The Ugliest Cars of the 2011 Model Year

Automotive manufacturers seem to be keeping themselves very busy, introducing another slew of all-new-for-2011 ugly cars. None of the cars on last year’s list have been discontinued, but a number of new additions forced the Nissan Versa Hatchback, Scion xD, Toyota Yaris, and Scion xB off the bottom. It’s not that any of these cars look any better this year, it’s just that they have a lot more competition.

The criteria for this list remains mostly un-changed from last year. I don’t include models that aren’t sold in the United States. I don’t include models that sell in low volume (and volume is defined subjectively based on how many I see on the roads in the Washington, D.C. metro area). I don’t include exotic, military, or special-purpose vehicles (so no super-cars, tanks, or postal trucks). It’s based entirely on my personal opinion of what looks good and what doesn’t.

You might notice that two cars on this list aren’t actually available to buy just yet, which is a bit abnormal. Because they are being made available by major brands as 2011 models in the coming months, I expect that they will sell in reasonable volume and qualify for this list. I would feel bad leaving them out until 2012 over a unique scheduling oddity. I don’t expect this to become a regular occurrence.


The List

  1. Kia Soul

    Cute, giant hamster advertisements can’t save the Soul. In fact, I don’t think anything can save the Soul. Kia fell into the same trap that has caught so many other car companies over the years: the harder you try to make something ‘hip’ and ‘trendy,’ the less ‘hip’ and ‘trendy’ it really is. It’s clear that Kia tried very hard to make the Soul ‘hip’ and ‘trendy.’ I have to give Kia a little bit of credit for finally producing a car with some personality, even if it is the sort of personality that makes you want to bash its head in with a brick.
  2. Toyota Prius

    The Prius’s precipitous drop to number nine on this list isn’t because the Prius has improved. No, this car is as bad as ever, it just happens to have some strong competition. Catering to the haughty environmentalist crowd, the Prius is a vehicle for people who can’t bear to live without everybody around them knowing how great they are. Its cheese-wedge shape supposedly improves fuel economy, but nobody should have to pay this kind of price to save a few dollars on gas.
  3. Honda Insight

    The original Insight was the first gas/electric hybrid vehicle available on the market, and Honda kept it going many years past its useful life (selling only a few hundred each year) just to be able to say they had a more efficient hybrid than Toyota. After a year’s absence, the Insight returned in 2010 as an almost direct carbon copy of the Toyota Prius. It’s really no uglier than the Prius, but ranks one higher because of Honda’s complete lack of design originality. I call it the Honda Prius.
  4. Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

    Nissan has been very busy over the last few years trying to make inroads in the ugly-car market, which just a few years ago was dominated by Toyota and General Motors products. The Murano CrossCabriolet, new for 2011,  is a convertible version of a large crossover. Personally, I think you would have to be high on something to conceive of making the Murano—a capable family hauler—into a convertible. One look at its misshapen tail lights, lumpy rear deck, and garish dual-pane rear window confirms the suspicion.
  5. Toyota FJ Cruiser

    So, Toyota decided to try and make a Jeep. It didn’t end well. The FJ Cruiser appears to be made out of cheap plastic, like a scaled-up version of ‘Off-road Barbie’s’ car or something. I doubt it would be able to stand up to the rough off-roading that Toyota advertises it is capable of—plastic paneling usually loses against trees, rocks, etc. As a family hauler, well, Toyota itself offers better-equipped and better-looking alternatives. In other words, the FJ Cruiser fails at being a rough-and-tumble SUV, fails at being a suburban family hauler, and looks bad doing either.
  6. Scion iQ

    Not content to let Daimler’s Smart rule the dumb-looking micro-car market in the United States, Toyota is bringing its own dumb-looking micro-car to the States for 2011. Branded as the Scion iQ, it even playfully mimics Smart’s reference to human intelligence. It looks very slightly better than Smart’s Fortwo, and has room to squeeze in a third person (although it’s unclear if the average American person will fit). All-in-all though, driving an iQ makes it look like you don’t have much of one.
  7. Smart Fortwo

    Usually, if a product has to tell you it’s smart, it isn’t. Daimler’s Smart brand is a great example. Now in its third year on the U.S. market, the Smart Fortwo is one of the most inexplicable cars out there. Maybe it makes some sense for city-dwellers with no family who never get on a freeway, never leave the city, and never have to pick up groceries . . . but that tiny percentage of the market would be better served (and more attractive) on a lower-priced motor-scooter. Or a golf cart. Or a Kia.
  8. Honda CR-Z

    Branded as a ‘sport hybrid,’ the new-for-2011 Honda CR-Z is really the successor to the original Insight hybrid. It’s terribly overpriced (starting at $19,200, compared to the Civic Coupe’s $15,600) and combines the worst design elements from across Honda’s product lines, including the Insight’s rear-end and the Accord’s garish ‘personality line’ down the side. All-in-all, the CR-Z is just another car that tries too hard . . . and fails. This car says “designed by committee” all over it.
  9. Nissan Cube

    After one year at the top of the list, the Nissan Cube makes a surprising drop to the #2 spot. It’s hard to believe that anybody successfully made something uglier than this monstrosity, which I declared last year to be the worst looking mass-produced car ever sold in the United States. The Fiat Multipla still beats it in a world-wide ‘ugliest ever’ contest, but that’s not saying much. The Cube is named for the most symmetric of geometric shapes, and yet is one of the least symmetric cars ever built. They couldn’t even name it right.
  10. Nissan Juke

    Like the Pontiac AZTEK before it, the Cube seemed destined for a long run at the top of this list, but after just one short year it has been usurped by another Nissan: the Juke. While the Cube offends with its asymmetry, the Juke offends in a more traditional way. Its headlights are in the wrong place, it is festooned with lumpy, misshapen sheet metal, its rounded windshield looks like something from a bad sci-fi movie, and its tail lights look like . . . I don’t even know what they look like. They are beyond explanation. Congratulations, Nissan; you’ve really out-done yourselves with this one.

Dishonorable Mention

  • Chrysler 200

    The 2007 Sebring Sedan redesign was generally regarded as a debacle for Chrysler, and made an appearance on this list in 2008 with my comment, “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.”

    When Daimler sold Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management in 2007, we all hoped for the Sebring’s quick replacement with an improved model. Nothing happened. Then Chrysler went bankrupt and was sold off to Italian automaker Fiat and the U.S. federal government. Again, we hoped for the Sebring’s quick replacement. Again, nothing happened.

    Now the Sebring has finally been replaced with a new model: the 2011 Chrysler 200. Chrysler thought this new design was so much better than the much-maligned outgoing Sebring that it warranted a completely new name. The problem? The 200 is not a new design at all; it’s just an updated Sebring. It rides on the same platform, shares many of the same engine options, and, quite frankly, doesn’t even look much different.

    For trying to pass itself off as a completely new-for-2011 mid-sized sedan when it’s really nothing more than a face-lifted 2007 Sebring, the Chrysler 200 deserves a dishonorable mention.

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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.