Even we forgot about one of Mitsubishi's offerings.
Recently, while driving past a Mitsubishi dealership here in California, my wife expressed surprise. "I thought Mitsubishi was gone," she said, "What cars do they sell?" Then I, someone who writes about cars for a living, needed a bit of a think to come up with the Outlander, which is just one of five vehicles the brand still sells in the US. That brought up the question: What else is on sale that people have largely forgotten about? The list is surprisingly long, and not necessarily because they're bad cars. Some don't have a large market here in the US but sell well in other countries. Some, of course, have been ruined by outdated models that ruined the nameplate to the point that a new generation struggles to compete in its class even if it's good, like the Mitsubishi Outlander. Others are simply let down by lackluster marketing, and some have simply been done dirty by brand loyalty blinding potential customers.
The problem with being one of the cheapest and most economical cars in America is that nobody wants to be seen watching the pennies like that. That's a sociological issue this country needs to get over, but it's only part of the reason you can go weeks without seeing a Mirage on the road. Its 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine is meager to the point of absurdity with its 76 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque. We're not power snobs, but there's a point where safety has to be considered, and the Mirage even has trouble getting out of its own way, let alone keeping up with modern traffic. That's before you even consider the subpar materials and iffy handling. Let's just say there's a reason the Mirage isn't a hot topic on everyone's tongue.
The Buick Envision is seen on the road just enough to remind people that Buick is still a thing. The Enclave is a rarer bird, though, despite being a more upmarket take on the Chevrolet Traverse. The problem for the seven-seater crossover is that the Buick badge doesn't mean much anymore in the US, even if it's a solid performer. The Enclave does fall short against the competition, but Buick's value as a brand is in China, where it's gained a lot of success. China loves that Buick badge, and the brand has done a great job of marketing there. The Enclave is all-new for 2022, so Buick will be hoping it can become a popular marque again, but it's an uphill battle for a brand struggling for relevance in America.
Honda's lineup is lean and keen, at least outside of Japan. Any American with a similarly keen interest in the automotive industry should be able to name every model, but the Clarity is mostly remembered as a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. It's easy to forget there is an all-electric version, and easier to forget there's also a plug-in hybrid. Its 212 horsepower from a gasoline/electric drivetrain is enough, and 44/40/42 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles is decent, as is its 47-mile range on electric-only power. The powertrain doesn't stand out in any particular metric. Then, when you put it next to the Civic or Accord hybrid models, you can see why it gets passed over in the dealer's lot. It's not bad in any way, it's just completely unmemorable.
The Volkswagen Taos started life in 2018 in China as the Volkswagen Tharu, then came to North America as a 2022 model. It's closely related to many global models, including the Volkswagen Golf Mk7, and instantly forgettable. To be fair, though, so is the Passat - but the Passat has been around forever and used to be good. The Taos starts at $23,000, so it comes in as an entry-level model, and it's perfectly competent and more fun to drive than more expensive gas-powered Volkswagens. However, it has such stiff competition from Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagen's new nemesis, Hyundai, that it's getting passed over after making little impact.
We beat the Honda Ridgeline drum a lot, but America is so damn slow at realizing a passenger truck doesn't have to be body-on-frame. Honda does consistently sell Ridgeline models, but it's largely forgotten outside those in the know. While truck manufacturers are trying so hard to create trucks that drive like a crossover SUV, that's literally what the Ridgeline is, and it's been worked structurally enough that it will satisfy the vast majority of mainstream buyer's payload and towing needs. It also fits the current trend of adventure vehicles, and it baffles and frustrates us that it gets forgotten. Seriously, it's a great truck and suits so many truck owners' wants and needs that it's almost comical how it gets sidelined.
Nissan is in a rejuvenation period, and we have to wonder how long the Maxima will be with us. It has some good points, like a 300-hp V6 under the hood, great styling, and Nissan's fantastic Zero Gravity seats. However, the sedan's powerful engine is strangled by a not-so-well-implemented CVT, and the car lacks the dynamics of its other Japanese competitors. It's a competent car for getting around, but the suspension is too stiff for something that doesn't handle with verve, and, well, it does nothing exceptionally well. Couple that with the market's general lack of love for sedans at the moment, and it's not a winning recipe for Nissan.
The main reason the QX55 is being forgotten already is that those few people venturing onto an Infiniti dealer's forecourt are seeing this good-looking little coupe-style crossover, then buying the QX50 because it's cheaper and more practical. The second reason is that enthusiasts remember the awesome Infiniti FX (later called the QX70) and are attracted to a sporty rear-wheel-drive crossover but read the reviews and discover the QX55's 268 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque is muted by a poorly executed CVT. That's not helped by its handling, which is no better than the QX50, so those walking into dealerships really aren't missing anything other than the looks. It's outdated already and it hasn't been around long.
If you see a new Malibu on the road, it's inevitably wearing Fleet White paint. In fact, we can't come up with any reason why the Malibu still exists beyond fleet sales. It's about as bland of a car you can drive beyond its exterior looks and surprisingly well-refined ride. We feel Chevy could exploit the Malibu more with its top-trim-only 2.0-liter turbocharged engine punching a nice 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, but developing an RS badged model with all-wheel-drive would likely be wasted money. The gas-only sedan market is an ever-shrinking piece of the pie, and Chevy is thriving where it counts.
The Jaguar XF is a rarity on the road in the US, and if you spot one, it's going to be because it jumps right out at you with its good looks. We enjoy spending time with the XF as it's a good-looking and well-refined car. Unfortunately, it just can't keep up with its German rivals. It has grace and space, but the top-trim 296-horsepower four-cylinder engine can't keep pace with German rivals. As well as power options, it can't match Mercedes for luxury or BMW for space. It is a relatively sporty handler, however. What it does offer over the German brands is value for money, which is not the first thing people attracted to the Jaguar badge are looking for. As a result, the XF is slowly but surely being forgotten about by the public - and Jaguar, it seems. Pity, since Jag canned the XE for the American market and was hoping the XF could cover both bases.