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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Why Britain needs the Mitsuoka Roadster - even if you hate it

APOLOGIES if you’ve come here expecting a thorough dusting down of the new Vauxhall Astra.

As family-friendly hatches go it’s hugely important, given that it’s built in this neck of the woods and if you aren’t buying one, chances are you’ll know someone who’ll inevitably get assigned one by their fleet manager.

But while I’m looking forward to getting a go in one it’s not the snippet of motoring news that registers highest on the Simister-ometer. New Vauxhall Astras come along every couple of years. Someone deciding they’re going to import offerings from Japan’s weirdest car company, on the other hand, is genuinely curious stuff. A warm welcome, then, to Mitsuoka!

Chances are you’ve no idea who or what a Mitsuoka is, because for years they’ve been confined to the Japan. In essence what the company does it tap into the Orient’s obsession with woolly British nostalgia by taking other company’s models and then giving them the sort of radiator grille you’d normally find on a Morris Oxford. Ever seen those Nissan Micras rejigged to look a (tiny) bit like a Jaguar Mk2? That’s Mitsuoka’s handiwork. As is the Galue, a mid-range Nissan made to look like a 1950s Bentley.

Until now, these utterly Marmite and endearingly odd cars have only ventured over here through the world of unofficial imports, but now you can buy one of its cars in Britain for the first time. The Mitsuoka Roadster might very well be a Mazda MX-5 pretending to be a Morgan at a fancy dress party – and it might cost a eyebrow-raising £54,000 – but it’s that rare thing. It’s a brand new car that’s positively overflowing with charm and character.

The Surrey firm who’ve taken the brave decision to import it reckon it’ll sell because there are lots of you out there who love the look of Britain’s classic cars but can’t be bothered spending every weekend in the garage, spanner in hand. That’s why it’s got a grille clearly nicked off your granddad’s Daimler Majestic, and then nailed onto a car with a folding metal roof, ABS and automatic air con.

It’ll be a tall order flogging us Brits a Mitsuoka Roadster when it costs two grand more than a Porsche Boxster S, but I reckon after the departure of Daihatsu there’s room for another oddball manufacturer from the Far East.

No matter how horrifically retro its offerings look.

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