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Ten of our favourite ridiculous city cars

  1. Toyota has announced that the first public trials of its deeply odd i-Road will begin today. A serious statement of intent from the manufacturer, which is testing to see if it’s worth throwing this leany, swoopy, electric city thing into production.

    The i-Roads in question are based on the concept version shown at last year’s Tokyo motor show, and are sort of two-seat coupe versions of the iReal that Richard drove back in series 12. They’ll be driven by 20 people selected by Toyota, including industry experts and off-the-street Joe Publics who’ll tell the company if they’re any good.

    Which got us thinking - while we do enjoy a bit of futureland fantasy, can you really imagine a world full of i-Roads? Yes, they’re very clever - only 850mm wide, each of the two front wheels has its own 2kw motor, and it’ll charge from a normal plug socket in three hours - but won’t you feel a bit… ridiculous at the helm?

    Turns out that history’s given us worse. Far worse. Here are ten of ‘em…

  2. 1973 Enfield 8000

    Yep, the same Enfield that built rifles and big, butch motorcycles. The 8000 is powered by a 48-volt DC electric motor, which is fed by eight 12-volt lead acid batteries. And while the diminutive EV might look ridiculous, the city-bound two-seater had a steel space frame wrapped in, er, interestingly-styled aluminium panels.

  3. 1985 Sinclair C5

    Computerists and Jet Set Willy fans of a certain age will remember the ZX Spectrum, which was brought to you by the very same Clive Sinclair that foisted his Sinclair C5 EV onto British roads. While the diminutive tricycle sat treacherously low to the ground, was barely visible to other motorists, and impractically roofless, 17,000 units were sold. Improbably, the maker claimed it was the best-selling electric vehicle in history until 2011, when Nissan announced it had sold more than 20,000 Leaf EVs.

  4. 1962 Peel P50

    It only cost £198 when it was new and did a massive 100mpg, so the manufacturer claimed it was almost cheaper than walking. Though, as Jeremy demonstrated, it was quite a loss less pleasant… That said, at only 54 inches long and 41 inches wide - which made it the smallest production car ever - it was supremely practical. Especially if you want to disrupt news broadcasts. Still ridiculous though.

  5. 1973 Reliant Robin

    Very ridiculous, very British, and very easy to tip over. This city car solution from the people that brought you the actually quite good Scimitar GTE was bewilderingly successful. Even though it was more expensive to buy than a Mini, the three-wheeler remains the second best-selling plastic car in history, right behind the Chevrolet Corvette. Perhaps we are ready for the i-Road after all…

  6. 1956 Messerschmitt KR200

    After World War II, German plane manufacturer Messerschmitt wasn’t allowed to build aircraft, so teamed up with invalid carriage designer, Fritz Fend, to create this. Like the i-Road, it had room for two and the passenger sat behind the driver. And even though the moped-engined three-wheeler was a crushable 47.2 inches tall, around 40,000 found homes. Which is almost as ridiculous as the KR200 looks.

  7. 2001 Reva G-Wiz

    Yes, the Indian G-Wiz emits nothing but the vague fug of self-righteousness, but it’s strictly a two-plus-two, has barely any room in the back, handles like it’s drunk, and is as crash resistant as a Dorito. But what’s most ridiculous is that it’s a celebrity fashion statement - Jonathan Ross, Jerry Hall and Kristin Scott Thomas are all owners…

  8. 2003 Rover CityRover

    The Rover CityRover probably wasn’t the inspiration behind the Ferrari LaFerrari name. But it definitely was a rebadged Indian-made Tata Indica. OK, so it wasn’t a terrible car or particularly ridiculous thing, but this car brought down Britain’s last volume car manufacturer, which is why it’s made the list.

  9. 2013 Jeremy Clarkson P45

    Powered by a quad bike, fully road legal, and a very easy excuse to get a free tour of your local accident and emergency ward, this is the Jeremy Clarkson P45. Watch the film to show how capable it is of gliding around a built-up urban area. And not just the outside bits - it effortlessly slips glide through a shopping centre, library, and theatre…

  10. 2005 American Commuter Cars Tango

    According to Washington-based Commuter Cars, which builds the $108,000 (no, really) Tango, the 990mm-wide electro-sliver “combines the speed and agility of a motorcycle with the security of a high-performance sports car.” It also claims that it’ll get from 0-60mph in 4.0 seconds, and go on to 150mph. We’re not sure how it’d handle a cross wind, though…

  11. 1970 Bond Bug

    It was effectively a shortened Reliant Regal three wheeler, rebodied with an orange plastic wedge to appeal to what the company described as “the young generation”. To try and hit the spot, Bond recruited Tom Karen of Ogle Design, who had penned the Landspeeder from Star Wars and the Raleigh Chopper pushbike. Yes, it’s a ridiculous city car. And yes, we kind of adore it…

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