Unicorn Car” is a term coined for vehicles that have been discontinued, and are therefore steadily disappearing from UK roads as time goes by, becoming rarer to spot. While the mythical creature is somewhat astonishing, the normality of many of these disappearing vehicles is quite the contrast; not all discontinued cars are show-stopping Ferraris. In fact, you are likely to see a discontinued car once in every 29 vehicles.
With this in mind, using UK vehicle registration, data we have accumulated a list of discontinued cars in the UK in a bid to discover how many are on the road, and how likely you are to see these in 2022 in comparison to the more typical unicorns we may have in mind, such as the Ferrari 458.
The Vauxhall Carlton was found to be the car in our list that was discontinued the longest ago, the Carlton was a large family car that was replaced by the Omega. In 2011, 1,378 vehicles were registered to be on the road. Over time, an 85.56% decrease occurred, leaving the Carlton with only 199 registrations as of 2021. The likelihood of you spotting one of these cars on the road is now 1 in nearly 200,000 and it is actually the 5th least likely car that you will see on our list, ahead of extraordinary unicorn cars like the Lamborghini Gallardo.
Did you know that you’re now more likely to see a Ferrari 458 than a Fiat Cinquecento? In 2021, there were just 373 registrations in comparison with 1,088 Ferrari 458 models, meaning you have a 1 in 105,094 chance of spotting one of these Fiats against a 1 in 36,029 chance of spotting a Ferrari 458. The model was discontinued in 1998 producing just 80,546 units that year though it had produced 203,589 the year previous. The Cinquecento had a cult revival in 2008 when it was used as Simon Cooper’s car in the UK series ‘The Inbetweeners’.
Other notable ordinary unicorn cars are the Citroen C4 SpaceTourer, Peugeot 306, and Jaguar XJ. The Citroen C4 Spacetourer truly does hold its ‘unicorn’ status, nearing mythical status as it only makes up 0.006% of registered cars in the UK. It claimed only 126 in its launch year, and 2,362 registrations in 2021, meaning you’re likely to spot one of these in every 16,596 vehicles on the road today. Amazingly, as of 2021, you were less likely to see a Citroen C4 Spacetourer on the road than an Aston Martin Vantage V8, which had 2,420 registrations.
The Peugeot 306 replaced the Peugeot 309 as the manufacturer’s small family car. Featuring in the ‘Top 10 Best Selling Cars in Britain’ from 1994 to 1998, the car was then discontinued in 2001 and had 7,763 registrations left in 2021, giving you a 1 in 5,050 chance of seeing them on UK roads. You’re more likely to see any Lotus model on UK roads than a Peugeot 306, with 10,926 registrations in 2021.
In fifth position is the Jaguar XJ, which was discontinued in 2019 and had 9,242 registrations in 2021, amounting to 0.024% of vehicles on UK roads. The model was Jaguar’s pinnacle luxury saloon car which was first available in 1968.
When it comes to extraordinary unicorn cars, the Maserati MC12 tops them all, with just 1 registered vehicle in 2021 after the model’s discontinuation in 2005. Just 50 of these cars were available to customers after original production, with an additional 12 produced for racing purposes. This car is a true unicorn, and the fastest Maserati road car ever created, with top speeds exceeding 205mph.
In second position, and a stark contrast from the Maserati, is the Morris Ital. Despite being discontinued in 1984, it continued to have 24 registrations in 2021, a small figure but surprising given the discontinuation year. You would have had a 1 in 1.6 million chance of seeing one of these cars that make up just 0.0001% of cars on the road in 2021. The car saw reasonable sales during the 80s due to its competitive asking price and low running costs, and while not being an extraordinary car in itself, it’s definitely unusual to see one on the road in 2022.
In third place is the Porsche Carrera GT. Did you know that you’re more likely to see any Bugatti model on UK roads than this car? There were 127 registered Bugattis in the UK over 32 Porsche Carrera GT registrations. The car was discontinued, leaving you with a 1 in 1,225,000 chance of seeing one in public. The sports car was revered for its advanced technology and chassis, taking the top spot in Sports Car International’s ‘Top Sports Cars of the 2000s’ and number 8 on its ‘Top Sports Cars of All Time’ list.
The BMW Z8 is a roadster that was discontinued in 2003 and had just 41 registrations left in 2021, you would actually be more likely to see a Mclaren Senna as it had 46 registrations. The roadster was featured as James Bond’s car in ‘The World is Not Enough’ and was the final BMW model to appear in the film series. You would only have a 1 in 956,098 chance of seeing one on UK roads today.
In fifth position is Aston Martin’s Cygnet, which was discontinued in 2013 and had just 130 registrations left in 2021. The car isn’t typical of the Aston Martin brand and was designed with practicality for city living in mind. You would have a 1 in 301,538 chance of seeing this car out in public, making it rarer than the Austin Allegro and Ferrari 458.
Overall, this study reveals that you are likely to see a discontinued car 1 in every 29 vehicles, and a discontinued brand once in every 256. Though the percentage that takes to the road fluctuates yearly, the limited models never reach 1%. Of the brands researched, many of the classic cars are hard to spot on the road, the highest only reaching 0.133% of the total cars in the UK. Out of all the cars on the road in the UK, these discontinued cars only account for 3.4% of the total 39.2 million reported.
In the research of discontinued brands, the most noted were classic cars. Nowadays, brands are looking to modernise their models. BMW has been looking to develop their cars with hybrid technology, making strides to incorporate electric models more.
Although disappearing at an increasingly fast pace, the cars included in the study are familiar favourites to many across the country; from family cars to first-time drivers - do you own one of these disappearing cars? Why not save this checklist and see how many unicorn cars you can spot while you’re driving around?