By on October 8, 2019

2001 Pontiac Sunfire in California wrecking yard, front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

No, not depreciation — though that might come into play here, too. A great number of car models are lackluster, deficient in style, reliability or panache, or basically appeal to buyers only for their low cost of ownership. Some vehicles are simply appliances, nothing more.

Yet appliances stimulate little in the way of bad emotion. They’re not meant to. So, despite the blandness of some vehicles, you wouldn’t call them depressing. No, that term is reserved for a very specific cohort of rides. Which models are they?

The topic of this discussion arose from a movie debate, perhaps one sparked by CNN’s obsessive campaign against a certain flick your author had no intention of seeing, but now might shell out for a ticket. The movie looks a little grim. A little depressing in its subject matter and character arc.

Sure, lots of movies are downers, but few add weight to your bones and leave life a little less colorless hours, if not days, after watching. Then there’s movies like Ordinary People (great Olds, Donald) or The Deer Hunter. There’s that episode of Black Mirror about the U.S. college student and the shadowy UK video game developer that stuck with me for days. Films and shows like this leave a mark.

And so do some vehicles. Directors try to insert such vehicles into films to give a sense of what the characters’ lives must be like; to have the vehicle embody the type of person they are, or the situation the character finds themselves in. Remember the jobless, unravelling D FENS abandoning his 1978 Chevette on a crowded L.A. freeway and walking off into the city, (empty) briefcase in hand? Think of how different that scene — and character — would be if you instead watched Michael Douglas exiting a purple 1970 Barracuda 440.

You get the point.

Some vehicles simply lack almost any redeeming figure, and the passage of time isn’t likely to make such mediocrity cool or quirky again (in some unlikely cases, this isn’t the case. Oddball vehicles or grim crapwagons can experience a resurgence in popularity among the hipster contrarian set). And while your author might be more quick to find silver linings than others, the fact remains that the derisive descriptor “penalty box” exists for a reason. What car model, perhaps one you have personal dealings with, is simply irredeemable, leaving you feeling bad for anyone seen driving one?

[Image: Murilee Martin/TTAC]

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95 Comments on “QOTD: Dealing With Depression?...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    “ What car model, perhaps one you have personal dealings with, is simply irredeemable, leaving you feeling bad for anyone seen driving one?”

    Current gen Malibu, there I’m a broken record, I can’t stand the POS. Miserable little car with no redeeming features that gave me anxiety trying to drive. I assume everyone driving it was already on SSRIs when they bought them, if not they are now.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      My rental Jeep Compass Trailhawk made me miss my rental Malibu 1.5 CVT. The rental Rogue I swapped into from the Compass (on top of being a hateful little turd, it had horrible tire noise/slap that I found intolerable) was truly a massive upgrade.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I actually *almost liked* the last FWD Compass I drove. I think I’d take it over any Rogue or base engine Malibu (although I don’t know what would ever lead to such a decision set).

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Are you talking about the current gen Compass (Fiat 500 bones) or the old Patriot twin?

          I had a new one. It just felt like the third world Mexican rollerskate that it was. Cost cut to the extreme, which would be one thing if it cost $15k, but the MSRP on a Trailhawk is a laughable $30k! For that you get a turn signal stalk that feels about ’92-Cavalier-tier, an engine that shakes to life like a 200k mile 1990 Civic with a bad engine mount, and a push start shoved into the same location (on the steering column) where a lesser model has a traditional key, blatant, unergonomic cost engineering. Truly the Rogue I had after that felt thoroughly more expensively and thoughtfully engineered. On the positives the body felt tight and squeak free, the 9spd auto was behaving well and paired decently to the 180hp 2.4L, rear seat looked decently roomy, trunk wasn’t as tiny as I was afraid it might be.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Yea, it was one of the new ones. Nothing I’d buy but other than slowness (a complaint I have with many things), and air conditioning that felt a touch weak, I mostly liked it. Price was a bit dear (a complaint I also have about many things) but I assume big FCA discounts are available.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I’ve not had an engine shake to life like that 2.4 in the Compass in anything resembling a “new” car before, totally bizarre. Not sure if they used super soft engine mounts as a cheap and easy strategy to isolate the somewhat gruff 2.4L or what. The turn signal thing and push start mounting seem like nit-picks, but when literally everyone else has this stuff figured out better, you notice. I’ve not felt a turn signal stalk with such a cheap crunchy detent since my 1994 Ford Ranger, in fact the Ranger’s was nicer. The pushbutton thing too. The Rogue that replaced the Compass had a cheap cover on the column where base trims have a key, but I never would have seen it if I hadn’t craned my neck to look. The pushbutton is brought out to the dash like on every other car with that feature. The half-worn tires at 17k were incredibly noisy, I think they are a sort of all season with a slight all-terrain bent, but very slight.

            The only logical customer for this thing is someone who really would go offroading in their CUV, there the good clearance and approach/departure come into their own, and Jeeps well developed brake based traction control/differential lock system. Anyone who plans to use their CUV purely on road would be better served by any number of other vehicles, the “lowly” Rogue being a prime example.

            I will add, the exterior styling is handsome.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I just dont quite understand the hatred for the Malibu. I think it is a fine car for what it is. There aren’t too many modern cars that fit the bill as “depressing” but generally the base models of the least expensive cars on the market will typically draw some empathy from me with respect to their owners. The Dodge Journey for instance is a great example. I see someone in a new one and feel legitimately sorry for the owner.

      Similarly, people who drive a Mercedes CLA 250, older Audi Q3’s inspires true pity. These are people so obsessed with a badge that I feel they were literally duped.

      But I think some of the vehicles from the Cerberus days of Chrysler truly hit the nail on the head for this topic. Jeep Commander, Dodge Caliber, Chrysler Sebring (of the Cerberus era). These are vehicles that at one point or another have even been disavowed by their manufacturer to a certain extent. I remember Sergio lamenting about a few of these models, the Commander in particular. That’s truly harsh. To be an owner and read that the CEO of the company that sold it to you is calling it a crapwagon. OUCH!

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Have you driven the Malibu? I’m not anti base model by no means, but the Malibu’s drivetrain should have been left in the deepest depths of the 1980s where it’s horrible attributes were relevant.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I have driven the Malibu. It’s a boring appliance, but I didn’t find it hate-worthy.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I agree Mike. It’s not the best in midsize class, but it’s totally normal and competent.

            If I ever run into Hummer at a light in his H2 and I’m in a rental Malibu again, I’d make it a point to show him that Malibu’s taillights :O

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Good luck, if that Malibu is anything like the one I had, my H2 would be completely across the intersection on 1/4 throttle travel by the time the Malibu finally cranked up.

            That 0-60 clearly doesn’t account for the long lag of the shoddy start/stop

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Unload the brake pedal slightly when you see the cross traffic light go yellow.

            I can’t find 0-30 specs on either car. But the 0-60 is truly instructive. I see 10.1-10.7 times for the H2, and 7.8-8.2 for the Malibu. Motivating 6700lb from rest, you’re dead in the water my friend.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            So assuming you make your adjustments in your small car to race my 3.5ton truck, which is as ridiculous as it sounds from both angles. I’m still going to comfortably reach cruising speed at a 1/4 throttle while your wringing the tiny Malibu out to do the same. Your not winning me over, It’s a horrid drivetrain connected to a horrible car that does not react to throttle input as you would expect. It feels the further I get up in RPM the more the car bogs down. And there’s certainly no power at the bottom end.

            I have good torque from idle combined with decent gearing to get going out of the gate, and then a RPM range with power that increases the whole way up.

        • 0 avatar
          Hydromatic

          Seriously, Hummer. You have a gussied-up Tahoe. It ever occur to you to at least go for the H1?

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            Gussied-up Tahoe >>>>> current Malibu

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Who has a gussied up Tahoe? I don’t own neither a Yukon or Escalade.

            I own 2 H1s an HMCO and an HMCS
            2 H2s
            An H3 Alpha and H3T 5-speed

            And my wife has a suburban, I don’t own any other GM fullsize SUVs

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I’ve got a deep respect for just how much better Sergio was able to make the interiors feel on various Chrysler products with some cash injected. Late 2000s-Recession-era Chryslers are truly pitiful things.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I believe the roofline on the Malibu is nearly as aggressive as the one on my Stinger. I think that’s a bad design for a plain mid-size car.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      The current ‘Bu’s auto start-stop just sounds horrible!

      The FCA rentals I’ve had over the past five years are the two worst cars I’ve ever driven: a 2014 Avenger, and 2016 Compass. Wheezy 2.4 in both, the 4-speed auto in the Avenger was just crap, and the 6-speed in the Compass only a little less bad by virtue of quieting the engine more!

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      I remember the 2008-12 Malibu as a fine mid-size sedan, especially with the 3500 V6. The 2013-16 was a step backward. The current generation is another step backward.

      Buddy who’s a master tech at a local Chevy dealer is reporting that the 1.5T likes to hole its #4 piston, even if the engine has been properly maintained. That never happened to the 3500 V6. Hell, the old 3400 would keep running even when half the fluid in the crankcase was Dex-cool from the leaky LIM gaskets.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        FWIW the High value 3.5L OHV was a fleet-only option for the ’08-’12 ‘bu, and probably an engine worth seeking out given the issues with stretchy timing chains on both the 2.4 AND 3.6L DOHC motors.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Basically anything that passes from negligent owner to owner every few years and just gets sadder and sadder, amongst more recent vehicles the Compass/Patriot and Journey are the top suspects. They were both depressing when they were new because someone actually chose to buy them but now even more so since it’s out of necessity. Extra points for people who modify Patriots because they think they’re part of the “it’s a Jeep thing” crowd.

    Enough time has passed to make the Cavalier/Sunfire more nostalgic than depressing at this point, just because everyone knew someone who drove one in high school.

    • 0 avatar
      ThirdOwner

      I am one of these despicable potential third owners of a Patriot.

      “They were both depressing when they were new because someone actually chose to buy them but now even more so since it’s out of necessity.”

      Yes, my necessity is this: what other options do I have for a SQUARE-shaped, high-riding station wagon with AWD and manual transmission option?

      Parts are common and cheap, as they’d cranked them out for 11 years.
      They depreciate so much, I can get one with leather, and still not pay much. Or I can get a very basic one that’s simple and has few things to break down.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Both of mine are trucks.

    The last generation Dodge Dakota simply because of how awful the redesign of a once handsome truck was with no appreciable upgrade elsewhere. The interior of the 98-04 version was not something to reminisce about. The follow up was still not that great plus the exterior was much worse.

    Also, the first iteration of the Colorado based on my experience with them via my company’s fleet trucks. They are noisy, slow, and everything in the interior broke constantly. Materials were very basic and did not stand up well even to infrequent use. I never found them to be attractive on the outside and as time passed and the headlights yellowed I came to feel bad for anyone stuck driving one. I even tried to talk a coworker out of buying one out when the company was getting rid of it.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Saturn Outlook – my dad bought one at a low, low price when Saturn was going out of business. We took that car from Michigan to South Carolina and back. I learned to loathe that vehicle, mostly from the horrible seats. I could never get comfortable driving or riding and my back had all sorts of problems. That and the heavy weight made the whole vehicle feel rather ponderous, especially when trying to merge into a wall of Spring Break travelers.

    Also a first gen Toyota Avalon. I had a ’97 that I bought for $4k with 90k miles on the clock. At first I thought it was a decent little sedan but after a while I really began to hate the thing. On the highway it was excessively noisy and, once again, the seating made one feel exhausted after a trip to Detroit and back. The 3.0L V6 felt – well underpowered – with some blame on the transmission which never wanted to drop a gear when passing. One area – at least during this time frame – where the b-body or Panther shined over the Japanese competition.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      Don’t believe it, unless there was a problem with your Avalon. I drove my uncle/aunt’s 95, 97, and 98 Avalons with mileage ranging from 120-325,000 miles. I even took them on long road trips. More leg space than your Panther, unless you got the stretched platform which is very rare. Believe me, I have driven 12 Panther cars from 2000-2011, and they are not smoother than a properly running Avalon. Some of those Panthers had 10 miles on them, and some 120,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        dividebytube

        Could be considering it was a $4,000 budget lot special but perhaps it was some bottom-barrel trim because it was so noisy on the highway. The shout to be heard variety. Not at all what I expected for a car that was supposed to compete with the big floaty BOF highway cruisers.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    The saddest car I ever drove was a late ’70’s Pontiac Sunfire, the Monza clone. It had the Iron Duke farm tractor engine and a 3-speed slushbox. I was 18 years old and the guy I was working for at the time gave me this car to go and pick up a load of sod. He told me the piston rings were crap so I had to work the throttle carefully to keep it running. That was pretty hard to do with a half-ton of sod in the hatch!

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    What a bargain with the devil. We’ve traded style, fun, interest and individuality for safe, reliable road suppository appliances oversold by an increasingly sophisticated industry to a market of diminishing discriminatory tastes.

  • avatar

    Nissan Rogue. Literally anything else is more appealing. Runner up – Versa sedan. You might as well just kill yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @Brian, Sorry but have to disagree with you here. We tested every one of its competitors and went with a Rogue. The wife loves it. Larger interior space, more comfortable seats and as quiet or quieter than any of its competitors. And at a lower price point than most (leased).

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I just returned a Rogue SV rental and left with a decent respect for it. Not the best riding or most insulated, it feels like my 2012 Civic in that they minimized weight/insulation/door thickness for the sake of carving out interior room and fuel economy. You can feel the door panel bump out as the window moves down, just like that ’12 Civic. I got an excellent observed 34.5 mpg after several hundred miles of 77+mph cruising. Seats with adequate cushion length for once. The 2.5+CVT isn’t very refined sounding, but had plenty of power on top, the CVT did a silly imitation of zooming up the tach and then “upshifting,” which was unnecessary, but wasn’t annoying. Considering the real world prices for these, you could do worse than buying a current gen Rogue IMO.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      We have a Rogue as well, but hate it. It was given to us and I am still not sure it is worth the price. It doesn’t get very good mileage, the seats are horrible and the radio sucks. It rides bad and has had a rattle since new and the Bluetooth integration is horrible. It has less passenger room than our Avenger and not much more “usable” cargo space. YMMV.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Flipper: which generation? Our Rogue gets better mileage than my MT Sonata. Averaging just better than 31 mpg if we are talking imperial. And the seats are among the very best I have ever experienced in 45 years of auto ownership. Even the back seats are very good with the ‘stepped’ seating and recline.

        The Rogue also has more interior room/volume than most of its competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Drive a 1st gen Compass, or hell, a current gen Compass, then a 2014+ Rogue. I’ll take a 1st gen Rogue over a current gen Compass as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      The Rogue we rented 3 years ago for a road trip to Toronto and back (900 miles round trip) really impressed me. A little tight for 5 adults with light luggage, but it handled the hills of upstate NY at 75 mph with no problem and still returned mostly 30 mpg. Seats were quite comfortable as well. With the amount of $ I see them discounted at (usually $6-10k off depending on trim level), you could do far, far worse. I just wish the SL Premium had ventilated seats….

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I kinda feel bad for anyone driving a Nissan. When I graduated college in 1999 and went to work, Nissan was a pretty respectable brand. People I knew actively lusted after Nissans and Infinities. I would say right about ’02 to ’03 when the Titan and the 350Z came out Nissan was really on a roll.

      Now, I assume everyone I see in one is a subprime borrower, and everyone I know personally who drives one is also known to be prone to questionable choices.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    The Toyota Echo has always struck me as cheap without the cheerful. Something about the proportions and the tiny wheels and giant slab sides combines to make it look like it’s actively trying to be miserable.

    And not to bag on Toyota here, but the Prius, at least the third-gen one, if we’re talking about actually driving it. I had to drive one for some reason and it somehow managed to sap all possible enjoyment from driving, something I enjoy in almost any circumstance. It was really remarkable.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      My friend had a stick shift gen 1 Echo, I actually have very fond memories of it, in my mind it very much was cheap+cheerful. Third world taxi vibe, but in an interesting/fun way. 50mpg on back roads, and it could crack 0-60 in about 8.5 seconds (2000lb curb weight), very decent for the early 2000s. Very decent ride too, and surprisingly roomy thanks to the use of vertical space.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        +1, gtem. The XP10 Echo and XP90 Yaris are cars that are really well liked by their owner bases, and rightfully so.

        – – –

        “Then there’s movies. . . .” Ugh, Steph makes this error over and over and over again. There ARE movies.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    The new Escape :( What started out as a fun little go anywhere, do anything crossover SUV has evolved into bland on four jacked-up wheels and just about Ford’s only sedan. Hopefully the new Broncos will pick-up the fun little SUV slack

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Subscribed for the comments .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Will take the contrarian approach. When you are young, any vehicle represents your first taste of ‘independence’. Most of us look back fondly at our first vehicle, regardless of its state/condition/make/model.

    If you are part of the ‘working poor’ an inexpensive, reliable vehicle represents the chance to improve your lot in life by allowing you to commute to and from work, and provide transportation to your family for shopping, day trips, etc.

    For families, a 2nd vehicle, regardless of its make/model represents the ability to go places and do things that would normally be restricted to when the primary vehicle is available.

    For ‘seniors’ being able to continue to operate a vehicle represents independence in a way that is just if not more important than for a teen.

    Perhaps the only time that a vehicle is ‘depressing’ is if you are a Type A personality, reasonably wealthy/well off and driving a ‘luxury’ vehicle only to see someone pull up beside you in the most/more expensive model by the same manufacturer. To paraphrase Clarkson ‘when you purchase the least expensive Porsche or Rolls-Royce it just demonstrates that your life has not gone as well as you expected’.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I would agree if we’re talking about the real cheap cars, Versa and the such, but when we’re talking about vehicles that are $20k+ there’s some real competition for most miserable crapbox.

      As long as you can buy Chrysler 300s for low $20k range brand new, with great MPG and low cost of ownership, there’s no reason for a Malibu with a 1.5T to cost $25k+ and get worse gas mileage while being a total hell hole.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Where or where can I get a new Chrysler 300 for low $20’s in Canada? Starting MSRP of just over $42k, plus destination and tax.

        Add in the fact that Chrysler’s finance rates are higher than just about any other manufacturers and you have a very expensive purchase.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          https://www.cars.com/for-sale/searchresults.action/?mdId=20388&mkId=20008&page=1&perPage=50&rd=99999&searchSource=SORT&sort=price-lowest&stkTypId=28880&zc=28217

          The whole first page is for new Chrysler 300s All under $21k

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            By that same logic, you can find new Malibus for around $17k.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Has to be a catch.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/788471387/overview/

            One of many 1lS Malibus in the $14,5k range. That’s not to say there isn’t some rebates as part of the price that the average person wouldn’t qualify for, but I think you can easily find a base Malibu for around $16-17k in the Midwest.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Hummer: the Chrysler Canada website: https://www.chrysler.ca/en/build-and-price

            $42,045 base MSRP, plus delivery, plus prep, plus tax.

            To quote the ex CEO of Chrysler: “if you can buy a new 300 for under $20k, then do it”.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          I can’t think of a better use for $3k than to make that upgrade.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Did a quick internet search and could not even find a new 300 listed in the GTA.

            Autotrade has 2 in all of Ontario. Both listed at over $50k.

            https://www.autotrader.ca/cars/chrysler/300/on/?rcp=15&rcs=0&srt=4&prx=-2&prv=Ontario&loc=m3j%202j7&hprc=True&wcp=True&sts=New&showcpo=1&inMarket=advancedSearch

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        No one is getting worse mileage in the Malibu over a 300 except you. Fuelly seems to roughly back up EPA numbers on both, about 30mpg average in the Malibu vs 22mpg or so for the 300.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Ahh so it’s about par as I returned about 23MPG on highway and backroads on the Malibu.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I’d chalk that up to operator error (parking brake on?)

            My recent one got an average of 38 indicated mpg over 270 miles of mostly 75-75mph cruising with a bit of city driving thrown in.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Nope no parking brake, just trying to keep up with traffic on the highway, and drive through back country roads with 4 way stops at 4PM and 4AM for 3 weeks.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            But again, you’re an outlier. I’m not saying you didn’t get 23mpg, I’m certainly not saying it’s impossible to get that 23mpg, but to uphold that as the definitive statement on what kind of fuel economy the Malibu gets is an extreme example of conflating anecdotes with data.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    [subcompact crossover] from [company]. If it’s an Audi Q3, BMW X1, or MB GLA, it’s absolutely pathetic trash with a garbage engine that people who can’t afford a real product from those brands scraped up enough cash to hit the lease payments.

    If it’s a Ford Echosport, hunday kona, or a Chevy…Trax? then it’s even worse because those are absolute bottom-of-the-barrel decontented.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Ford Aspire. Sad little crapbox in day-glo colors, 90’s-era tape graphics, styled by and like an egg, with three hamsters providing the power, and by far the most ironic name ever attached to a sad heap in the history of the auto industry. If a third-world econobox is what you “aspire” to, look for a good under warranty off-lease used car.

    I still shake my head at Ford for unleashing that pile of misery.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      True. The Festiva was a better car, boxy and roomy (my first wife had an ’88 Festiva L with a four-speed and a/c). I got to drive an Aspire as an insurance rental, and it was a poor replacement for the Festiva.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      A lot of people make that mistake… the Aspire actually had FOUR hamsters powering it.

      Along the same line, my then-GF’s ’93ish Festiva seemed like a POS in every way compared to my friend’s well-used ’85 Civic wagon.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    The Buick Rendevous comes to mind. Depression to look at and those that are still chugging along have got to be rattle traps as this point.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    On some level, personally, every Hyundai and Kia depress me a little. Several years ago, I had a low paying job servicing dealerships (who are often as rightfully despised as their reputation suggests), working for a company that largely ignored my department even existed. This meant I spent all day driving around a miserable old Hyundai Accent. It was terrible to drive, didn’t have A/C, and just exacerbated my general misery. Newer Korean products are considerably better, but still wear the family connection in little ways (mostly the touch points still feel pretty similar), and are largely still unexceptional to drive, if not actually bad.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    New- pretty much any Nissan. Nothing special about them. Rented a brand new Altima last week, felt like I was in a bathtub, just like the Camaro. Also, the tachometer starts at “2”. WTF is up with that?

    Older- Jeep Patriot for its low rent interior, supremely slow and coarse motor and terrible visibility.

    First place all time- first gen Santa Fe. Every surface, inside and out, was ugly and cheap. Driving position was awkward. Even the original “V6” (2.7) was a complete turd.

  • avatar
    monkeydelmagico

    Any current Mitsubishi. So sad.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The Mitsubishi Mirage. What a hateful three-cylinder crapbox, with pizza cutter tires. I regularly see a woman driving a purple Mirage “G4” (whatever that means) on my daily commute, and I feel sorry for her.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    For me the saddest was a little Chevy Aveo which Budget Rentals pawned off one me late one night some years ago. Whether it was the last car available because it had problems or was the last car available because it was just a horrible design remains unclear.

    An automatic, it was one of the most gutless cars I’ve ever driven and I once had a VW Beetle with an automatic transmission. Which was slower? I’d have to drag race a school bus to find out. It literally felt like the parking brake was stuck…in the on position. The engine was loud to the point of making the radio useless, not that it was very good when the car was sitting still. The ride was rough and the seats uncomfortable.

    The car hated being a car; noting that a lot of cars are made from recycled steel from other cars, I can only assume that the recycled car this Aveo was made from did something horrible in its last life and was being punished by reincarnation as an Aveo rental car; unloved by anyone and abused by everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      The Chevy Aveo. One of the few vehicles ever made that make you wonder if a donkey-pulled cart in a pouring rain might actually be an upgrade. Had one as a (thankfully) one day rental. Your comments are way too accurate…

  • avatar
    Hoodedhawk1

    I bought a short wheel base Dodge Caravan after my first child was born (2003). I thought I needed a smaller footprint and better reliability than my 15 year old G-20 customized Chevy van. I was mistaken and I hated the little Dodge from day one. In some ways I wished I had liked it better because I still see them on the road today. One of the main problems was the rear facing baby seat didn’t fit unless the passenger or driver seat was pushed all the way forward. I know I was depressed during the 18 months I had the Dodge. I like to blame the vehicle although there were probably other issues that were driving my funk. Anyway, I’ve had a lot of vehicles that some of you would consider depressing (Toyota Tercel, Jeep Liberty, Dodge Durango, Volkswagon Vanagon passenger van), but the only vehicle that I believe brought on full blown melancholy was that stupid green Dodge Caravan.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      We bought our first minivan that year, but it was a was a ’94 Toyota Previa LE S/C (supercharged) with 117,000 miles. Leather interior, “Quad Seating” (the two captain’s chairs in the second row, that swiveled around and locked, to face the third seat). We loved that van for two years, until some whack job crashed into it, then drove off (an eyewitness gave chase and got his license number, and the guy ended up doing nine months in a state jail). We owned two more Previas after that one.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      You must have had the 2nd row captains chairs. Had the same issue in my short wheelbase Caravan Sport. Caravans with the ‘regular’ 2nd row seats did not have that issue. I solved it by removing the 2nd row and moving the 3rd row bench into the 2nd row area. 2nd and 3rd generation Caravans had the required floor ‘anchors’ to allow for this.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Yep, two captain’s chairs, called “Quad Seating” by Toyota. Why the name? I don’t know. Maybe because there were four buckets (first and second row seating). They had the typical three-point belts mounted to the body, for facing forward, and a seat-mounted lap belt, to be used when the seats were facing rearward. My kids loved those seats and the split third seat (they flattened out and folded up against the side walls, like a Land Cruiser or Lexus LX) because of the pivot point for the reclining mechanism which made the the seats recline truly flat. The seats in our ’08 Sienna have a different pivot point, and don’t recline completely flat, so not as comfortable.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Cheap new cars might not be exciting, but just about any new one will get a person to work reliably for a number of years. BUT WAIT, for the same money as that new Sentra, you can get an out of warranty high-end luxury car!

    When poor people make that ill-fated choice, I feel depressed for them.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Based on the court of public opinion I’ve got the scientifically proven 3 most depressing vehicles of the last couple of decades.

    Sat was my county’s fall auction, where they dispose of their vehicles and other items.

    Their standard policy on car replacement is that a new vehicle is ordered when the current vehicle hits 100k or 12 years, whichever comes first.

    For a number of years the lowest mile vehicle at every auction were the Neons. Somehow there was still one to cross the block on Saturday. A 2002 model that still had its original tires because it had only 48,000mi. Yes 48K and that has been the norm, I don’t know that I’ve seen many with more than 50k miles on them and never one with more than 60k.

    The next lowest mile non wrecked cars at the auction were Prius. 2002-05 models, many with only 80-90k on the clock.

    Meanwhile the other car that joined those pool vehicles in the mid 00’s were Ford Focus and all of those miled out of the fleet 4 or 5 years ago.

    Plain and simple the gov’t employees would do everything possible to avoid a Neon when they went to check out a pool car.

    The 3rd most depressing vehicle was the fish mouth Taurus. Like the Neon and Prius so many of those aged out before they miled out. It was not uncommon to see a row of Taurus with a mix of fish mouth and refreshed models. You’d see a 98 with 60k sitting next to a 2004 with 100k and the really depressing thing is the 100k refreshed models would sell for more than the low mile fish mouths.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I was about to say that some of the most depressing vehicles are old police cruisers when they’ve reached total dilapidation. Rusty steel wheels, dented fenders, bumpers just hanging on, broken or missing spot lights, smoking as they roll along…

      • 0 avatar
        readallover

        No, the most depressing are the police cruisers that did another 200,000 or more as cabs.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        But we aren’t talking about cars that are depressing because they are just plain used up, we are talking about cars that are intrinsically depressing even when they are new and in as good of condition as they ever were.

        Now of course if you are used to getting “free rides” in the back of a police car I can see how just the sight of any of them would be depressing.

    • 0 avatar
      Thomas Kreutzer

      Back in the day, our motorpool had some fish-mouthed Taurus wagons and some late 90s S-10 Blazers and I can tell you my preferred ride was the wagon. I get that the S10 Blazer was popular, but God you want to talk about a penalty box?

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      My old job we had a 03-ish Taurus wagon in the pool that everybody hated but I had no problems with. I used it for some conferences 1.5 hrs o/w trips and it ate up miles nicely. It usually got used for in-town inspections so it only had about 25k on it as of 2 years ago. Disclosure: I had a gently used 2000 Taurus bought for pennies, but only for 7 weeks before it got totaled.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    No modern cars really depress me, except maybe those tiny CUVs like the Trax, CUVs too small to offer any real advantage over the compact car they’re built on.

    For used cars it’d be the Volvo 850 and its relatives, I’ll stop here to avoid sounding like a looping video.

    What depresses me is the owner who’s more than likely dumped a load into it, and is now torn between loving and hating the thing, or loves the thing in an insincere (I dumped so much money into it!) way.

    I always tell people in this situation to dump their car, get something less dramatic. Enjoy life without 2 week delays for an obscure relay.

    Runner ups include old Mercedes, Saabs, RWD Volvos, and Subarus (which at least have AWD). Any of these will be much better engineered, and in the Subarus case less “stupid” to diagnose, but they still demand more commitment than I can give, or Im just too cheap to pay $300 for plastic squares and artificially limited diagnosis info.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    Toyota Solara. If you aren’t an overweight, 50-ish, female real-estate agent, you have no business driving one of these no matter how much you might long for a Camry Coupe.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I love the first gen cars. A legitimately clean and cohesive design, really nice high quality interiors, and you could couple the 1MZ to a 5spd (and Toyota would even sell and install a TRD supercharger onto it). Poor man’s SC300 in how it drove. The second generation? Peak of Toyota’s decay in quality and design that started in the mid 2000s IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        Thomas Kreutzer

        Totally agree. 1st Gen has some legit clean lines. Second gen is a disaster – especially the convertibles.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Interesting. I liked the 1st gen simple yet cohesive design, but I thought 2nd gen was rolling art – interesting design to look at. My like my feelings of the SC430 – the design has really grown on me, although the later-years’ tail lights were much more luxurious than the Boy Racer early years….

          • 0 avatar
            Thomas Kreutzer

            Oh no way! That’s just Toyota’s version of the “oval” Riviera – same demographic, too.

            The best Lexus Coupe is the one we never got – the 1990 era JDM Soarer.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    Chevrolet Chevette.
    Drops mic.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Not any particular car, just a particular previous owner (my father in law).

    Trashed Escort with broken AC and worn struts, crumbled plug wires and misfiring, dirty MAF sensor and CEL, leaking radiator, dirty dirty interior, faded paint, tearing seat belt (how the heck can that happen?), missing floor mats, flooded trunk, boil over battery acid spill (he believes in acid top off instead of water). Crushed for $1k baaqmd payment.

    Trashed Camry with leaking roof, flooded interior from the leaking roof, P0420, stuck window guide, stuck motorized seat guide, cracked sun visor, dirty dirty interior, missing floor mats, missing radio buttons, exhaust leak, Xmas tree blinking light dash, oil leaks from every gaskets, broken thermostat, won’t past smog if you don’t drive on the freeway for at least 1 hr. Sold for very little money as an old people grocery car.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    I had a Jeep Patriot as a rental a couple of years ago. I presume it was FWD only, though that isn’t relevant. This was probably the worst modern vehicle I have ever driven. It had nothing redeeming about it. I was struck by the thought that it was likely sold to people who wanted the Jeep name even if it was a glorified wagon. (And for the record, I love wagons and hatchbacks.)


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