There have been some really bad styling blunders over the years in the automotive industry. From undersized foglights and the excessive use of chrome, to over-sized grilles and the utilization of unpainted plastics, there really is a mistake for everyone. Almost all automakers are guilty of releasing at least one ugly vehicle in its company’s history, while others have released scores of slovenly scrap-heaps over the years.
A couple of years ago Edmunds.com released a list entitled “100 Ugliest Cars of All Time.” This was a hoot to read over, and many of the pictures surely brought forth mixed feelings of mirth and malcontent for many readers. There were a lot of older cars on the list (the 1980s were known more for cocaine abuse than for brilliant styling cues), and save for one horrendous offender we opted to forgive the classics as they had no idea what the word “streamlined” even meant.
What boggles the mind is that many of these cars get a stamp of approval for production in the first place. Surely someone along the way has to have an objection and makes mention that a particular styling point looks like it could use a second rendering. But instead designers and manufacturers plod along, throwing new ideas at us hoping that something will stick.
But it doesn’t always work like that, because the majority of the time critics and consumers are going to raise an eyebrow and say something like “Oh look, they’re trying too hard again.” Sure, auto makers are always looking for ways to set themselves apart from the pack, but it shouldn’t have to be like that. A well-designed, simplistically functional approach is oftentimes more likely to win critics and consumers over. Just look at the Honda Civ — oh, wait, that earlier generation was pretty poorly styled… Maybe we should have included that one on the list too.
1. 2010-2013 Acura ZDX
This short-lived and utterly ill-advised flop from Acura was a mish-mash of all the wrong styling ideas. Oddly angular headlights, a pointy lower airdam, and bowtie-shaped air ducts all rested below Acura’s massive “bird beak grille,” which protruded forward like a massive plastic spade. The compact crossover also had a sloping roofline like a fastback, but its design was so sharp that most adults had issues sitting upright while in the back seat. And while the rear tail lamps and angled trunk were quite appealing to some, even Acura’s reliability couldn’t outweigh the public’s dislike for this lemon and it was phased out of production after only three years. Lucky for us the MDX and RDX keep going strong, and we are absolutely head-over-heels for both of those vehicles when it comes to styling.
2. 1974-1978 Ford Mustang II
Our only classic car on the list today comes to us from Ford, who thought it would be grand to take the iconic styling of the original American sports car, and turn it into a brown paper bag on wheels. It was a shame really, seeing a loved car go from “wow” to “what?” overnight, and to this day people still wonder what Ford was thinking when it gave this design a green light. At least this rendition didn’t totally kill the brand, and the new Mustangs make us want to moonwalk our way around them every time we see one.
3. 2003-2006 Chevrolet Super Sport Roadster (SSR)
Oh, what a hot mess this little truck/roadster was when it came out in the early 2000s. It really had quite a lot of potential too, but Chevy was apparently trying to get back to its roots and wanted to throw a retro-mod car at us. So even with a powerful 6.0-liter LS engine it was hard for buyers to get past the car’s flared wheel wells, bubbly bonnet, and gregarious grille, which split both headlights in two. If GM really wants us to forget this poorly-styled roadster they should consider re-releasing the “Syclone” with a Corvette engine and some tricked-out suspension.
4. 2001-2005 Pontiac Aztek
Years after its demise the Aztek continues to top lists as one of the most hideous cars of all time, which is a shame because it actually could be outfitted with some clever features like an attachable pop-up tent. But according to Road & Track, the car scored dead last after GM did some market research, and back then GM would give the go-ahead on a lot of cars that failed product clinics, so the Aztek was born. This report also said that anyone on the team who objected to something like the gratuitous amounts of unpainted plastic trim was threatened with expulsion in complete totalitarian management fashion. So no one spoke-up, and the rest is history.
5. 2000-2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser
Here’s another throw-back build from an American manufacturer that just makes us want to gouge our eyes out. With styling cues reminiscent of something a bootlegging mobster would have driven, and a grille the size of Wyoming, this little hearse was a disaster from a styling perspective. But for some reason this car was not a disaster on the sales floor, and quite a few PT Cruisers made it out into the market during its surprisingly elongated 10-year run.
6. 2007-2014 Scion xB
Here’s a modern car that is reliable, fuel-efficient, roomy, and inexpensive to own and operate. It also looks a bit like an over-sized Tonka toy. Boxy where it shouldn’t be and rounded where it is not required, the latest generation of xB makes us miss the first generation of the Scion line-up when it comes to styling.
7. 1995-1997 Suzuki X90
Oh where to start on this little upstart? Bubbly, bland, quirky, and totally topless, this mini truck looks like what would happen if a Honda del Sol got busy with an off-road lift kit. Since there was obviously nothing masculine about this “truck” it was marketed more toward women, who would often say “Oh that’s cute. But I wouldn’t buy one.” Its styling also led to some practicality issues, as the X90 did not come with a lot in the way of storage capacity.
8. 2009-2014 Lincoln MKT
The Lincoln MKT has a super nice interior, excellent handling characteristics, and a potent powerplant. But on the outside there is no getting around how “fish-like” the MKT looks from every angle. Coupled with a substantial price-tag and a body that Car and Driver says has “goofy proportions and [a] polarizing snout” we can see why the brand has been struggling in recent years.
9. 2008-2014 Nissan Cube
I want to like the Cube so badly, but every time I see one I can’t get past how odd it looks! Sure, it is very clever, practical, and fuel-efficient, but there is so much going on with this car that it boggles the mind. The car’s rims are clearly Professor X-inspired, the grille reminds me a bit of a futuristic cheese grater, and a body that looks like it was formed out of Play-Doh and Jelly Beans. On the bright side Nissan offers an array of other compact cars that aren’t nearly as quirky, and we like the idea of a re-styled Cube down the line as it does have a lot going for it in every other department.
10. 1999-2001 Hyundai Tiburon
Rounding out our cheat sheet is a car with rounded headlights, a rounded back-side, and a profile that is unlikely to make anyone’s head spin around. With its uninspired lower fascia, to its microscopic foglights and overly “fishy” rear bumper, this car was a lemon from the beginning. And speaking of lemons be sure to check it out in yellow if you think that it doesn’t look ugly enough in silver. Fortunately Hyundai has learned from its blunders, and the later Tiburons actually looked quite nice.
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