Browse over 9,000 car reviews

A niche too far? Range Rover Evoque Convertible, Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo and other oddball automotive experiments

The Evoque Convertible was not a huge hit, but it hasn’t stopped other brands like VW from trying their luck.

Sometimes carmakers mess with the recipe when it comes to different vehicle niches with great success.

Whoever rolled the dice on combining an SUV body style with a coupe is probably laughing now because they have become ubiquitous. And not just the domain of expensive European brands anymore.

It might not have invented the jacked-up wagon, but Subaru popularised the concept globally with the very first Outback way back in 1994.

And of course Toyota’s decision to launch the world’s first compact crossover - the original RAV4 - has paid off big time.

But for every automotive niche success there are some experiments that flop big time.

Behold, CarsGuide’s list of the niche models that did not work.

The Paceman was a three-door coupe-style version of the Countryman.

Mini Paceman 

About four years after parent company BMW launched the first coupe SUV - the polarising first-generation X6 - British offshoot Mini decided to get in on the action.

The problem was, the world wasn’t quite ready for it.

The Paceman was a three-door, swoopy coupe-style SUV based on the first-generation Countryman.

In Australia it was available in Cooper and Cooper S guise before a John Cooper Works version arrived later powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged 155kW/280Nm petrol engine capable of 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds.

After slow sales, Mini discontinued the Paceman in 2016 after the brand decided it wanted to trim its line-up down to a few select model lines.

Another oddball Mini experiment was the Coupe and Roadster twins that were produced between 2011 and 2015. The low roofline made it look like the car had been partially crushed, and the Roadster version was eating into Mini Cabrio sales so the models were dropped. 

The Evoque Convertible lasted just one generation.

Range Rover Evoque Convertible 

Another answer to a question no one asked. Does an SUV work as a convertible?

Land Rover ripped the covers from the Range Rover Evoque Convertible concept at the 2012 Geneva motor show and it eventually went on sale in 2016.

It retained the sleek look of the three-door Evoque but with a power-retractable soft-top roof. Rangie engineers claimed that minimal changes were made to vehicle weight and torsional rigidity in developing the drop-top version.

In Australia, it was on sale for three years before being dropped. It was offered in petrol and diesel guise with prices starting from about $85,000 in its final year on sale, 2018. You can currently find some used examples online for $70-$80,000.

Unsurprisingly, there was no second-generation Evoque Convertible.

Despite Land Rover not quite hitting the mark, it hasn’t stopped others from trying. Volkswagen launched a drop-top version T-Roc small SUV in Europe in 2020, and it’s proven to be rather successful. At one point during 2021, it made up a quarter of total T-Roc sales in Germany.

It has no doubt been helped by the fact that it is VW’s sole convertible offering following the demise of the Golf and Beetle drop-tops.

The S60 Cross Country sold in limited numbers in the US.

Volvo S60 Cross Country

Volvo has had enormous success with jacked-up wagons. Think the XC70, V60 and V90 Cross Country. It didn’t invent the segment, but it is synonymous with high-riding station wagons.

Back in 2015 Volvo experimented with the concept by releasing a high-riding Cross Country version of its S60 medium sedan.

Riding 65mm higher than the regular S60, it was noticeably taller on the road and had no real rivals.

Volvo - probably wisely - had a limited production run of the S60 Cross Country in the United States only. 

The experiment didn’t appear to work as Volvo did not develop a Cross Country version of the third-generation S60.

There are three Taycan body styles, including the higher-riding Cross Turismo.

Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo

Ok, so we are not saying there is anything particularly wrong with the Taycan. The sedan is an instant classic when it comes to design and it’s the model that spearheads Porsche’s future.

And we kind of get why they did a wagonoid Sport Turismo version for those that want a bit more luggage space. 

But the Cross Turismo - a ‘jacked-up’ version of the Taycan Sport Turismo - is a curious beast. It only adds 20mm of ride height over the regular Taycan, although this increases to 30mm when optioned with an off-road pack. 

Aside from that ride height and subtle “rugged” styling flourishes, there’s not much point in offering two Turismo versions. 

Porsche Australia - like a number of other markets - decided to bypass the Sport in favour of the Cross Turismo which is expected to make up 25 per cent of all Taycan sales here.

The Kia Picanto probably didn't need a jacked-up version.

Any high-riding micro or light hatchback

People buying a light or micro hatchback are generally not after a high-riding vehicle. They are content with a smaller model sitting low to the ground.

So why make a niche model even more niche by offering a version with off-road SUV styling?

The Kia Picanto is a great little car, but the X-Line, which adds just 15mm of ride height over the regular version, seems pointless. 

Same goes for the Honda Fit (Jazz in Australia before it was discontinued) Crosstar, a “rugged” looking version of the adorable light hatch.

Tim Nicholson
Managing Editor
Calling out the make and model of every single car he saw as a toddler might have challenged his parents’ patience, but it was clearly a starting point for Tim...
About Author