The Coolest Cars Americans Can Only Drive in Mexico

Photo:  Toyota
Photo: Toyota

Ever since I started working at Jalopnik, I’ve tried to coerce my fellow Jalops to visit the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve twisted their arms gently with the promise of absurdly cheap and delicious breakfast tacos or with inexpensive direct flights to Mexico City, which is the capital of the world as far as I’m concerned. These are just a few of the perks that living in the most untexan place in Texas offers.

But the best argument I’ve leveraged on them so far (other than the tacos) is the chance to see and, maybe drive, all the weird and wonderful cars I regularly spot on the border. From the lovable Suzuki Jimny and other Japanese compacts, to Chinese imports that are becoming popular in Mexico. There are plenty of Ram and VW coup-utes, as well as Toyota HiAce vans and Honda BR-Vs.

Read more

So many little big cars that fit extended families and many friends who travel north to the U.S. during the holidays, or to shop in Hidalgo and McAllen. Any parking lot in these cities and in Brownsville — if you’re keen to see foreign cars and some SpaceX rockets — is full of Mexican market cars that Americans can only drive in Mexico, if they were so inclined.

So, here are are just some of those cool cars that await Americans on the U.S.-Mexico border — the Mexico-market border, if you will.

Suzuki Ignis

Photo:  Suzuki
Photo: Suzuki

But not all cars in Mexico are as multi-talented as the MPVs sold in the country. Nor are all of these cars trying to be all things to all people. The Suzuki Ignis is one of these, which is just doing its thing as a compact car, full stop. Or rather, it’s a subcompact car, a segment which has almost disappeared in America. The cute Ignis is impossibly small, so it’s well suited to narrow avenues in Mexico.

Suzuki Jimny

Photo:  Suzuki
Photo: Suzuki

Can’t have a list like this without a Jimny, which has basically put Suzuki back on the map for drivers in America — though that remains a map of some far-off place. Despite its popularity everywhere else, Suzuki is unlikely to sell the Jimny in the U.S. any time soon. There are convoluted ways to own a Jimny in the U.S., although the legality seems questionable. If you really want to drive one, just go to Mexico or to the Border. Otherwise, stick with a Suzuki Samurai.

Audi A1

Photo:  Audi
Photo: Audi

When I drove the Audi A3 and S3, the car’s designers told me the small sedan is now more or less the size of the old A5. Little by little, so-called small cars sold on the U.S. market have been putting on mass, and yet a compact car from Audi still exists: the Audi A1. The tiny hatch, or “sportback,” is still sold in places in Europe and in Mexico. I think my 318ti gets jealous any time I see one.

BMW 128ti

Photo:  BMW
Photo: BMW

But if the Audi A1 doesn’t make my old BMW jealous, I’m quite sure that the current BMW 128ti, indeed, does. This model saw the glorious return of the “ti” badge, although maybe not in the same spirit as the original models to wear the letters, the BMW 1800TI and 2002TI. Still, the badge is an icon to me, so when BMW put the letters on the excellent BMW 1-Series, I fawned over the result: a modern BMW compact with plenty of power for its size (about 241 horsepower.)

Chevrolet Captiva

Photo:  Chevrolet
Photo: Chevrolet

The Chevrolet Captiva is a relatively new SUV to Mexico but is already proving to be extremely popular. That tracks given the overall popularity of Chinese cars in Mexico, which includes this rebadged Baojun 350. It’s made by SAIC-GM-Wuling, the Chinese conglomerate that GM is a part of that makes the Wuling Mini. The Captiva’s provenance will be a theme in this list.

Chevrolet Cavalier

Photo:  Chevrolet
Photo: Chevrolet

Even though the Cavalier is a familiar badge to drivers in the U.S., this version of the small sedan is also a Chinese import. It looks like the Cavalier took a gap year and went abroad, only to return to the West as a rebadged Chevy Monza. It’s also made by SAIC-GM-Wuling, but I have enough memories of old, red cavaliers that I can’t help but beam when I see one of the latest models.

Cupra León

Photo:  Cupra
Photo: Cupra

The Cupra León is little more than a Seat León, but the Cupra brand has spun off as the Spanish carmaker’s performance arm and become its own marque. Both Seat and Cupra are still within the Volkswagen Group, however, which means that the León has a lot in common with the Audi A3 and VW Golf. Still looks sleeker and more youthful than either of its German cousins, though.

Ford Territory

Photo:  Ford
Photo: Ford

We’re back to China by way of Mexico with the Ford Territory. This is basically a Ford Equator, made in partnership with Jiangling, which is why I’m so upset that Ford Mexico opted against bringing the wonderfully terrible paint colors of the Chinese SUV to this side of the globe. Oh, well. Baby blue is OK, I guess.

Honda B-RV

Photo:  Honda
Photo: Honda

The Honda BR-V is without a doubt one of the most common Mexican market cars I see on South Texas roads. It’s technically a compact crossover, but so many models in Mexico fall under that moniker while looking more like tiny MPV models that slimmed down and stood up straight. It’s a narrow, tall Honda that comfortably seats seven while being smaller than a modern Ford Explorer.

Honda City

Photo:  Honda
Photo: Honda

The Honda City is what I refer to as the real Honda Civic. If we were to take a late ’90s or aughts Civic and park it between a City and a modern Civic from the U.S., it would be clear that the City is the spiritual successor of the smaller Civic. As the model matured in the U.S., people demanded literally more for their money and the Civic grew to the size of the Accord. Happens all the time. But the Honda City is still puttering around Mexico and other “emerging” markets.

Mitsubishi Xpander

Photo:  Mitsubishi
Photo: Mitsubishi

The Xpander is officially in the MPV segment, and since I’ve already talked up the excellent ’Mitsu L200 midsize truck, I’ll go with this people-hauler instead. The Xpander’s funny name (which sounds like some form of male enhancement drug) is a nod to the MPV’s ability to seemingly expand and fit up to seven passengers inside of a high-riding compact car, courtesy of three row-seating.

Suzuki Swift

Photo:  Suzuki
Photo: Suzuki

The Suzuki Swift is one of my favorite cars to spot on the border. Not only does it have some of the coolest contemporary design, but it’s also got the coolest nameplate: the Swift Boosterjet Sport. Sometimes, a car can’t live up to its nameplate, but the rest of the Swift doesn’t dissappoint; it’s a bright yellow sports car with a six-speed stick and snappy turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Peugeot 208

Photo:  Peugeot
Photo: Peugeot

Another yellow car, but this time from the French rather than the Japanese. The Peugeot 208 may be the best-selling car in Europe, but it’s also popular in Mexico. The EV version of the Peugeot hatch, or e-208, hasn’t quite made it here yet, but will be the coolest EV within a 100-mile radius of me when it does.

Ram 700

Photo:  Ram
Photo: Ram

We’ve already seen a lot of the smaller pickup trucks that are still bombing around Mexico and Latin America but the country has an affinity for so-called ’utes, as these tiny truck-slash-cars are known in Australia. Once again, vehicles like the Ram 700 highlight the need for practicality and capability in emerging markets, though it seems very silly to wall these two off from certain markets or regions.

Toyota GR Yaris

Photo:  Toyota
Photo: Toyota

I already covered the Toyota Hilux in the previous round-up of off-roaders, so the honor goes to the GR Yaris here. This three-cylinder track machine is quickly gaining legendary status in the car world for good reason. Even though we in the U.S. are not privy to the pleasures of the Gazoo Racing Yaris, drivers in Mexico are, which means you don’t have to go to Japan, the UK or EU to drive one. All you have to do is fly to Texas and go across the border.

Toyota HiAce

Photo:  Toyota
Photo: Toyota

I’m convinced the Toyota HiAce is pound-for-pound one of the best cars in the world. Maybe even the best. Forget supercars and hypercars. I’d much rather have this stick-shift Toyota, which can be optioned to fit up to 12 adults. The HiAce is like a Greyhound bus that you can own and easily park anywhere. It’s glorious.

Volkswagen Saveiro

Photo:  Volkswagen
Photo: Volkswagen

Here’s another coup-ute but from Volkswagen Mexico, which seems to share many of the same sensibilities as Volkswagen do Brasil. The two LATAM countries love their pickup truck-car hybrids. And, really, who doesn’t want a small car with a long bed? Think of all the IKEA runs you could make to Live Oak in this thing!

In case you missed it:

More from Jalopnik

Sign up for Jalopnik's Newsletter. For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.