There are some big changes in this year’s list of the Ten Ugliest Cars. Three of the top four vehicles from the 2005 list (the Ford Thunderbird [#4], Toyota Echo [#3], and Pontiac Aztek [#2]) have been discontinued, and there have been some repulsive new models introduced and major styling updates to the old.
As always, this list is my opinion. Furthermore, there may be ugly cars that I’ve missed. Please feel free to make your own nominations, defenses of models I’ve included, ringing endorsements of my stylistic tastes, or anything else in the comments area.
10. Toyota Matrix—On the 2005 list, the Matrix was listed in tandem with the Scion xA at #9. They share many of the same design cues, but perhaps this dual-listing was slightly unfair to the Matrix. Slightly.
9. Honda Element—The 2006 Element is quite improved from previous models, and would have dropped off the list had the rest of the lineup remained the same. The Element is supposedly marketed to a ‘youthful’ market, but—even with correctly colored side panels—it has more success in the ‘tasteless’ market.
8. Pontiac G6 Coupe—The G6 Sedan, introduced last year, was an uninspired design, but it wasn’t ugly (not Top Ten ugly, anyway). The new Coupe version, however, makes an easy debut in the #8 spot by combining that blandness with a mid-90s ‘flying amoeba’ rear end.
7. Chevrolet Malibu Maxx—Chevy is trying to hide this misshapen oddity in ’06 by listing it together with the regular Malibu as if they’re the same car. The regular Malibu remains an acceptably attractive mid-size sedan, while the Maxx remains a goofy monstrosity.
6.—I have nothing against the venerable PT Cruiser, but I still cringe to see the convertible version. Chrysler has scored many design wins of late; this misshapen adaptation of the Cruiser (especially when seen from the rear) is definitely not one of them.
5. Scion xA—I’m listing Toyota’s xA (under the Scion brand) separately from its bigger Matrix cousin now. While this separation helped the Matrix, it hurt the xA. Like Honda’s Element and Chevy’s Malibu Maxx, the Scion xA tries desperately to be ‘youthful’ and ‘trendy,’ and fails.
4 [TIE]. Toyota Prius and Honda Insight—Hybrid motors are a great stopgap while we await better alternatives (like hydrogen fuel cells), but they will never become fully mainstream until they become standard equipment on normal cars. Today, they are only available as an expensive upgrade or—in the case of the Insight and Prius—as an ugly alternate model.
3. Scion xB—I think I said it best last year—”[Toyota's] xB looks like some demented cross between a, a Geo Metro, and a cardboard box.”
2. Subaru B9 Tribeca—Using a great song like Kansas’s Dust in the Wind to sell cars was pretty offensive to a classic rock listener like myself, but using it to sell the B9 Tribeca was a crime against humanity. The Tribeca tries hard to fill the void left by the Pontiac Aztek’s departure, and—surprisingly—almost succeeds. Look at it from the front or rear for the full effect.
1. Chevrolet SSR—The SSR remains the clear leader for 2006. Oh, what special effort Chevy engineers must have put forth to create this offense against taste and decency in automotive design. It is an enigma, in that it strives to be a pickup truck, sport convertible, and luxury car all in one, but the SSR—no matter how you look at it—looks bad. The only thing more inexplicable than the car itself is that, despite its high price tag, there are people who buy it.