The national sentiment, at least when I was growing up, was - apart from the marques you mention that hardly anyone could afford - that “British cars are shit”. This was certainly backed up by all the British cars I ever owned.
My parents bought a brand new Hillman Imp. Which, as well as looking terrible and driving like a pig, had the distinction of a rear-mounted engine with the gas tank in the front, so many minor impacts could be catastrophic, and a crucial fuel tank breather inlet by the front wheel, that got clogged up with mud regularly, stopping the car instantly with little obvious explanation.
My first car, a Morris Marina, was the second worst piece of crap I ever drove (the worst being a Kia Pride). In the year or two I owned it the rust got so bad that the wings actually flapped - this was a design fault - the radiator blew up, the gearstick came off in my hand on a long journey, the electrics never worked, there was about 90 degrees give in the steering wheel before the car would do anyhting. Just atrocious.
I had a couple of original Minis, and yeah they were fun to whizz around in, but they broke down like all the time.
I now own a Ford Focus, from new, and am running it into the ground (99,000 miles right now), and apart from a few age-related problems it’s been amazingly reliable.