Things still remain strangely calm in the world of ugly cars. None of last year’s cars have been discontinued, but one—the Jeep Cherokee—went through a mid-cycle refresh and is now much less ugly than it was. This made room for the Fiat 500L to make its list debut.
The criteria for inclusion is pretty simple. I don’t include models that aren’t sold in the United States. I don’t include models that sell in very low volume (and volume is defined 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 my personal opinion. If you own one of the cars on this list . . . well . . . don’t take it (too) personally.
10. Fiat 500L
There’s not much to like about much of anything that Fiat makes, but the 500L is a special kind of bad. In places it’s reminiscent of the Mini Countryman, and it matches some of the retro cool-ish-ness of the regular 500, but it pulls it all together in very strange ways. It’s like a rip-off of a rip-off where most of the best bits got lost in the translation.
9. BMW X4
The two leading German luxury manufacturers have unleashed a small fleet of “Sports Activity Coupes” into the market. None of them are sporty. None of them are good for activities. None of them are coupes. They all look like dumb, luxury potatoes. The BMW X4 is the best looking of the four, but that’s not saying much.
8. Mercedes GLC Coupe
The second least-ugly of the four inexplicable “Sports Activity Coupes” is the Mercedes GLC Coupe. Apparently feeling slightly more cheeky than BMW, they didn’t just put “coupe” in the description . . . they put it in the name. Even though it’s not a coupe. It’s very much like the BMW X4, but just a little bit uglier.
7. Kia Soul
The Kia Soul soldiers on for some reason. Kia itself keeps coming up in the world, and has moved rapidly from punchline to serious competitor. But the Soul feels like it was developed back when Kia was desperately seeking direction. It its attempt to seem youthful and hip, it just ends up looking really, really stupid.
6. Honda Civic
Oh, Honda. How? Why? The Civic has always been a somewhat bland, inoffensive, practical car . . . as it should be. But there has been a bizarre and ongoing proliferation of obnoxious sub-models like the above Type R, each of which are definitely, frustratingly offensive. The Type R does really stand out though. Somebody just kept throwing things at it until there was no room to add anything else.
5. Mercedes GLE Coupe
The German potato brigade marches on with yet another “Sports Activity Coupe” that isn’t a coupe. Like its smaller brother, GLC Coupe, the GLE Coupe is misshapen and ugly . . . but it outperforms the GLC with its sheer size. Scaling up the car scaled up the ugliness in roughly equal proportion. Why, Mercedes? Why? Please stop.
4. BMW X6
BMW couldn’t let Mercedes own the large, luxury potato market, so it, too, had to give us an upsized behemoth potato. But while the smaller X4 is slightly less ugly than its Mercedes GLC twin, the X6 manages to be just a bit more ugly than the Mercedes GLE. It’s just as big and lumpy, but lacks a bit of the GLE’s redemptive sleekness.
3. Toyota C-HR
Remember the Nissan Juke? It was terrible. It was offensive. It was a special kind of ugly. And since it was discontinued and not replaced by Nissan, Toyota apparently felt like it needed to make their own replacement. It’s not quite as bad as the Juke—which typically topped this list—but it’s close. Its rear door handles are in the wrong place. Its rear gate is just . . . bizarre. It’s bad. It’s really bad.
2. Smart Fortwo
I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it until this monstrous brand is gone. If a company feels like it needs to tell you that something is smart, it almost certainly isn’t. Smart Water? Not smart. Smart car? Also not smart. The fact that a car this small is able to comply with our safety standards is an impressive technical feat. But why make it look this terrible?
1. Toyota Prius
Part of why the Prius looks like it does is for efficiency and aerodynamics. The other part is sheer hatefulness. The people who actually buy the Prius seem to like this because they apparently want to broadcast to the world that they care about their carbon footprint more than they care about their dignity. That would be fine if nobody else had to look at it. But we do.
In addition to the ten ugliest cars each model year, I also “award” either a car model or manufacturer with the “dishonorable mention.” This year, the “award” goes to:
The Ford Motor Company
Not that long ago, the Ford Motor Company deserved a lot of praise. Under the leadership of former Chief Executive Officer Alan Mullally, the company managed to avoid bankruptcy. It was the only one of the “big three” American automakers that didn’t need a massive taxpayer bailout to keep operating.
For a while, Ford even managed to start competing with the Asian manufacturers on reliability. They were right up there in the top ten, along with Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and Subaru.
I was rooting for them. I would have seriously considered buying a Ford for a while. But they seem to have gone back off the rails lately. The reliability ratings are heading back down into the toilet. They recently announced that they’re killing off all of their sedans just because sales in that market are down. They’re losing focus and making weird investments in things like . . . electric scooter sharing.
Personally, I wouldn’t bet on them surviving the next big downturn. And that’s a darn shame. They were doing so well there for a while.