Eight cars that are the most shameless badge jobs

25th July 2023
Ethan Jupp

For such a competitive industry, it’s sometimes surprising to see just how much car manufacturers have collaborated over the years. Then again, the only thing more important than competition is overheads and saving money. Working together on cars, and even rebadging them, is one of the most cost-effective ways a marque can get cars in showrooms quickly when five years of development time and millions of pounds don’t fall so easily to hand. Sometimes, though, those exchanges are, politely speaking, a little shameless. We thought we’d list a few of our favourites.


1. Mitsubishi Colt

This was the car that really got us thinking about this again. Precisely no points to the person who can guess with which model the new Mitsubishi Colt shares, pretty much everything. Yes, it’s the Renault Clio, with three diamonds on the nose instead of one, and M I T S U B I S H I egregiously plastered across the back, with the kind of gall only yet seen on newer Porsches or Range Rovers. Conversely, it barely even has its own front bumper and DRL signature. It doesn’t even have the excuse that it’s intended for a market where the Clio isn’t sold. Quite the opposite, given this is a model developed for sale in Europe, where the Clio is one of the most popular new cars.


2. Suzuki Swace

The same goes for the Suzuki Swace which, even with slightly more effort put into the front bumper redesign, is so clearly identifiable as a twin of the Toyota Corolla. Like the Colt, it shares almost everything with its DNA donor and  is offered in markets alongside the Corolla, almost as a rival. 


3. Honda Crossroad

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. That’s what must have been uttered at some point by people first taking in the Honda Crossroad, a Japan-only Land Rover Discovery clone that pretty much only swapped out Land Rover badges for Honda badges wherever they might be found. That really is it. Nothing else is different. Sorry to upset those who were hoping for a Honda B18C good for 8,200rpm under the bonnet.


4. Dodge Hornet

Sometimes even the manufacturers themselves get irked when their work is plagiarised shared. The Alfa Romeo Tonale was an enormously important launch for the Italian manufacturer last year. It was a long time coming, having been previewed by a concept years before and Alfa was proud of the work it’d done to make it competitive in the market. Then Stellantis stablemate Dodge revealed the Hornet and Alfa got very upset. As it should have, given its struggles with breaking the American market in the past. Credit where it's due, the Hornet has its own front and rear ends and lights, but it's still a bit too obvious...


5. Subaru Traviq

Another toughie, this one. Any guesses? A clue: it rhymes with Cauxhall Nafira. Yes, the Subaru Traviq, like the Crossroad, is a Japan-only version of a car very familiar to British buyers. In truth, Subaru had good reason to desire a rebadged version of the Zafira for sale in its home market, given how good and successful Vauxhall’s innovative MPV had proven. Still, it could have Impreza’d it up a bit, couldn’t it?


6. Mazda 2 Hybrid

As above rebadges are almost always children of convenience and fiscal necessity. Never were it more the case than with the Mazda 2 Hybrid. To be clear, Mazda makes its own Mazda 2 non hybrid. It’s a delightful little car. But it’s not been engineered to house the hybrid gubbins, and reengineering it simply wouldn’t make fiscal sense. Enter stage right, a boat load of Toyota Yaris hybrids that are suspiciously missing all of their badges. Cut the cheque, problem solved. Sort of. 


7. Kia Elan

The only one on this list that’s as shameless as it is awesome. You’ve seen the Ceed GT, you’ve seen the Stinger. Now meet the Kia Elan. No, they didn’t even rename it. It was however not sold alongside the Lotus with which it shares a body, rather was built after it. Kia wanted the Elan for sale in South Korea but with the model out of production, it had to buy the rights and tooling and build it themselves. The catches: no GM parts were to be used, so the Kia Elan does actually feature the Korean marque’s own engine. It even raised the ride height to deal better with Korean roads and changed the rear lights.


8. Holden Barina

Speaking of the General, it, like the Chrysler Group (now within Stellantis), was no stranger to cross pollination. Like the Subaru above, the Holden Barina is just such an example, where a successful and well-regarded model from Europe is transported to lands far away (Australasia in this case) and given a new identity. Can you imagine one of these sat in a dealership next to a 5.0-litre Commodore? 

So that’s our rag-tag line-up of shameless badge jobs. It’s far from exhaustive, though it does include a few recent efforts. Our own Anorak has discussed as much before. Are you perturbed by, or partial to a rebadge? Let us know your thoughts.

  • Kia

  • Elan

  • Mazda

  • Holden

  • Subaru

  • Dodge

  • Honda

  • Suzuki

  • Mitsubishi

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