In this world there are car companies which have created some truly spectacular machines, but not every one hits the mark every time. In this journal I’m going to go through, company by company, which cars are often considered the worst from that particular manufacturer.
Now, this one isn’t based solely off my own opinion but popular opinion too, as some of the cars you’ll see in this list I do have a soft spot for and I certainly wouldn’t consider them the worst. However, if popular opinion dictates that these are the worst cars ever output by the company then it’ll make this list. Also, not every car company ever conceived will make the list as some are too small or obscure to have created a poor car, or have an excellent track-record for machines.
Alfa Romeo: Alfa Romeo Arna (1983 – 1987) From the people who brought us hideously unreliable but beautifully stylish machines such as the Alfasud, the Spider, the GTV6 and so forth, the Arna is a comparative pup, born from a seemingly backwards agreement between itself and Nissan. The result was a not particularly pretty Datsun Cherry with those same unreliable electrics from the same unionised workforce that had almost crippled the company in the 1970’s.
In other words, a disaster!
Aston Martin: Aston Martin Cygnet (2011 – 2013) While some will cite the Aston Martin Lagonda of 1975 as the worst Aston ever built, one cannot deny the sheer horror that is the Aston Martin Cygnet. What was the point of this car? To conform to an EU Emissions Regulation. What was the result? A rebadged Toyota iQ which entailed only the addition of 2 cushions, some shortbread, and one of the best brands in the business. As such, your £9,000 iQ city runabout is suddenly transformed into a £30,000 nuisance. It has no sporting credentials, it has no real luxury, it’s just a very expensive iQ that was killed off after 2 years and 300 units out of a proposed 4,000 because Aston wanted to save themselves a small charge.
Talk about out of the frying pan into the fire!
Audi: Audi A2 While I personally don’t believe the Audi A2 is a bad car, it’s gathered something of a hatred among Audi fans for being a bit of a damp squib. Audi, especially since the days of the Quattro in the 1980’s, has built itself a strong reputation for providing some of the best handling, best performing luxury sports saloons and coupes, as well as its cars being driven by some of the most arrogant, hateful and insipid drivers ever to take to the tarmac (but I digress). The A2, a small family 5-door hatchback with not a sporty credential to its name, came off as something of a pup, essentially a 5-year-old boy attempting to enter a body-building competition for men in their mid-20’s, somewhat laughable.
Though it did sell well, it’s reputation among die-hard fans is not exactly stellar, but, when you consider that the worst Audi isn’t that bad a machine compared to some of the other flops on this list, then you can take solace in the fact that overall, Audi has done a very good job.
Austin: Austin Allegro (1973 – 1982)No need for an introduction, the Allegro has often won the title of World’s Worst Car. A promising design by the fantastic Harris Mann, manipulated, modified and mutilated down into a terrible husk with bathtub corners, piggy eyes, a ridiculous shape that was quite literally the opposite of aerodynamic, and, just to add insult to injury, it was built by a petulant, malcontent workforce that would sling these horrible cars together in 3 hours before taking the rest of the week off to stand around a burning dustbin.
It truly was the perfect chemical formula for awfulness!
Bentley: Bentley Eight (1984 – 1992) When you talk to most Bentley fans, they’ll agree that the years under the ownership of Rolls Royce were probably the company’s darkest. From its purchase in 1931 to its buyout by Volkswagen in 2002, every Bentley model was just a rebadged Rolls Royce equivalent, nothing particularly different except for a few less trim options, and, in some cases, an upgraded engine. Compared to the sporting credentials Bentley once, and have today, established themselves, this was a very tepid period for them, but most will single out the Bentley Eight as the company’s lowest point.
The Eight is chosen largely for the fact that it was an ‘entry-level’ luxury saloon, very cheap, and lacking in all but a few of the accomplishments the Bentley Mulsanne, or the Rolls Royce Silver Spirit/Spur it was based off, encompassed. Bentley felt that taking a basic shell and nailing a bit of wood to the dashboard with a few leather seats would make this comparatively cheap car (£46,000!) an enticing buy to those who wanted a Bentley but couldn’t afford the Mulsanne. However, while it sold well, it’s seen by large parts of the Bentley fanbase as something of a compromise. While later models included firmer suspension, fuel injection and anti-lock brakes to try and give it a bit more of a sporting appeal, most fans still remember the sheep in wolf’s clothes that was the 1980’s original. Eventually the car was replaced by the genuinely sporty Bentley Brooklands, and today you’d be hard-pressed to find the Eight on a regular basis.
BMW: BMW X6 (2009 – Present) From the many people I know in the car enthusiast world, BMW can do no wrong, except in 3 circumstances. The first was the BMW Z1 of the 1990’s, which was a small roadster attempting to be way ahead of its time but instead came off as a bit wet. The second is the X3, a smaller version of the yomping, stomping X5, which, when tested by Top Gear, failed to negotiate even the most tepid of farm tracks. But by far the most vitriol I seem to encounter for a BMW product is the X6, a Crossover SUV which has been branded, and I have to agree, as the ugliest BMW ever to hit the roads.
While I personally would probably name the X3 as the worst BMW for the fact that it fails at everything, most BMW fans I know agree that the X6, on looks alone, is the worst thing BMW has ever made. But yet, it’s not only reliable and provides all the equipment you’d expect from the company, it’s also selling incredibly well, so apparently someone has a love for it.
Buick: Buick Skyhawk (1975 – 1980) As someone who’s British, I know very little about Buicks. But, when I meet people at car shows, most will cite the Buick Skyhawk of the 1970’s as the company’s worst outing. The Skyhawk, while a stylish coupe with some good lines, is despised for what it’s based off of, the infamous Chevy Vega. Notable for its flimsy build quality, its horrid reliability and its rust-prone nature, its only saving grace was the fitting of a 110hp 3.8L V6 engine, which did at least differ it from the horrid Vega.
While some would argue the likes of the 80’s Century or the Opel are deserving of worse treatment, the Skyhawk takes the spot because of what it aspired to be, and, in so doing, failed to achieve.
Cadillac: Cadillac Cimarron (1982 – 1988) Now this is a car I do know something about. The Cimarron and its wretched reputation is the stuff of legends, a true scar on the face of Cadillac, and all done in the face of economy. The Cimarron was spawned from a desire to create smaller, more economic luxury vehicles following the Energy Crisis of the 1970’s. The result was a flimsy, underpowered, undersized rebadging of a Chevy Cavalier. Its effects on the company were so bad that Cadillac’s share price dropped because of its failure, it literally is a car that both myself and Cadillac fans will agree is a shambles!
Chevrolet: Chevrolet Chevette (1975 – 1987) What a tragic looking car, and one that was something of a tragedy overall. The Chevette arose, like so many other economy cars of the 70’s, as a reflex action to the Energy Crisis of 1973. All of a sudden large, hulky cars that had defined the American Dream were out in the face of rising austerity and environmental considerations. The result was a car that was small, unreliable, poorly built, and was generally just a complete mess, and one that came to symbolise all those horrid ideas that spawned from that turbulent period of the 70’s.
Why not the Vega? At least that looked stylish, if you squinted your eyes at it you could see it being somewhere between a Volvo P1800 and a Manta!
Chrysler: Chrysler PT Cruiser (2000–2010) Now, I personally don’t mind the PT Cruiser. Yes it’s looks are a little suspect, but from what I can tell it was something of a capable car, and quite roomy as well. But, in spite of my opinion, the general opinion of the PT Cruiser is one of revulsion, be it for its looks, its performance, its reliability, anything, people seem to like to pick any number of holes in this car, and as such it makes the list.
Personally, I’d put the Grand Voyager above this, seeing as that was also very dangerous, the only car to score 0 on the front impact test!
Citroën: Citroën C3 Pluriel (2003 – 2010) From a car company as strong as Citroën, you’d expect something better.
Citroën has made a name for itself as by far the best of France’s big three car manufacturers, but the Citroën Pluriel is a clear sign that even the best can get it wrong from time to time, very wrong! A horribly designed retractable roof which would leave you with multiple injuries, plus the fact that you couldn’t actually take the roof parts with you because they couldn’t fit in the car, truly is the icing on the top of the cake for this wretched alteration to an otherwise pleasant little car.
Daimler: Daimler Six (1986 – 1994) Much like Bentley, fans will agree Daimler’s worst years were under the thumb of Jaguar. Upon its buyout in 1960, the company’s future models were basically just rebadged and regrilled Jaguar models, coupled with the fact that after the company’s merger into British Leyland, the same awful build quality problems and faults were handed down to both companies in spades. However, while the XJ and Daimler Double Six series suffered greatly at the hands of British Leyland, the cars considered the worst actually came about after Jaguar was made independent again in 1986. The Daimler Six of that year, while offering lashings of luxury and some slightly fiery performance, was not a good car. The biggest problem with the Six is the fact that its design and style were so outdated, the underpinnings, engine, even the external look being just slight tweaks of the original XJ from 1968, and even those were handed down somewhat from the previous Jaguar 420 of 1961. The result is what many describe as the worst Daimler ever conceived, an outdated design with shoddy build quality only rescued from the scrap-heap by Ford’s purchase of the company in 1988.
Dodge: Dodge Omni (1977 – 1990) You just have to look at it…
An Americanised version of the Talbot Horizon, the Dodge Omni was yet another one of those ill-conceived economy cars spawned in response to the Energy Crisis. To really describe the Omni you have to consider the Horizon, a car which was laughably slow, rusted in seconds, broke down frequently and was cramped as a shoebox! I suppose the biggest insult regarding the Omni is that it was badged under the same brand that gave us the mighty Charger!
Ferrari: Ferrari Mondial (1980 – 1993) Ferrari have created some of the most magnificent machines in the whole of automotive history, but even they have blemishes on their otherwise spotless reputation. While the F50 might have been a bit of a damp squib in the late 1990’s, most Ferrari fans will cite the Mondial as the company’s worst model. The biggest problem with the Mondial was the fact that it was a 4-seater, which meant that in order to accommodate the extra row the body and engine had to be contorted and downgraded in order to meet regulation. This was pointless anyway, especially when you consider the rear seats had such minuscule legroom that not even a newborn baby could fit in the back. It wasn’t any good as a 2+2 either because the engine changes made it sluggish and boring, and if you did have the kind of money you wanted to spend on a Ferrari, you’d have definitely bought something more worthwhile, like a 348.
Fiat: Fiat Multipla (1998 – 2010) Now I personally have no gripes with this car, it’s big, it’s spacious, it’s unusual and it’s probably one of the best people-carriers you could buy. But most people judge this car by face-value, literally, and on looks alone this machine has been dubbed Fiat’s worst creation. Apparently a lot of people were like me and saw beyond its looks because it sold in huge numbers all over Europe!
Ford (USA): Ford Pinto (1971 – 1980)
It had a habit of catching fire at any given opportunity, what more can you possibly say?
Ford (Europe): Ford Scorpio (1995 – 1998)
It may perform well and be quite luxurious internally, but it’s as ugly as sin and killed off the legendary Granada/Scorpio name for good.
GMC: GMC Envoy XUV (2002 – 2009)
Yet another American car that has a propensity to catch fire, the GMC Envoy XUV was a very unusual exercise in combining a pickup truck with a regular SUV. Again, I have no real opinion on this truck (apart from its looks being atrocious), but many GMC fans I know absolutely hate this thing, citing that it was pointless as it was neither pickup truck nor SUV, and therefore fell into a hole in the market, not helped by the fact, as mentioned, that it liked to burst into flames which resulted in a massive recall by the company in 2006.
Now, you might be wondering, where’s the EV1? Well, technically that’s not GMC, but was in fact built by General Motors, the parent company of GMC. Either way, that too was a public relations disaster.
Honda: Honda Civic (1972 – Present)
Which generation? All of them!
The general consensus regarding the Honda Civic is that it’s bland, and that’s what most people seem to hate. Yes it’s reliable, it’s practical, it’s comfortable and it sold in its millions. But many are not impressed by the manufactured feel of the car, there’s a real aesthetic feeling to these mass-produced machines that really does make them unappealing. If you’re someone who’s not really interested in motoring, and consider it just an exercise of getting from A to B, then this is the car for you, but for those who want a bit of passion and flare in their motoring, the Honda Civic is the pinnacle of the somewhat uninspired driving experience this car has to offer. This wasn’t helped by the fact that these cars rusted like there was no tomorrow, even until recently.
Hyundai: Hyundai Pony (1975 – 1990)
I don’t really know anything about South Korean cars, especially Hyundai’s and Kia’s. But many friends of mine will unanimously agree that the Hyundai Pony of the 1980’s, the nation’s first mass-produced model, was something of a stuttering start to a company that now sells globally. The biggest problem that most people have with the Pony is that it truly is the definition of hum-drum motoring, it has very few perks, its performance is very limited, it rusted before you even got it home and, when compared to the foreign equivalents, it just didn’t seem to compare. Indeed it was very ambitious of Hyundai to attempt to export this car to Canada during the 80’s, but it only ever really sold in its native land, and has often been reviled outside of Korea due to the aforementioned reasons.
Jaguar: Jaguar X-Type (2001 – 2009)
I personally quite like this car, but for some reason everyone will point to it as being the worst Jaguar ever put to pavement. Most Jag fans I know will compare the X-Type to the Cadillac Cimmaron, a poor attempt at creating a cheap and cheerful economy luxury car for the masses that didn’t cost in excess of £60,000 like the XJ luxury saloon or the XK8 Coupe. The result was what many people considered a watered down, cramped little mess that really didn’t deserve to exist. They were proven wrong however as this car did sell quite strongly, most notably the Estate version.
Jeep: Jeep Commander (2006 – 2010)
Jeep fans really don’t like this. I’ve never been 100% in the know when it comes to Jeep’s products, but most will point to the Commander as being the worst. The main problem people have is that it’s a very cramped car, with three rows of seats inside. Such a concept isn’t a new thing on cars, but in the Commander it’s a major issue due to the fact that the car is comparatively small, therefore making it the stuff of nightmares for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia. This also brought up a variety of safety issues, especially when it comes to the rigidity of the seat structures in the event of a crash, and how occupants would be able to escape.
Jensen: Jensen-Healey (1972 – 1976)
The car that killed Jensen, but not a bad car in itself. The Jensen-Healey was to be a promising tie-up between the two motor manufacturers, both having made their name as some of Britain’s best sports car builders. However, when the car was launched in 1972, the Energy Crisis of 1973 quickly put this machine in the doghouse. With fuel costs rising the car became very undesirable, and the ones that were sold suffered that very British of issues, poor build quality. It truly is a wonder how we ever had an Empire if the attitude of the workers in the manufacturing sector is anything to go by, but with strikes crippling the nation fuelled by Soviet funded Trade Unions, Jensen was losing money hand-over-fist and, by 1976, the company was gone.
While the Jensen-Healey went on to become the company’s best selling car, the expense of building it and the fact that the company was making a loss on the ones they sold, it sadly suffers the painful reality of being dubbed the car that killed Jensen.
Kia: Kia Concord (1987 – 1996)
Again, I don’t really know anything about Kia’s, but apparently the Concord is the worst, largely due to the fact that it goes very much against the surprisingly well-equipped credo that forms most of the company’s products. The Concord, unlike the supersonic jet, is apparently a very basic machine, essentially being just four wheels, an engine and a set of seats, nothing else really spectacular. This blandness however is enough to earn it a place on this list, though I must admit, the styling is quite nice, I like the grille particularly.
Lamborghini: Lamborghini LM002 (1986 – 1993)
A car that gave birth to the Humvee and Hummer, but was deemed a pointless exercise by a company known for making 200mph supercars and humble farm equipment. Lamborghini’s LM002 attempted to marry military grade, 4×4 technology to a luxury SUV, and boy did it backfire!
Lancia: Lancia Beta (1972 – 1984)
How to tarnish a reputation? Look no further than the Beta.
It may look good, but internally it was a horrible little rot-box, rusting away at a moment’s notice. That, however, is if you were lucky enough to have a car that worked that long, as the electrics in the Beta were just as equally sinful. With this terrible mixture of poor reliability, tepid performance and a rust-prone nature, the Beta absolutely destroyed Lancia’s credibility, and, amid a scandalous demand for rusty Beta’s to be recalled, the company was forced to exit the UK market in 1994, having never recovered from the painful episode that is this car’s legacy.
Today, Lancia’s beautiful sports cars are but a dim memory, the company now making more down-to-earth hatchbacks and saloons, but even then the reputation of this car still lingers today, with Lancia’s products being sold in the UK under the name of its parent company Chrysler, as the company couldn’t bear to show its face on our shores again.
Land Rover: Land Rover Discovery (1989 – 1998)
The Discovery was a humble machine back in its day, filling the market void between the luxury Range Rover and the basic Defender, but the earliest models have often been described as the worst Land Rover products ever offered to the masses. The original Discovery might as well have been a Defender with a different body and seats carried over from the Austin Montego; it rattled and bumped, it lurched and threatened to fall over at any given moment, it wasn’t particularly comfortable, not very well equipped, it rusted away in a month and it broke down a lot (and I do mean a lot!). It seemed to encompass everything that was wrong with Land Rover at the time as it made the expensive and painful transition from British Leyland to BMW, and those early Discovery’s have largely been rendered extinct due to their flaws. Thankfully the range was able to pick itself up during the 90’s, and continues to be made today.
Lexus: Lexus SC430 (2000 – 2010)
I like this car, I really do. It’s basically just a humble coupe, not enough to set the world ablaze, but just a cheery little runabout. However, aside from the dubious title of being ‘Worst Car in the World’ by the Top Gear duo, even Lexus fans will acknowledge it wasn’t exactly the company’s best outing. Primary issues taken up with this car come down to the styling and the performance. The styling, which is supposed to represent a luxury yacht from the south of France, is apparently considered straight up ugly, while the performance has been criticised as damp, with poor ride comfort, poor acceleration and a tepid top speed.
Lincoln: Lincoln Blackwood (2001 – 2002)
A luxury pickup truck? What the?!
Yep, based off the popular Navigator, Lincoln, for whatever reason, decided that they should make a luxury pickup truck. It’s a nice idea, but the execution was very poorly done indeed. Aside from being horrendously expensive, one wonders why anyone would want a luxury pickup truck?
Pickup trucks are built for rough and tough environments, to battle the open fields or scale the muddy tracks of some of the world’s most inhospitable places. The Blackwood seemed to go by the rule that not every pickup truck will ever be faced with an off-road challenge, instead being used to trundle down the Boulevard on a sunny Saturday evening. As such, the car was absolutely decimated at the sales by the likes of Ford’s own F-Series and General Motors’ various alternatives, coupled with the fact that the car didn’t have any engine options other than the 5.4L original. Eventually, the truck was killed off after only 15 months on sale, with Lincoln eventually perfecting the formula in 2005 with the Mark LT.
Lotus: Lotus Elan M100 (1989 – 1995)
I personally adore this little runabout, it’s a cute convertible with one of the best badges in the business. However, the revived Elan of 1989 is often cited as Lotus’ worst car, due largely to the fact that most of its parts come from Toyota.
At the time of production, the idea of open-top, inexpensive sports cars was making a comeback through the highly successful Mazda MX-5, though the car wasn’t built to directly compete with it seeing as they both came out the same year. Though timely, the Lotus was much more expensive than the MX-5, didn’t handle as well, was slower, had fewer technological accomplishments, and could be quite unreliable, even with the engine carried over from an Isuzu Gemini saloon car.
Overall, the car seemed to maintain the old Lotus credo: Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious.
Maserati: Maserati Biturbo (1981 – 1994)
During the 1980’s, Maserati went bankrupt, and was therefore bounced around from parent company to parent company to try and keep this legendary name afloat. As such, the company had to make do with only a basic, cheap to make machine, and thus the Biturbo was born. While quite well performing and with some rather groovy handling, the Biturbo was seen as the beginning of a dark age for the company, as every model during the 1980’s was based on this design, including such famous models as the Ghibli and the Quattroporte, once sublime cars now reduced to box-shaped coupes and saloons that you’d easily overlook. It’s small wonder Jermey Clarkson dropped a Skip on top of one, the Biturbo generation truly was a major step-down from the likes of the Bora, the Merak and the Seabring.
Mazda: Mazda Laputa (1999 – 2006)
Named after a fictional floating city in a Studio Ghibli film (maybe?), you just have to look at the Laputa to see what’s wrong with it. This really is as bargain bin a car as you’d expect, obscure styling surrounding a bland, under-equipped interior, powered by a weedy little engine that can barely get it moving. I must agree with many Mazda fans when they say that this really is the dark side of a company that brought us the might of the RX-7 and RX-8.
Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (1997 – 2004)
While I have no real gripes with this car (my cousin owns one and it’s rather nice), the original A-Class of 1997 is often seen as a real comedown in the eyes of the Mercedes fanbase. Mercedes has built its name with strong and sublime saloons, sporty coupes and luxury limousines, but the idea of a small 5-door family hatchback that looked like it had been squashed front and back left a bitter taste in their mouths.
Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2011 – Present)
Looks silly, has very poor range, takes far too long to charge and is as slow as a glacier. It doesn’t really inspire much confidence in the future of electric cars.
MG: MG RV8 (1993 – 1995)
MG’s retelling of the classic MGB for the 1990’s, the MG RV8 was a limited edition retro-styled sports car based on many features that would be placed into the MG F. While I personally love this car (and so did the Japanese for that matter), most MG fans agree that the car is something of a hopeless tribute band to a real classic, and wasn’t helped by the fact that the heavy Rover V8 engine carried over from the Range Rover weighed the front down too much and spoiled the handling.
Morris: Morris Marina (1971 – 1980)
Though I hate the Morris Ital more for being a fraudulent, ugly little rot-box, most people don’t know about it, only its older brother; the Marina. The Marina is despised on an atomic level for its boring looks, dated design (which came straight out of a 1948 Morris Minor) and shambolic build quality. This, and the Allegro, came to symbolise the British motor industry in the 1970’s, and it’s because of those reasons that we don’t have a car industry any more.
Thankfully, these cars are getting their payback through the medium of a falling Piano!
Nissan: Nissan Cube (2002 – Present)
Just look at it…
Porsche: Porsche 914 (1969 – 1976)
During the 1960’s, Porsche really had only one product, the rear-engined 911, but the company wasn’t beyond experimenting. It wouldn’t be until the 1970’s that they pioneered a front-engined design with the 924, but in the late 60’s the company created the rare and not often remembered mid-engined 914 roadster. Now, I’m aware that this car does have its fans, but not as many as later or even earlier models. Most complain about its styling, its many shared parts with Volkswagen products, and its mid-engined performance.
Peugeot: Peugeot 1007 (2005 – 2009)
I was tempted to list every product they’ve made since 1999, but the 1007 I think I can agree, along with everyone else, is by far the crowning achievement of this ever increasing pile of rubbish. The car, based on an extended wheelbase version of the Citroen C2 platform, may be safe, but it was hideously overpriced. However, its biggest sin are those huge, heavy plug-doors (which look like they were pinched from a bus), as not only were they expensive to maintain, but they added so much weight that the handling was incredibly difficult to manage. Overall, this car was a gimmick, and for that it’s utterly useless!
Pontiac: Pontiac Aztek (2000 – 2005)
Stupid face, stupid price, utterly and completely worthless, and killed off the Pontiac name for good.
Reliant: Reliant Kitten (1975 – 1982)
I could go on for hours about how much I hate Reliant’s pathetic little 3-wheelers, but I won’t open that can of worms because the company apparently produced something worse than a Robin or a Rialto; the Kitten. The Kitten is essentially a Reliant Robin but with four-wheels (as cars should be) and was intended to lock horns with the Mini. However, even though the car was made of fibreglass and therefore wouldn’t rust like contemporary Mini’s, its was much less powerful, had very little charm, was incredibly basic, incredibly cramped, slow, and didn’t really handle that well. The result was the car being decimated at the sales, with only 4,000 units being sold in its 7 year life.
Renault: Renault Avantime (2001 – 2003)
While I personally adore this car for its innovative technology and classy looks, the Renault Avantime finds its place on many worst car ever lists for the fact that it was so outlandish. It was a crossover between a sports coupe and a people-carrier, and that’s precisely the problem. It has no sporting credentials (so it’s barely a sports car) and the use of space for larger, more luxurious seating meant it wasn’t even a people-carrier. The result; atrocious sales and a removal from the UK market after only 8 months.
Rolls Royce: Rolls Royce Camargue (1975 – 1986)
While the Phantom of 2003 would be my contender for this list, Rolls Royce fans can’t deny that the obscure and illusive Camargue is by far the company’s worst outing. A joint-venture between Pininfarina and the luxury car maker, the Camargue may have looked futuristic on the drawing board, but in real life it was seen as angular and tasteless, seeming to take styling cues from the Lincoln Town-Car. This wasn’t helped by its outrageous price tag (being the most expensive production car in the world at the time) and the Energy Crisis which made that hulking 6.75L V8 look incredibly unfashionable.
While I personally consider this car my favourite Rolls Royce (for reasons best known to myself), everyone else is much, much less complimentary.
Rover: Rover CityRover (2003 – 2005)
Often seen as the car that finished off Rover. The CityRover was basically a rebadged TATA Indica from India, a small economy car which wasn’t that bad on its own, but when given some lashings of wood to the dashboard and that famous logo to the front, it truly became something else. The CityRover was seen as an atrocious cop-out by the company, a short-sighted, last resort cash-grab to try and get some cash flowing in its dying days. What came about were horrific sales, a big waste of money and very quickly the end of Rover.
SAAB: Any SAAB with a Sensonic Gearbox
You just have to watch James May attempting to park one of these to see why this car doesn’t work. SAAB were known for making safe, reliable cars with outrageous promotional material, but many of those lovely cars were ruined by the addition of the Sensonic Gearbox. The Sensonic Gearbox was essentially a part-time automatic. It had a manual gearstick, but no clutch pedal, as when the driver wanted to change gears the car’s onboard computer would do it for you to make gear changes much smoother and more efficient.
That’s all very nice, however, the car’s big problem is it had no hill-start function. If you had to start on a hill, the usual practice for a manual is to balance the clutch and accelerator until you got underway. In an automatic you just put the accelerator down and release the handbrake. In the Sensonic, because it was neither manual or automatic, you couldn’t balance the clutch, nor could you simply pull away, meaning the car had a propensity to roll downhill once you released the brake. The result was a highly unpopular option to an otherwise acceptable little car, which was, thankfully, removed after only a few years.
SEAT: SEAT Marbella (1980 – 1998)
It’s a Fiat Panda, only much more basic (if that’s even possible).
Good thing the Leon and Ibiza came along a little later to reverse the company’s fortunes.
Skoda: Skoda Estelle (1976 – 1990)
Skoda today are known for making good strong cars based largely off Volkswagens such as the Octavia and the Yeti. But in the dim distant past, when its home nation was under the thumb of the Soviet Union, the company was forced into making either humdrum buses and trolleybuses for the Eastern Bloc, or this, the Estelle, a car which, like the Wartburg or the Trabant, was typical of communist cars. It was very basic, very unreliable and very poor performing. Though today the car, like many other Cold War crocks, is starting to make a comeback, most Skoda fans will be happy to see the back of this reminder of the past.
SsangYong: SsangYong Rodius (2004 – Present)
Another instance of where looks trump performance in terms of its unappealing nature.
Subaru: Subaru 360 (1958 – 1971)
Japan’s attempt at the Beetle.
Suzuki: Suzuki X-90 (1996 – 1998)
I’m not sure what they were thinking with the Suzuki X-90, but it really doesn’t seem to appeal to anyone. It’s barely a 4×4 and it’s not exactly a sporty crossover. It’s not practical enough for everyday use and it’s not particularly pretty either. It didn’t perform well and it handled like soap. Small wonder it only sold about 3,000 units in its short lifespan.
Toyota: Toyota Prius (1997 – Present)
The car that nearly killed hybrids. The Toyota Prius may have been built with good intentions, but it has since been seen as something of a pompous automobile. The car itself is quite basic in terms of hybrids, a mixture of an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, simple enough.
But, when this car really began to pioneer the mainstream concept of hybrid autos, many of our Hollywood celebrity types quickly whipped them up to try and seem trendy. Again, that’s not a bad thing, but it’s the attitude they took which made people show early contempt for this car, as they’d quickly flaunt how eco-friendly they are while us lesser mortals working 9 to 5 jobs had to make do with dirty, fossil fuel burning regular cars. The smugness that this car entails continues to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of we human beings who don’t have 6-figure bank accounts and holiday homes in Malibu.
But that was just the start, as very soon issues began to arise with the car itself, most notably the brakes. Toyota has had several major recalls for this car over the past few years because the onboard computer fails to register brake inputs and therefore doesn’t stop the car in time, resulting in many crashes. This, coupled with its bland interior, boring performance and its smug image, make it reviled in the motoring community.
Triumph: Triumph TR7 (1976 – 1980)
There are cars that are legendary, even ones that are legendary for being awful! The Triumph TR7 is one of those cars.
In 1975, Triumph was under the increasingly painful thumb of British Leyland, who were hellbent on causing corporate suicide to all its brands. By this point, the company was making 4 cars; the sporty Spitfire, the classic TR6, the sublime Stag and the Dolomite Saloon. However, following the launch of spectacular, wedge-shaped supercars such as the Lamborghini Countach and the Maserati Bora, British Leyland wanted in on this action and thus decided that Triumph would be the one’s who’d suffer for it. The result was indeed a wedge-shaped car, but whether or not it’s a sports car is a matter of debate.
Aside from the styling not being nearly as sexy as the Countach, with its big rubber bumpers and that strange scallop down the side which spoils the profile, the car was fitted with the hateful Triumph V8 from the Stag which made performance bad and reliability worse. It didn’t handle properly, it leaked, trim pieces would often fall off, the pop-up headlights would often reduce your speed because they were so unaerodynamic, and it was just, overall, a hateful, hateful little car. While they did try to salvage the design with the much-improved TR8, the writing was very much on the wall for Triumph, its reputation tarnished by this horrible, ill-conceived little machine.
TVR: TVR M Series (1972 – 1979)
While not bad cars, especially cheap ones too, the TVR M-Series was often considered the low-point of the TVR company (second only to their bankruptcy in the late-2000’s). The reason why is because, when the car was launched, the idea of conventional sports cars such as these were very much on the way out. They were seen as difficult, complex, hard to maintain, slow, impractical, unreliable, cramped and underperforming. While TVR had garnered something of a reputation by this point for strong and somewhat innovative sports cars, in the days when the hot hatchback was starting to make an appearance on the world stage, the M-Series seemed to be something right out of the 1940’s, for its looks, its feel, its performance and all.
Vauxhall: Vauxhall Victor (1972 – 1978)
I’ve never been entirely sure why, but when you think of the worst Vauxhall, most fans will point you to the Victor of the 1970’s. From the outset, it doesn’t look like a bad car, it’s tastefully designed, has a bit of flare with the chrome sills, though the profile along the windows seems a touch obscure. However, internally is where the car seems to fail for many, being considered extremely underpowered, very expensive for what it is, and would rust faster than a junkyard dog. While I personally feel that it sounds somewhat typical of cars in the 1970’s, Vauxhall fans are adamant that this is the absolute worst.
Volkswagen: Volkswagen Beetle (1938 – 2003)
Now, I haven’t put this car on the list to try and be ‘controversial’, I personally love the VW Beetle, not as much as the new one mind but it still possesses a charm that many cars don’t really have. However, when it comes to fans, the rift between praise and criticism has never been stronger. Unlike the Volkswagen Golf GTi which has praise all around, the Beetle is polarising.
While fans will laud it for its economical running, its classic design, its charm, its historical influence on the 60’s Hippie Movement and its generally fun aesthetic, critics will cite its basic interior, its tepid performance, the fact that the engine is in the wrong place, its catastrophically bad handling, its archaic, 1930’s look (which lived out until 2003), and the fact that a car that came to symbolise the peace movement was ironically spawned by a regime that started quite possibly the worst conflict in world history, it finds its place, in their books, as one of the worst cars ever made.
The Top Gear trio (or, should I say, the Grand Tour trio) are among the biggest haters of the Love-Bug, having dropped one from a helicopter a mile in the sky, and having another follow them across Botswana like some stalking horror movie monster, even though, in a bizarre twist, it was the only one to make the journey without having to be modified, repaired or brought back from the dead!
Volvo: Volvo 300 Series (1976 – 1990)
Our final car for the list, the Volvo 300-Series has gone down in history as the worst car ever made by a company which usually gives us strong, safe and reliable machines to combat the very worst the Scandinavian winter can throw at us. In terms of performance it’s rather humdrum; it’s slow and doesn’t perform particularly well, but, for its size, it’s also surprisingly cramped. While it looks typically Volvo, which isn’t a bad look, it did seem a touch outdated by the time it was mid-way through its production run. The worst sin on behalf of this car however is the transmission, which has been described as awful, having a tendency to grind and groan. It’s also susceptible to rust, and the 1.7L engine models can suffer problems with the distributor if moisture is allowed to settle.
Small wonder Jeremy Clarkson has a huge hatred for these machines, having one fed into a scrap metal shredder, before smashing another one into a tree!