By on May 22, 2010

The beauty of humanity is that we all have different tastes, that our aesthetic preferences create a marvelous tapestry of beauty, and that this creates a market where there’s something for everyone. Whether it be cars, shoes, or a life partner, what you think is absolutely hideous could very well be the greatest thing your boss has ever seen, and you’ll have to lie through your teeth about how awesome it is in order to keep your job.

Opinions are like the proverbial anatomical orifice, the only difference being that people have no problem spreading their opinions all over town and the Internet. (If you do the same with said orifice, please do not share the details here.) Of course, auto show visitors love to share their opinions with us product specialists. This is great! This is one of the reasons why we’re there, and we pass your feedback along to corporate after every show.

Constructive feedback, that is.

Here is an example of what is not constructive feedback:

Visitor: “That POS car is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!”

Product specialist: “I’m sorry you feel that way. What don’t you like about it?”

Visitor: “It’s just ugly. And you can tell them I said that.”

*Visitor stomps away*

Hmmm, what shall I write in my auto show report? “Unshowered wannabe Eurotrash male guest wearing obscenely tight True Religion jeans and an orange and green Affliction shirt purposely two sizes too small in a pathetic attempt to make his puny arms look passably muscular ironically thinks vehicle XYZ is the ugliest thing he has ever seen.”

That, my friends, is specificity – which is more than can be said of our visitor’s opinion.

I’m always interested in why people don’t find something aesthetically pleasing, but more than that, explaining why you feel that way – in a constructive manner – helps manufacturers make design choices and changes to adapt to market better. Case in point: Acura. The 2009 and 2010 grille is utterly heinous, to the point that many dealers are actually repainting them at customer request. Result? There’s talk that the company may be replacing the monstrosity as part of their refresh cycle, which typically happens every two or three years and includes tweaks to things like the aforementioned grille, headlamps, etc.

My personal #1 ugliest vehicle ever? Any incarnation of the Hummer. Beyond becoming a symbol of American oil gluttony, its utter rectangularity, hugeness and heft was just so “My man junk is very, very tiny,” even more so than the Unnecessary Truck. I like curves. Even most of those trucks have some eye-pleasing curves on the hood and nose, even if ever-so-subtle.

I took a very informal Twitter poll, and my followers had quite a list of ugly cars. Their top fugly vehicles of all times included the Edsel, the Mustang II, BMW X6, Pontiac Aztec, Porsche Panamera, Suzuki X90 and the Ssangyong Rodius, some Korean piece of crap so fug that Wheels magazine described it as “having a face like a burnt thong.”

Let’s hear it: What are your votes for the ugliest cars ever, and more importantly, why?

The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at http://doyoucomewiththecar.blogspot.com. And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at Thetruthaboutcars.com

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45 Comments on “The Booth Babe Chronicles: Ugly Is As Ugly Does...”


  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    I’ve never cared for the Pontiac Aztec. It was an unpleasant looking vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      bryanb1

      Maddox, at the best page in the universe has a great rant on the four ugliest cars ever.

      http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=ugly_cars

      I love the scale used: the Gary Busey Scale of Ugliness…

      Bb

  • avatar
    KGrGunMan

    #1. Dodge Caliber.

    however the ford focus with the glue on chrome fender vents is trying very hard to beat the caliber.

  • avatar
    James2

    With the exception of the Porsche Cayenne and Panamera my candidates for Ugliest Cars in the world come from the land of the Rising Sun:

    1. The entire Acura lineup –and I will lump in 3/4ths of the Honda lineup (only the Civic and Fit look OK)
    2. All Scions except the tC, which is passably mediocre
    3. The entire Toyota lineup
    4. The Mazda 3 (and Mazda seems determined to ruin everything in its lineup with that goofy smiling grille)
    5. All Subarus
    6. The Nissan 370Z is like looking at it in a funhouse mirror (the grammar is stupid, I know, but you get the drift)

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    Have to disagree about the Mustang II…by the (admittedly) painful standards of the mid-70’s, it was not a bad looking little car.

    In terms of recent cars, I’ve always found the Kia Amanti to be a godforsaken mess of bad styling cues cribbed from cars ranging from Buicks to Jaguars, all mashed up into one gigantic eyesore.

    Hyundai/Kia’s really upping their game now though, I’m sure the next one will be a major improvement (how could it not?)

    The last generation BMW 745 was also a graceless dissapointment (especially before the mid-cycle facelift)…and the new Mazda ‘evil clown/smiley face’ cars still haven’t grown on me much. And the Chrysler Sebring sedan deserves all the scorn it has received, a total ‘what were they thinking?! car’.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      @SFDennis,

      Compared to a Capri II, or an Opel Manta, or an X1/9, or a 914, or a Fiesta, or a TR6/7, or a … the Mustang II wasn’t a hideously ugly POS? Really?

      I’m completely OK that taste is completely subjective – were it not, we’d kill each other trying to mate w/ the same chica and all. But really. A Mustang II wasn’t an ugly POS compared to it’s contemporaries? Really?

      I honestly do not get it.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      Of the cars named, the only two relevant ones are the Capri II and Opel Manta, and whether the Mustang II is better looking than those is largely a matter of personal taste. Comparing a Mustang II to a Fiat X1/9 or Triumph TR6 is comparing apples to oranges. (And the VW, oops, I mean Porsche, 914 and Triumph TR7 are hardly good looking. The TR7, in particular, is contrived and poorly detailed.)

      The best-looking car in that segment was the original, very fluid and well-detailed 1975 Chevrolet Monza.

  • avatar

    Ugly cars? Hummmm, tend to like what others consider ugly. For example, 1st gen Fiat Doblò, I like it vey much thank you. Fiat Multipla, ugly? yeah. Though understand it, yeah. Renault Logan? Yeah, but I get it so much I own one. Renault Twingo? So ahead of its time (didn’t like single wiper, though), but so nice.

    Ugly..hummm. Probably Edsel, and it ain’t for the veejay, either. I think that’s interesting. But all proportions wrong.

    For modern cars, kind of ironic since it comes off the Logan, but the Renault Sandero is ugly. And Acura is, too. So is the modern Camry. Brazilian 207, hatch and sedan. What’s with those headlights? Way too big and too salient from rest of car. Ugly indeed. BMW Series 1, hatch and sedan (general shape). Hyundai i30 (front end oh so generic and back lights, OMG). Honda Fit (1st and 2nd redesign. No love for those lights and Pokemon face).

  • avatar
    BlisterInTheSun

    Every BMW touched by Bangle.

    Every.

    Single.

    One.

  • avatar
    john.fritz

    G-Wiz or Smart Fortwo. Take your pick. Either one is an unmitigated design catastrophe. Ugly for so many reasons…

  • avatar
    mcs

    My vote for the ugliest ever has to be the Les Dunham Corvorado. An Eldorado body grafted onto a Corvette – what could go wrong there? Click on the link with caution – this thing is hideous. You don’t want to look at this car with a hangover!

    • 0 avatar
      50merc

      Oh, the Corvorado isn’t bad looking in an understated way. It just needs more chrome. Lots more. Especially in front.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      Holy Crap, I’m a huge James Bond fan and have that movie in my numerous box set collections of the films. Hand to god, I though that that thing was an Eldorado someone shortened and customized, not a Vette that had those sins thrust upon it. The saddest part is it likely weighs twice what the original Vette did, further sapping the performance.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      It takes a certain type of person to own and drive a car like that, much less conceive it.

      And it is my sincere hope to never meet these people. Ever.

  • avatar
    cmus

    Pontiac Aztek.

    Everything using Toyota’s current “Everything must look like it was melted slowly in a windtunnel” design. It’s like they’re channeling their inner Hyundai.

    The most recent iteration of Acura design. Seriously, what’s up with that grill? Not that the rear looks any better.

    BMW X6/Acura ZDX (really, these just go to the “solution without a problem” bucket…which offends me on principle)

  • avatar
    tedward

    The last BMW 7 series
    Pontiac Aztek of course
    Acura TL (bonus points for making a previously handsome car so ugly)
    Honda Crosstour
    Honda Insight (every version)
    Toyota Prius (the early ones)

    And this, ““That POS car is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!”” leads me to believe you’ve been repping Honda/Acura or BMW.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The problem with these ‘ugliest car’ debates is that the worst, most outrageous offenders have a certain perverse appeal, not unlike a bad train wreck or watching an old Ed Wood movie, i.e., the old ‘so bad it’s good’ axiom.

    No, the worst, ugliest cars are not those where the stylists went too far out of the box (one of my faves in this regard is the 1958 ‘Packard-baker’), they’re the ones that stayed too far inside the box (or, to paraphrase Bill Murrary from Caddyshack, they became the box).

    To that end, the worst offender is the 1973-1983 GM intermediate 4-doors, the worst of those being the Chevy Malibu. Absolutely as bland and indifferent as was possible to produce, with build quality that many consider to be the lowest point in GM history. Who could forget the ’79-’83 4-door GM intermediates with fixed rear windows?

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I actually like the looks of the X6 quite a bit. One drove past me the other day, and I did a double take. I see how it isn’t incredibly practical, but it looks cool.

    As far as ugly cars go, nothing can top the Infiniti J30. That car had no definition up front, and the rear reminds me of a dog scraping its rear haunches along the floor.

    • 0 avatar

      An awkward design at best. Nissan has some talented designers but it seems that they like quirky stuff.

      It’s too bad that most of the Infinitis haven’t been as well drawn as the FX45 and the G coupes. Some of the Infintis have real nice, pure, lines, others are just boring.

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    I’ve also had a natural aversion to the Hummers, long before that aversion became socially prevalent, but I have a similar reaction to the Smart car on the other end of the scale. Both seem to have been designed merely to outdo everything else. I imagine that the designers of both cars had someone who kept going, “No, bigger! Louder! More plastichrome! Who cares if the thing can’t handle a curve?” Or “Smaller! More absurd! More plasticy! Who care is the thing can’t handle a curve?”

    But I had a minor design epiphany as I was looking out over a sea of cars along a series of lots one night: they all looked pretty much the same. It was like all the designs were taken, had any potentially offending angles rubbed out, put into a CAD program and this is what came out. Maybe a few creases were added here and there for some individuality, but not much. That may be why all the badges are now absurdly large. (Really, compare most 90s or early 00 badges with the current ones. They’ve probably tripled in size. First I thought designers were adopting the bling craze, but now I think it may be the only way to tell some cars apart). Even the cars designed to be quirky, different and boxy were all similarly quirky, different and boxy.

    I also notice this in a downtown parking garage and sometimes wonder if some people pay for the numbered spaces because it’s the only way they can tell their black or silver luxury sedans from all the other black or silver luxury sedans. But then a little further up is the sea of black, silver and beige midmarket sedans. Maybe I’m resisting middle age staidness, but it makes me hope to see a colored wedge of a car among the waves of bland, but the people who drive those cars tend to head up to the roof.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian E

      The human brain is drawn to this kind of “averageness”. Studies have shown that successive averaging of faces via a computer program results in faces that are more attractive than the inputs. This is probably hardwired as a result of seeking to avoid genetic outliers when choosing a mate. This is probably why I find clean sedan designs to be so attractive. (I <3 my 1st-generation TSX, for instance.)

      Then again, as Francis Bacon said "There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." Certainly Alfa Romeo understands this. But for every Brera, there's a Fiat Multiplia lurking out there…

    • 0 avatar
      tbp0701

      Interesting. I also wonder why the Ferrari 250 or BMW 507 seem to be universally regarded as achingly beautiful, while other designs, like the Bugeye WRX is seen as hideous by many people, but I really liked it.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t consider the smiling Mazda3 ugly so much as very goofy. I’ve tried to get over the new look, but I still hate it.

    I know some people have said they like the smile because it reflects the fun nature of the vehicle, but I still think Mazda took it too far. It looks like it came straight out of an animated movie.
    _

    The Acura TL is ugly. It isn’t only the beak though. The drooping rear end with its thick chrome on the bottom of the trunk is almost as bad as the front.
    _

    The Panamera looks like a frog to me.

  • avatar
    brush

    Well I agree with the Ssangyong comment, all of the Ssangyongs have a different “styling” to what we are used to. But what caught my eye is the fact that you quoted “Wheels” magazine, an Australian car mag. You are a well read person. I wonder how many other people read “foreign” car mags to keep up with the latest and greatest. By the way guys, a thong in Australian vernacular is footwear (flipflops to the poms) not a piece of dental floss that girls wear :)

  • avatar
    Flipper

    I’d have to go with a ’76 AMC Matador four door…that front bumper was the worst 5mph monstrosity built. Or maybe a ’80 Mercury Cougar with those weird canted tailights. Both are ugly cars with terrible proportions & clunky details

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Babe…don’t know what you know of art, but it’s not the thing people can describe.
    Perhaps in art class a professor can require you to reason art, as you are now…then give you a low grade because you disagreed.
    As you seem to want to do with Visitor.

    But not art.
    Not normal people.

    Take impressionism. You think people, normal people, can tell you why they like it?
    They can’t even tell you what it is they are looking at.
    To this day I am not sure anybody knows what Picasso has built in the Daily Center.

    I guess we all can say try, but eventually it’s just a feeling art gives us.
    Same with music.
    Notes are just notes, but somehow sometimes they are arranged in a way that certain people like certain sounds.
    They just don’t know why.
    It just feels good..or bad

    It’sike psarhjinian and his Fit. He loves it’s looks and practicality.
    Now myself, I just see it and feel turned of. Don’t really know why…balance, shape, I don’t know.
    Just sayin….

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    Mazda’s smiling cars are poster children for designer laziness. Trying to further your Brand’s “fun” image, beyond the Zoom Zoom, by pasting a huge cartoonish grin on the front end of your vehicle, is silly. Silly in a lose market share way, not silly in a fun zoomy, zany way. I feel particulary qualified to comment on Mazda’s, since we currently own two (CX-7 and Miata), but at this rate, will never own another. I don’t want to drive a car that’s generally happier than I.

    The Acura’s big flaming chromed beak….I don’t know. I used to hate them. Now, not so much. I figured the resale would be low, so I considered them for the used car bargain potential. If I bought one, I’d close my eyes as I approached the car, and then enjoy the drive. If someone asked if the car was mine, I’d deny it. Just like I do my very own dog, half bichon, half Shih-Tzu, 100% ugly as sin. Surely there is an aftermarket offering better front clips, al la the Continental Kits of the 70’s? If not, it might be a good business model for someone who reads this and has the wherewithal.

    The Panamerica is another car I want to hate, but realize whether I despise it, or the car’s style grows on me, is irrelevant both to my life and Porsche. So I’ll withhold comment.

    I’ve seen the Crosstour in the flesh, more than once, and I believe it’s a mistake in an AMC sort of way. The Crosstour will have its following, but those people will drip with a sort of smug practicality, and will never be invited to the cool parties. The Crosstour is truly a Dorkmobile, if there ever was one, and there have been many. I’ve even owned a few myself. The Crosstour’s primary fault, is it’s too big to be svelt, like a big boned man in his wife’s Sunday dress.

    Perhaps a better name for the ungainly Honda would be Crossdress.

  • avatar

    “My man junk is very, very tiny,”

    Can we please have a moratorium on the “he must be compensating for a small penis if he drives a SUV/Corvette/Lamborghini/Big Truck/Whatever” meme? It’s beyond cliched at this point.

    Regarding Hummers, I see as many woman driving blinged out H2s as I see men. Much of the SUV fad in general was driven not necessarily by insecure men, but rather by women who didn’t want to be seen as minivan driving soccer moms. The fact that in traffic a woman driving a truck is just as powerful as a man has also not be lost on many women. Hummer and other SUV drivers are as likely to be macho chicks as they are guys worried about not measuring up down there.

    Remember, woman make about 80% of the consumer purchase decisions in the US, including buying cars and light trucks, so many, if not most, of those SUVs and even Hummers were either bought by women for their own use or bought for families with women making significant input into the purchase decision.

  • avatar

    The Mohs Ostentatienne Opera Sedan is the ugliest car of all time.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohs_(automobile)

    Whenever I see an ugly car make it to production (other than Japanese, you can always tell when a Japanese company uses their California design studio because the cars don’t look like insects) I figure there’s an emperor’s new clothes thing going on at the company.

    Doesn’t anyone ever say, in any of the many meetings and approvals and focus groups, “hey, that thing is butt ugly”?

  • avatar

    One point that I’d like to make is that few of us have seen a Panamera Porsche or Honda Crosstour in person. When I saw photos of the Crosstour, like everyone else I thought “what was Honda thinking?”. In person, in three dimensions, while the Crosstour isn’t pretty, at least I could get a sense of what the designers were doing. The Panamera is also not as ugly in person.

    There are limits of 2D photography.

    Of course, some ideas are so bad that you don’t have to see them in person to realize they don’t work. Live, in still photos or in 3D video, the back half of the Ssangyong Rodius is about as ugly as cars get.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I agree with you that the Crosstour doesn’t look as bad in real life.

      I can’t say the same about the Panamera though. From the B-pillar back, I thought it looked just as bad in person as it did in photos.

    • 0 avatar
      tbp0701

      I saw a Crosstour in real life the other day and still thought it looked pretty bad, but I also think even the current Accord sedan is absurdly bloated.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      I guess everyone’s got a different take on these then. I see both everyday, and I think the Honda’s gotten uglier and the Porsche prettier. Maybe “prettier” is a bit strong, I’ll revise to less awkward.

      If the Honda had a lower ride height and a completely redesigned front grill I think it would be a very nice looking car. The Porsche needs a more squared off front end design, less 911-ish, but is already imposing in a good way to my eye.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Ronnie,

      Perhaps you reside in rural Wyoming. Or Montana.

      Here in (an admittedly upscale suburb of) the Midwest, if I spend any time on the road I generally see a few Crosstours. And at least half of those times, a Panamera.

      May or may not be the worthwhile TT version, but I’ll see one. Or more.

      I’ll see at least a dozen Peppers, and Boxsters if I’m driving for an hour. So maybe this rarity concept is lost on me.

      In the MW, they are relatively middle-class cars. Perhaps of the slightly upper of middle, but still, mittelklasse transport.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I happen to like the Suzuki X-90, and I think it’s a little unfair to lump it in with the rest of that lot because it was meant to look ridiculous, whereas the others were just variations on the incompetence-to-arrogance scale.

    One may as well say that Mitsuoka’s work is ugly. And it is, just ugly with spirit.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    That’s a funny picture.

    I can understand that “It’s ugly” is not a very useful critique. But as a couple of folks mentioned above, “ugly” is hard to describe in detail. So is “beauty”.

    Not only is it is a subjective concept with a subjective value, it is also a gut-feeling. How do you describe a gut feeling?

  • avatar
    gimmeamanual

    First gen Fiat Multipla, in green. I don’t care how well it does its intended purpose, it’s just awful to look at.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Any Ssang Young Qualifies, Rodius, radius, radian, rexton you name it…

    Hummers for their pretentiousness and utter disrespect to human eyesight.

    the X6 because it looks like an X5 that has been stepped on and has hemorrhoids…

    The Renault Velsatis because its uglification the term of thinking out of the box by incorporating the box in the design…

    the Pontiac Azztech and Buick Render Vous because they are just tall rectangular boxes that also applied for the chevy uplander…

    Acura’s are Honda’s that are trying too hard… and honda’s are looking good these days…

    Most Toyota’s and Lexus’ except the IS because they are just too dull for what they are

    there are many more, but don’t have much time to list them…

    oh yeah the Porsche Cayenne, because it’s a Porschified Volkswagen Touareg

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    The current Mazda smile is hideous and will cost them at least one sale with me; my wife has a 92 Miata, an absolutely fantastic car. We will absolutely get a new(er) one soon, and it sure as hell would not be the latest design with that ridiculous smile. Not ever, regardless of how great the rest of the car is.

  • avatar
    George B

    For me, most ugly cars suffer from the automotive equivalent of Achondroplasia dwarfism where the middle passenger section of the car is way too big relative to the ends of the car. Too many ugly small cars to mention, but sometimes the proportions are wrong even with lots of length to work with. I think the 1996 Ford Taurus is hideous while the 2000 update makes the Taurus less ugly by increasing the trunk size to match the passenger compartment.

    The Pontiac Aztec achieves ugly through a bad body shape, made worse with a really ugly front facia. The Buick Rendezvous starts with the same platform but, with good proportions and an OK front facia, ends up being attractive.

    Another thing that always makes a car look disposable and frequently ugly is plastic pretending to be exposed or plated metal. Contrast the honest painted steel wheels on a base pickup truck or some CUVs like the base Honda CRV with plastic wheel covers. Contrast a Ford Fusion with the Gillette chrome plastic grill to the same car with the body color grill. Same with VW Jetta vs. GLI. Chrome plated plastic or plastic pretending to be aluminum always ends up looking like the plastic that it is.

  • avatar
    Power6

    Booth Babe,

    I think you’ve zeroed in on the challenge designers face. I am always interested in the science of decision making, and my girlfriend had mentioned to me at one time that she had learned during her master’s program that most people give reliable feedback about whether they like a “design” in general, but their feedback about what is wrong with it is not very reliable, i.e. they can’t tell you how to “fix” it. Seems to be in line with what you have found. Though, typical of you, you seem to have turned it around as yet another point of disdain for your “customers” but I am sure the people doing the actual sculpting recognize this as their challenge.

    There seems to be something to the “face” idea as cars do mimic the human form somewhat. So there may be some sort of formual for a good looking car. I do tend to think that this is overshadowed by the tribal mentality of humans, we tend to agree with those around us. If everybody says Subaru makes ugly cars then it must be true. I’ve said it before, and once again: Few will buy a car that they think others perceive as ugly.


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