By Craig Fitzgerald
Innovative cars come along and the debate engages almost immediately. As the C8 Corvette debuted there was about a 60:40 split among people who thought it was smashingly beautiful, and others who felt it was an abomination.
Then there are cars that everyone agrees are just flat out hideous. Sure, some may find an appreciative group of fans that collect them for irony’s sake, but nobody is brave enough to suggest that they’re actually attractive.
We’ve collected 25 of these bad ideas, all ugly enough to grow rust on a plastic shovel. As you’ll see, no car-producing nation is immune from the ugly automobile. We spread the loathing from America to Japan, to every car-building nation in Europe.
For most of these cars, we didn’t choose a year, because every year is uniformly awful. In some cases, a manufacturer learned its lesson early on and made drastic changes after they realized what a mistake they’d made, so we single out one or two years in particular.
These are in no order of heinousness, so we’d love to hear what tops your list.
Jeep Compass: Pick any year you like. Every Compass is a paean to parsimony, the kind of vehicle you end up with for no other reason than it’s the cheapest one on the lot. Direct to Rental Fleet.
Subaru Tribeca: Subaru’s first attempt at a larger SUV was a sad trombone of unenthusiasm. The weird winged grille was “meant to convey parent-company Fuji Heavy Industries' glorious history in aviation,” and looked as much of a glued-up mess as that sounds.
AMC Matador: The Pacer and Gremlin always get tagged in these lists, but they’re so uncool they’re hip now. The bloated, bug-eyed Matador—pimped by designer Oleg Cassini—is Fat Elvis in a white jumpsuit.
Nissan Juke: Amazingly, people buy these. The Juke is the automobile’s answer to Sloth from the movie Goonies.
1986 Mercury Sable: The 1986 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable did, in fact, save the Ford Motor Company during one of its many, many lean periods. That doesn’t save the Sable from being one of the most contemptible automotive designs of the 1980s. It was supposed to look like an Audi 5000. It looked like one if you asked a six-year-old to draw it.
1992 Buick Skylark: Neophytes will single out some of the “Greatest Hits” as the ugliest cars in history, but for my money, the 1992 Buick Skylark is it. Hawk-nosed, waterfall grilled nostalgia tacked onto soulless GM Corporate-Mobile.
1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon: Even people who like the A/G-Body Cutlass hate this Cutlass. It was the era of the hatchback, so rather than actually make one, some GM designer just scribed a straight line from the rear window to the bumper on a late Friday afternoon aaaand DONE! What time does the bar open?
Datsun B-210 Hatchback: Whenever people like to tell you how terrific Japanese cars were in the 1970s, show them a picture of the B-210. Yeah, the 240Z and the 510 were amazing. This thing looked like a craven appeal to Americans who didn’t understand minimalism, because THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IT WAS.
Cadillac Cimarron: Not only ugly on the outside, ugly straight to its rotten core. A pusillanimous attempt to make a Chevrolet Cavalier wear a Cadillac badge, simultaneously trying to pass itself off as a European sports sedan. Get. Out.
1961 Plymouth Valiant: Virgil Exner at Chrysler was capable of outlandish greatness, but not when his talents were applied to cheapskate cars with dog dish hubcaps. A googly-eyed, flop-fendered monument to 1960s excess.
Suzuki X90: If Shaq’s shoe were a car.
1970 Buick Riviera: The 1965 Riviera was one of the greatest American car designs of all time. The 1971 Riviera was a controversial, yet still amazingly attractive take on personal luxury cars. The 1970 Riviera was an end-of-the-line, we’re-out-of-ideas, for-the-love-of-God-make-it-stop attempt to squeeze one more dollar out of the car-buying public.
1985 Pontiac Grand Am: A cheap car wading in a plastic kiddie pool.
Citroen Ami 6: The French are just as apt to make the world’s most beautiful car as they are to make the Ami 6. It’s hard not to love this rolling piece of performance art, but it’s definitely possible.
Reliant Robin: It’s hard enough to make a three-wheeled car look good, but put the wheel in the front and you’re sunk from the get-go. Hang a lanyard off the back and it looks like a referee’s whistle.
2001 Chevrolet Avalanche: If you hated the Grand Am’s plastic cladding, wait until you see the Avalanche! It won Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year in 2002. If you ever want to make anybody from that magazine angry, remind them of that.
Fiat 500L: Italians are known for building some of the most stunning cars in history. This is not one of them. An attempt to build a charming Italian vehicle on a Jeep platform. Arrivederci.
Tatra 603: A cross between a Tucker 48 and Homer Simpson’s design, “The Homer.” Supposedly amazing to drive, the Chechoslovakian Tatra 603 is a distended shambles of a car.
Lamborghini Veneneo: I was onced asked by some sculpted hair bro, fogged in Axe body spray, what I thought of the Veneneo. “It looks like you if you were a car,” I said. He walked away smiling.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible: Part 1 of 2 on why you should never design a convertible crossover. Even my ten-year-old son pointed and laughed. It’s a disaster. If you bought one, shame on you.
Nissan Murano Crosscabriolet: Part 2 of 2 on why you should never design a convertible crossover. Hey, I’m looking for a vehicle with flaccid handling, terrible visibility, and a back seat too small for infants. Nissan has you covered.
Pontiac Aztec: Yeah, yeah, everybody hates it. And with good reason. It should’ve been cool, but those tightwads at GM jammed it onto a minivan platform. The beginning of the end for Pontiac.
Volkswagen Routan: Come on, man. Volkswagen made some amazing vans, and still does, but for the dopey American market, they slapped a VW badge on a Dodge Caravan. Odious.
Fiat Multipla: Like a toad riding another toad.
Renault Avantime: Most ugly cars are hideous from the front, but they tend to improve as you move to the back of the vehicle. The Renault Avantime is loathsome from every angle, with a butt that might be even more inglorious than its contemptible nose.