By on January 29, 2013

Car people love to criticize.  For proof, just look at any review of the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet.  Or any article about a Chrysler product released in the last 20 years.  Or the comments on my TTAC posts.  But there are times when our criticism goes too far.  Sometimes, journalists and car people alike beat up half-decent cars just because we can’t see ourselves behind the wheel.  Here’s a look at a few of those half-decent cars that never quite deserved the bad rap they got.

Honda Crosstour

 

Although the Crosstour gets bashed for its styling, car guys tend to forget about its target demographic: people who transport long triangular objects.  For them, it’s either the Crosstour or the BMW X6 – and I wouldn’t wish the X6 on anyone.  The Crosstour also boasts 271 horsepower and all-wheel drive – the same exact specs as the Evo VII.  So what if it looks a little different?  Throw three diamonds on the front and call it an Evo Wagon.  Journalists would love it.

 

Jaguar X-Type

 

When the X-Type came out, it had its share of flaws.  Namely, it was dull and expensive.  But today, it’s just dull: the average ask for a used X-Type on AutoTrader.com is only $8,800.  For a Jag!  I know what you’re thinking: it’s going to break down all the time.  But since the X-Type was a Ford Mondeo underneath, it will probably just break down some of the time.  Plus, there was a wagon.  And a stick shift.  So really, it’s just like a 3 Series – as long as you look past the styling, build quality, driving experience, and brand cachet.

Lexus RX

 

There is no earthly reason why the Lexus RX deserves the beating it earns from car guys.  Just ask the suburban housewives who drive them.  What’s not to like?  Smooth ride, numb steering, drab colors.  No, it won’t be at home at an autocross.  It’ll never traverse a muddy hill.  It would probably look out of place in the parking lot of a race track.  But it does have a spot for your purse.  What else is there?

Mercedes SLK

 

The SLK has earned a reputation as a hairdresser’s car, which is odd since few hairdressers could afford its, ahem, optimistic $50,000 price tag.  Instead, it’s a car you drive to the hairdresser’s, but only after Starbucks, Pilates, and a brisk walk around your neighborhood wearing yoga pants.  The main reason the SLK makes this list is because it still offers a six-speed manual.  And there’s something ballsy about making a stick shift even after enthusiasts, journalists, and your own customers beg you to stop.  Rock on, Mercedes.

Nissan Cube

 

The Cube looks really weird.  It has a piece of shag carpeting on the dash that appears vaguely useful until you turn it over, where a warning label says “Do not place anything on this product.”  Its headliner looks like a coffin, and its driving position was apparently suggested by Prevost.  But, dear readers, would you really rather have a Toyota Corolla?  The Cube is what happens when buyers beg for “unique.”  The Versa is what happens when those buyers get turned off by the very thing they’ve requested.

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

 

Just kidding, it’s awful.

Pontiac Aztek

 

Journalists really loved to pick on the poor Aztek when it came out in the summer of 2000.  But it’s easy to criticize when you’re not actually spending the money – and the Aztek was quite a deal.  Base price: $21,000.  GM trunk money: $18,500.  Or something like that.  Plus, you could put those savings towards Aztek accessories, such as an optional tent that rose from the tailgate like a cancerous tumor.  Interestingly, this improved the Aztek’s styling. It was also a handy place to hide from friends who may have otherwise seen you willingly riding inside.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, so please feel free to chime in with suggestions.  Suggestions… and criticism.  Because otherwise, we wouldn’t be car people.

 Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta.  One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer.  His parents are very disappointed.

 

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166 Comments on “The Most Unfairly Criticized Cars...”


  • avatar
    tmkreutzer

    The number of Azteks still on the road here in Buffalo is shocking. I’m not sure if that’s because they have some real reliabilty or if because people keep them hidden in the garages most of the year to avoid annoying their neighbors.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      They’re now very uncommon here in Ohio. I haven’t seen one in weeks.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Its probably because the car actually does the job intended. I’d like to have one with the tent option. It’d be terrific for places like VIR, Road Atlanta, etc., for motorcycle and sports car race weekends. More convenient than lugging a tent to the camping area, and I don’t need all the luxury of a full blown RV.

      So it’s ugly? So what? I also like Edsels.

    • 0 avatar
      njd

      Hey, it’s 2013 and there still exists a “Flat Earth Society”. Likewise, there are plenty of people who oppose aerodynamics on principle. We call them Pontiac Aztec drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        tatracitroensaab

        Idk I would bet that it’s a lot more aero than any of the SUVs that were on the market at the time (this was before there was a crossovers market). Also the back makes it a bit of a tear drop shape. I couldn’t find it’s cd coefficient but I did see that it had much better mpg than a 2000 ford explorer

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The Aztek had a drag coefficient of 0.5. That’s better than Murilee’s art-car 1965 Impala (0.6).

    • 0 avatar
      Jeffer

      They’ve never been common around here, but the ones I do see look like they just rolled out of the showroom.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      +1 njd. The Aztek does nothing well. Seriously. The issue isn’t it’s price, which GM had to swallow IOT get rid of them. It isn’t that it’s hideous to behold in the light of day. It’s the fact that it doesn’t do as it was designed and marketed to do.

      GM went through great hoops to force their 1000 monkeys to pound out a CUV; a term which hadn’t been coined yet, after seeing the Subaru Outback’s sales numbers. The Aztek was designed off the Montana that allowed for the AWD and long platform; to be the best of a MiniVan and an SUV, failing at both. It got the gas mileage of an SUV, but the performance of a GM minivan; i.e., slow. It had a car’s ground clearance making it nearly useless off-road, didn’t seat more than five, couldn’t swallow a sheet of plywood or that all important over-stock of Mayo from Costco, maintenance costs and aerodynamics were SUV-esque, and it was FUGLY!

      Regardless of how you try to tart up this pig, it’s still a pig that just gets worse with age.

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        Folks at GM probably did look at the sales of first generation CRV, Forrester and RAV4. The soft roading capabilities of a FWD crossover is more image than reality – a recently graded, unpaved road works best.

        The committee that squeezed out the Aztek weren’t in anyway shape or form in tune with the customer demographic that bought a Japanese FWD crossover. GM’ers drove Trailblazers or a Tahoe. Chevy dealers kept Geo Trackers off in exile in a side lot.

        If they had done their homework, GM would have found that these practical minded CUV buyers not only needed some of the cargo space of an SUV with a vertical hatch – but just as importantly, they had opted for a vehicle that handled more like a “small car” and could be parked easily.

        Ford in conjunction with Mazda hit closer to the mark. The 2001 Escape was full of teething problems – but its design better targeted to compete with those first gen Japanese crossovers, which were quickly followed by a more refined 2nd generation in 02 and 03.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ears! For I have come to bury the Aztek, not to praise it…

        …GM went through great hoops to force their 1000 monkeys to pound out a CUV; a term which hadn’t been coined yet, after seeing the Subaru Outback’s sales numbers…

        Well, partially true. Those 1000 monkeys were told after they declared they needed a dedicated platform to build on, too bad, so sad, you have to use the U-body platform and thank you for playing.

        …The Aztek was designed off the Montana…

        Pontiac Aztek design was going on before the Montana was born, it was an option package on the Trans Sport through 1998, it wasn’t until 1999 the Trans Sport became the Montana by name. The ’97 Trans Sport through to the ’05 Montana I call the U-Body 1.5. 96′ was the last year of the dust buster and in ’05 the transition to the safer U-Body 2.0 platform happened. You could get what I call a 1.5 U-Body and a 2.0 U-Body in 2005, both of the same model year – must have confused the crap out of customers. I was in a focus group in early 1999 for the Pontiac Aztek and was driving a Trans Sport at the time, so there is no way it was based off of the Montana, and again, the engineers didn’t want to do it that way but the beancounters didn’t listen.

        …that allowed for the AWD and long platform…

        The Aztek had a wheel base of 108.3 inches, the Trans Sport/Montana had a wheel base of 112.0 inches in SWB format, and 120 inches in LWB format. VersaTrak AWD didn’t arrive in the Montana until the 2002 model year, in very late 2001. VersaTrak on the Aztek was available in the 2001 model year, before the Montana.

        …to be the best of a MiniVan and an SUV, failing at both. It got the gas mileage of an SUV,…

        The FWD version got 19/26 MPG (sticker based on 2005 EPA test standards) and 18/24 in AWD. A 2005 Subaru Outback (you wrote that was GM’s target) in AWD in 2005 got 17/23 (again based on 2005 EPA test standards). The Outback required Premium fuel according to the fueleconomy.gov website – don’t know if that is accurate or not. A 2005 Toyota RAV-4 with the 4-banger in 2WD configuration got 21/27. Heck the AWD Honda Element of the same year got 20/25 MPG in AWD configuration – in a much smaller package with a 4-banger.

        …but the performance of a GM minivan; i.e., slow…

        According to Road & Track, the Aztek went to 60 in 9.2 seconds, respectable for a CUV/SUV and right in line with almost any C-segment offering today you would go out and buy. In comparison the Trans Sport/Montana of the same era had a 0 to 60 time of 11.2 seconds. The Aztek was a full two seconds faster. The Subaru Outback of the same era had a 0 to 60 time of 9.1 seconds. Right from Road & Track…

        … Its 9.2-second 0-60-mph time outpaces the Mitsubishi Montero Sport by 1.5 seconds, edges out the Jeep Cherokee Sport by 0.2 second, and equals the Isuzu Rodeo…

        …While the Aztek’s at-the-limit handling numbers are no threat to, say, the BMW X5, these dimensions help it thread through the slalom at a sprightly 60.2 mph, edging out the Xterra (55.6), Cherokee Sport (57.9), and Rodeo (59.7)…

        Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/suvs/112_0008_2001_pontiac_aztek/viewall.html#ixzz2JOGyQICq

        …It had a car’s ground clearance making it nearly useless off-road,…

        Never mind the clearance, but aren’t all CUVs basically useless off-road? Aren’t a growing list of current SUVs becoming completely useless off-road? I find this statement equal to saying a FR-S sucks in a foot of snow. Well, ummmm, ya, it probably does suck to drive an FR-S in a foot of snow.

        Ground clearance for the Aztek was 6.7 inches, definitely nothing to write home about. The Subaru Outback from 2001 had 7.3 inches of ground clearance. The BMW X5 from the same year had 7.1 inches of ground clearance. A RAV-4 in 2005? Well that had 6.3 inches of ground clearance. The Lexus RX in 2005 had a ground clearance of 7.1 inches (I’m bouncing between 2001 and 2005 because there were not a lot of CUV competitors in 2001 to compare to and 2005 was the last year the Aztek was built).

        …didn’t seat more than five…

        And how many CUVs in the high-teens to low-twenties did or do even today? Most CUVs seat 5 and only a couple of can seat 7 competently. Ya the previous generation RAV-4 had an option to seat seven but could you REALLY put a human being in those two back jump seats?

        …couldn’t swallow a sheet of plywood…

        Not true. The Aztek was made specifically to swallow a sheet of plywood, the tailgate section of the two piece would have to be down, but the interior width would absolutely accommodate it. This was a point they made to us in the focus group.

        …or that all important over-stock of Mayo from Costco…

        What? Have you ever even been in an Aztek? Cargo management and some of the key features adopted by many CUVs not made by GM today were a borderline first in the Aztek. Cargo management and capacity was a very strong area. Shoot, you could sleep in the darn thing with the tailgate down (as picture) and accommodate a full size mattress to boot. Plenty of room for Huggies and the 55 gallon drum of mayo.

        …maintenance costs and aerodynamics were SUV-esque…

        Certainly not a maintenance darling, no arguments there. Aerodynamics matter exactly why (within reason of course)? What 2001 SUV, CUV, pickup truck didn’t have the lines of a brick?

        …and it was FUGLY!…

        No argument here. None at all. When I saw it in the focus group my reaction was similar to Quagmire when he found out his dad wasn’t gay, but instead a woman trapped in a man’s body who is going to have a sex change operation.

        Oh dad, please just be gay.

        My comments included, “please don’t build this.”

        Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ears! For I have come to bury the Aztek, not to praise it…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Shakespeare? Very classy, APaGttH.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @28-Cars-Later

        I did not want anyone confusing my fact checking on the Aztek as a “defense” of the indefensible. I was only defending facts – even if the facts defend a beast of a CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Ditto here in Puget Sound. And almost all of them appear to be in very good condition. For a total run of 108,493 built (the last new one finally bought in 2007 according to Wikipedia!!!) it is really surprising how many I see.

      Interesting interview with Jay Leno and what he thinks will be future collectible cars. On his list – the Aztek.

      http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/jay-leno/4312877

    • 0 avatar
      GoesLikeStink

      My Dad loves his 2004 Aztek. He bought it new and has had no regrets. The only repair he has done was last year he hit a dear. The insurance totalled it but he jest replaced the headlight, fender and hood. Of course he also loves living in Kansas where an average of on car a day comes within site of his house. So there is that.

      • 0 avatar
        jjster6

        Please get your poor father some help.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        ” Of course he also loves living in Kansas where an average of on car a day comes within site of his house. So there is that.”
        “Please get your poor father some help.”

        I think he’s saying that, since nobody actually SEES the Aztek, its looks don’t matter to his dad. Or maybe the situation is more extreme: perhaps his dad prefers solitude so the repulsion-effect of the Aztek’s is a feature, not a bug.

        On the other hand, I’ve been reading this blog long enough to know that Aztek owners do like the car, and I generally share an appreciation for the practical attributes that they pointed to. But I manned up and bought a real minivan instead.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      What effect, if any, does the incredibly entertaining show “Breaking Bad” have on the value/desirability of the Aztek?

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        It’s an interesting question. When the Sopranos was on and Tony was trucking around in a full loaded Suburban, it definitely had an impact on desirability. People are strange like that.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        I doubt any. It’s not like Tony driving an Escalade ESV or Christopher driving an H2/Escalade EXT or Paulie Walnuts driving a Deville, Eldo, or CTS made people rush out and buy them. They were cars that made sense for the people driving them.

        Also, both the Aztek and the All-Trac Tercel (or any Tercel) are no longer made.

        APaGttH — the Suburban was already popular in the late 90s pre-Soprano’s. Do you have anything you’d point to?

      • 0 avatar
        solo84

        my sole thought while reading this article was centered around that dull colored heap with a spare.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @controllio

        Actually, extremely popular TV shows can have a HUGE impact on the sales of products, even cars, even expensive cars.

        This is a long story from back in 2001 on the impact of the Sopranos TV show – including Mercedes Benz, and how non-comped product placement within the show boosted showroom traffic and sales.

        http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/covers/2001-05-17-bcovthu.htm

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        I wouldn’t be surprised if more people wanted Trans Ams because of Knight Rider, but I doubt Mercedes sold any SL500 or SL600s (what Gloria sold to “that douchebag”) or E320 wagons (Carmela’s car) due to the Sopranos.

        FWIW, from the article you sent, it seemed like they were more interested in seeing Annabella Sciorra than the Mercedes!

      • 0 avatar
        Lumbergh21

        I was speaking somewhat in jest. I just think of what kind of person would have bought an Aztek back in the day, and I think that the writers did a good job selecting an Aztek for Mr. White. I think it really speaks to where he was coming from, his backstory if you will. I believe their other car is a Jeep Wagoneer, which was also a great choice.

        I remember the last season of Survivor that I watched (Outback I think it was), where Colby won yet another challenge and his big prize was a Pontiac Aztek. The look on his face when they revealed the car that he had just won was priceless and certainly didn’t help Aztek sales.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        That Grand Wagoneer is badass.

        But you’re right, the Aztek was a perfect casting choice for Walt.

    • 0 avatar

      Mom and Dad have the Buick version, the Rendezvous.

      While I’m no fan of it, it does what a pair of 70 year olds want. It’s roomy, reasonably comfortable, easy for them to get in and out of, and somewhat economical. It gets 18mpg with their driving in town, and gets about 26/27 with me driving it on the highway.

      My only real gripe with it, is the 4 speed 4T60E needs a gear between 1st and 2nd, and 3rd and 4th.. the 185 HP 3.4 really works when it falls between the gaps in the gears and needs a 6 speed to feel much more enthusiastic.

      Handling-wise it’s ok around town, and ok up to about 70, after that, it’s a scary beast to hustle on a road with something resembling curves. (That’s a story for another time, but it was when I wished I had my better handling ’95 Explorer instead.. and thats saying something!) the IRS does help some. It drives like a minivan, rides like a car with blown shocks (partly true – just replaced the blown rear shocks, struts are next) and wallows like a pig in slop.

      They’ve put 90,000 miles on it in 8 years, and its been nearly problem free – blower motor went out, its only problem, and that was last year it was replaced. Gas, oil, tires and a battery has all its needed.

      But yes, these B-vans are really U-vans underneath, which have a basis from the old FWD A-bodies, and yes GM service manuals call them B-van.

      My parents were in their mid 60s when they bought it, to replace their much loved but difficult for them to get in and out of, 92 LeSabre.

    • 0 avatar
      johnny ro

      …in the picture, is that a bowl of popcorn behind the Aztek, to feed what looks like a huge mutant white pet otter with a bandanna? Great marketing.

      The tent is a decent idea though. Reminds me of a Honda Passport with pop up roof mod.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I still see a few around the NYC metro area, even some with Versatrak AWD. They have actually grown on me considering they have that classic Pontiac nostril nose. It’s bastard twin the Buick Rendevous was far more horrific looking with the Billy Bass mouth grill and oddly angled back half.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I’ll nominate the 2002 Acura RSX. At the time the switch to a Mac strut front suspension was heresy in Honda world, but who can argue with a 200hp NA 4 cylinder and a 6 speed stick? Also, to this day it has the best cargo cover solution – hanging completely from the hatch instead of hinged on 2 posts and hanging from 2 strings. There’s a reason these cars sell for so much $$ even 10 years later

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      My brother has one, silver, in manual format. I was very impressed with how the back lifted up, and the amount of cargo room back there.

      It’s a little Civic-ish inside, but everything feels solid, including the switchgear.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    I am a Honda guy, through and through, but some people fall over when I tell them out of the numerous vehicles I have owned the most pleasent and the outright cheapest and most reliable was, of all things, a K-Car derived 1993 Dodge Spirit. Oh, they were horribly unreliable unless you chose carefully. First, mine had crank windows and no power locks; less to go wrong. Second, the valve guide eating Mitsubishi V-6 teamed with the self destructing 4spd auto was not a good choice, which is why I had the bulletproof 2.5FI (the head gasket issues were primarely the carbed trans-4, the 2.5FI never had those problems) teamed with the TF727 derrived A-413 3spd auto.

    Result? I drove the damn thing for 200K miles and never replaced one part because of breakage. NOT ONE! Furthermore, the engine was the easiest to service I have ever seen, with the plugs, oil filter, distributer, and all other owner serviced parts right up front. Send it to a mechanic for a timing belt every now and then and just drive it. Bonus points to a split bench that didn’t crowd you like the modern consoles and a transmision that didn’t continously look for more MPG. Most people roll their eyes at the thought of a simple 4 door sedan, especially the K-car, but anyone that wanted to ever know how the K-car saved Chrysler need only spend a day driving that Spirit. I’d love to have it back.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Ahh the Spirit. I had a customer who loved his right into the ground with around the same mileage as yours. It had been written off 3 times, each time not his fault. Each time he bought it back for pennies and we fixed the damage for him, he pocketed money every time.

      I kept a parts car just to donate body panels to this thing when it rolled in with a smashed fender.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      +1

      My dark blue 1990 Dodge Spirit was the first car I had selected and paid for on my own; instead of my Dad selecting and paying for it. He nearly blew a fuse when he found out about the 16% financing the car dealership gave me; a quick trip to the bank to get financing through them fixed that.

      We kept it until 2006 and +200K miles; I can’t tell you exactly how many miles because the odometer broke at 178K. It had the same 2.5L engine; it was really a bored out 2.2L, and like the 2.2L I had in my Reliant wagon, it was indeed the easiest engine I have ever worked on.

      The timing belt broke once a few blocks from the house; a friend helped me change it; and that was the only time it ever broke down.
      By 2006 the gas guage read too high by a quarter tank; stranding me a couple of times when I forgot that fact. The A/C was out, the driver side window had a broken track, and the radiator leaked.

      None of it was anything a grand or so couldn’t have fixed; but it was the oldest and hence the odd car out in our three car fleet by that time. I sold it to the gardener; who probably tried to drive it to Mexico to sell it; if he remembered about the gas gauge and kept up with the coolant, he probably made it. My oldest son never forgave me for getting rid of it, “Bessie” was one of his favorites.

    • 0 avatar

      Ahh yes I remember these cars too. Had a ’91 or so Plymouth Acclaim as my driver’s ed car. White with primer showing through, maybe 1 hubcap left. Certainly wasn’t a looker of a car. I just remember my instructor telling both me and the other student with me to ‘kick it’ every time we got onto a highway onramp. That and of course a reminder to ‘signal, look, go’ when merging onto the highway. I had my foot to the floor but it seemed to be only a suggestion to the 2.5 to go faster. It certainly felt like that car had seen better days, though it surprisingly seemed to hold up to the abuses of being a drivers ed car.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      The A-413 trans was based on the small A-904 torqueflite, not the 727. The 727 would be far too big & heavy to package into a fwd 4 cylinder compact car.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    I hear that Azteks and Volvo wagons are the prefered ride of meth king pins.

  • avatar
    Ciriya.com

    I can’t hate on the Aztek too much. It’s the official car of Albuquerque meth lords everywhere!

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    I’ve never quite understood all the criticism heaped on the Toyota Camry.

    Okay, so it’s boring. So are lots of things that serve people well. My driveway is boring, and it’s been in place for over 40 years and still works like it’s supposed to. Our refrigerator is boring, but it’s going on 10 years and only needed one minor repair.

    Yes, I’ll never buy one (I think), nor will any of my car enthusiast friends. But they’re fine cars, and serve the purpose well. Heck, until recently you could even get it with a manual transmission, though that was more for the cheapest-of-the-cheap rather than to suggest performance intentions.

    For people who just need a reliable car to get around somewhat comfortably, it does the job.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I understand your point, but why buy a Camry when the Accord is not only as reliable (if not more so), but has more cohesive styling, a better drive and a higher quality interior for comparable money. I am all for buying reliable, but plenty of manufacturers make reliable cars that are better than the Camry (6 and Altima also come to mind).

      • 0 avatar
        west-coaster

        Valid points for the other cars, but those aren’t reasons to criticize the Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Road noise. Accords don’t drive well enough to put up with that kind of road noise in a family sedan.

      • 0 avatar
        swilliams41

        Ditto on the road noise, stop with the noise cancelign bull Honda and just insulate the damn car. I have owned 2 Accords and 2 Odyssey’s. I will never buy another Honda until they figure out how to make them QUIET.

      • 0 avatar
        SherbornSean

        The 2013 Accord is a lot quieter.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        westcoaster – those are reasons to criticise the Camry. If there is a car that is just as reliable, just as spacious, just as well priced and just as fuel economical but then has advantages like driving dynamics, styling and quality of interior then who would or should choose car #1. That is why I am surprised by the Camry still be #1 in cars when the Altima, Accord and Mazda 6 all exceed the Camry in several areas and are equally priced and reliable.
        The 2013 Accord is a great car and I am looking forward to the 2014 Mazda 6 being reviewed even though it has been in showrooms for the past month.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        LATimes agrees:

        http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-autos-honda-accord-review-20121004,0,732494.story

        http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/27/business/la-fi-autos-ford-fusion-review-20121227

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      @westcoaster, the case against the Cam-Cords isn’t the reliability factor, of which most of TTAC would recommend them for the Cockroach award if there was one. Nor is it because they’re dull, which they undoubtably are. No, it’s the Appliance cachique that’s attached to such a boring package. A Cam-Cord in your driveway says, “I’m a Sheeple! I follow the crowd!”, not the meme of most of TTAC.

      Nothing against an appliance per se, more so the knowledge that whomever bought one did so, so that they wouldn’t have to think about it. Like buying toilet paper or white bread

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        In fairness though, until the Mazda 6 or the new Fusion, what really was the alternative that was a better choice? In the mid-size family sedan class, if you didn’t want massive horsepower from a VQ-series engine in the Altima, there really wasn’t a “better” car.

        They’re not sport sedans, but aren’t supposed to be. They needed to be relatively quiet, luxurious and reliable. Until the 2013 Ford Fusion and its bucket loads of style rolled up, there was no honestly excellent alternative in that class.

        It’s not a car for enthusiasts, but family sedans aren’t enthusiast cars as a rule. I think the unfair criticism tag is justified.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @delorean: A Cam-Cord in your driveway says, “I’m a Sheeple! I follow the crowd!”, not the meme of most of TTAC.

        Tue.

        But I’d like to point out the cultivating the illusion of bland conformity can be very useful, especially when traveling in unfamiliar territory where the asshat-level of the local authorities is unknown. Popular bland family cars disappear in to traffic everywhere in North America.

    • 0 avatar
      Mrb00st

      Because there are just better options if you want a comfortable, reliable mid-sized four door. It’s so mediocre. The new generation is an improvement, but it’s just awful to drive and sit in. I like the last-generation Malibu better as a boring conveyance, honestly.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        I just noticed that Consumer Reports just rated the 2013 Malibu Turbo above the 2013 Fusion Titanium.

        Consumer Reports compliments handling but notes Fusion’s coarse engines, poor fuel economy and inferior ergonomics..

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Ford Raptor: because having 4×4 stickers on your truck that never goes off road isn’t enough. You need a wide-track desert racing truck with all of the necessary hardware and MONSTER gas guzzling engine to never take off road. That and a track width wider than a dualie to eat up two parking spaces and ridiculous turn radius. Did I mention the frames bend if you DO take it off road?

    Ford Escape: Sure it’s underpowered. Sure it catches fire. Sure the my Ford touch is a dystopian future tech nightmare. But it’s European and Ford didn’t take bailout money…

    VW Passat (US Spec): What’s not to love in a decontented “German” car for American buyers built in Latin America?

    H2/H3: Take a generic GM SUV, add a few hundred pounds of plastic and BFG tires. Stuff the biggest V8 you can find under the hood. Design it to look like a caricature of a military vehicle during what seems to be a period of endless conflict in the Middle East to provide oil to fuel such monstrosities. Irony couldn’t have had a better corporeal definition.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Did I mention the frames bend if you DO take it off road and to stadium truck jumps?”

      FTFY

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Unless Tennessee has undergone a major techtonic event, the Passat is made in the USA…

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The only Raptor I know belongs to a high school principal who has been in the district for decades. What makes me laugh is that he parks it like a doucebag taking up as many spots as possible just to protect it from door dings. (eyeroll)

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        That won’t protect it from tire deflatings or slashings, or paint keyings…

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      I live in a rural county in west Alabama where hunting is big. To reach many of the local hunting camps you will need a bof vehicle, and possibly four-wheel if it has been raining.

      A few weeks ago I saw a Ford Raptor driving through town. This truck was covered in mud and I couldn’t even tell the color of the paint underneath. I knew it was a Raptor based on the shape of the grill which is model specific.

      Not all Raptors are owned by urban and suburban wanna-be outdoorsmen. There are people who actually do take these trucks off-road and get them dirty.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Agreed, a lot of the Raptors I’ve seen and know about do go off-road, but by no means all. Some are just like the lifted F-250/350s or GM 2500s that are basically freeway cruisers in the Central Valley of CA.

        The frame bending, however, was more about people driving those things at 60 mph off-road, wasn’t it? That’s what it seems like people in the Raptor forums had been doing. If you’re going to be running Baja-style, you need to upgrade stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Wasn’t this article about UNFAIRLY criticized vehicles? The criticism you are piling on these cars isn’t unfair.

    • 0 avatar
      swilliams41

      The Passat is currently built in the US and the last gen (which I own) was built in Europe. My Passat has a 280 hp V6 and all the bells and whistles, not a bad car. I agree on the Hummer post, what was the point. They say I am insecure so look at what I drive.

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      Since when is Tennessee part of Latin America? Did we trade it to Colombia for Sofia Vergana?

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The frame damage was isolated to members of a Raptor club that modified the leaf springs to reduce rebound. They also drove into the equivalent of a curb at 80+ mph, they admit.
      Still I don’t see why off road specialty trucks, including FJs, need to have visible trail rash or damage for you. Am I allowed to ever, gawd forbid, wash it??? Mine is just a regular 4X4, but it’s a big investment for me and I’m not going to deliberately abuse it. Unless you look real close or put it on a lift, you’ll never know it’s been off the pavement.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @DenverMike:

        The problem is that a lot of people never take them off the pavement, which is a waste of the vehicle’s capabilities as well as a lot of other things.

        A little mud and scratches would indicate that you actually use the vehicle for its intended purpose.

        OTOH, $40k is luxury-car money, so I have a hard time understanding why anyone would $40k Raptor or loaded F-150 (rather than a near-base F-150 or a used beater) for genuine truck stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Come on, you’re being silly… And just why would you care if a pickup’s maximum off road abilities rarely (if ever) get used? When they do get used, why should the truck end up with visible damage every time? That’s crazy talk!

        Sedan owners have back seats, but rarely, if ever, do I witness them being used, especially BMW or other luxury brands. Should I care? If so, why? Should every back seat passengers leave their ‘mark’ on the plastics or at least spill something when ever they do ride back there? What’s in the trunk? Shouldn’t you just get a Golf if your not going to use the trunk hardly ever?

        Anyways, you have no way of knowing what gets used for what, just based on what gets damaged or used or not used with ordinary care. On any given day, you’ll see a lot of clean and undamaged pickups on city streets, including sparkling, shiny Raptors, but what does this prove?

        Visit any busy body shop (busy body?) on any given day and I guarantee you’ll see a lot of pickups in for minor body work including off road or whatever mishaps. Trust me, this is a huge part of the industry. You have heard of insurance, right?

        But then why can’t a $40,000+ luxo or Raptor pickup be used (with normal care)for genuine truck and off road stuff, that an old beater is normally used for???

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’m seeing a lot of unfair criticism of the Dart. It seems like a car people were just itching to fail or have some hiccup to fullfill a prophecy.

    So I spent some time in one. Yes, it is slow. But so are the Civic and Corolla, two of the best selling cars in the segment. Yes the dual clutch trans feels different, but you can also get it with a regular hydraulic automatic OR a 6 speed stick shift, unlike the Focus.

    You can get it stripped out to appease those want the base model stick shift stripper, or load it up with all the features of a luxury car including a masturbatory stitched dashboard.

    If I were looking for an economy car, it’d be the Dart hands down. But the internet seems to have dubbed it OMGChryslerFAIL before it’s even gotten off the ground.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The Dart needed about six more months of development to fine-tune the details that make a car pleasant or dreadful. The drivetrain lineup has been abundantly criticized, but I haven’t seen anyone mention the lack of space between the handbrake and the seat cushion.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I’ve test-driven two Darts; I don’t think the criticism is unfair. Its lack of refinement can be fixed, but it is entering a highly competitive market whose products are already refined.

      Dodge doesn’t have years to get it right; I think they have about 8 more months until its fate is sealed, either by taking market share, or living in the doldrums of mediocre sales forever.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      My main criticism of the Dart is that it exists when I could have had an Alfa Romeo Giulietta instead. Yes, I know, it’s not that great an Alfa, but between that and anything else in the segment, on looks alone, I simply want it without reason.

      • 0 avatar
        packard

        Juicy has a good point- why Chrysler keeps delaying the sale of Alfa’s is beyond me. Why Chrysler decided to reuse the name “Dart” is also a mystery. I remember Darts as cheap, unattractive cars driven by old people.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    People who actually own Azteks all seem to love them. It actually makes me happy when I see them in the wild. Because I just know the person driving it loves it and probably got a fantastic deal on it.

    It seems like people criticize everything new now. Unless it looks like an Aston Martin in the front or has two letters, a hyphen, and another letter as its name people complain about it. We complain when companies go outside the norm (Murano Cabrio) and we complain when they don’t (Honda Civic). So what do we get instead? The BMW 4 Series.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      My Grandmother has an Aztek. Light grey, loaded, leather interior. She is not the original owner (darn close to it) but she loves it and the ride height makes it easy for her to get in and out of.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      The original Aztek show car was a neat looking vehicle. Unfortunately the production model was built on the U-Body minivan platform and the show car’s lines were not compatible with this narrow, upright platform.

      Studebaker made the same mistake with its 1953-55 sedans. When Studebaker management decided to build the Loewy Coupe, they also decided to use it’s styling on the new Studebaker sedans which had completely different proportions. While the production Loewy coupes were attractive cars that still look great today, the 1953-55 sedans were rather ungainly.

  • avatar
    Mykl

    lol, great article. Well done sir.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Our esteemed commenter GEOZINGER will have a thing or five to say regarding the Aztek!

    Wifey and I checked an Aztek out back in 2001 and loved the concept – AND the looks. There is a nice red one with grey cladding – a later model in our neighborhood and a few yellow ones. Several around here. I was torn between the Aztek and the Rendevous, both nice to me. The anti-mini van mini vans!

    I didn’t feel like spending any money at the time, so no sale. I wanted to get my three years’ warranty period out of our 1999 Stratus first. The following year, time was up and wifey bought her 2002 CR-V. Looks like a 15-year car, still going strong.

    I love odd-ball cars – hence my love for the Nissan Cube, which I think is awesome! The piece of carpet on the dash, however, looks as if someone left their toupee’…

    It also explains my love for the Nissan Cross-Cabriolet as well. Even saw one last fall with the top down on I-75! I was envious…

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      The Rendezvous styling makeover did a lot to remedy the Aztek’s garishness. It still looks like someone gave it a wedgie, and you still have to deal with GM’s garbage supplier parts, but you could certainly do worse for the price they go for these days.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Hey Zackman! My ears were burning…

      I saw the post, but I was trying to evade the hatefest. It’s never going to be polite or rational when a pix of the Aztek is at the top of the post…

      It seems to me the biggest critics of the Aztek (and by extension the Rendezvous) never drove one, much less lived with one. I had two, over six years, they functioned well for my then-young family. My wife and I had a lot going on with our kids, we had Scouts, soccer, band, various church commitments, the list goes on.

      The Azteks functioned like my father’s big Mercurys did back in the 60′s-70′s when I was growing up; stuff everybody in the car and go to the lake or whatever we were doing. Plenty of room for everyone and their stuff, if we needed more room we had a luggage rack.

      I was not in favor of getting the first one, but my wife fell in love with it at the car show, and convinced me she wanted one. We got it, and once I started living with it, I too grew to appreciate it.

      Folks judged the Aztek on it’s looks, I can’t say I blame them, upon initial inspection I wasn’t too wild about it either. But then again, there are many cars like that, and I have learned from my experience. I may not like the looks of the Murano Cross Cabriolet, for example, but somewhere to someone it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

      Different strokes, and all that…

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        If you substituted names of the people and cube for axtek you just told my story. One thing though, I have grown to enjoy the conflict. Mine actually was a demo and even the toupee came with it without much choice.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The thing about the X-type wagon that boggles the mind is the sheer rareness of it. When you look at sales #s in the US, the car would actually be rarer than many Rolls Royces and Bently’s of the same vintage.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I never even knew they made one. And with a stick?! If I had money to throw around, that would be hard to resist.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        As far as I know, the X-Type wagon with a stick is virtually non-existent in the North American market – I know one or two slipped over (special ordered for head office staff), but I don’t think you could technically buy one.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        I have seen a few around. In the U.S they only came with the 3.0 and automatic. If I ever needed a wagon one of these would be top of my list. A neat reasonably priced alternative to an everyman Subaru and you can brag to you neighbors that you own a Jag.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I’d never seen one, either. I think it’s attractive.

      It reminds me of the similarly rare Lexus IS-300 SportCross which, I must admit, I lust after. I’d be interested in the X-type except that the Lexus would be far more likely to get me to and from work on a timely basis.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    What a bunch of regurgitated tripe. This is Jalopnik level blogging here. You couldn’t even manage to come up with something even remotely unique with your narrative.

    I hope I’m not being unfair, but this is terrible at every level.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      I’ll agree that the title is a bit misleading. Outside of the Lexus RX none of the examples are sales champions that enthusiasts criticize. For that I’d expect vehicles like the Camry and Civic. This article reads more like “Ugly Cars are OK Because…”

      Most of the examples were hated by the general public too. Just look at their sales volume. The Aztec was such a failure that GM pretty much gave them away. Sounds like an across the board fail to me, not just a failure in the eyes of the enthusiasts.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Every time I see Walt White’s matte clinical green Aztek in Breaking Bad, I like the car a little more. And he drives that puppy HARD.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    A used X-type wagon is tempting. Even if it is a mainstream Ford platform, the styling apes traditional Jags far better than the S-type, and it looks like a proper stately luxury car. Now if it only used less fuel than a Honda Pilot.

    Anyone here driven one of these Jaguars and care to give their impressions?

    • 0 avatar

      On the up side, it will handle better, look better, be FAR rarer, and has a stick.

    • 0 avatar

      I drove its US cousin, the Contour. Mine had the 2.0 DOHC four, and the 4 speed slushbox (and I do mean slushbox). Driving wise, it rode well, and handled very well, I hope Ford/PAG spent the time to iron out the nasty amounts of road noise the platform had.

      The 4 had good pep, the automatic was geared well, but was dumber than a sack of gasoline on the bottom of the ocean, incredibly slow about shifting and dimwitted about downshifts/upshifts as in drive it slightly hard, and you confuse the poor creature, as it downshifts, then hangs onto the downshift, then upshifts again, long after you made your move.

      But the X-type has a 5 speed automatic, and a 2.5/3.0 V6 from the Escape. Those go very, very well in a Contour.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      I test drove one. The X-type looked terrific from the outside, the interior screamed “Ford”, especially the steering wheel and economy car shift knob. Back then, every Ford sold world-wide had the same texture molded into the wheel. You could tell blindfolded you were sitting in a Ford. The driving experience was all Ford. Not bad, but no way European luxury-sport.

  • avatar
    Colinpolyps

    An acquaintance of mine bought himself a brand new Aztec to which I added the moniker “ugly truck”. Whenever asked why be bought it he simply answered a pith generic,”it meet’s my needs”. Trouble is no one to this day found out what those needs were. I can only assume it was the need to own an ugly truck.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “What makes me laugh is that he parks it like a doucebag taking up as many spots as possible just to protect it from door dings. (eyeroll)”

    That’s one reason I love having my now-beater Trooper. Skinny enough to slip in to a half-space with 1″ clearance between cars. Sure, go ahead, slap your door open….

    The second I saw an Aztek in person (it was fully presented at a teachers conference) I was wholly WTF? Seriously, no one with proper eyesight could have said it was a cohesive design. A true committee workpiece.

    The Jag wagon was cool looking. Not worth the money new, but certainly a steal now…..

  • avatar
    chas404

    Nissan Crossdresser and Juke are HIDEOUS. make the aztek look great. there is a 50s lady i see all the time tooling in ice blue minty one (matches her ice blue doo). hideous. hideous. seems like juke is cougar car/trucklette too. Nissan is off the rails.

    better these ladies pick the bland less offensive rx300 (which I loathe).

    looking back aztek was ahead of its time. i think the concept was more decent looking before they mucked it up and built it.

    • 0 avatar
      swilliams41

      The Juke is monsterous, the Morono Cab is almost as bad. Nissan, where is your IS350?

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        I have repeatedly, REPEATEDLY, begged to have the Juke added to “Cars I Want to Beat to Death with a Shovel like a Zombie Walker in Walking Dead”. However, you have made a good point. Nissan of late, has taken a very American Motors Company perspective of design lately. Feel like I’m taking crazy pills everytime Nissan poops out yet another hideous auto and somehow manage to sell them to the blind.

      • 0 avatar
        chas404

        Juke is so overdesigned and hideous. I hate with all my heart. I think mechanically it is bad too bec it is small overall not 4×4 tough not fuel efficient not that fast and hideous. it does ZERO well. not trying to hate on the drivers so much but WHAT THE H ARE THEY THINKING?

        Where was Juke styled? I think it may have been USA but has all the look of Hello Kitty Japanese styling which I loath.

        Juke=Joke.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Juke = Puke in my book. Its trying very hard to become the modern day Aztek.

        The real problem with the Aztek is that concept version looked OK. Its the production model that got the WTF look. GM seems to do this alot, witness the Volt.

  • avatar
    ant

    I wonder if the honda crz isn’t unfairly criticized. The weight penalty of the hybrid system aint all that much really…..

    I’ve never even been in one, much less driven one, so perhaps I’m not one to judge…… But the ones I see in the wild zip around at a damn good clip. And I hear that they get good gas mileage.

    Sounds like a fun commuter car…. and the only hybrid available with a hand shaker.

    Looking at them going down the road make me think they have a really rough ride though…..

    Anybody on this board drive a crz?

    • 0 avatar

      I haven’t but I do like them. The back end still looks like a tick that’s been squeezed, nut aside from that they seem like they’d be fun. They make a nice little sound for a hybrid, too, and you can’t get a six speed in a Fit Sport like you can the CR-Z. That extra gear could make the Fit more livable day to day from what I hear… and better brakes.

    • 0 avatar
      solo84

      brother has one in white with the automatic. he let me drive it around due to my curiosity of it. VERY fun little car. not the swiftest thing on the road, but impressive.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        The CR-Z suffers mostly from Honda’s insistence on making it a hybrid. Had they put in the regular Civic SI drivetrain and forgotten about the hybrid nonsense, they probably would have had a winner. The IMA system wasn’t efficient enough to make it a Prius-beater (which is why the Insight doesn’t sell, either) – Honda shouldn’t have bothered.

        The CR-Z is a reasonably decent little car, even with the lame IMA hybrid system.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I like the CRZ, but the mileage benefit over a naturally aspirated Mini is negligible. I can’t really say anything about the added complexity of a hybrid if I’m comparing it to a BMW product – I figure that’ll be roughly a wash in ten years. Although, at least the Mini has a usable(ish) back seat.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    I knew the Aztek was really bad when I saw Walt on Breakign Bad driving one. The tires would squeal on every corner and the engine sounded like a hundred hamsters drowning. I am sure the altitude in Albuquerque did not help. Alas Walt traded the Azz in on a 300SRT. Way to go Walt! The ultimate “what were you thinking?” car. I understand the Crosstour is a really good Accord and the RX was one of the best car’s I ever owned. It was great at it’s intended purpose, better materials, fit and finish than most crossovers and great build quality. Rather have a used RX than a new Honda CRV!

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      My wife’s with you on the RX.

      We went car-shopping for a Prius some months ago and the Toyota dealer had a used hybrid RX on the lot. My wife insisted that we test-drive it, as long as we were looking for a hybrid. She absolutely loved it. I must admit, I liked it, too.

      I was able to dodge that bullet, she’s happy enough with the Prius but she most certainly still wants an RX and wouldn’t mind a used one.

  • avatar
    carr1on

    My wife and I both drive Nissan Cubes. Our next cars will likely be Nissan Cubes. I don’t think there is a better value for the money for a new car. $19.5k for navigation, bluetooth, rear camera, keyless entry and ignition, Rockford stereo, tons of safety features like cabin airbags, and eleven (!!) friggin cup holders.

    I think it’s a great little urban assault vehicle for a small family or business person that needs space for equipment.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      I love to hear you talk like that. Btw the toupee on the dash is great for things you don’t want to lose in the short term. I held the parking garage ticket this morning and I didn’t really care if it had no use. The engine is great and nothing wrong with the rest of the car. It might look like a cartoon car to some but it just reeks of efficiency to me.

      Rented a Versa this weekend and liked it even better. Not the wife. It’s her car and we aren’t trading.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      My wife loves her cube, and the car has really grown on me as well. It looks like a toaster but is actually a great piece of engineering.

      BTW, the shag carpet “Soul Patch” on the dash is an option that we declined. I have no idea why anybody would want that thing.

      • 0 avatar
        carr1on

        My wife’s Cube is black. She replaced the stock black “soul patch” with a blood red heart-shaped one that she made herself. She calls her car the Black Widow.

        One other cool thing. The Cube has a bunch of plastic hooks throughout the cabin for hanging stuff. My wife replaced the plastic hooks with blood red cabinet door pulls. She’s had a lot of fun customizing her Cube.

    • 0 avatar
      jdowmiller

      This. I rented a Cube a couple years ago and it was really fun. The kids loved it and the side-hinged rear door was excellent. We were really disappointed when the damage on our boring Accord was repaired and we had to say goodbye to the Cube.

  • avatar

    I’d like to add the Acura ZDX. It is very overpriced for what it is–a modified MDX–but then so is the BMW X6, which is a modified X5. But the ZDX is a very cohesive design and I thought it looks pretty neat…

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      … until you try to get in or out of the back seat, and bang your head on the top of the door opening!

      Somehow, the X6 has a door opening that works better, but the ZDX is awful.

  • avatar
    Hank

    All the dead-pulp press that hated on the Aztek were a bunch of hypocrites. The only reason it made it to production was because the same press salivated over the concept and yelped from the mountains they hoped GM had the guts to build it. When it arrived, they press went into mourning because it was ugly. Duh. The concept was ugly, too, but they were too full of free shrimp to say so.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    The GM “Dustbuster” vans.

    These vans had styling ahead of their time. Every van on the road pretty much looks like them now. Nobody is proud to say their car has plastic body panels, but it makes sense up here where you can hear everything rusting. Some had the 3800 v6, which was quite reliable and powerful for a van of that era. I still see a lot of them driving around the Chicago area, still looking fantastic. The only thing that kills them is frame rot and interior decreptitude.

    The styling was love it or hate it, especially on the Pontiac. I happen to still love it. I would love to find a 1st gen with the 3800 to mod out or turn into a Lemons racing van. They don’t last long on Craigslist though.

    • 0 avatar

      If you ask me, they looked very European, which isn’t a bad thing…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Don’t even get me started on a Dustbuster LeMons van. Before we made our first entry, a friend of a friend actually had an early 90′s Pontiac dustbuster van that was imported from europe with an HO quad4 and a 5 speed manual transmission.

      In typical quad4 fashion, it spun a rod bearing, so he sold it to the first order friend for $300. When we found out about it, we called first order friend and told him to hang onto the van, we’ll pay whatever scrap value and come and get it the next day.

      I don’t know if he thought we were bluffing or is just an asshole, but by the time we got to him the next day, it was already in the crusher. Such wasted opportunity.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    My father-in-law regularly rented SUVs for his job as an “industrial photographer.” He ended up, against his best wishes, with an Aztek. he complained the day he got it, we both made fun of it, and he then set off on a week long work effort.

    When he returned he said “I got really bad news.” I said “What?” He said “I loved it. Drove like a car, went everywhere I needed to go, got decent mileage, really nice ride. Ugly as sin, but I don’t stand ouside the car when I am driving it.”

    Must be something to them, eh?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I remember reading as production was winding down that their owner loyalty numbers were through the roof.

      As I mentioned above when I was in the focus group in ’99 I found myself absolutely loathe to the outside. The interior definitely suffered from the GM bean counters. Hard plastic everywhere, Playskool switch gear and certainly not the most upscale cloth on the seats. But the ergonomics, functionality, and thought that went into the interior was readily apparently.

      I didn’t want the Aztek to see the light of day, but from an interior stand point I saw a ton of things that I thought made a ton of sense to add to different vehicles. Cargo management rail system for the rear floor that extended into the seats (that found its way into the Pontiac Vibe). Rear drink holders and moulded place for your butt on the tailgate, actually comfortable to sit on. Stereo controls mounted in the cargo area and speaker placement where the audio sounds good with the hatch opened. Rear seat “flaps” that doubled as day packs. HUD. Logically, well laid out controls – if not excessively button happy up front. The tiller wasn’t that bad in the hands (covered in the overly smooth really this is leather from GM of the era, but thicker than many other offerings). Rear seats that slid forward and back and had rake adjustment (pretty standard now).

      Inside – they got a lot right – despite the bean counters best attempts to screw it up. Outside it was hopelessly ugly.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    How about the Infiniti EX? It gets a lot of hate for being a G35/37 hatchback, with the associated RWD/AWD handling and 300+hp. A lot of people bitch about not having enough extra space over the sedan, but they forget the utility of putting the seats down and the large cargo opening that comes with the hatchback format. Try putting fully assembled furniture or appliances in your sedan’s trunk. Strangely, the FX gets a pass with most people for some reason.

  • avatar
    Cadillacpimpin

    I am one of the few that thinks the Aztec is a great car. I actually liked the styling.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    My gripe against the Honda Crosstour isn’t so much that it’s ugly – hey everyone to their own tastes. It’s that fact that we get the ugly Crosstour but not the rather fetching Accord Wagon that steams me. Crosstours will sell but wagons won’t?!?

    And it’s not fair to point out I can buy the TSX Wagon (for 10 grand more than what it would cost if it was wearing a Honda badge).

  • avatar
    MK

    Timely article, just this morning as I crawled through Memphis traffic I had an Aztec in front of me. Plastic lower cladding all completely oxidized to frosted black, dirty and run down looking but generally appearing to be in decent mechanical order.

    It made me think back to the First time I saw one….when that guy “won” the very first “survivor” television show. My immediate impression was “wow what an ugly prize” and iirc the winner didn’t look too excited either!

    They’ve held up well but so what?

    Life’s too short to drive an ugly car.

  • avatar
    lon888

    A co-worker’s wife just had to have a “Jaggg”. So he finds a buddy who’s just itching to unload his X-Type for a “killer price”. Two days after purchase he notices a technocolor puddle which happens to be transmission failure. He quickly learns that the X-type doesn’t have a standard Ford Mondeo transmission but rather a bespoke (read expensive) Jag unit. Given the maintenance costs, he didin’t hold on to the Jagggg for very long.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I don’t know much about the reliability and repairability of these cars as I’ve never had the chance to even drive one, let alone work on one. But if the resale values are any indication, it’s probably very bad. It’s almost if not equally as bad as the S-Type, a car that I once thought was interesting, but really turned out to further the Jag reputation for expensive unreliable cars.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings for the brownmanualdieselwagen folks, but at least in the U. S. Market, the issue was always this, for the Jag: You may have a manual-transmissioned X-type. You may have an X-Type wagon. You many not have both. The wagon was never sold with a stick…

    • 0 avatar

      True. Same with the IS300 SportCross.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        You can’t have an IS3xx with a manual transmission period, can you?

      • 0 avatar

        The first-gen IS300 sedan came out in 2001 and added a stick shift in 2002. In 2006 when the second-gen came out and they split to IS250 and IS350, only the IS250 got the manual.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Wow, I had no idea. I remember the reviews for the 2001 saying the MT only came with the IS250 and not the 300, so it was always off my list, in addition to the fact that it was a Lexus. I knew the 2nd gen for sure had no MT available on the IS350.

        I wonder how many are actually out there, given the Lexus population’s propensity for automatics. It sounds like the Lexus manual transmission wasn’t so great just based on a quick perusal of forums.

      • 0 avatar

        In the States, the first-gen IS only came as an IS300. Other markets got an IS200, but we didn’t get a smaller motor until the IS250 came out for the second-gen. Trivia: Europe also gets an IS220d!

        EDIT: by the way, I had a friend with a stick IS250. Typical volume-car manual: numb, boring gear action, etc. Even the Lexus dealer was surprised to see it when he would come in for service. Needless to say, he leased it.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        About 8 years ago or so I was looking for a sedan…. the stipulation was that it had to be a manual transmission equipped one.

        I found the oddest of the odd and came really close to getting it. Sitting outside the Kearny Mesa, San Diego Lexus dealership was a 1st generation Lexus IS300, it was this unusual ‘ameytheist’ light purple color, I din’t like the color, but I still looked regardless. This car was odd; yes it was a 5 speed manual, but with navigation and no leather, it was a cloth interior. Being at the time I lived in California’s Inland Empire where summer heat can go up 110 degrees, I saw the cloth as a plus. The interior color was also odd, it was a darkish beige if memory serves. The color scheme was too off putting and I walked away. Had it been in more tasteful colors I probably would have bought that car.

        I eventually found an ’02 Nissan Maxima SE with 6 speed in black with a tan leather interior and got that, no navigation though…. but the VQ35DE sure made up for it!

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    The Honda Element, a car for people who think body cladding makes a car look tough; you know, like a tupperware container, rugged.

    Click and Clack were totally unfair when they put the Element on their 10 worst looking cars of all time with the tag line, “What element would that be, buttuglium?”

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      But people occasionally call in and ask, “What should I buy?” and Click and Clack will recommend the Element.

      • 0 avatar
        Lumbergh21

        I haven’t listened to them or been on their website in years, but I believe their 10 Ugliest Cars were nominated and voted on by visitors to their website. The buttuglium coment was actually provided by one of the voters and was the one they used for the Element on the final list. Of course, the Aztek was the winner(?). The xB had a good tag line as well that I remember, “I see the box, but where’s the car that came in it?”

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    All of these cars deserve every ounce of criticism they’ve received.

    Especially the Crosstour. Are we so afraid to sell station wagons in this country that we need to market a deformed, hemorrhaging Accord as a CROSS-crossover?

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The vehicles to compare the late, lamented Aztec are the 1958 Edsel and Dodge Caliber. In many ways, the Aztec typified the exact same failure of the Edsel, i.e., an overpriced, mediocre product that was too damn ugly for the market. It wasn’t particularly bad, but neither was it particularly good, either. Combine that with what is politely termed a ‘polarizing’ appearance, and you have a recipe for an epic failure.

    OTOH, the Dodge Caliber combined the same sort of outré Aztec design but Chrysler wisely targeted it to a different, lower priced market. While it sure wasn’t a smash success, because of its lower price, the similiarly styled Caliber sold well enough that it didn’t bring down an entire car division.

    There should be a maxim for the auto industry that states, “Never produce an outrageously styled vehicle for anything except the lowest end of the market”. The creative ‘starving artist’ types will always go for that stuff, but only if they can afford it. In addition to the Caliber, that’s how Nissan gets away with the Cube and Kia has done surprisingly well with the Soul (although the clever hamster commercials helped a lot).

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      I would give a big nod to the clever hamster commercials and to the xB’s departure from its original form to a larger more rounded box. If you are going to go ugly go all out ugly; sometimes that can end up being cute in an ugly sort of way.

      The Caliber commercials on the other hand were annoying and insulting. Nothing clever or amusing about them whatsoever. then i saw one in the wild (so to speak) in a Home Depot parking lot. I can’t imagine what kind of person buys such a horribly designed vehicle. Appearance gets and F, drivability gets an F (if you want to be able to see where you are going), and practicallity gets an F. That car had absolutely nothing going for it in my opinion. At least there appeared to be some practicality in the Aztek.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        I remember vividly sitting in one of the first Calibers on a dealer lot and thinking, “Geez, this is worse than the Neon”. The gimmicks like the soda can cooler in the glove compartment and tailgate dropdown radio speakers couldn’t make up for some of the cheapest grade plastics in a vehicle interior since the seventies.

        OTOH, the Caliber was cheap and more practical than the Neon, and that’s what gives it the edge over the much more expensive Aztec. In the bottom-feeder market where the Caliber dwelled, you can get away with a lot.

  • avatar
    jimboy

    As an owner of a ’98 Contour Sport SE, I seriously shopped for an X-type wagon when it came time to replace the Ford. Just couldn’t find one at the time. I loved the Contour, and as far as I could tell, the jag was a better version of it, wagon, 3.0 liter V-6, available awd, and I thought the styling was classic, not boring. Isaw an elderly gent driving a beautiful silver one in showroom condition the other day at a traffic light and nearly offered to buy it on the spot. ( I bought a Magnum RT instead of the Jag I originally wanted, love it, too, but the Jag was better sized)

    • 0 avatar
      56BelAire

      Just did a quick AutoTrader search for an X-type Wagon and there are over 20 available nationally…..some real beauties. So all you guys who get “woodies over wagons” should get busy.If I were in FLA I would go see the private seller one. Looks like a puff.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Front-wheel drive.

  • avatar
    Wodehouse

    A dozen years ago the Pontiac Aztek was derided for its styling/design, but, park one next to a 2013 CR-V (the Aztek’s near twin), Kia Sportage, Rav4, Subaru Outback or Fiat 500L and “honestly” tell me which vehicle looks the worst. I could easily throw in a dozen more including models from Cadillac, Lexus, BMW, Infiniti, and Land Rover. The Pontiac looks quite ordinary in this company. It’s just that hideously ugly is the new “it” look.

  • avatar

    I actually know hairdresser who drives new SLK and other one who is on her second new Lexus IS. How do they manage to do that? Short answer – lease. Hairdressing is fashion oriented business and hairdressers want to drive stylish cars. I also know fund manager who drives 10 years old Camry. Well fund management is not in fashion industry and they know how to manage money LOL, what hairdresser don’t.

    And wait until FWD Mercedes goes on sale. I already see so thousands happy hairdressers and alike driving these cars. You definitely WANT to be seen in Mercedes!

  • avatar
    Sttocs

    The 135i is the most unfairly criticized car.

    1. It’s too heavy
    It’s 200lbs lighter than the 3-series, which no one seems to think is too heavy aside from Colin Chapman.

    2. It’s too expensive.
    It’s frequently commented-on that the 135i Coupe is within a few thousand dollars of a 328i sedan. How are these two similar, and who, aside from a poseur would pick a heavier, weaker sedan over a lighter, more powerful coupe? Keep your lease special 328i, or even worse, the upcoming 320i.

    3. It’s too cheap
    The complaint is that the 135i is a cheap way to get the BMW badge and nothing else. Yet, I bought mine CPO, and paid the same price as a few CPO 3′s that were on the lot. I prefer a small car with big motor.

    4. It’s not a real BMW.
    It’s a tidy coupe with a straight six and rear-wheel drive. It’s the living embodiment of BMW.

    5. It’s ugly.
    Well, yeah. A bit. : )

  • avatar
    Maymar

    The Acura ILX is no Honda Cimarron. It’s barely more expensive than a loaded Civic, it looks better, has a nicer interior, and has a slightly bigger engine. Plus, with the 2.4, it’s a Civic Si for adults.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Oh, and without discussing its other flaws and merits, why is it that every time the ~1800lbs smart fortwo (built by Mercedes, who have something of a reputation for safety) is discussed, someone has to chime in that it’s too small and dangerous for our roads, but any time the ~2000lbs Lotus Elise (built by a company who have something of a reputation for seeing extra weight, even for safety features, as unnecessary) is talked about, that person never shows?

  • avatar
    Distorted Humor

    Don’t get me wrong, the Aztec is one butt ulgy car.

    But everyone I know who has them think they are good cars.

  • avatar
    jjklongisland

    Great Article… Enjoyed the read…

  • avatar
    mklrivpwner

    Love the tongue-in-cheek on why the cars were “half-decent”. Great article.

    In my experience, the most unfairly criticized would have to be anything late-’90′s Saturn. Try to find rust on one that has any level of maintenence. And the old iron-block was a toss in from Chevy that was harder to work on than a college Calculus course with a migraine. But if you found one without the moon/sun roof (or sealed it) and a manual transmission, you were good for 150K+. And spare parts were easy to come by (as long as it wasn’t body panels) for if/when issues did arise.

    I’d love to read a follow-up “The most undeservingly praised cars” or “The most under criticized cars”.

  • avatar
    nikita

    The RX is the official car of the “Housewives of Palos Verdes”. When I drive up Crenshaw Bl. to visit my dad in Rancho PV, Im sometimes surrounded on all sides by them.

  • avatar
    afflo

    I’ve own two cars that I consider to be unfairly maligned. The Honda Element (yes, it’s funny looking, but was pretty useful, and VERY handy when I lived in a snowy place).

    The Other is my current car, the Scion tC (’11). I understand the reasons people don’t like it (Scion’s bizarre “hey kids, check out the swell new hip cars!” advertising, styling that’s a bit more aggressive than the car itself), but when taken as a lower-priced alternative to the Accord and Altima coupe, it’s a surprisingly good deal. Comfortable seats, expansive legroom, similar engine, mileage, interior space… the specs would basically place it between an Accord Coupe LX-S and EX, at a $3-5K discount.

  • avatar
    ReturnofSAM

    2008+ Saab 9-3 especially the wagon. The 08+ had the revised styling giving them a more aggressive style. Summarily bashed for being too GM and not enough Saab, it was still a good car. It had ample power while returning good fuel economy and handled well at 7/10. Other than the creaking plastic components the interior was stylish and had no more hard surfaces than any other premium vehicle. In fact, the leather used would put the new ATS to shame. Pricing was also a sore point, but no one ever paid sticker. Transaction prices placed it in VW territory. Any 6 spd turbo wagon deserves more respect.


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