In recent years, SUVs and crossovers have consumed the automotive market. That dramatic sea change over the past couple of decades has put some strain on automakers: some companies rushed vehicles to market before they might have been ready; others converted cars into crossovers with a lift and a bit of cladding; a few incorporated bold design elements to distinguish their crossover from the school parking lot masses. Sometimes it worked
It took a while for companies to get things right. In the interim, however, carmakers were cranking out some spectacularly ugly vehicles. Here are five of the worst. (And you had to know which one would come first.)
Pontiac Aztek (2001-05)
Dunking on the Aztek for being ugly is like labeling Jimi Hendrix a great guitarist: It feels too obvious to mention, but it’s so apparent, it still warrants further discussion. The Aztek foresaw what would be popular with SUVs — family-friendly practicality, the appearance of off-road readiness, and even the rakish sloping roofline. Trouble was, it was just hideous. The front end looks like one Pontiac’s front end collapsed on top of another. And cheap gray plastic cladding took up approximately half the surface area of the first version.
Infiniti QX56 (2004-10)
The QX56 was Nissan’s first attempt at a luxury full-size SUV. One uninspiring SUV would have been fine, but the QX56 looked like three uninspiring SUVs Photoshopped together. It had a weird sloping front end — perhaps to soften its overall look and hide that it was riding on a truck frame? Then there’s the middle part, with the humped roof. The rear of the vehicle then flattens out into a boxy, standard SUV backside. Bonus points for the rear door handles on the C-pillar to make it look sporty?
Isuzu VehiCross (1997-01)
Idiosyncratic capitalization rarely portends well in the automotive world. The Isuzu VehiCROSS, as the company styled the car’s name, had two distinct visual features. First, it had a downright obscene amount of cladding covering the entire lower half of the vehicle. Second, it had a tiny bat-face grille, replete with fangs. True enthusiasts opted for the “Ironman” edition, which said IRONMAN on the hood — complete with a stylized “M” to look like a man. It’s best driven while sporting some period-appropriate frosted tips.
Jeep Compass (2007-10)
The current Compass is one of Jeep’s more attractive vehicles. It’s come a long way from the first generation pre-facelift version. Where to begin? The front end looks like a robot with jowls getting electroshocked. Towards the rear, Jeep threw in some sweet C-pillar door handles and weird, triangular D-pillar. The “COMPASS” badging etched into the rear bumper with an actual compass as the “O” ties the whole unfortunate look together.
Honda Crosstour (2007-15)
Honda inflicted the Crosstour on the world beginning in the 2010 model year. Initially named the “Accord Crosstour,” Honda removed the “Accord” to deemphasize the fact it was just a lifted Honda Accord. It’s sort of like Honda couldn’t decide whether this should be a wagon, a hatchback or a crossover — and met in the precise middle between the three. Also, clearly every Honda exec who signed off only saw the one front three-quarter shot where the car looks nothing like an echidna.