Car enthusiasts cringe at the thought of badge engineering, and with a good reason. Each carmaker brings its own spices to the recipe, and drivers usually connect with one more than another. And when companies collaborate to mix the spices, that usually doesn’t bode well with fans (looking at you Supra MK V).
However, in some certain cases, these collaborations can produce something amazing (again, looking at Supra MK V). Sure, many rebadged vehicles aren’t worth it, but there are also numerous cases of outstanding badge engineering. Here, we will talk about the latter, since we only care about good things in life. Let’s dig in!
Toyota Supra MK V (BMW Z4)
Real JDM fans will probably never accept the new Supra, since it sits on a BMW rear-wheel-drive platform and utilizes BMW inline-4 and inline-6 engines. However, if you look past the components, the fifth-gen Supra is an excellent sports coupe.
Moreover, Toyota spiced it with its own suspension tuning to give it a unique feeling behind the wheel. That was enough for many automotive journalists to name it a better car to drive than the BMW Z4, the “similar” German convertible. Besides, the Bavarian-sourced engines provide some exhilarating performance. The more powerful turbocharged inline-6 version needs only 3.9 seconds to reach 60mph, which equals fun in our book.
Kia Elan (Lotus Elan)
Kia wasn’t as widely accepted in the ’90s as it is now. To cope with that, the Korean company decided to rebadge the Lotus Elan. Like, literally, they slapped Kia badging all around and even kept the name. Badge engineering at its finest!
There are more differences if you look under the hood, though. Instead of a 1.8-liter Isuzu engine, Kia installed its own dual-cam four-cylinder with the same displacement and 151 hp. Sure, that’s not much, but remember that the Elan weighs a fraction over a ton, which is light in our books. Also, even though the Kia Elan uses front-wheel-drive architecture, it’s actually fun to drive in the corners.
Suzuki Cara (Autozam AZ-1)
Suzuki had its own Kei roadster with the Cappuccino. However, they decided to sell the Cara in some markets, a rebadged version of the Mazda Autozam AZ-1. And, if we’re honest, this is the better car.
Equipped with a tiny 657cc turbocharged engine with 64hp, the Suzuki Cara won’t win any drag competition. Nonetheless, the true quality of the Cara lies within the feather-light and small chassis. Thanks to the curb weight of only 1,587 lb (720kg), the car is nimble and playful in the corners. Oh, and don’t forget about the “gullwing” doors, making it look like a diminutive supercar.
Pontiac GTO (Holden Monaro)
The Australian carmaker Holden might not exist anymore, but its soul still lives on some cars. Namely, General Motors had its share of badge engineering Holden vehicles, and the Pontiac GTO is one of the best examples.
The GTO is a sports coupe with aggressive styling and muscle-car driving dynamics based on the Holden Monaro. The overall design is almost identical – an Australian will undoubtedly recognize the GTO as a Monaro from afar. But, you shouldn’t worry about that, since the RWD coupe has some excellent driving dynamics and a powerful LS1 V8 engine under the hood.
Toyota 86 / Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S
Toyota isn’t a stranger to sports car collaborations. This time, however, they partnered with Subaru to make a true Japanese sports coupe. The Toyobaru (Subieyota?) twins possess some of the best driving dynamics you’ll find in any modern coupe, primarily thanks to the light chassis and low center of gravity.
Now, sure, the twins don’t have enough horsepower to get your heart racing in a straight line. The Subaru-sourced naturally-aspirated boxer produces only 205 hp, enough for a 0-60mph time of around 7 seconds. However, the real beauty of the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ is how they carve corners. With drift-on-demand dynamics and a slick-shifting manual gearbox, they are an exhilarating drive everywhere.
Chevrolet SS (Holden Commodore)
General Motors continued borrowing engineering and know-how from Holden with the sports sedan SS. Chevy’s car even shared some parts with the Pontiac GTO, only in a more practical package. But, what’s so interesting about a sedan, you ask? Well, for starters, SS stands for Super Sport, which is Chevy’s nice way of saying that this car rocks!
Moreover, buyers could choose between powerful V6 and V8 engines, including the 6.2-liter version with 408 hp. That’s BMW M3-equalling power. Almost. The best thing about the Chevy SS, though, is that it was offered with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Chevrolet Camaro (Pontiac Firebird)
The Chevy Camaro is one of the most famous muscle cars historically. However, few people know that it shared the platform with the Pontiac Firebird in the first few generations. But of course, they did, since General Motors wouldn’t waste money developing two similar vehicles on different platforms.
Although the Camaro proved to be more popular, the Firebird was the better car at first. GM installed a much more luxurious interior in the Pontiac, paired with a few options that weren’t available to Chevy buyers. But we guess that people who like sports cars don’t care that much about looking at the interior.
Dodge Stealth (Mitsubishi 3000GT)
The Mitsubishi 3000GT is undoubtedly a JDM icon. Equipped with a strong-performing 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that propelled the car to 60mph in under 5 seconds. The advanced 4WD played a part in the exhilarating straight-line performance, but also in achieving mind-blowing cornering speeds. Mitsubishi even worked on the aerodynamics to ensure high-speed stability.
But how would you feel if we tell you that you can have the same car, only with a Dodge badging all around? JDM fans might not like that, but we’re certainly NOT against having the option of more amazing sports cars. And the Dodge Stealth definitely deserves that moniker.
Opel Speedster / Vauxhall VX220 (Lotus Elise)
If you want a fun-to-drive mid-engine sports car, experts will probably lead you towards Lotus. The British manufacturer knows a thing or two about building amazing driver-focused vehicles, and the Elise is the perfect example. They are so good in their craft that they even built the Opel Speedster and Vauxhall VX220 for General Motors.
Naturally, the cars shared many components with the Elise, but not everything. In fact, GM opted for its in-house 2.2-liter Ecotec motor, instead of the 1.8-liter Toyota one in the Elise. Fortunately, the Speedster and VX220 retained Elise’s exceptional driving dynamics, primarily thanks to the feather-light aluminum chassis and glass-reinforced plastic bodywork.
Opel GT (Chevrolet Corvette)
The Opel GT is a baby version of the third generation Chevrolet Corvette C3. Certainly, that doesn’t mean that the cars are identical, but they share many suspension components. Like, for instance, the front transverse leaf-spring suspension, which is still unusual to this day.
The German company also opted for a much smaller engine. Instead of the Vette’s V8, the Opel GT used a tiny in comparison 1.9-liter four-cylinder. The 102 hp motor certainly won’t win you any races, but it should be enough for a fun ride on twisty roads. The engine made even more sense when you consider that the GT was designed for European roads.
Shelby Cobra (AC Cobra)
The Shelby Cobra is undoubtedly the most recognizable roadster/spider to ever come out of the US. But what if I tell you that most of the car is actually from the UK? The chassis and the body come from the AC Cobra, a British-built sports car with an old BMW engine.
In the meantime, AC shifted to a Chrysler-sourced 5.1-liter V8 mammoth, which Americanized the car a bit. Shelby took that even further, though. He slapped the exceptional Ford FE 7.0-liter engine under the bonnet, creating a bonkers road machine. Naturally, it’s the Shelby Cobra that’s the more popular roadster today.
Lotus Carlton (Opel Omega)
Lotus had its fair share of badge engineering. Fortunately, most of the examples they produced were actually excellent, case in point the Lotus Carlton. Based on the Omega, the super-sedan took everything good from the German model and tuned it to eleven.
But what does eleven look like in a 1990 car? The star of the show is certainly the 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged inline-6, producing 377 hp. At the start of the ’90s, that was monstrous! Thanks to the exceptional engine, the Carlton could go to 177 mph (285 km/h), which is considered fast to this day. Oh, and you could easily transport your family inside the spacious interior, always a plus in our book.
The Chrysler Crossfire is one of the quirkiest-looking sports cars ever. And by quirky, we mean amazing! A quick look at the daring rear end quickly makes sense of that. The other great feature about the Crossfire is that it’s a Mercedes-Benz SLK underneath.
Let’s be honest, the German carmaker makes outstanding cars, so there is no shame in using its technology and platforms. Moreover, the Crossfire was very good to drive in the corners, and came with a good selection of engines. The pick of the range is the 3.2-liter supercharged V6, which transforms the car into a little pocket rocket.
Pontiac Vibe GT
General Motors tried to fight off Toyota with in-house compact cars, but the Japanese manufacturer always came out on top. Well, you know what they say – if you can’t beat them, join them! That’s precisely what Pontiac did with its Vibe GT compact car, which was based entirely on the Toyota Matrix.
Pontiac did manage to change the looks enough so that buyers won’t notice the similarities. Underneath, though, the Vibe GT was based on Toyota’s MC platform, and it even used the Japanese 1.8-liter and 2.4-liter engines. In this case, that’s not bad, since those engines are supremely reliable and efficient.
Opel Ampera (Chevrolet Volt)
The first-generation Chevrolet Volt was one of the most advanced cars of its era. Thanks to the 16 kWh battery pack, the car was able to travel 38-miles on electricity alone, which was an outstanding number in 2011. The car also features a 1.4-liter range extender, which transformed the Volt into a highway cruiser.
However, General Motors only sold the Volt in the US. For Europe, they decided to badge-engineer the vehicle into Opel Ampera, a brand that buyers from the Old Continent trust more. The Ampera had a new fascia, but otherwise, it was an entirely identical car to the Volt.
Buick Encore (Opel Mokka)
You have already seen a fair share of Opel cars rebadged as one of GM’s brands for the North-American market. That’s not a coincidence, since only a while ago, GM was the parent company of Opel. The Buick Encore is another example of GM’s badge engineering, based on the European Opel Mokka.
The subcompact crossover/SUVs certainly don’t sound very interesting for enthusiasts. However, Opel managed to make the car spacious and practical, although the outer dimensions are diminutive. And, dare we say, the Buick Encore / Opel Mokka also look interesting on the outside.
Volkswagen Golf / Seat Leon / Audi A3
Volkswagen Group has many brands under its belt, and it’s only natural that they share platforms between them. Perhaps the best examples of platform-sharing are the compact hatchbacks VW Golf, Seat Leon, and Audi A3. The cars have their differences, but still use many similar parts, including chassis and suspension components, and even engines.
From the three, the Golf offers the most balanced experience. It’s practical, classy, and good to drive. Meanwhile, the Seat Leon takes driving up a notch – it’s the sportiest of the three. Ultimately, the Audi A3 features the most luxurious interior and drives like a premium car.
VW Up / Seat Mii / Skoda Citigo
Another of VW’s platform-sharing car lineups, only this time in the small-car category in Europe. The Volkswagen Up, Seat Mii, and Skoda Citigo share the same internals, including the chassis, suspension, and engines. Don’t let that fool you, though – the city-car trio is outstanding in many categories.
For instance, Volkswagen Group managed to make the interior of these vehicles pretty roomy, despite the diminutive dimensions outside. Also, the three-cylinder engines are very economical and clean for the environment. Volkswagen even launched a GTI version of the Up, which employs a turbocharged 1.0-liter three-cylinder with 115 hp, a true successor to the original Golf GTI.
Toyota Aygo / Citroen C1 / Peugeot 108
PSA (Peugeot / Citroen) and Toyota were actually the first companies to launch badge-engineered city cars in Europe. They did a great job – the Aygo, C1, and 108 were a big success on the Old Continent. Buyers couldn’t resist the attractive exteriors and charming interiors.
The trio is also pretty good to drive in the corners, primarily thanks to the low weight. Moreover, the Toyota-sourced 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine is outstandingly economical, which is important in a city car. The Aygo, C1, and 108 are now in their second generation, and the companies are still to confirm a successor.
Toyota Yaris iA (Mazda 2)
Toyota’s most popular car in Europe is the Yaris, which just received a significant upgrade for 2020. However, the North-American market can’t have that Yaris, and only Toyota knows the reason why. Fortunately, the model that buyers in the US and Canada get is based on the Mazda 2, which is also an outstanding sub-compact car.
Thanks to its connection to the Japanese cousin, the Yaris iA carves the corners like a real sports car. The steering is nicely weighted, too, and the engines provide good performance around town. Also, while the looks may be polarizing, nobody will protest at the good fuel economy.
Opel Corsa / Vauxhall Corsa (Peugeot 208)
The Corsa was Opel’s (Vauxhall’s in the UK) most popular model in Europe for quite a while. Recently, the supermini’s future was put in doubt, though, since GM gave up on the German brand. Fortunately, PSA (Peugeot / Citroen) bought the company and saved its precious sub-compact car.
Now, this means that the Corsa is based on the new Peugeot 208. For Opel enthusiasts, that might be blasphemy, but the new Corsa is one of the best cars in its category for other people. Just like the quirky 208. Frugal yet potent engines, roomy and classy interior, and available all-electric version keep the Corsa fresh for 2021.
Citroen, Peugeot, Opel, Vauxhall, Fiat, Toyota Vans
If you go to Europe and peek into the commercial vehicles there, chances are you’ll come across one of the aforementioned brands. PSA (Peugeot / Citroen) collaborates with Fiat for larger commercial cars, and Toyota for smaller commercial cars. Meanwhile, they are also the father company of Opel and Vauxhall, which happen to rebadge the same vans.
Now, that’s a badge engineering on an entirely new level! Fortunately, the commercial vans are also excellent. They have frugal engines, good payloads, reliable mechanics, and low prices. There is a reason why European transport relies on them.
Saab 9-2X (Subaru Impreza)
Saab and Subaru are synonymous in that they do things their own way. Well, they “did” since Saab no longer exists. Anyway, when the Swedish manufacturer was at full steam, it offered the 9-2X, a compact station wagon. The company managed to design the front, so it looks like a Saab, but they couldn’t hide the Subaru Impreza origins elsewhere.
Underneath the rebadged exterior, though, lies an excellent driver’s car. Saab borrowed the turbocharged boxer with 227 hp, enough to put a smile on the driver’s face, and the permanent all-wheel-drive system to put the power down. Luckily, Saab also reworked the interior with better materials and added sound insulation to keep the passengers happy.
Lincoln Navigator (Ford Expedition)
Many North-American buyers that want a luxurious full-size SUV pick the excellent Ford Expedition. Those that want to take it up a notch, though, opt for the more opulent Lincoln Navigator. Both SUVs share the same platform and internals, but the Lincoln features better materials inside and more sound insulation.
The Lincoln Navigator offers a plush and roomy interior, a choice of powerful V6 and V8 engines, and eye-catching design. The powertrain might not be ready for serious off-roading, but the Navigator will feel perfectly at home on the highway. Meanwhile, you’ll feel like the captain of an extravagant yacht.
Lexus GX (Toyota Land Cruiser Prado)
Lexus is the only premium manufacturer that offers real off-road machines in the US. That’s largely thanks to the parent company Toyota, which has the most popular off-road lineup east of Jeep. The Land Cruiser Prado is one of Toyota’s most recognizable models, and the Lexus GX is the luxury version of that SUV.
Like many Lexus cars, the GX features a plush interior with high-quality materials. There is also ample space for passengers and cargo inside, and many hi-tech features. The design might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but nobody can argue the off-road credentials of the GX.
Lexus LX (Toyota Land Cruiser V8)
What the Lexus GX is for the Land Cruiser Prado, the LX is for the Land Cruiser V8. The latter is a larger and more powerful version of the legendary nameplate, designed for covering large distances in remote places.
Naturally, the Lexus version provides the passengers with an even more classy ride, without losing its off-road abilities. Currently, there is no other SUV that comes close to the LX in terms of interior quality and refinement, combined with exceptional off-road traction. Moreover, like the Land Cruiser V8, this is one of the toughest and most reliable SUVs globally.
Buick Regal (Opel Insignia)
Ask a European to tell you what’s that Buick Regal sitting in front and they will probably tell you it’s an Opel Insignia. That would be the correct answer since they are the same cars underneath and on the outside. General Motors did a very straightforward badge engineering here – it literally only changed the emblems.
That shouldn’t worry you, though, since the Opel Insignia is already an excellent car. In Europe, it directly competes with the VW Passat and Ford Mondeo, and quite favorably in some instances. Arguably, the car also looks sleek on the outside. Sadly, Buick decided to discontinue the car to focus on crossovers and SUVs.
Seat Exeo (Audi A4)
When Seat decided to enter the mid-size sedan category in Europe, they took the previous-gen Audi A4, made small styling changes, and called it a day. Some buyers cringed at the thought of a last-gen vehicle, but the truth is, the Seat Exeo was pretty cheap for an Audi-sourced car.
The four-door sedan looked sleek on the outside, but also drove quite nice through the corners. Moreover, the Spanish manufacturer sourced the gas and diesel engines from Audi, a good thing in our book. The interior was the highlight, though, since it featured almost the same materials as its premium cousin.
GMC Terrain / Chevrolet Equinox / Saturn Vue / Opel Antara
When General Motors saw the meteoric rise of SUVs, they decided to play big globally. The company released many compact SUVs quickly, using most of its brands to make a bigger impact on the market.
Cars like Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Saturn Vue, and Opel Antara shared the same platform from 2006 to 2017. Later, GM cut the market presence only to the GMC, Chevrolet, and Buick (Envision) models, which share the same platform in the latest generation. Despite the badge engineering, though, the compact SUVs are a very good buy. They have roomy interiors, frugal engines, and modern-looking exteriors.
Cadillac XLR (Chevrolet Corvette C6)
If the Chevy Corvette was never sci-fi or modern enough for you, then you might want to try the Cadillac XLR. Many people might not know this, but Cadillac’s sports coupe/convertible shares almost every bit with the Corvette C6, aside from the sharp body panels.
But why would you want a copy of an already excellent original? Well, being a Cadillac, the XLR looks classier inside, with much higher-quality materials. The car also retains the Vette’s excellent driving dynamics and straight-line performance. Case in point, the XLR-V model utilized a 443 hp motor, good for a 0-60mph time of only 4.6 seconds.
Lexus IS (Toyota Altezza)
A decade after they made a boom with the LS luxury sedan, Lexus decided it was time to tackle the luxury sports sedan category. They did that with the excellent IS200 and IS300, sedans that immediately caught the enthusiast community’s attention.
That was only natural since Lexus borrowed the design and most parts from the JDM Toyota Altezza. That’s not a bad thing – Toyota’s sports sedan is still revered to this day. During the conversion, the IS lost the high-revving 3S-GE four-cylinder, though. Instead, Lexus used a more civilized 2.0-liter inline-six. Fortunately, a 3.0-liter inline-6 followed quickly after. Whatever model you get, though, be prepared for balanced handling and sharp cornering.
Acura TSX (Honda Accord)
Acura took hints from Lexus’s book when they introduced the compact executive sedan TSX. Just like its fierce competitor, the company used a Honda sedan as inspiration, specifically the European Accord. Quick reminder: Acura is the premium car arm of Honda.
The Acura TSX is discontinued today, but that’s primarily due to SUVs and crossovers’ increased popularity. The sedan was actually very competitive, and both generations looked quite striking. It helped that Acura spend time massaging the driving dynamics, which were pretty good for a front-wheel-drive car. There was even a 280 hp V6 in the second generation model, albeit only available with a 5-speed automatic transmission.
Audi 80 / VW Passat
The “80” was a significant car for Audi since it was the first model they made in collaboration with Volkswagen. The partnership lasts to this day, creating a new premium-car powerhouse in Audi.
Volkswagen shared its platforms and knowledge with Audi, but still, let the premium brand add the finishing touches. Thus, the 80 might have been similar to the Passat, but it still had Audi’s signature driving. The car was a big success in Europe – it even won the 1973 European Car of the Year award. In North America, though, the company sold the sedan with the “4000” nameplate.
Lexus GS (Toyota Aristo / Crown)
Lexus recently discontinued its executive sedan, much to the dissatisfaction of customers. However, most cars earned the ax due to the rising sales of crossovers and SUVs, and the mighty GS couldn’t escape that. You probably didn’t know that Toyota sells the same car as the Crown in Japan (previously as the Aristo).
Curiously, Toyota continued to offer the Crown in Japan, which now utilizes the advanced TNGA architecture. This gives us hope that Lexus will re-launch the GS in the future. We certainly won’t complain if they also add a new GS-F to the mix, hopefully with the 5.0-liter naturally-aspirated V8 masterpiece.
Proton Satria GTi (Mitsubishi Colt)
You might have never heard of the Proton Satria GTi. It’s a quirky hot-hatch aimed at European and British buyers based on the fifth-generation Mitsubishi Colt. Then, what’s so special about this Malaysian compact car? Well, Lotus re-engineered the car to make it appeal to car enthusiasts. And the end result was pretty good, actually.
The Satria GTi has a 1.8-liter four-cylinder under the hood, providing 140 horsepower. Thanks to the Mitsubishi-sourced motor, the car could sprint to 60mph in 8.5 seconds, not bad for a cheap hatchback. Automotive journalists also praised the fun-to-drive nature and balanced handling.
Ford Galaxy / Volkswagen Sharan / Seat Alhambra
Before the Galaxy became a staple in Ford’s European minivan lineup, it started as a Volkswagen-sourced car. The first generation used VW engines, it was sitting on a VW platform, and it even had a VW interior. Actually, the only difference was the front fascia, which featured Ford’s own styling.
However, sourcing from Volkswagen is not a bad thing. The minivan was spacious, good to drive, and quite frugal for the time. Moreover, buyers could opt for a 2.8-liter VR6 engine and a four-wheel-drive system for some fun behind the wheel. Sadly, Ford didn’t follow the sporty minivan in the next two generations.
Bentley Continental Flying Spur / Audi A8 / Volkswagen Phaeton
Bentley is one of the most desired car brands in the world, and rightfully so. However, many people don’t know that their vehicles actually use a VW-sourced platform. Case in point, the mega-luxurious Continental Flying Spur (later Flying Spur), sits on the same platform as the Audi A8 and the Volkswagen Phaeton in the past.
Should this worry you, though? Of course not – even the Phaeton is an outstanding car, let alone the Audi A8. Moreover, Bentley adds enough finishing touches to its vehicles to make them stand out. The best example of the company’s attention to detail is the Flying Spur’s interior, which is rivaled only by Rolls Royce.
Infiniti G35 / G37 Coupe (Nissan 350Z / 370Z)
Enthusiasts universally agree that Nissan’s Z family of sports cars is one of the best around. Excellent driving dynamics, paired with good steering feel and strong engines, let you enjoy every mile. And when you add luxury to the mix, you get the Infiniti G35 and G37 coupes.
Based on the Nissan 350Z and 370Z, respectively, Infiniti’s coupes provide an exhilarating drive and stimulate the passengers with more luxurious interiors. The premium models also have a second row of seats, unlike the Nissan cousins. That alone makes it clear that Infiniti aims toward customers who want to have fun and don’t want to sacrifice comfort.
Chevrolet Spark (Daewoo Matiz)
The Spark might bear Chevy’s badge, but it’s actually not an American car. Instead, it comes from GM Korea, a South-Korean sub-division of the automotive giant. The Asian arm of the company started operating after GM bought Daewoo, and the first car they produced was the Daewoo Matiz.
The quirky city car proved to be very popular in Europe, especially in developing markets. The car was very roomy inside and came with frugal three-cylinder engines. It also proved to be a very reliable vehicle long term. Later, GM rebadged the car as Chevrolet Spark, a name it holds to this day.
Chrysler Conquest (Mitsubishi Starion)
Chrysler is no stranger to borrowing technologies from other manufacturers – in recent years, they even partnered with the Italian Fiat. However, the collaborations they made produced some good cars, such as the Conquest sports coupe.
Based on the Mitsubishi Starion (a better name, agreed?) the Conquest is one of the best driver’s cars to come out of Chrysler during the ’80s. The car was available with two turbocharged inline-4 engines – a 2.0-liter and a 2.6-liter one. Depending on the configuration, the power ranges from 150 to 197 hp. The Conquest was also available with a 5-speed manual that sent the power to the rear wheels.