Cars so ugly, they're Scary!
Even though we pour over facts and figures, and try to remain practical, one thing lots of us don’t want to admit, is that we buy with our eyes. We don’t want to be seen as vain, so we talk about how much cargo space it has, or the fuel economy, etc. But when it comes down to it, everybody wants a vehicle they think looks good, and while that varies based on taste, there are some vehicular equivalents to Frankenstein’s Monster that shouldn’t have left the drawing board. In no particular order, here are my picks for the scariest looking cars of the modern era.
Subaru B9 Tribeca
This crossover had it all: A great AWD system, a powerful for its time 6-cylinder engine, a solid interior, and that face. Subaru killed the Tribeca before it even started with this design. Ironically enough, by the time they figured out what they did, and reworked the front end, the public had largely forgotten about the Tribeca, probably like how most of us block out traumatic incidents. The Tribeca met its fate in 2014 and was finally put out of our misery.
Probably the most famous case of design gone wrong, the Pontiac Aztec was a case of stubbornness over reality. GM threw tons of money behind promoting the vehicle, convinced that people wanted a vehicle that looked like a mutated bird from the front, and could have an over priced tent attached to it at the back. They even pushed it into endorsements, as it was part of the first place prize on Survivor as well. To give you an idea of how ugly this vehicle was, the Buick Rendezvous was the same vehicle mechanically, but with a better interior, and was decent looking. It outsold the Aztec most years 4 to 1. The Aztec was buried in 2005, however it took into 2007 to actually sell of the units produced. The Aztec was revived in spirit due to its use as Walter White’s vehicle of choice in Breaking Bad, although the character was a broke school teacher at the time, so not exactly a ringing endorsement.
How do you ruin one of the cleanest vehicle designs in its class? You strap a metal beak to it. Acura let its version trickle through its entire lineup, so every one of their vehicles had this awful metal beak grafted to it, in the name of design unity. Thankfully, Acura has learned its lesson, and their recent offerings have been de-beaked, so to speak.
The BMW X4 & X6. This is the result when you mix idiocy and impracticality and put it into a blender. You may think I’m being too harsh, please allow me to explain. BMW takes their SUV/Crossovers and gives the top half the sedan/coupe roofline. The resulting vehicle now has no more functionality than the sedan, has less functionality than the SUV/Crossover it’s based on, is far uglier than either, looking like BMWs version of Quasimodo. Oh, and they’ll charge you upwards of $10 000 extra for the privilege of owning one. The only crime worse than BMW selling these to begin with? They’re still for sale, and they sell well. No accounting for taste, I suppose.
Remember the PT Cruiser? How about the Chevrolet HHR? When these retro-ish designs hit the scene, people liked them initially, and then merely tolerated them because they were cheap and somewhat practical in design and price. So, GM has a great idea. Let’s take that styling, and apply it to a pickup truck, that can be used to tow or haul anything, but is so heavy that it handles poorly, accelerates slowly even with a big V8 in it, and let’s price it in the stratosphere. In Canada, these stickered for over $70 000 (about $91 000 in 2018 money), and that was 15 years ago! So, ugly, impractical, slow, heavy, and expensive, sounds like a winning recipe, right? GM tried to salvage the SSR by upgrading the V8 in it with the one from the Corvette at the time. While that boosted the acceleration, it didn’t boost sales, and by the end of it’s run, dealers were begging people to take these off the lot. At a dealer near me, one sat in front for almost 3 years brand new, being slashed by tens of thousands of dollars at the time. Thankfully, GM’s designers seemed to have learned from this, and our eyes are all the better for it.
I read a piece recently that said Jeep had the highest brand value, higher than that of even Ferrari. Makes sense, anywhere in the world, ask someone what a Jeep is, and they’ll be able to describe a Jeep Wrangler, harking back to images of the original Willy’s Jeep’s of WW2. After a few stumbles in the early-mid 2000’s (Special ugly mention goes out to the Jeep Compass), Jeep finally seemed to be finding their way. Wrangler sales had never been higher (Fun Fact: Jeep Wranglers have the highest resale value of any vehicle on the market), and the Jeep Grand Cherokee is the most awarded SUV in existence. So, when it came time to replace to horrible Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot, they decided to resurrect the regular Cherokee nameplate. Now, this is a name that had a lot of equity in it, previously being a simple, boxy, no frills SUV that could go through or over anything. Which meant it made complete sense to bring it back for a small crossover with an alien face on it, right? Unlike a lot of other entries on this list, the Cherokee still sells well, but that’s mostly a function of its low price point, and so people can say they drive a “Jeep”. Even Jeep realized how off-putting this face is, and restyled the front to resemble the Grand Cherokee.
Let’s face it, no automaker has had a better past 10 years than Hyundai/Kia. Once the laughing stock of not only the industry, but everyone in general (Han in Tokyo Drift “You think I was gonna let you roll in a Hyundai”) they have emerged to become an automotive superpower. One of the reasons why was great design; The Genesis Coupe, The Sonata, The Tucson, The Sportage, The Stinger GT, all beautifully exercised designs, and paved the way for people to be proud to own a piece of South Korea’s finest sheet metal. And now we have the Kona. Part of the “weird for the sake of weird” styling design language (I wonder if the designer went to school with the Jeep Cherokee designer?), we have a face that’s just creepy when you look directly at it. Now let’s be honest, this vehicle is brand new this year, and because people are buying crossovers faster than companies will make them, this will still sell based on Hyundai’s features, price, and warranty. Imagine how much more they’d sell if they decided to make it good looking?
Mitsubishi I Miev
I want to start this by saying I hope they photoshopped the dog into this photo, because if they didn’t, making it look at that thing on set should qualify as animal cruelty. So, you’ve decided to go electric. Awesome! In 2018, there’s a handful of choices available, and they get better all the time, but in 2011, if you wanted to go all electric, the I Miev was one of few very few choices. Tesla has managed to find success for the very reason the I Miev didn’t, they’re not ugly. Driving this meant you were stuck in a vehicle that wasn’t much bigger than a golf cart, may possibly lose in a drag race to one, and pay almost $40 000 for the joy of ownership. The I Miev being butt ugly didn’t exactly help matters. You know what other technologically advanced 4 seater Mitsubishi sold for around $40 000 at the time? The Evolution. Yes, for roughly the same price as the alien golf cart, you could have purchased a rally inspired, 291HP, AWD sedan that was more practical (Space and AWD), faster (291HP vs 63HP), better looking, as well as (I can’t believe I’m saying this) more comfortable. Because the inside of the I Miev was one step above most prison cells, but not by much. Which means to buy this vehicle, you’d have to be so eco-smug that you actively wanted everyone to see what a martyr you were being to save the environment, does that sound like the type of person you want to be around? I bet the people who bought these walk around and grab restaurant leftovers to compost.
That’s all for this week, as always, these picks are my opinion, and if you find them beautiful, well, I want what you’re on (kidding!). However, if you do need someone to guide you through the automotive maze, and help you get the best vehicle for you and the best price possible, contact us!