The automotive industry continues to move forward, introducing a lot of new, good-looking cars and discontinuing the ugliest ones. On the 2015 version of this list, four of the cars from the previous year’s list had been discontinued. This year, another three models get sent to the great parts-bin in the sky. The Scion xB, Honda Crosstour, and Mini Coupe are—thankfully—no longer available.
I’m starting to have a hard time finding ten truly ugly models to make this list, which is a good problem to have if you care about cars and how they look. The trends are moving in a good direction. But the show must go on.
The criteria for inclusion is the same it has always been. 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 completely subjectively based on how many I see on the highways in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area). I don’t include exotic, military, or special-purpose vehicles—so no super-cars, tanks, or postal trucks. I also don’t include vehicles reserved exclusively for the commercial market, such as the persistently horrific Ram Promaster.
This list is entirely my personal opinion. If you own one of the cars on this list, well, don’t take it personally.
What have they done to the Civic? When it was redesigned in 2006, it was clearly the best-of-breed in the compact segment, with features and looks to match. It was so good that I bought one. They made some missteps in the years since, but at least they always looked okay . . . until now.
What was once the best looking compact around is now an over-designed-by-committee monstrosity. It has crab claws for tail lights, and a grille up-front that brings the worst excesses of Acura’s chrome-nose down to one of Honda’s bread-and-butter sedans.
I’m sure it’s a fine, competent car. But I wouldn’t want to be seen in one. Please, Honda, send these designers back to Acura where they won’t be able to do as much damage.
Let’s start with the branding. The X4, like its even-uglier X6 cousin, is branded by BMW as a ‘sports activity coupe.’ The first problem here is that the X4 is not sporty. The second is that it is not well suited for activities. The third is that it isn’t a coupe.
BMW can be forgiven for not really knowing how to market the X4, because it is the kind of vehicle that is inherently unmarketable. It’s too bulbous and top-heavy to be a sports car, it’s too cramped and misshapen to be useful as a crossover, and it doesn’t really fit into any category any better than it does into those two.
I’m not against automotive experimentation . . . but the X4 looks like somebody accidentally stuck some 3-series parts onto a small crossover and tried to pass it off as a cohesively-designed vehicle.
A Jeep is supposed to stand out by being rugged, utilitarian, and functional. Whoever designed the Cherokee thought it would be a better idea for it to stand out by having all its front-end bits in the wrong places.
The real shame of it is that, as car-based crossovers go, this one is the most capable on the market. It is based on the same Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform that underpins the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200, and yet the Cherokee can go pretty much anywhere. It is a Jeep. Really.
And yet, at a distance, it looks like any other bland crossover in its class . . . except from the front, where it looks so bad that you wish it was any other crossover in its class.
Mercedes GLE Coupe
Take everything I said about the BMW X4 and change each instance of ‘BMW’ to ‘Mercedes.’ The GLE makes as little sense as the X4 (and the X6, which will appear later in this list). And Mercedes had the audacity to put ‘Coupe’ in the model name, not just in the marketing materials.
Once again, say it with me now, a coupe has two doors. If your vehicle has more than that, it is, by definition, not a coupe.
If you are looking for a vehicle that lies somewhere between half-baked luxury sports sedan and half-baked luxury crossover, and you have $65,000 to burn, and you want people to question your sanity and taste, go ahead and buy a GLE Coupe.
The Soul makes sense on paper. It’s small, it’s funky, and it’s affordable. It has a decent set of features for the price. It has room for four and some usable cargo space in a very small package.
But then they went and made it look like this.
The Soul is trying too hard. It’s being different just to be different. The Kia bean-counters were trying very, very hard to come up with something that might pass for edgy . . . add some angles, make it look plastic, throw everything you have on the rear-end. But it doesn’t look edgy. It looks bad.
At least we got some fun commercials with hamsters.
Everything I said about the BMW X4 and the Mercedes GLE Coupe applies here. And in my opinion, the X6 surpasses them all in ugliness. It’s bigger and brasher than the X4, and something about it just makes it look more . . . wrong . . . than the competitive Mercedes.
It is, however, about $5,000 less expensive than the GLE Coupe. So that’s something. But it still isn’t a coupe, let alone a ‘sports activity coupe.’
Try as I might, I just can’t make sense of what this car is trying to be. That would be bad enough if there were only one of them, but the X6 is just the worst of an inexplicable German bunch of non-coupe ‘coupe’ crossover sedan things. They all excel at only one thing: looking terrible.
Many ugly cars come and go, but the Prius remains. It is newly redesigned for 2016, but did not improve. It is still a vehicle that appeals to the kind of environmentalist who wants to be able to say that he is saving the planet . . . and wants you to feel bad that you aren’t.
Of course there is nothing wrong with wanting a fuel efficient vehicle . . . and there are many hybrid and electric cars out there to choose from. But only the Prius looks dumb enough to enable somebody to say—straight-faced—that they value the polar bears more than their pride.
I like polar bears too . . . but I have my limits.
Many ugly cars end up being ugly because they are trying to be multiple things simultaneously. For example, the BMW X4 and X6 and the Mercedes GLE Coupe are trying to be sports cars and large crossovers. In the ensuing mess, they fail miserably at being either.
The Honda CR-Z falls into the same trap. It is supposed to conjure the bare-bones functionality of the old CR-X, and be a small sports coupe, and be an earth-friendly hybrid. And it fails on all counts. Although, unlike the X4, X6, and GLE Coupe, the CR-Z is at least actually a coupe.
Take all of the worst bits from across the Honda product line and bolt them together . . . then add some lumps and make sure none of the lines connect at the right places. Congratulations, you have built a CR-Z.
As I have said in previous years, when a company feels the need to declare that its products are “smart,” that is often a good warning that they aren’t. Case-in-point, the Smart Fortwo.
This is a vehicle that looks like—and basically is—little more than an aspirational, road-legal golf cart. And it looks about as silly as you would expect a golf cart to look if it was trying really, really hard to be a car.
Although the Fortwo has been sold in the U.S. for about seven years, I still laugh whenever I see one. I suspect I’m not the only one.
What is it about small cars? So many manufacturers seem to think that their compacts and sub-compacts need to be ‘funky’ or ‘weird,’ which is why small cars have always been over-represented in this annual list. The Nissan Juke, in stereotypical Japanese form, over-achieves.
Everything is wrong with this car. All of the lights are in the wrong places, it has an unpleasant shape, it has lumps in unusual spots, it has crab claws for tail lights, and it has four doors but tries to insist that it only has two.
It is almost looks frog-like, which could have been cute. People like to zoomorphize their cars. But this frog seems to have caught some terrible disease. Keep your distance; it might be contagious.
In September of last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the Volkswagen Group had programmed its diesel cars to comply with American environmental regulations while being tested, but ignore them the rest of the time.
Many of the environmental regulations applied to gasoline cars are silly because they target carbon dioxide (CO2), an essentially harmless compound. It’s plant food, and has virtually no harmful effects when released into the atmosphere. We should probably reduce human CO2 emissions as a matter of principle, but it doesn’t justify onerous regulation, especially when there are much more important things to regulate.
Like, for example, some of the compounds that come from diesel engines. The main subject of diesel engine regulations is ‘NOX,’ a shorthand for both nitrogen oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). NO, when released into the atmosphere, can cause acid rain, depletes the ozone layer, and serves as a precursor to NO2. And NO2 is worse; it is downright toxic to humans and other animals. It can trigger asthma attacks, cause serious lung ailments, and some evidence links it to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Volkswagen Group vehicles with the ‘cheat’ in place spew out as much as forty times the legal limit of NOX in normal day-to-day driving.
There is no excuse for this. Even if the regulations were stupid, businesses have to comply with them if they want to sell products in the United States. Volkswagen broke the law. But much worse, Volkswagen did something that really hurts people and harms the environment. There is no way to quantify this harm; it’s impossible to count how many asthma attacks, how many lung ailments, and how much acid-rain damage is directly attributable to Volkswagen’s cheat. But we do know that harm has been done, and that it could easily have been prevented.
Many car companies have done ugly things over the years, but this could be among the ugliest. Shame on you, Volkswagen.