25 Ugly Cars That Should Have Never Left the Assembly Line
Design might be subjective, but when it's time to drop thousands of dollars on a car, we want it to look good — or, at the very least, not eye-searingly bad. But despite their best intentions, car companies often miss the mark. In many cases, that also means sales go down the tubes, though some bizarre vehicles soldier on for years, developing a decent following. Love 'em or hate 'em, here are 25 "distinctive" cars we won't be lining up to buy anytime soon.
Car and Driver doesn't hold back about the much-maligned Aztek, calling it a "minivan-in-drag monstrosity ... It's so powerfully ugly that a blobfish wouldn't be seen next to it." Although the odd fusion of an SUV and sporty sedan recently had a moment in the sun thanks to a starring role in AMC's "Breaking Bad," it's still among the first vehicles on every car expert's lips when "ugly" is the main criterion.
The PT Cruiser remains one of the most polarizing cars in recent memory. For every buyer who liked the aggressively retro styling, there were five onlookers tittering about how hideous it was. Count us among the latter camp. "The PT was a shrunken minivan, a bloated Neon, a car for families who needed something basic and leaned a little too hard on nostalgia," Jalopnik sneers. Couldn't have said it better ourselves.
Nissan always wanted its angular Cube crossover to stand out, but it ended up turning heads for all the wrong reasons. The Los Angeles Times called it an "air-hating box of ugly ... a travesty, a mockery, a baleful parody of auto aerodynamics." Nissan even admitted that the design was inspired by a "bulldog in sunglasses" — but, as the Times wonders: "Which end is wearing the sunglasses?"
Sure, there were a lot of ugly cars out there in the '70s (hello, Pintos and El Caminos of the world) but the AMC Pacer was a special kind of ugly. It was a compact, but not really. In fact, it was "the world's first wide-body compact, a segment nobody had ever identified before, much less pined for," according to The Truth About Cars. "An obese compact for obese compact-haters."
Why mess with success? That's the moral of the story for Ford, which saw sales plummet after redesigning its popular Taurus in 1996 with ovals — lots of ovals — creating an odd effect akin to a squashed marshmallow on wheels. Road and Track even calls the third-generation Taurus "the saddest car ever made," and noted that Ford never seriously competed in the sedan segment again.
"It's a no-butt, bubble of a thing, a laugher if ever there was one," the Washington Post writes of the Suzuki X-90. "It comes with a chopped-off tail, mostly glass canopy, bug-eyed headlamps and bulging fenders. It's so ugly, it's funny. It's so funny, it's cute." Sadly, there weren't many buyers who came down on the "cute" side of the fence, and Suzuki halted production on this bizarre little SUV after a few years.
The fundamental truth of minivans is that they aren't cool, and carmakers are probably better off embracing this fact than pretending otherwise. But poor Pontiac didn't get that memo before designing the oddly pointy Trans Sport, which the company described as the "space vehicle of the '90s." (We suppose that does sound better than "Dust Buster on wheels.") Starting in 1997, Pontiac dropped the futuristic styling in favor of a more traditional look.
We'll forgive you if you mistake the CitiCar for an amusement park ride or an overgrown wedge of cheese. In reality, this weird, triangular little contraption was an electric car meant to appeal to consumers during the oil crisis in the mid-'70s. "It was a glorified golf cart which must have been absolutely miserable to drive in actual traffic," opines CarBuzz, noting that the car had a top speed of 25 mph and a whopping 40-mile range. Amazingly, around 4,400 of them actually sold.
Small pickups had somewhat of a heyday back in the '70s and '80s, so Subaru decided to get on the action and "hacked the end off an existing station wagon," according to Jalopnik. The result was a bizarre car-truck mashup called the BRAT (er, the "Bi-drive Recreational All-Terrain Transporter") that somehow managed to stay in production all the way up through 1994. It even had two rear-facing jump seats that helped Subaru call it a family vehicle and evade taxes on imported pickup trucks.
The Fiat Multipla never made it ashore in the U.S., but this cartoonishly bulging, bug-eyed family hauler is too ugly not to include here. Practical as it may have been, with plenty of headroom and space for passengers or cargo, the Multipla's original unique look lasted only a few years before a redesign in 2004. CarThrottle's readers even dubbed it "the ugliest car ever made," with the Multipla outpacing everyone's favorite design whipping boy, the Pontiac Aztek.
Luxury cars aren't immune to design missteps, and the Lexus SC 430 is all the proof you need. Panned by car lovers as a strangely ill-proportioned bathtub of a car, it definitely didn't meet the high expectations for buyers willing to spend big on a powerful convertible. It was even derided by Top Gear as "the worst car in the world" — ouch. "Whoa doggies, it's ugly," Jalopnik says. "Maybe ugly is too harsh a word. ... Frumpy, maybe? Dumpy? Something with an -umpy at its end for certain."
The Yugo is low-hanging fruit for any list of bad cars, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that, aside from all of its well-documented quality problems, it was also really, really ugly. This rickety little hatchback was meant to be as cheap as possible, and it shows in the stripped-down, boxy exterior. "From the moment you walk up to a Yugo, you're struck by a little bit of sadness," Autotrader says. "Regardless of why you feel it, you feel it. You know you're going to be disappointed."
Dubbed "the car that makes the Aztek look pretty" by Autotrader, the Marcos Mantis was an obscure British sports car with a bizarrely long "snout" and abysmal sales: Only a few dozen were sold before the company went bankrupt. "No one seems to know how many Mantis models still exist; presumably, no mere mortal has the gastrointestinal fortitude to count them," Autotrader says.
Nissan's second relatively recent entry on this list, the Juke never exactly went mainstream thanks to its unconventional design. Nissan called it "a fun car that allows for more assertive expression," but others were unconvinced (The Guardian called it "short-muzzled, frog-eyed and magnificently ugly." Regardless, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Jukes sold well, and Nissan redesigned it to make it even weirder-looking in 2014.
A legendary flop of the '50s, the Ford Edsel "was one of those ugly ducklings that never had a swan phase," according to The New York Times. Ford apparently invested some $250 million in the distinctive Edsel, but shifting consumer tastes meant buyers had little love for this flashy cruiser. One of the most maligned design features? The grille, which "drew comparisons to an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon, a toilet seat, and other cruder images," notes The Washington Post.
A crossover that can haul a laughable amount of junk in its oversized trunk, the Lincoln MKT has changed little since it was unveiled in 2010. And that's ... unfortunate, unless you're into cars with disproportionate rear ends (hey, we won't judge). The Daily Drive calls it one of the ugliest SUVs of the past 20 years. "There's really no way around this: The MKT is ungainly ... The overall look is not unlike a wheelbarrow rolling backwards."
And now for something completely different. Japanese cars are more design-forward than their American counterparts, but there's a difference between pushing the envelope and setting it on fire. The Mitsuoka Orochi, a limited-edition six-figure sports car, is in the latter category. "The front end is absolutely bizarre, in the sense that it looks like the designer tried very hard to make the car look like it was smiling, or possibly eating something," notes Autotrader. "I truly believe it was modeled on an image of some sort of happy-looking animal."
As ubiquitous as the fuel-sipping Toyota Prius is today, it has taken a beating from automotive design buffs. The low point for this hybrid? A 2015 redesign that's still on dealers' lots today that left the already-quirky vehicle looking a little like an alien. Of course, that's if you're kind — according to TopSpeed, the car is "a double-chinned angry guppy that wants to eat your face." (Hey, for 50-plus mpg, that's a sacrifice we may be willing to make.)
Just back away slowly from this classic cruiser and no one will get hurt. The 1961 Plymouth Fury lived up to its angry name with a truly menacing-looking front-end "face." It "wasn't the only furrowed brow scowling out of showrooms across the United States in 1961. But it was the one that possibly caused the most nightmares," writes Curbside Classic.
Back when Hyundai was still trying to hold its own in the U.S. market, it decided to take a risk with the sporty coupe's redesign. For many observers, it was a swing and a miss, landing it on Jalopnik's list of "The Ten Worst Automotive Facelifts of All Time." The new Tiburon was an "insect-eyed monstrosity ... It looks like it came out of the black lagoon," the site laments. Still, Hyundai got the last laugh, with sales that jumped markedly in 2000.
"It looked like an upside-down bathtub," admitted one GM worker of the 1991 Chevrolet Caprice, a car that had nearly a three-decade legacy of strong sales. But this redesigned full-size sedan was a bust. Fortune called it "a beached whale," while the slightly kinder Washington Post called it "bulbous." However you describe it, sales were disappointing, and it lasted only a couple of years before getting a face lift.
For anyone keeping score, this marks Nissan's third entry on the "ugly" list — a dubious distinction, to be sure. The S-Cargo, a small cargo van, was sold only in Japan from 1989 to 1991. "What makes it so ugly? Well, all of it," Autotrader sneers. "The entire car has all these curves, circles and arches, and then the rear end just stops. Abruptly. With no explanation." There's also the fact that it resembles a snail, with a name that sounds suspiciously like "escargot." We see what you did there, Nissan.
About a decade before it decided to leave the U.S. market, Isuzu tried to give buyers an SUV that looked distinctive, fun, and a touch futuristic. The result was the VehiCross, a limited-edition vehicle that inspired both cheers and jeers. While it snagged a decent enough review from Motor Trend (though they do call the VehiCross "a Toyota RAV4 on high-potency steroids," others pulled few punches. "No one wants a three-door SUV that looks like an escapee from the set of 'Battlestar Galactica,' " deadpans Car and Driver.
The redesigned Cadillac Seville was supposed to help GM mark the start of the '80s in head-turning style. It certainly got people to look, if only to do a double-take when they realized just how ugly a Caddy could be. Designed with a retro "bustle back," the new Seville notched disappointing sales, likely because the engine was just as bad as the design. "A near-perfect synthesis of wretched design and ruinous engineering," Curbside Classic concludes. Tell us how you really feel.
French automaker Citroen desperately needed a midrange car that would hold its own against competitors like Renault in the '60s. Instead, it churned out the Ami, with an oddly raked back window that didn't exactly appeal to buyers. According to Motor Trend, this was actually a cost-cutting move because the trunk lid could be attached up there to stay open, no prop rod or counter springs necessary. Whatever the case, the result was "the most ungainly design ever."
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