Here's a list of 2021's best cars we'll never get to own.
The US is the second-largest car market globally, so you'd think manufacturers would send absolutely everything they have to offer over here, right?
Well, no. There are several great cars out there that we'll never get the opportunity to own. Some don't pass our strict safety standards and even stricter emissions legislation. Other vehicles don't come here because they're too small, and manufacturers think we wouldn't be interested in them.
And let's not forget about Satan's fuel, also known as diesel. Dieselgate did a lot of harm in this country, which means many diesel-only cars will never be sold here. The Hilux is a prime example.
This year we decided to take a look at all of the lovely machines that hit the road in 2021 that we can't have, starting with models we'd like to drive and counting up to the ones we want with every fiber of our being.
So, you think your Tacoma is tough? That's… cute. Allow us to introduce you to the 70-Series Land Cruiser, still on sale in various parts of the world. In 2021, it turned 70 years old, and Toyota South Africa celebrated with a 70th Anniversary model. It's powered by a 4.5-liter turbocharged diesel V8 engine, mated to a five-speed manual transmission.
On the inside, Toyota gave it embroidered seats, Land Cruiser branded floor mats, a touchscreen infotainment system, a heritage-inspired grille, a tubular front steel bumper, and an integrated winch.
We don't care about any of the above. It's the toughness we enjoy the most.
Around five years ago, we were seated in the back of a double cab looking for animals on a safari. The game ranger received word of a lion sighting, but we had to hustle to get there. Instead of doing a neat three-point turn, he simply drove straight over a tree as thick as a ten-inch rim. As in taking the roots straight out of the ground without scratching the bumper.
We felt terrible until the game ranger told us that elephants destroy more trees on private game reserves than Land Cruisers.
Isuzu is a massive brand elsewhere in the world, though it has some connection to America. It supplies engines to General Motors, but its pickups were never sold here.
We wonder why because the all-new D-Max would make a great competitor to the Ford Ranger. While the Ford Ranger has lost touch with its agricultural roots, the D-Max remains relatively balanced. It's comfortable enough to use daily, but it can haul a decent amount of whatever. You can even get an Arctic Trucks version for cold-weather states.
Mazda used the new D-Max as a basis for its new BT-50 (also not coming to the US), but Isuzu spent another year developing the rear suspension, ensuring it could endure everything third world countries could throw at it.
We think thousands of Americans would appreciate this pickup's ability to work and play hard.
The Jimny was initially launched in 2018. It proved to be such a hit that waiting lists quickly shot up to 18 months globally. Suzuki eventually had to erect another plant to keep up with demand.
Around a year after its launch, Suzuki had to pull it from the UK due to incoming emissions regulations. The 1.5-liter naturally aspirated four-pot couldn't meet the new standard, so it had to be axed. Thankfully, this freed up some supply in other parts of the world. The waiting list shrank to three months…
But then someone at Suzuki had a great idea. Commercial vehicles are exempt from emissions legislation, so it built the Jimny Commercial. The good news is that it's exactly how we'd want a Jimny. Dirt cheap, steel wheels, manual air-conditioning, and a basic sound system. This little tyke would be perfect as a starting point for an off-road build.
The new Honda Fit is ridiculously cute. Unfortunately, we won't see it in the US because the market is obsessed with crossovers.
The strange thing is, the Fit (also known as the Jazz in some markets) has more space than the average compact crossover. Thanks to Honda's magic seat system, you can fit just about anything in this tiny car. We once moved house with a previous generation Fit. It's so big that you can get a three-person wooden bench in there with the hatch closed.
The new model is also more efficient than before and comes with a host of advanced entertainment and safety features.
Unfortunately, the G70 SB received mediocre reviews from the European press. It's not as sharp to drive as its German rivals, and it's only available with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It appears to be more about comfort, and we kind of like that. Take the best parts of the SUV, but put it in a sexier body with a lower center of gravity.
We'd take this over an SUV any day of the week if given a choice.
The Arteon is available in the US, but you have to wonder for how long. Sedans are quickly dying out, and it appears as if the captivating design is not enough to save it.
To give the Arteon a chance, VW made it more interesting. Step one was an even more seductive wagon design, and step two was adding the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine from the Golf R.
It's not a sporty car, however. The Arteon R SB can shift along in a straight line, but like the G70 SB, the main focus was comfort.
Why not include a rock-hard racy suspension? These things are meant to be sexier alternatives to comfortable SUVs. As with the G70 SB, we'd have one of these over a Tiguan every single time. And there's an outside chance that VW will bring it stateside, despite its denial.
VW owns Seat, and it used to keep the Spanish brand on a tight leash. But Seat eventually worked itself loose from that leash and started its sub-brand called Cupra that creates electrified and performance cars, including SUVs.
Usually, we wouldn't care about a go-faster SUV like the Formentor, but earlier this year, Cupra announced that it would be making 7,000 units equipped with the 400-hp 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder borrowed from Audi. This is one of the best internal combustion engines ever made, and we'd take any car wrapped around it.
Cupra didn't just mess around with a larger engine. The VZ5 has a bespoke suspension setup and brake calipers made by the same company that did the brakes for the McLaren P1.
This is our kind of SUV.
The Alpine A110 has been around for a few years. This year Alpine introduced a new model, with the softer suspension setup from the base A110 but with the more powerful engine from the A110S. Alpine also added a louder exhaust and more powerful brakes.
On the inside, Alpine made it more luxurious. Well, about as elegant as you can make a lightweight sports car.
How lightweight is it? The Legende has a curb weight of 2,475 lbs with all the lovely goodies. That's roughly 100 lbs more than an MX-5 Miata, but with an additional 100 hp.
This one will create some controversy, if only because it comes from China. But, as we said earlier, if you remove the politics and look at it objectively, it's a great little crossover.
In US dollars, the top-spec model would cost just over $18,000. The only local product that gets remotely close is the Ford EcoSport, and it's not nearly as refined or technologically advanced as the Jolion. A top-spec EcoSport also costs $10,000 more.
The Jolion is powered by a modern turbocharged 1.5-liter four-pot, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. It comes standard with seating for five adults, a digital instrument cluster, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. And don't think the Chinese cut corners with safety. As standard, it boasts adaptive cruise control, traffic assist, lane departure warning, a surround-view camera system, and pre-collision warning with automatic braking.
We also like the fact that Haval used its own design. The Chinese are infamous for copying other manufacturers' homework, but it's not the case here.
The only thing we don't like is the name, which sounds like an ominous medical condition. "Have you heard the bad news about John Smith? He died of a Jolion."
America missed out on what might be the performance sedan of 2021. Only 500 were built, and they've all been spoken for. Alfa USA confirmed the GTA and GTam were never made for the US.
In short, this is the most hardcore Alfa ever made. The 8C was a grand tourer, while the GTA makes no apologies about being a track car. The Gran Turismo Alleggerita is 220 pounds lighter, primarily thanks to a carbon-fiber driveshaft, hood, roof, and front bumper.
For power, it uses the same 2.9-liter twin-turbo Ferrari -derived V6. Power is increased to 540 hp, bringing the zero to 60 mph sprint down to the low 3s. It has a large fixed rear wing, carbon fiber inserts, front bucket seats with five-point harnesses, 20-inch center-lock wheels, and an Akrapovic exhaust to make it stand out.
It cost nearly $200,000, but Alfa also included a Bell helmet with a GTA livery, a full racing suit by Alpinestars, and a personalized Goodwool car cover to sweeten the deal.