Primarily offered as a hatchback in Europe, the 1 Series is one of the few hot hatches that drives the rear wheels rather than the fronts. While that may sound enticing, there are a few issues. The economical diesel model isn’t sporty whatsoever, with a zero to 60 time of over ten seconds. And while there's still a potent M series model, it can cost over $50,000 after a few options.
13 Mercedes-Benz B-Class
If city cars won’t make sense to consumers in the US, then compact luxury cars will really fly over the heads of Americans. While there are a few small luxury models in North America, it’s far more common to find large premium sedans and SUVs on the market. In Europe, smaller cars are much easier to navigate through winding country roads and narrow village streets. The Mercedes B-Class is one of these maneuverable little luxury cars. With a tall and narrow hatchback design, the B-Class won’t ever win any styling awards. And with a maximum of 208 horsepower and a wide choice of diesel motors, the B-Class will never be a quick car either. This car simply has nothing to offer the greater American audience.
12 Opel Adam
Opel is largely unknown to many Americans. Other than a few models sold during the ‘70s, all other Opel cars sold over the Atlantic were marketed under different marques, primarily Buick. However, there isn’t any brand in the US that would sell the Adam among their lineup. While it’s well established that such diminutive cars will never see huge success in America, the Adam is a particularly poor example of the segment. While the model is rather handsome with its easily identifiable grille and two-tone paint job, the car’s performance doesn’t really back up its looks. Worse still, it’s only sold in a two-door configuration and is criticized for having a cramped back seat. Many other models in this segment offer a four-door body to be far more practical.
11 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
If the Mercedes B-Class probably doesn’t stand a chance in the US, then the older, smaller A-Class wouldn’t likely be a success either. That said, Americans do have access to the A-Class in the form of the CLA and the GLA. However, those models do have attractive traits that will draw in the American audience. The CLA is a budget sports luxury sedan, and the GLA is a compact crossover, which immediately makes it popular among the American consumer.
In comparison, the standard A-Class is a small hatchback with a somewhat premium interior.
In a market that has largely dropped standard hatchbacks, a Mercedes badge won’t change the minds of the American consumers. It doesn’t help that the model had a tumultuous launch back in the late ‘90s either.
10 Daihatsu Tanto
Kei cars are a special segment in Japan where cars under a certain size with a motor that's limited in displacement and horsepower limit are subjected to cheaper taxes and easier regulations than standard cars. As a result, these vehicles are popular due to the low cost of upkeep. Needless to say, many Japanese citizens are willing to go without performance and an interactive driving experience to save money. As a result, cars like the Daihatsu Tanto are really popular in Japan, especially in large cities. This box on wheels has a 0.7-liter motor, and it has fewer than 60 horsepower, in accordance with the Kei car rules. While these tiny cars will make sense in cramped cities, the low power and confined interior just wouldn’t be suitable for long drives on American highways.
9 Suzuki Baleno
With the onslaught of cheap crossovers on the market, hatchbacks aren’t all that popular in the US anymore. Almost no newly introduced hatchback will find sales if consumers can buy a taller alternative in the form of an SUV. The only way for such cars to have any success anymore is to make the model as easily recognizable and stylish as possible. Needless to say, the Suzuki Baleno would struggle in America.
This cheap hatchback isn’t much of a looker, and the only standout design feature is the beak-like grille that’s a little too reminiscent of Nissan’s current design language.
It doesn’t help that Suzuki has long since left the American market and wasn’t particularly missed after it was gone. While this model doesn’t seem to be a horrible car in its intended markets, it’s just not suited for a US release.
8 Fiat Punto
Prior to the reintroduction of the brand, America didn’t have the best relationship with Fiat, although, some would argue that Fiat still doesn’t have the best reputation in the US. Currently, Fiat’s American lineup is entirely made up of Fiat 500 variations and the 124 convertible. However, the brand’s offerings are a little more diverse in Europe. One of its many models is the Punto. While the Punto can be had in Abarth trim, this model is looking a little tired.
It was first released in 2005 and has seen only a single update, and even that was really only a facelift.
Its looks may have been interesting more than a decade ago, but it’s not as enticing anymore. This car can be equipped with the poorly designed TwinAir motor as well.
7 Chevrolet Montana
While Chevy trucks are usually popular in the States, there are some models that just wouldn’t work out. Despite the American branding, the Montana isn’t available in the US, instead only being offered south of its border. With gas being so cheap in the US, there’s little incentive for many buyers to take interest in smaller, more efficient trucks. The majority of truck buyers seem to prefer having the biggest, roomiest, and most powerful pickups on the market. The Montana is the complete opposite. With the largest motor being a 1.8-liter four-cylinder powering this tiny car-based pickup, this truck was designed primarily to be an economical hauler. While this may appeal to some Americans looking for cheap pickups, there’s no way such a model would find a large consumer base.
6 Lancia Ypsilon
Lancia was once a proud brand that produced some of the best rally cars in the world. Sadly, it's since lost all of its motivation to produce fast cars. From the ‘90s onwards, many of Lancia’s models stopped being unique cars and were instead rebadged Fiats. It got worse around the early 2010s, as much of Lancia’s lineup was filled with rebadged Chryslers on top of the Fiats. These cars turned out to be just as popular as one would expect and were discontinued after a few years. This left the Ypsilon as the sole remaining Lancia on the market. This bizarrely shaped hatchback is based on the Fiat 500 and the Panda platform, but despite being a prior performance brand, the Lancia version has no Abarth equivalent. Instead, it seems to be marketed as a hideous pseudo luxury hatchback.
5 Kia Picanto
Both Hyundai and Kia have attempted to improve their brand image over the years. This is unsurprising as they were once well known for producing cheap alternatives to Hondas and Toyotas, which isn’t the most flattering look. While many have mocked the companies, these two brands have made extensive changes to their lineups by creating excellent models like the Genesis cars and the Kia Stinger. However, not every model can be a new sport or luxury car. The Kia Picanto is one of the brand’s cheaper models. While the early examples of the model are every bit as bland as one would expect from early 2000s low-level Kia, the modern car has been well received among automotive journalists. There’s even a handsome GT-Line model that’s designed to provide a more rewarding driving experience. However, Americans simply have little interest in such small cars.
4 Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Just about every Italian car company is perceived to be an exotic brand, save for the more pedestrian Fiat models. Alfa Romeo is often remembered for producing amazing race cars in the past, and the company is working hard to not lose that image in the American market, given their current lineup only containing the 4C and the Giulia. However, Alfa sells more models in other countries, and not all are performance-oriented.
The Giulietta is a front-wheel-drive hatchback based on Fiat’s compact platform, which is also shared with not-so-great cars like the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart.
Further separating the Giulietta from any sense of performance is the long list of boring engine options, though there's a 240-horsepower motor available. Needless to say, the US doesn’t need this Alfa, especially when the base model starts around $27,000.
3 Volkswagen Sharan
Volkswagen once released a minivan in the US, but it was simply a rebranded Dodge Grand Caravan that lacked some of the Dodge’s optional features. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t last very long. However, the Mopar-based people mover wasn’t the only minivan that Volkswagen slapped its badge on. The Sharan is an MPV that VW has sold since the mid-‘90s. This small minivan doesn’t have anything to offer over any American market minivan, especially considering that early models were only offered with four regular doors. Thankfully, Volkswagen improved the model by slapping a couple sliding doors on the second-generation Sharan. This MPV is offered with four engines, two diesel motors, and two gasoline motors, but only one is worth talking about. The 2.0-liter turbocharged motor is the same motor that can be found in a Golf GTI. However, many models will likely instead be sold with a diesel under the hood.
2 Toyota Alphard
In Asia, minivans don’t quite have the same stigma that they do in the US. These vans can be quite popular as both people movers and spacious luxury vehicles. Even Buick offers a minivan specifically for the Chinese market, as many Americans would simply ignore it. Similarly, Toyota has a particularly high-end van that’s only sold in the Eastern hemisphere. The Alphard may look like a rather showy vehicle for a van, but that’s what customers want. Its huge chrome waterfall grille, floating roof, and flashy LED lights make this car a status symbol. The interior of these vehicles can even be quite luxurious; the Alphard’s top-of-the-line trim is even called ‘Executive Lounge.’ Americans simply prefer a workhorse of a van rather than a luxurious one.
1 Suzuki Jimny
Despite the popularity of SUVs, there’s still one type of SUV that still can’t get a foothold in the market. Being that SUVs and crossovers are meant to be practical, two-door models compromise on usable space too much to be considered by many buyers. Even the venerable Jeep Wrangler isn’t particularly successful in its two-door form. As a result, the Suzuki Jimny would only appeal to a niche audience in the States. That’s a shame, as the Jimny is basically the perfect off-roader for those who want a vehicle that’s as capable as a Wrangler but is smaller, simpler, and more fuel efficient. Basically, this tiny Suzuki is a modern old-fashioned Jeep. However, many Americans would refuse to buy an SUV that has such limited practicality, despite its immense capabilities.