The 2023 list of ugliest cars has a couple of truly momentous changes. The former number-two ugliest car, the Toyota C-HR, has been discontinued and sent to the great junkyard in the sky. And the former ugliest car, the Toyota Prius, which has been a long-time presence on this list, has been completely redesigned . . . and it looks fine. Oh, how times have changed.
There are fewer ugly cars on the market now than there have been in many years. It was a challenge to come up with a list of ten, and some of the cars in the lower half aren’t really that bad. With the C-HR disappearing and the Prius slipping off the bottom of the list, that left room for the Jeep Renegade in the ninth position and the Chevrolet Bolt in the tenth. I have also made some adjustments to the order to reflect changes in my opinions.
To qualify for this list, a car must be sold in volume to the general public in the United States. Volume is defined subjectively based on my observations (in other words, if I see them on the roads, they qualify; if I don’t, they don’t). Vehicles are excluded if they are not sold new in North America, sell in very low volume, or are sold only for exotic, military, commercial, or other special purposes.
Following are the ten ugliest cars of the 2023 model year according to me. I want to reiterate that his list is my personal opinion. If you own one of the cars on this list, well, sorry. I still love you. But I wouldn’t let you pick out a car for me!
10. Chevrolet Bolt
Slowly but surely, hybrid and electric cars are starting to look good. They used to be ugly on purpose, mainly because their core market was pretentious environmentalists who desperately wanted everybody else to know just how much they loved the Earth. But now, electric cars are becoming mainstream. They must appeal to the masses. Chevrolet missed the memo.
9. Jeep Renegade
The Jeep Renegade is just another goofy-looking subcompact crossover. It’s a “Jeep” in name only—Stellantis just “badge-engineered” a Fiat 500X. I guess it’s hard for the Stellantis automotive conglomerate to keep its brand identities straight. They do have fourteen of them! Trying to make a cutesy, quirky little Italian car look like a tough American off-roader results in . . . this. It’s not cute. It’s not tough. It’s ugly.
8. Hyundai Santa Cruz
Like I said last year, I like the idea of a small, affordable, car-like pickup. I have a soft spot for compact trucklets like the Isuzu Pup, the Subaru Brat, and the old Ford Ranger. The Ford Maverick is stepping into that space, and Ford can’t make them fast enough to keep up with demand. There have also been some ”car-trucks” like the El Camino over the years that were cool, in a way. The Santa Cruz isn’t.
7. Kia Soul
The Kia Soul persists. It’s not really repulsive, it’s just a pedestrian kind of ugly. It’s trying too hard. It has hockey-stick taillights. The Soul was one of the first “trendy” econo-boxes that was designed to appeal to young, first-time car buyers by people who didn’t actually know any young, first-time car buyers. Its main redeeming quality is that many of its later competitors were worse.
6. Nissan Kicks
The Nissan Kicks is another “trendy” econo-box. It’s better than the company’s previous efforts, the Cube and the Juke, both of which ranked much higher on this list before their blessed deaths. It’s still bad though. Small four-door crossovers don’t have to be ugly. There have been some good ones. But most of them look like the manufacturer kept hitting them with the design stick until it cried. Less is more!
5. Hyundai Venue
I went too easy on the Hyundai Venue last year—for 2023, it moves up to where it belongs. The basic shape isn’t too bad; the more squared-off, conservative style could have worked on this kind of subcompact crossover. But then they added those “extreme eyebrows” headlights on the front-end and just ruined the whole thing. Why are so many companies doing that? Stop it!
4. Mercedes GLC Coupe
Now we move beyond over-designed econo-boxes and meet the German potato brigade. The Mercedes GLC Coupe is the least ugly of the four members of the potato class, but that isn’t saying much. I don’t even know what to call these things. They have a crossover chassis, a sedan body, a rear hatch, and a generally lumpy vibe. Mercedes calls it a coupe. It is not a coupe!
3. BMW X4
The BMW X4 is basically the same as the Mercedes GLC Coupe: same size, same shape, same purposelessness, and same misuse of the word “coupe.” BMW gets two bonus points for not putting the word “coupe” in the name, then loses one for calling it a “sports activity coupe” in all the marketing materials anyway. And it’s a little bit uglier than its competitor, so it ranks slightly higher.
2. Mercedes GLE Coupe
The third member of the German potato brigade is the Mercedes GLE Coupe. It is everything its stablemate GLC Coupe is, but bigger. It’s not just a potato; it’s a giant potato. And I have to reiterate that a “coupe” is a “two-door automobile often seating only two persons” (Merriam-Webster). I know that English is probably not the Mercedes marketing team’s first language, but it’s not that complicated.
1. BMW X6
The fourth, final, and ugliest member of the German potato brigade is the BMW X6, which rises to the top of the whole list thanks to the discontinuation of the Toyota C-HR and redesign of the Toyota Prius. This “sports activity coupe” is unsuitable for sports and activities and—for the last time—it is not a coupe! Stop it. And stop basing your car designs on starchy tubers!
In addition to the ten ugliest cars each model year, I also “award” a car, group of cars, manufacturer, or design feature with a “dishonorable mention.” This year, the “award” goes to:
BMW’s New Grille
BMW is no stranger to controversial design decisions. A well-known example was the rear-end style first introduced on the 2002 BMW 7 Series, which critics derisively called the “Bangle Butt” after the car’s lead designer, Chris Bangle. It was derided and ridiculed at launch. After a while though, it became . . . inoffensive. It never started looking good though. It clawed its way up to mediocrity.
The huge, gaping maw of a grille that BMW is fitting on its newest products is different. Mark my words. It will never become inoffensive. Even if it gets common enough for us to not notice it, it’ll still catch our eyes now-and-then and make us wonder what the heck the company’s designers were thinking . . . or smoking. I can’t even come up with pithy things to say about it. It renders me nearly speechless.
I’m a BMW fan. My wife and I own a Mini, which is from a BMW-owned brand and has many BMW components. I want the best for them. One day, I would like to own one. They are supposed to make premium drivers’ cars. The ideal BMW is something that looks great and drives even better. Hear me clearly, BMW: this grille does not look great. It looks terrible. Fix it.
And get rid of the X4 and X6 while you’re at it.