QOTD: What's the Worst Automotive Segment?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

There’s no need for detail. Nuance is unnecessary. Set aside demands for specifics.

What’s the worst type of vehicle known to humankind in 2017?

There are leaders in every category, of course. But the fact that the Ford Transit Connect is surprisingly fun to drive doesn’t make the small commercial van sector particularly appealing. Likewise, there are laggards in every category, too. Yet the Mitsubishi Lancer’s uncompetitive nature doesn’t cast a broad brush across the entire compact sedan segment.

Somewhere, however, in some corner of the vast U.S. auto industry, resides an entire segment of vehicles that is, as of 2017, the worst. It’s the segment that provides the worst return-on-investment. The vehicles in said segment haven’t moved the game forward in the same way full-size pickup trucks or American muscle cars have their own category. There’s no obvious class leader or class embarrassment because every vehicle in the category lacks true sensibility.

What vehicle category are we talking about?

We’re obviously talking about subcompact crossovers. The extra cost over and above a subcompact car isn’t matched by extra content. Just compare prices of the Ford EcoSport and Ford Fiesta as an example.

For the most part, due to limited ground clearance, subcompact crossovers don’t live up to their own purpose, either. Greater visibility of the road ahead? Hardly. More ability to tread through deep snow? No.

Worse fuel economy? Yes. Less attractive exteriors? Yes.

Obviously some consumers feel differently, though not many. Subcompact crossover popularity is growing fast, but at just 3 percent market share, the entire subcompact crossover segment earns far less volume than the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, combined.

But maybe we’re wrong. (Probably not. But maybe.) Perhaps the Chevrolet Trax and Fiat 500X represent the best of automobile manufacturing in 2017: an automaker’s ability to tap into the vehicular taste buds of a select few. Maybe there’s an entirely different vehicle category that you feel manifests the worst of the modern automotive industry.

Minivans. Too big?

Midsize pickup trucks. Not big enough?

Luxury station wagons. Not remotely within your budget?

Hot hatchbacks. Not sufficiently trunkified?

Body-on-frame full-size SUVs. Not sufficiently space efficient?

European roadsters. Not as good as the much less costly Miata?

Whatever the reason, you need to tell us which new vehicle segment is the worst new vehicle segment in 2017. Or just type, “Agree,” in the comment box below.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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  • PentastarPride PentastarPride on Oct 12, 2017

    I can't stand crossovers. Blah, ugly bland blobs supposedly in place to replace sedans. They all look the same and they are usually equipped with problematic CVTs and turbocharged, start-stop engines to duplicate the fuel economy of a small car. I will never buy a crossover. I can't say the same of my wife. She has very different automotive tastes.

  • MoparRocker74 MoparRocker74 on Oct 13, 2017

    The 4 door sedan with a fixed rear window and trunk, at any size is easily the dumbest, most useless bodystyle of 'car'. I say 'car' as opposed to truck, SUV, or van. So-called 4 door coupes with 4 forward swinging doors and 4 blatant door handles add insult to injury by crassly insulting our intelligence. First off, taste is subjective so this is opinion: Sedans are frumpy, boring and just generally the ugliest way to execute an automobile. Those 2 added doors enhance the styling of a car the way a unibrow enhances a ladies face. Again, JMHO. What is less subjective is sedans offer no unique merit. Theres literally not one thing a sedan excels at that some other bodystyle cant do while offering something that a sedan cannot. --A coupe based off the same platform as a sedan will usually be a little shorter, lighter, and simpler. It's structurally the stronger platform since there are less holes in it. With (usually) no rear window mechanisms and fixed rear panels in place of the doors, theres less flopping around. The shorter wheelbase means less leverage on the chassis. From a performance and handling standpoint, a coupe with the same engine and suspension as the related sedan will always return better numbers. ALWAYS. Of course both have a trunk and fixed rear window so from a utility standpoint, both are compromised, and a sedan would offer marginally better rear seat room/access. BUT... --A wagon, hatch or shooting brake would offer up the same or slightly inferior rigidity and higher weight as a sedan vs a coupe. However, the tradeoff is a MASSIVE increase in utility over either one. The cargo bay is much bigger, flatter, more accessible and versatile. A long roof means a much larger roof rack can be used. --A 5 door liftback might look similar to a sedan but has the all important ability to get the rear glass out of the way, which allows a still significant advantage in carrying a load. Even if you have to leave the rear hatch cracked open and tied solid...you can get the job done whereas with that fixed sedan or coupe rear window...youre hosed. --A convertible offers the weight/rigidity issues of a sedan/wagon possibly even worse. However the ability to drop the roof has a fun factor that may or may not matter, but also allows tall, bulky items to be loaded that wouldn't fit anything else save a wagon. So what exactly is a sedan for? Its the beige, milquetoast choice for those who are indifferent towards cars. Rolling mediocrity. They aren't sporty, they aren't sexy, they aren't uniquely useful, and they aren't fun. Anything a sedan can do, something else can do far better. So why do these things even exist? Can anyone name one unique thing these are good for that nothing else could possibly handle as well? Anyone?

    • See 2 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Oct 13, 2017

      @PrincipalDan Since I have never truly needed a 4-door vehicle (though I have had them) the full second row in a pickup truck is useless to me; a proper extended cab with TEMPORARY seating is more than enough for my needs, letting me pack weather-sensitive items inside and reducing the risk of pilferage for items I want to leave in the truck (like cargo management tools, etc.) A standard cab doesn't give enough room and a full second row is simply overkill that, to me, looks ridiculous when the bed is thereby compressed to a mere 4-½ feet in length. My old standard-cab Ranger has a 6-foot bed. I'd happily lose a foot of that to have the half-doors the Ranger came with so long. And yes, I'd accept adding six inches to the length to make that extension 18" as long as I avoid that full 30" (or more) a crew cab adds to the interior.)

  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.
  • Crown Seems like they cut some cylinders too.A three cylinder...where are they planning on selling that??
  • Slavuta "There’s also the problem of climate change, and the more intense weather that comes along with it"How could one even write something like this? We don't have more intense weather. We have better weather. When Earth started, it was a fiery ball. We don't know what weather was in 1700. And even if we know some of it in Europe, we don't know what was happening in Africa, South America, Oceania, etc. We have people living in places where they did not live before. We have news that report weather related events minutes later or during. This did not happen before. There is no evidence that we have an increase in intensity. I looked into historical records in the area where I live - there is not much movement at all between 1970 and now. And remember - none of the previous weather predictions have materialized.