Generally, cars become enduring icons because they are great and boast a legacy of greatness that only gets better with each passing generation. However, cars can also become icons for different reasons: renowned for how bad they were, benchmarks of ugliness that go down in history as the comparison for all other ugly cars to be compared to.
Some cars are just so out there that they were doomed to the fringes of the market or were so bad that they became more famous for the disdain or confusion they generated than for the the actual car itself.
Here’s a quick list of cars that have been generally frowned upon throughout history for one reason or another and have overall been the subject of scorn from the auto world just for existing.
1. Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet
It’s clear what Nissan’s (NSANY.PK) engineers were trying to achieve with the Murano Cabriolet — sort of. Nissan was apparently going for the athleticism of a two-door sports car with the higher ride height and practical size of an SUV, but unfortunately, the Murano convertible achieved neither.
In Edmunds’ testing, the CrossCabriolet came in a tad slower than its conventional sibling, and for that, the Murano convertible commands a price of more than $41,000. While Edmunds did feel that it offers ample practicality for a convertible, we can’t help but feel like there are better options for one or the other.
2. Pontiac Aztec
The now defunct Pontiac (NYSE:GM) brand certainly made some good cars during its lifetime, and the Aztek was among them — save for the fact that its looks repelled the vast majority of buyers. The Aztek makes an appearance on just about everyone’s “ugliest cars” list and has become the benchmark vehicle for ugly car comparisons.
What is sad is that the Aztek took a lot of abuse for its looks, which shrouded the fact that underneath, it was indeed a rather capable vehicle, complete with an attachable tent option and a body bred for off-asphalt use (just look at all that plastic cladding).
3. Smart Coupe
It certainly has its legions of loyal fans, but Daimler AG’s tiny city car embodies all the facets that typically turn the average auto enthusiast off. Anemic horsepower, a “spartan interior,” and its goofy (but amicable) appearance have given the Smart a sort of cultish position, at least here in the United States. It is somewhat redeemed, however, by the fact that you can park these things just about anywhere.
4. Mustang II
By the 1970s, Ford’s (NYSE:F) Mustang had already become something of an icon and is credited with launching the muscle car movement. However, an oil crisis forced Ford back to the drawing board for a new generation, and the Mustang II is what resulted. Autoblog guest writer Rob Sass asserts that the “Pinto-based Mustang II nearly killed the Mustang franchise” with a powertrain lineup that topped out at a lacking 140 horsepower for the V8. Road & Track – at the time — said that the Mustang II was “neither fast, nor particularly good-handling.” However, as reviled by Mustang purists as it was and is, some argue that the Mustang II has its place in history.
5. Chrysler TC by Maserati
Though intentions were pure — as they most often are — the Chrysler TC by Maserati was a Frankenstein of vehicle, with adopted parts and badges thrown together to create what would ultimately become a bit of an embarrassment to the two companies the vehicle was trying to promote. Over three years, the car only sold 7,000 units and successfully butchered the friendship between Chrysler and the Italian automaker.
6. Yugo GV
The Yugo was the gold standard of inferior craftsmanship that gave off the impression “of something assembled at gunpoint.” It’s the car that all crappy, poorly made subcompacts strive to be when they grow up. The engine had a tendency of not working, bits of the car would fall off, and the electrical system seemed to be more for show than anything else. “Yugo” was probably an ambitious statement in this case.
7. Fiat Multipla
Though it never came to the states, the Fiat (FIATY.PK) Multipla could be considered the Aztek of the rest of the world. With a face that only a mother could love, people who purchased the Multipla must really have needed the cavernous cargo space and huge range of visibility, arguably the car’s only two positive features.
“With its strange high-beam lenses situated at the bottom of the A-pillars (base of the windshield), the Multipla looked like it had several sets of eyes, like an irradiated tadpole,” wrote Dan Neil, a Pulitzer Prize-winning automotive critic. ”It had this weird proboscis out front and a bulky, glass cabin in back, and the whole thing was situated on dwarfish wheels.” But, like the Aztek, the Multipla worked well as a car — it just didn’t look the part.
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