There was a time when cars could be classified quite easily: mini, sedan, hatchback, convertible, coupé, station wagon, kombi, bakkie. But then along came the advent of the crossover, which blurred two roles into one in order to create an in-between market niche, and sparked a revolution in vehicle design that continues unabated today. With so many avenues to exploit, car designers try hard to make their concepts distinctive to give their brand a marketing edge, but not all of them translate into the metal successfully. People still buy them, presumably just to be different, but style icons they are not. We did some research and rounded up 10 of the auto world’s ugly ducklings:
Look at any list of the world’s ugliest cars and the Pontiac Aztek will be high up if not top of the pile. It’s an SUV, but its styling looks as if it’s been put together by a team of designers working entirely independently: there’s nothing cohesive about its looks.
While the first-generation Cube was relatively conventional, the second-generation version was pretty peculiar with its three-quarter wrap-around rear window. The side windows were sunken into the generally globular shape and did nothing to enhance the overall look.
All Porsches are distinctive and carry design elements from other models, particularly the iconic 911. The sports-car-for-four Panamera is an exceptional machine, but while the 911-inspired front end works, the rear hatch design is far less convincing.
There is comfy seating and lots of cargo space, but Fiat’s 2 × 3-seat Multipla appears as if a short top half was dropped on to a longer bottom half. In practical terms, it is a success, but the wide, tapering-outwards upper cabin really jars the eye.
Ken Greenley’s design goal of the first-generation Stavic was to capture the ‘essence of a luxury yacht’. Well, the end result was certainly all at sea. The rear glasshouse must rank as one of the worst add-ons ever.
BMW 5 Gran Turismo
BMW may have a reputation for ‘sheer driving pleasure’, but with its part-sedan, part-station wagon and part-coupé styling, there’s very little to please the senses here. The elephant-sized back end, in particular, helps make it look ungainly.
Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible
Some retro designs, such as the Mini, Beetle and Fiat 500, do work, but the PT Cruiser, while not being based directly on a previous older model, failed to convince. The lumpy five-door design did not translate into a convertible: it looked like a poor aftermarket conversion.
Introduced by Mini to cash in on the popularity of the Countryman upon which it was based, its tapering-roof styling all but eliminated its sibling’s practicality and versatility. Deliberately short-lived, the Paceman was a variation on a theme that we all could have done without.
America has never been shy to manufacture badly proportioned cars, but the AMC Gremlin has to be one of the worst. The slightly elongated nose was complemented by a severely truncated rear end, usually highlighted by Starsky & Hutch-inspired side stripes.
Aston Martin Lagonda
The ‘folded paper’ design was popular in the 1970s (Volvo was a master of the art), so Aston Martin decided to join the trend. Designed by William Towns to help revive the company’s then flagging sales, the Lagonda luxury saloon took the concept to extremes.