How aware are you of identikit cars and do you think they’re easy to spy? We put some Which? readers to the test in a game of spot the difference, and discovered just how much impact a badge can have on a car.
So what are identikit cars? The term refers to two or more cars that share the same chassis and set of components, including anything from engines, brakes, transmissions, suspension, electronics and steering.
While these three cars look subtly different to one another on face value, underneath the tweaked body shells, they are almost identical. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the same price! In fact, you could pay anything up to £1,000 more to have the VW instead of the Skoda. But how easy is it to tell them apart when you take away the badge?
Identikit cars: spot the difference test
We asked five Which? members to help us put this to the test. Before they arrived, we covered up all branding and identifiable markings on the cars to see what impact it had.
All the readers identified the clear similarities between the models, including interior layout, overall dimensions and like-for-like body panels. But only one of them identified the disguised VW as the more premium model of the three.
But it was a different story once we unveiled their true identity, with favour quickly swaying towards the Volkswagen. And the reason was clear – brand identity. Those who changed their mind all said they had a stronger affinity with the VW badge, with one claiming the VW emblem itself enhanced the look of the Up.
Why do identikit cars exist?
Identikit cars have been around since the 1960s and they’re all about one thing – reducing production costs. Manufacturers are able to use almost identical parts in different branded models to create a wider range of cars that will appeal to different types of buyer.
And as long as some of these savings are passed on, it can be good news for us with cheaper cars and more brand choice.
Should you pay extra for a premium badge?
We also looked at value retention and discovered that the more expensive VW Up would depreciate faster over a five-year ownership period than the CitiGo, meaning better value overall from the less-desirable Skoda badge.
And this three-car example is by no means a unique case of badge-based pricing. Take the VW Golf, for example. It has the same 105bhp 1.2 TSI petrol engine as its less-desirable Seat Leon identikit-car equivalent. And yet, in its most basic spec it costs £2,490 more.
But with all this said, I still expect the VW-badged models to outsell the sister-car equivalents, despite the purchase-price premium.
How much do you believe in badge power? Identikit cars show that a desirable emblem can not only dictate price, but also make a certain car more appealing through brand recognition.
Now that you’re armed with the identikit-car knowledge (of which you can find out more in the July issue of Which? magazine), would you be happy to pay the additional costs for what appears to be just a different badge?