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The best and worst Asian cars

Asia has made a big contribution to our motoring heritage, and writer Rob Griffin rounds up the best and worst vehicles the continent has had to offer.

Even if you take Japan out of the equation, there is no shortage of car manufacturers in Asia.

From high-profile brands such as Hyundai to lesser-known names like SsangYong, the region has produced a surprising array of cars.

However, while some models have enjoyed huge success and sold around the world, others have been rather less notable.

Best Asian cars: Kia Carens

Kia Carens

Early Kias were nothing special but in more recent years – thanks largely to famed designer Peter Schreyer – their presence in the world car market has grown.

The latest Carens, a smart seven-seater, is a prime example of this new-found confidence.

Competitively priced at between £17,000 and £25,000, the Carens has won praise for being practical and easy to drive.

OK it’s an MPV so is never likely to be the most exciting machine in the world but it’s certainly a viable alternative to other established makes.

Best Asian cars: Hyundai Veloster

Hyundai Veloster

Now we’re talking. The Veloster is a sporty coupé and seen as a very strong rival to both the VW Scirocco and the Vauxhall Astra GTC.

As well as looking the part with its sleek, low-slung styling, it is also very well equipped and available from £17,000.

Another strong selling point is that drivers don’t have to sacrifice practicality as it has a single rear door to provide access for passengers.

When you factor in all the usual modern gadgets, such as parking sensors, it adds up to an impressive package.

Best Asian cars: Kia Picanto

Kia Picanto

Another Kia on the list. This time it’s the Picanto, which taps into the increasing demand for smaller city cars that are light on fuel but heavy on convenience.

In a crowded marketplace, the Picanto is winning plaudits for being well-made, well-equipped and affordable.

Top Gear has recognised its achievements. "Kia has fought hard to overcome the brand prejudices that have held it back on the world stage," it stated.

“It’s now unquestionably succeeded in that regard, and the Picanto is worthy of close inspection as a result.”

Worst Asian cars: SsangYong Rodius

SsangYong Rodius front view

There are not enough adjectives to convey the hideousness of the Rodius.

It’s almost as if someone was given an hour to design a car and spent the first 55 minutes on the front end.

Although more recent incarnations have softened the look, it remains a box on wheels.

You can’t beat it for usefulness – especially if you’ve got an army of small children living in your house – but the big question is whether you’d want it on your driveway.

Worst Asian cars: Daewoo Nexia

Daewoo Nexia

It was a challenge to pick just one of these woeful South Korean cars but we finally settled on the Nexia which was widely criticised for having poor build quality, despite its origins as a Vauxhall Astra.

Giles Chapman, author of The Worst Cars Ever Sold, wasn’t a fan.

"It was really awful," he says. “Even when it came out it was two generations behind the current Astra which was never aspirational.

"The Nexia was one of the worst Daewoos, although the Leganza, Espero and Nubira all ran it close for utter mediocrity."

Worst Asian cars: Proton Saga

Proton Saga Malaysia

Despite having been around since the mid-1980s, Proton of Malaysia has never really managed to gain a foothold in the UK, despite having produced a number of relatively OK looking machines over the years.

Giles Chapman brands as "dreadful" the Proton Saga, which was based on a Mitsubishi Lancer.

"It typified the 'new cars for the price of used ones' con which never bothered to mention the colossal depreciation that the innocent buyers, swayed by the tempting all-in deal, suffered the moment they drove this entirely ordinary machine off the forecourt."

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Rob Griffin

Rob Griffin

Rob Griffin is a freelance journalist who regularly appears in national publications, including The Independent and Daily Express. He covers motoring, business, and personal finance issues.

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