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Yes, the Top Gear "Reasonably Priced Cars" Were Available in the United States

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author photo by Will Kinton April 2017

"Top Gear" was always an unabashedly British show, for better or worse. Americans often had to put up with long interviews with popular British celebrities we had never heard of, America-bashing (usually lighthearted) and, of course, cars that would never see the light of day in North America. For years, we watched those popular British celebrities we had never heard of race the exotic-sounding but reasonably priced Suzuki Liana, Chevrolet Lacetti, Vauxhall Astra and Kia Cee'd around the "Top Gear" test track, wondering from afar what it was really like to drive them while resigning ourselves to the conclusion that it could never be.

Oh, how wrong we were. Thanks to the magic of brand engineering, three of those reasonably priced cars were sitting under our American noses the whole time -- and we never noticed.

The first reasonably priced car, the Suzuki Liana, was sold in the U.S. as the Suzuki Aerio in both hatchback and sedan body styles. The U.S.-spec Aerio was even more of a barn-burner than the Liana we saw on "Top Gear," as it was equipped with a larger 145-horsepower engine (as opposed to the measly 123 horses "Top Gear" had to make do with). Otherwise, they were almost identical, as you can see below.

"Top Gear" replaced the Liana with a Chevrolet Lacetti after the former went out of production. Here in the U.S., we never got a Lacetti -- but we did receive the Suzuki Forenza, which was the same car wearing Suzuki badges. Like the Liana before it, the U.S.-spec Forenza received the most powerful available engine, a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-banger with 132 hp. The similarities between the two cars are also pretty obvious, looking back.

Unfortunately, that was the end of the line. The next reasonably priced car, the Kia Cee'd, didn't have an American counterpart, as it was designed exclusively for the European market. The Kia Forte we have is similar in terms of market segment, but still a completely different car. For enacting your "Top Gear" fantasies, a Forte may work, depending on how exact you want to be.

Next, in 2013, "Top Gear" switched to the Vauxhall Astra -- a car featured time and time again on the program. In the U.S., the Astra was a bit nicer than its European counterpart. It was also heavily revised and transformed into the Buick Verano and the Chevy Cruze -- which are both nice compact car options in their segments. Unfortunately, they're so different from the Astra that the comparison doesn't really work -- and neither one is even a close copy of "Top Gear's" reasonably priced car.

Still, it's possible to own a few of the reasonably priced cars. And if you're looking to make your own car show, well, at least you know where to start.

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Yes, the Top Gear "Reasonably Priced Cars" Were Available in the United States - Autotrader