We're often told "the grass is always greener on the other side" as an admonishment, so that we might keep perspective and appreciate what we do have rather than what we wish we had.
It's a sage bit of advice in most cases, but the truth is that sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side — especially when it comes to cars that manufacturers offer to the rest of the world but not to Americans. Whether these cars were discontinued or never sold here in the first place, the list of cars we wish we had is substantial.
Here are the 10 best.
2013 Alfa Romeo Giulietta
The arrival in the U.S. of Alfa Romeo's Giulietta is long anticipated by many American drivers. It's likely to spearhead a new resurgence of Alfa in America after many delays and postponements, and there are a variety of smart, economical engines available in Europe: no fewer than 10, ranging from 105 to 170 horsepower. Conventional engines are variations of Alfa Romeo's 1.4-liter four-cylinder, while diesels are available as 1.6, 1.7, and 2.0-liter units. Torque numbers peak with the 236 pound-feet available from the 170-hp 2.0-liter JDTM diesel.
But let's be honest: We want the Giulietta to come to the U.S. because it's stunningly beautiful. Its curving body brings flair and a sense of the aesthetic reminiscent of the great Alfas of old. The Giulietta isn't going to win any drag races or tear up the field at a track day, but it proves beauty still exists in a market where styling is dictated by fuel economy and pedestrian crash regulations. And that's worth something.
2013 Audi A1
We are living in an era of American motoring where fun compacts like the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 and Honda Fit are hits, so it's difficult to imagine why Audi wouldn't take the opportunity to bring its popular A1 hatchback to the U.S. The Audi A1 is offered in a range of trim levels, and the entire lineup is renowned for its handling and refinement: for a very reasonable price. Power plants for the A1 include 1.2-liter and 1.4-liter TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engines, or 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel engines.
The European combined mpg range of the A1 is an impressive 48-74 mpg. In the case of the 140-hp 1.4-liter TFSI engine, it achieves 60.1 mpg in the European combined drive cycle by cleverly using the same "cylinder-on-demand" technology seen in other Audi models and in the Bentley Continental. A well-sorted, affordable three-door Audi sounds like a winner in the U.S. We'll just have to keep waiting.
2014 Audi RS 4 Avant
Audi's RS 4 and RS 6 über-wagons have long been lust objects for fans in the U.S., especially as Audi shrinks its wagon options for American consumers. Currently the 2013 Allroad is the only Audi wagon available in the United States. The Allroad is a fine vehicle, but it's a fairly straightforward family wagon as opposed to the fire-breathing power wagon that is the RS 4 Avant.
The 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque from the Allroad's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine simply can't compete with the RS 4 Avant's figures: Its 4.2-liter V8 is good for 450 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque and is capable of a 4.7-second 0-62-mph run. One transmission is available: the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automated manual. A 2014 RS 4 Avant made a brief appearance at Audi's North American headquarters a few months ago, but it looks like it will forever be out of the reach of American drivers.
2013 BMW M 135i Three-Door
There are only a couple of differences between the BMW M Sport package-equipped 135is coupe that is available in the U.S. and the M Sport 135i three-door model that isn't. Both are powered by 3.0-liter TwinPower turbo inline six-cylinder engines. Both ride on special light-alloy wheels and have unique trim pieces. And both have top speeds of 155 mph and can run from zero to 60 in 4.9 seconds. The three-door hatchback configuration isn't available on American 1 Series BMWs at all, though, which makes the European M 135i three-door especially desirable to BMW enthusiasts.
Less obvious, even with some research, is the American 135is Coupe's 300 hp: 20 hp short of the three-door version. American BMW fans are still mourning the loss of the sensational 1M Coupe. While the 135is Coupe is cool, the three-door would be a fun and practical alternative for American buyers.