CarInsurance.com sat 1,500 licensed drivers down and asked them to look at photos of 12 vehicles made in the last decade and decide if they would be embarrassed to be seen in them. The participants were then asked to rank the three most cringeworthy, in their opinion. “All these cars are bold statements,” CarInsurance.com managing editor Des Toups said. “You either love them or hate them.” Every so often, manufacturers will take some creative license with their products. While this approach has certainly yielded some tremendous results, more often than not, the general populace will be divided into Camp Love or Camp Hate.
Unfortunately, little to no explanation was offered as to the thinking behind respondents’ particular choices. It should also be noted that the users were told to rank the 12 cars given to them, rather than submitting contenders of their own. Additionally, the CarInsurance.com “Cringe Score” represents the relative weight of all votes cast for a particular vehicle, based on a 1-to-10 scale; the points given are not a percentage. The Cringe Score assigned point values to the top three vehicles chosen as the most cringeworthy, then standardized them on a 1-to-10 scale.
12. Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
Based on an SUV but featuring the retractable roof of a convertible, the Nissan (NSANY.PK) Murano CrossCabriolet doesn’t really fit into either camp. It’s too big and bulky to enjoy as a convertible but really has none of the utility or practical nature that would make it a sensible SUV, either. It scored a 0.3 on the scale.
11. Chevrolet HHR
Retro-inspired design seems to be a big hit-or-miss strategy with newer cars, and it appears that Chevrolet’s (NYSE:GM) application of the aesthetic to the HHR scored more on the hit side with the participants, as the car scored a lowly 0.7 on the cringeworthy scale — and given the nature of this list, that’s a good thing.
10. Honda Element
Boxy and square in just about every measure, the Honda (NYSE:HMC) Element’s styling cues certainly weren’t for everybody, though the car does appeal to the avid outdoor crowd. There were apparently a few members of that crowd among the participants, as the Element scored a 0.9 for cringeworthiness.
9. Chrysler PT Cruiser
A similar approach to the Chevy HHR, the Chrysler (FIATY.PK) PT Cruiser set the benchmark for the return to retro. It seems that the HHR was able to pull it off more effectively though, as the survey’s participants awarded the PT Cruiser a score of 1.
8. Pontiac Aztek
We’re actually a bit surprised that the Aztek didn’t end up higher on the list, as it has been dubbed one of the ugliest cars ever by numerous parties, including the court of public opinion. Its quirky, plastic-laden, oddly proportioned figure was given a rating of 1.4 on the cringe scale.
7. Lincoln Town Car
The entry of the Lincoln (NYSE:F) Town Car had us a little puzzled, too. Perhaps its score of 1.6 is due to its nearly identical resemblance to its Crown Victoria sibling — or maybe it’s the car’s unbreakable bond to the geriatric set. Regardless, the Town Car enjoyed tremendous success, particularly among the business traveler class.
6. Subaru Baja
Part truck and part car, the Subaru Baja was a sort of Japanese take on the El Camino. Though it proved itself to be a very capable vehicle, it was also quite a polarizing spectacle to lay eyes on. Its score is tied with the Town Car, at 1.6.
5. Volkswagen New Beetle
The Volkswagen (VLKAY.PK) Beetle’s return has been met with mixed results, and while the older new Beetles were a decidedly feminine car, VW tried to “man up” the car a bit with a more aggressive stance and a meaner scowl. Still, it ranked No. 5 on the list, with a score of 1.9.
4. Chevrolet SSR
Part hot rod, part truck, the Chevy SSR fell into a wide range of definitions and represented one of the most peculiar models in GM’s arsenal at the time. Though it was definitely a car meant for the pleasure of driving (i.e., it was not a work truck), participants gave the SSR a score of 2.1.
3. Hummer H2
“Women really didn’t like the H2,” Toups, CarInsurance.com’s managing editor, said. That’s not too surprising, either, as the behemoth vehicle was really designed to convey the most masculine demeanor possible. Participants slapped the car with a 3.5-point cringe score.
2. Nissan Cube
Say what you want about Nissan’s Cube, but the one thing you can’t hold against the company is that it nailed the name for this car. Nissan tried to bring the distinctly Japanese styling to the States, but the vehicle just wasn’t met with the same warmth that it got from its domestic market. Participants were not feeling particularly warm toward it either, and it scored a 3.6 on the scale.
1. Smart ForTwo
The Smart Fortwo took the top — or bottom? — spot on the list by a wide margin and a score of 7.6. It “looks like I couldn’t afford a full-size car.” It’s “too dorky.” It “looks like a toy.” Those were just some of the thoughts that CarInsurance.com participants had regarding the tiny car. However, if parallel parking is a sore subject for you, the Smart might be worth a second look.