Top 10: Your most popular cars in 2013

Keith Adams

For a bit of fun, we decided to knock up a list of the most popular cars on AROnline as chosen by you. Yes, we’ve counted up our Google analytics data for 2013, totted up the number of page impressions for every car’s index page, and come with the definitive list of your favourites – the car pages you’ve looked at the most. It’s interesting to see that the Maestro/Montego and Rover 75 top the Mini, while the MGB doesn’t even make it into the Top 10.

But what this proves is that AROnline readers are a sucker for a hard luck story, and ultimately, the majority of our Top 10s don’t paint a happy ending. You’re also not coming here for the new cars especially, with the highest place car you can go to a dealer and actually buy, the MG3, is beaten by the Austin Allegro. And that’s really where your loyalties lie – the oldies but goodies…

1: Austin/MG Maestro and Montego

Austin Maestro Vanden Plas at Geneva 1983 (Image via, Automobil-Revue)

Launched in 1983 and ’84, the Maestro and Montego were seen as the great white hope for the emergent Austin Rover – but after an initial sales flurry, both ranges faded fast on the back of a poor reputation for reliability and build, and a distinct lack of showroom glamour. And we know how the story panned out – they were arguably the final in-house engineered mid-market saloon and hatch, eclipsed by the Honda Joint Venture Rover 200.

But you love them – we have lots of Maestro and Montego stories, and have a great inside line into the cars’ development. And that’s why you keep coming back – a combination of the whiff of failure, and the distilled essence of what might have been. A common theme that runs through so many of the cars that star on AROnline.

2: Rover 75/MG ZT


The Rover 75 and MG ZT were the bedrock of the its maker’s model range as the company crumbled and slid into administration in 2005. It could have been so good – the 75 was arguably the best engineered Post-War Rover, and clothed in a gorgeous retro-modern body that was probably too sophisticated for the buyers it was aimed for. The engine line-up wasn’t ideal, with the K-Series powerplants a stop-gap to the all-new Hams Hall-built NG4 and NG6 engines – the legacy of which, you’ll see in today’s BMW 318.

But the co-BMW developed Rover 75 had its launch torpedoed by the company boss, Bernd Pischetsrieder, and then suffered the agonising indignity of being cheapened by a cash-strapped MG Rover. The launch of the ZT, to create a genuinely talented sporting saloon, was a genuine bright spark in a tragic story that should have ended so differently. Still, it lives on to this day in the form of the Roewe/MG 750, MG7 and the MG6’s front bulkhead…

3: Mini Classic

Gorgeous Mini Clubman estate

The Mini’s had a big 2013 – its scene has continued to grow, and values are rising ever upwards. Considering it’s the best-selling car built by BMC, BL and Rover, and has by far the largest following of all of the cars in the Top 10, third place here shows that your love of the loveable loser is even greater than the might-have-been element of the story. But be that as it may, the Mini is still regarded as one of the most important cars of the 20th century – and rightly so.

The car’s legacy is now entrusted by the BMW-era MINI, a huge commercial success that continues to arouse impassioned debate within the comments area of AROnline – and one thing’s for sure, it’s bigger, younger cousin is a very different beast altogether, that’s due to move into a new iteration in 2014.

4: Austin Allegro

Austin Allegro

The Austin Allegro ticks all of the AROnline boxes – it has a hugely interesting back story, it failed to meet all of its commercial targets, became a cultural phenomenon for all the wrong reason, and now enjoys a cult classic car following. We’ve pored over the story too many times before to relive the horror now, but it’s heartening to see that the Allegro’s emerged as a cool and retro starter classic.

5: MG3


The only new car in the list, the MG3 is a controversial addition to our Top 10. The supermini appeared in China in 2010, and initially didn’t impress the readership – but by the time it appeared here, newly lowered and bodykitted, offered with some youthful sticker packages, and priced to perfection, many of its shortcomings were forgiven. For less than £10,000, it’s a convincing warm-hatch that deserves to do well – but one question remains: when will they start making it at Longbridge?

6:Rover SD1

A great image from the Rover SD1 launch brochure

Since AROnline opened for business in 2001, the Rover SD1 was one of the site’s most important signature cars. Like all good stories, it was a case of unfulfilled potential, a beautiful car undermined by shoddy build and a reputation to rot for England. Back in 2001, the SD1 was undergoing final death throes of its banger phase, but since then, it’s emerged as an all-time classic, with a following that’s growing and growing. Of course, the Vitesse is the version that everyone wants now – but AROnline readers are a discerning bunch – you like ’em all, even the 2400SD Turbo.

7: Austin 3 Litre

Austin 3 Litre and 1800 (1)

The Austin 3 Litre has another one of those tragic back stories that you love – it could have been great, but ended up being undercooked, under-developed and under-bought. Where it was good, it was brilliant – in its high speed ride quality – and where it was bad, it was truly awful. Who could forgive that styling? AROnline readers certainly seem to be able to…

8: Austin/MG Metro

MG Metro Turbo's chrms were eclipsed by the original 1300 for Mike Humble.

The Metro was touted at the time of its launch in 1980 as the beginning of the Product-led recovery to save its maker from what – in 1979 – seemed like certain death at the hands of market forces. Under the skin, it was a cleverly updated Mini, sharing an updated version of its A-Series engine and transmission-in-sump, and using a not fully-interconnected version of the Allegro’s Hydragas suspension. It didn’t sound so promising, but in fact the Metro was brilliant – and despite being developed on a relative shoestring, it managed to keep up with the Ford Fiesta on the UK market. But although the Metro kept held up its part of BL’s recovery plan admirably, it was let down by the rest of the range…

9: Austin Maxi

Maxi 1750HL

What a sensible car the Maxi was, and what a suitably excellent final flowering of the Issigonis front-wheel drive flame it proved to be. Well, sort of. It was undercooked when launched, with abysmal gearchange, underpowered engine, high list price, and compromised styling. As usual, a great concept let down by dreadful execution. Still, it was engineered into a good car throughout its production run, with the last of the 1750s proving to be genuinely talented family hold-alls – but the poor old Maxi never recovered from its rubbish start in life in 1969.

10: Morris Marina and Ital


Pity the poor Morris Marina. It was actually a very clever reheating of a collection of BMC and Triumph components from the parts bin, packaged in a Roy Haynes body, created by the new BL management as the Corporation’s answer to the Ford Cortina and Escort. And in 1971, aside from an unfortunate suspension foible – that was quickly fixed – it managed to compete. It was so effective, it ended up being the Corporation’s best seller throughout the 1970s. So why the pity? It lived too long, went stale, rusted and ended up being mocked by our national broadcaster by having pianos dropped on its roof.

Keith Adams


  1. Wonderful roundup Keith – fun to read – maybe I ought to reclaim part of my youth with a Maestro 1.6VDP, or get a Rover SD1 like my dad had, but I have to say that the 75 is at the top of my list. Happy Christmas everyone!

  2. Just as an aside, and with only a tenuous link here – to the SD1 – I’d like to relate a story which came to my attention several years ago.

    This may be just a local “urban myth”, but as it involves my local area; and two of my all time favourite vehicles – Rover SD1 V-8, and Opel Manta – I’ll relate it anyhow.

    There was a time when the local constabulary operated SD1 V8’s, and on this occasion, the boys in blue were on night patrol in the Weston super Mare, Burnham on Sea, and Highbridge area of Somerset. Now I don’t know if the Opel was misbehaving, or it had been half inched, but it was signalled to pull over, but it failed to do so. The inevitable happened and a pursuit ensued, and it appeared that both the combatants were well conversed with the narrow, twisty, country back roads of the area.

    Now this was at a time when calling up air support to keep an eye on the fleeing driver just wasn’t available, so our boys in blue had to keep the Mk 1 eyeball on the miscreant. As quick as it was, keeping up with the Opel wasn’t the big issue; but getting it to stop was. The sometimes bumpy, twisting, narrow roads, with their boarders of fields, and drainage ditches, meant that there was no room to get alongside, or infront of the fleeing Opel, to force it to stop. So some other way had to be devised.

    It appears that the Rover driver was a man of experience, and his plan involved an element of trickery. He advised his observer “When I say NOW! Turn off all the lights; blues, everything. Sirens too”. So, as they came up to a particularly twisty section of road the order “NOW!” filled the car.

    To all intents and purposes the pursuing Rover disappeared. For the merest of moments the fleeing driver is confused; whilst thinking “Where the * did ‘e go?” and looking at his rear view, he failed to see the right angle bend, ahead. In the split second his attention was diverted, he’d covered the braking distance to the corner – and then some. Straight into a water filled rhyne.

    Once fished out of the agricultural water, the perpetrator didn’t go past go; didn’t collect £200; but did go straight to the nick.

    As a morality tale, the above just goes to say if you fight the law, eventually the law wins. In this case the errant driver was fished out by his pursuers, but sometimes people aren’t so lucky. Several years ago a local and one of his friends – strangely in a Rover SD1 – left the road, and landed inverted in one of the rhynes. They were desperately unlucky that the rhyne was only slightly wider than the car was. They couldn’t escape from the car, and subsequently drowned.

    So, if you ever come down to this part of the world, please enjoy the lovely countryside, but just remember – don’t drive faster than you can see

  3. Most popular cars in what sense? That you would like to own? In that case lets be honest it would littered with Healeys, Lotus etc etc! If it’s those British cars you feel have the most entertaining backstory or feel desperately sorry for then the Austin 3 litre and my personal fave the Tagora come up trumps

  4. Sorry if I didn’t make it clear enough. These ratings are based on the number of page impressions reported by Google Analytics for each car on site between 1 January and 20 December. In other words, the cars that attract the most readers on site.

  5. When I lived in Birmingham, all my mates were in the motor industry, and I remember being told about the Marina with a disc brake on one side and a drum brake the other.

  6. An interesting list. Some random thoughts –

    – Somehow not surprised to see Maestro/Montego take top slot. A huge example of what could have, should have been.
    If launched in 1981 with better initial quality and none of the dowdy colours, trim options Maestro could have been a winner.
    Even the earlier dash would have been fine with less squeaks and the odd item re-sited.
    – I’ve said before how the Allegro gets more appealing with age.
    – 3 litre ??????????????
    – Metro – all things considered a success, at home anyway.
    Shame that the transformed Rover Metro then died so sadly.
    – That MG3 looks great! Think a used one could be my next car!
    – The 75 never had to apologise to anyone. A magnificent car, the victim of circumstance. The gradual ‘cheapening’ is, however, sad.
    – The Marina was anything but a flop, especially when you consider the short development period, simple ingredients.
    – Mini – a revolution !
    – As a young lad the SD1 always seemed a success story to me. Wasn’t aware of the early quality issues and it seemed a popular car.
    – The absence of R8 is interesting. Given the huge success of this car it really does paint a ‘what could have been’ picture for the whole company.
    – Maxi – great practicality, innovative hatch, five speeds. Even with initial problems sales could have been far greater but no effort ever seemed to be made.

  7. Also surprised about the absence of the R8 – are the 5 doors and Tomcats future classics that haven’t quite hit the spot yet?

    Quite pleased with the MG3 advertising, both how much there ia and where it is being placed. Anyone know how many have been sold per month since launch (not just dealer registrations)? What is stock availability like?

  8. “Rover 75 best engineered post war Rover” I think you’ve forgotten the P4, P5 & P6 ALL of which were far better engineered!

  9. Mike@3 – I used the same trick to pass a 3.4 Jag in a clapped out oval rear screen Beetle. Sometime in the 70’s.
    F.F@6 – I had an early 1.3 Marina Coupe in Harvest Gold. Proudly walked into ‘Steels’ in Swindon and asked for a set of front pads for it. Marina 1.3’s don’t have disc brakes I was told. Umpteen phone calls and a couple of weeks later somebody supplied them. Can’t remember who.
    Guy@11 – I tend to agree with you about ‘best engineering’ but I guess everything is relative. The 75 would have been considered really bad engineering in 2000 if it was built like the P4? For it’s day though – the Aunties were fantastic.

  10. The Honda-inspired R8 had showroom appeal, a nice interior and felt pretty solid, the all in-house designed Maestro (dynamically) was the far better car, better ride and handing – despite being a generation older – shame the shoddy workforce screwed it together so badly.

  11. I don’t recall the Maxi ever being seriously pushed by BL unlike the Marina and Allegro at the time.. I think it was all down to profit margin,, Marinas where designed to be built quick and use the Ford principle of “pile high,sell cheap” but Maxi used a lot of Manpower to assemble it, so there wasn’t much profit margin.. So any extra built because of an advertising blitz didn’t really bring in the dosh.. The only time a serious Maxi pitch was done was in 1979 when there was a push to clear stocks in readiness for the introduction of Series II models.. Where local dealers where encouraged to use Local Commercial Radio,, however very few dealerships took up the offer as the cost of direct advertising for them on their local station was to expensive to bring back any sales margin..

  12. @6 When I worked in the car hire trade in the late 60s-70s we had a Cortina delivered that had two doors on one side and only one on the other and at least one Victor 101 that had nothing behind the dash.

    Continued success to ARonline and many thanks to Keith and his band of contributors and a Merry Christmas to all.

  13. Rover 75 “best engineered” comment has to be arguable.

    I ran a 2003 ZT CDTi for 9 years. Whilst I loved the car, some of the engineering from a long-term ownership point of view was less good than the 600GSDi it replaced. The 600’s Honda-derived engineering (diesel engine aside) was thoroughly reliable. Various aspects of the 75/ZT’s engineering were suspect: fuel delivery system (premature failures of HP and LP pumps, cooling fan electrics, handbrake systems to name a few.

  14. Re 21 : one thing that has puzzled me about AR online is that there is no tab for the Triumph Spitfire . These were lovely ,elegant little cars ( particularly mk3 with the dog’s bone front bumper ) with bags of character and great fun – although we had perhaps better gloss over the rather dubious handling certainly of mk 1,2, and 3 !

  15. Just flown through Birmingham Airport and saw the MG3 in the flesh on the display stand in the terminal lounge. Not too bad looking in my view.

  16. @3, Mike Butler,

    I’ve driven those lanes a few times- for the unwary the mostly flattish terrain could easily trip up the unwary and inexperienced, with random right-angle bends appearing just about anywhere, and roads just about as narrow as a two-lane road could possibly be.

    @7, francis brett,

    The 3-Litre does have ‘something of the night’ about it- indeed, it reminds one of the woman who coined the phrase, one Ann Widdecombe MP, and about as appealing.

  17. @5 made me laugh! One of the many Sd1s I owned had a knack of turning all the lights off itself. The master switch was worn (if you know them, it’s a flappy switch that was all too easily just fliked into use with disdain), and would lose contact randomly. I just got used to pulling on the headlamp flasher and then switching it off and back on again.

    Passengers didn’t like the stealth effect much. Still, the worn splines on my Dolomite wipers were almost as amusing as the arms would randomly start to wipe, and then fall down uselessly as they came off the spindles.

    Happy days…

  18. Nice article Keith and you are so right about what we come to the site for. Yes it’s the hard luck story of something that could have been so good but went so wrong. Pity there isn’t a film in it (the story I mean). Plenty of love interest but only of the metal variety!

    An MGMetro was my last truely “british car” some 20 years ago, but three engines (or was it four), new wings, new trailing within a couple of years saw me go over to the blue oval out of pure frustration!

    So the demise is the fault of people like me, but the soap opera this is/was BL/MGR etc makes a great read! Heres to more in 2014. Best wishes to one and all.

  19. I have owned 7 from the list, this is why I can fix about anything !!

    @28, I had one. a 1.6l, mine had the tendency to eat wheel bearings at a rate of knots, great car though.

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