25 Cars That Were Poorly Designed
There are some real head-scratchers in here.
Sometimes a car looks cool but it turns out to be a lemon. And sometimes a car is just designed in a way that make you wonder what the car creators were thinking in the first place. Things like putting a cupholder next to a GPS system, upping the probability that a liquid spill will ruin your car electronics. Or deadly ignition-switch failures. Or how about automatic seatbelts that will clothesline you?
Here’s a look at some of the worst designed and most defective cars from the last century.
The Ford Pinto may get an unfairly bad rap as a notoriously horrible car when compared to the quality of vehicles of its time. But it still has to make the list as an icon of awfulness. The Pinto’s most infamous — and potentially deadly — defect? Its backend gas tank could explode when the car was rear-ended.
The Sebring is often considered a badly proportioned car. The automotive news website Jalopnik listed it as one of the 10 worst cars of the 2010s, saying, “The steering is numb. The suspension is noisy, the interior a jumble of harsh plastic.”
This Yugoslavian export to the U.S. in the late ’80s and early ’90s might be “one of the worst cars ever sold.” That’s because “somehow, the Yugo’s creators blessed it with both a harsh, jarring ride and poor steering and handling,” Autotrader writer Doug DeMuro said in his retrospective on the car. It’s also a terrible car because it was made from super cheap materials that showed their cheapness. Oh, and it’s really slow to drive too.
The same Autotrader journalist, Doug DeMuro, said that the East German-manufactured Trabant makes the Yugo look like a great car. Why?
“The Trabant is loud, slow, poorly designed, badly built, tremendously inhospitable to drive, ancient, uncomfortable, confusing and inconvenient,” DeMuro wrote. “I started to think that maybe, possibly, on some level, this is why Communism failed.” Ouch.
The British Austin Allegro had mechanical and structural issues.
“Whereas most designers of the day preferred rectangular edges, this thing resembled a series of metal bubbles pasted together with a soldering iron,” as The Drive put it when it listed the Allegro on its list of the 10 worst cars ever. There was also the square-ish steering wheel. Who thought that was a good idea?
This British car’s name is cute (it’s listed as both Robin Reliant and Reliant Robin, so take your pick), and it also has a certain charm to its appearance. Plus, you only needed a motorcycle license to drive it in Britain, not a full-fledged car license. And it was affordable. But its three-wheel design made it unstable around curves. Even one of the Robin’s original designers listed out its first flaws: steering wheel that would detach, cracking doors and inability to back up. You can see it below in yellow.
Hoffmann Auto-Kabine 250
At first glance, the post-WWII German Hoffmann Auto-Kabine 250 has a space-age vibe to it that is striking.
“It’s not a piece of s–t, build-quality-wise,” writes Jason Torchinsky for Jalopnik. “It’s just that every possible design decision made on this car is somehow the absolute worst decision you could make.”
The Hoffmann is a three-wheeler like the Robin Reliant but bigger and the single wheel is in the back. There are a host of other issues, including bad exhaust fumes and how tricky it is to just get into the driver’s seat.
The Citroen Pluriel may look like a typical compact convertible. But its removable roof was hard to disassemble and reassemble. Plus there was nowhere in the car to store the roof when it was off. So you had to plan ahead to leave it at home. Better hope the weather stays sunny!
“All in all, a car that was as useful as a chocolate teapot,” as the BBC’s TopGear put it.
Like the European Pluriel, the Pontiac Solstice had no place to store its convertible roof in the car. The car also had to be turned on to open the trunk. Plus the fuel tank jutted up into some of the trunk space. Super practical. So even if it won design awards for its driving ability, it was also a design loser in many ways.
“Breaking Bad” repopularized this oddity of a vehicle, but the Pontiac Aztek should stay as a memory on the screen and not in your garage. The Aztek is simply not an attractive car at all.
“Just don’t forget that it is one of the ugliest cars of all time, and is trying to be an SUV, while built on a minivan platform,” wrote Motor1.com.
Chrysler PT Cruiser
The PT Cruiser was trying to bring retro back. And at first, the novelty worked. Then people realized it didn’t drive well and was a bit hokey.
Insectoid or car? The odd-looking Nissan Juke also had electrical issues, failures with its turbo-charge engine function, and several other known flaws that made this one car that should stop Juke-ing us around.
The compact Hyundai Veloster had a back row. But if you were sitting in that back row, you might get bumped in the head as the trunk closed. Sounds fun!
Want to have a car with a sunroof and a roof rack? Then you wouldn’t want to buy certain years of the Nissan Xterra. It had both options, yes, but once the roof rack was installed, you couldn’t use your sunroof.
Because of the placement of the on/off button right underneath the shift button options, Lincoln MKC drivers found they were accidentally turning their cars off when trying to work the radio. A recall resulted.
The little-known 1950s French automaker Reyonnah produced a car that looked as if it were inspired by airplane design. And it had a very weirdly placed steering wheel that was almost horizontal and placed awkwardly half under the car’s dash. Its front wheels could be retracted, which is cool, but we can’t get past that steering wheel.
The Volkswagen Fox injured many people’s fingers as they tried to lower a backseat to enlarge the compact car’s trunk space. Talk about a design flaw. The cars had to be recalled for a fix.
The hazard warning light switch on a Vauxhall Nova could be removed and flipped upside down and then put back in. The result? The car ignition would turn on. Hello, theft alert!
“Since the Vega sold so strongly (almost 2 million were built before it left production after 1977), the result was that literally hundreds of thousands of buyers were having awful experiences with the car,” wrote Popular Mechanics. That left a lot of people unhappy with Chevrolet for producing such a poor-quality car.
You can’t fix ugly. Sure, there are those that have affection for the 1998-2003 Fiat Multipla. And you can stick a bunch of people and stuff in it. But it looks like some sort of squat, anthropomorphic frog vehicle. The original 1960s version of the vehicle was actually better looking than the late 90s/early 00s one.
A redesign in 2004 took away some of the Multiplas quirks and left it looking like “the automotive equivalent of that sad, sinking feeling you’d get when you saw your formerly interesting friend glumly slouching in an office chair, bathed in fluorescent lights,” according to a Jalopnik writer who was pro-bugged-faced Multipla.
Below is the 1963 Fiat Multipla.
You expect quality from Maserati, and its Biturbo did not deliver on that.
“Everything that could leak, burn, snap or rupture did so with the regularity of the Anvil Chorus,” wrote Time, putting the Biturbo on its list of The 50 Worst Cars of All Time. Not to mention it was boxy and not very attractive.
Is it a truck? Is it a sedan? No, the Subaru Baja is just an ugly hybrid of both. Some people do still love them and want a smaller sized pick-up truck. But you have to get past its off-putting appearance first.
The AMC Pacer was initially called innovative and futuristic looking.
“But over time, what seemed futuristic started to look downright strange, and the Pacer’s unorthodox looks fell out of favor,” according to CBS News. That big wrap-around glass window on the back is part of the design fail of the car.
The BMW i8 is a luxury car, so you can be luxuriously soaking up the wait for the gas tank to depressurize so you can fill up your car. You can get parked into a stall and not able to enter or exit the car through its batwing doors. The interior doesn’t have enough upscale BMW touches, etc. The BMW i8 had a bunch of design flaws.
Saabs could be known for having to be in the shop a lot (no wonder the Swedish car company eventually went bankrupt). And the Saab 9-3 has its fair share of issues, too: a faulty fuel gauge reading, clicking noises, electronic throttle failures, coolant leaks … the list goes on.