The Ugliest Cars of the 2008 Model Year

There are more big changes on this year’s list of the ugliest cars. Two models featured on last year’s list (Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, Scion xA) have been discontinued, two have undergone major appearance changes or redesigns (Scion xB, Subaru Tribeca), and another (Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible) is available for 2008 but has already had its demise announced by Chrysler’s new management. The Subaru Tribeca (formerly the ‘B9 Tribeca’) underwent a radical improvement (after only one year on the market), eliminating many of its worst visual characteristics and resulting in a stellar climb—from last year’s ugliest car to not even appearing on this year’s list.

As always, it is important to note that this list is my opinion. I am picky about how cars look, and I tend to be a bit of a minimalist (I’ll take simple shapes and lines over complex and odd angles). You may disagree, and I’m always interested to hear your thoughts!


The Top Ten Ugliest Cars

10. Honda Element—After hovering just off the top-ten list last year, the elimination of the Malibu Maxx and Scion xA and the drastic improvements to the Subaru Tribeca opened up a spot for the Element’s return. Virtually unchanged since its 2003 debut, the Element slots curiously into Honda’s lineup at a similar price to the larger, better-equipped, not-ugly Honda CR-V. There is nothing to justify the Element’s existence, and it is long overdue for discontinuation.

9. Chrysler Sebring Sedan—For several years, I drove this car’s predecessor: a 1998 Chrysler Cirrus. Having some affinity for mid-sized Chrysler sedans, seeing the redesigned Sebring Sedan—introduced in 2007—was heartbreaking. It’s simultaneously lumpy and angular, curvy and straight, smooth and . . . ribbed. It looks like it was designed by a drunken committee of mediocre designers who couldn’t agree on what they wanted, so they made it everything—including ugly.

8. Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible—Chrysler’s new management has already announced they are putting this car to a well-deserved rest after 2008. The convertible adaptation of the venerable PT Cruiser looked bad from the beginning and—unlike it’s roofed-cousin—it did not start looking better after I got used to it.

7. Nissan Versa—Nissan’s design strategy of late, which seems to be based on weird angles and lumpiness, is pretty bad. Most of their cars—though ugly—don’t make the top-ten, but the Versa stands out. It takes the worst cues from Nissan’s line and combines them with some from its primary competition, the Toyota Yaris (#4 on this list). The sedan version looks better than the hatchback, but that’s not saying much.

6. Toyota Prius—Having seen virtually no improvement since its 2004 cheese-wedge redesign, I find myself wondering if this horrendous vehicle will ever be put out of its misery. There is a small subset of the U.S. population that is obsessed with the environment, and they often want their hybrids to stand out and look weird—presumably intending to call attention to the fact that they are better than everybody else. Those who want hybrids—whether for environmental, economic, or national security reasons—but would prefer to drive something that looks normal, well, they should buy the visually superior Honda Civic Hybrid.

5. Pontiac G6 Coupe—The G6 Coupe continues to grace us with its misshapen, amoeba-like rear-end that would have made a lot more sense when that kind of thing was in-style during the late 1990s—you know, competing with the likes of the Ford Taurus during its bubble-car phase. Please, for the love of God, if you’re in the market for a large coupe buy something tasteful. The new Honda Accord, or the Nissan Altima, or a used Mercury Cougar, or anything but this monstrosity.

4. Toyota Yaris—Toyota seems to be cycling through its models one-by-one and hitting them with the ugly stick—a trend that started with the Yaris. Toyota’s new grille and overall styling looks bad on all their cars, but rarely looks any worse than it does on this . . . thing. Please, Toyota, just stop. It wasn’t that long ago that your cars looked good—or at least inoffensive! The ‘liftback’ is the worst, but the sedan isn’t much better.

3. Scion xB—Completely redesigned for 2008, Toyota’s xB, marketed under the Scion brand, makes a slight improvement. The previous version looked like “some demented cross between a Chrysler PT Cruiser, a Geo Metro, and a cardboard box.” The new version looks like a demented cross between a Chrysler PT Cruiser, a Geo Metro, and a piece of Tupperware.

2. Toyota FJ Cruiser—I’m not really sure what Toyota is going for with the FJ Cruiser. The original FJ40 was a direct competitor to the Jeep CJ series (later known as the Wrangler). The new FJ Cruiser, while sporting a similar grille . . . isn’t. It looks like something a frat-boy surfer would buy with daddy’s money thinking it makes him look cool. Sorry; it doesn’t.

1. Scion xD—Toyota, for the second year in a row, takes four of the top five positions on this list. Their xD, marketed under the Scion brand, is brand new for 2008 and replaces the xA. It is closely related to the Toyota Yaris, but surpasses the Yaris in every way—it is longer, larger, more expensive, and uglier. A worthy successor to the xA, the xD easily wins the crown as the ugliest car of the 2008 model year.

Dishonorable Mention:

Jeep Compass—As compact cars go, the Compass is not particularly bad. It looks better than its cousin, the Dodge Caliber, and many of its competitors including the Toyota Matrix and Nissan Versa. But the Compass is almost insulting to Jeep aficionados—it is a Jeep-branded vehicle that is not designed, nor intended, to ever leave the pavement. I would never even attempt to drive a Compass off-road or in bad winter weather. As a one-time driver of a Jeep J10 ‘Honcho’ pickup truck who appreciates the ‘Jeep thing’, I have a hard time even calling the Compass a Jeep with a straight face. Even stranger, the Jeep Patriot is available at a similar or lower price and actually looks like a Jeep! Imagine that! The Compass was a misguided experiment launched in the DaimlerChrysler days, and the newly independent Chrysler LLC should eliminate it immediately.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.