Before a car is produced, it’s first designed by a man or woman who embodies the values of Da Vinci. Clean lines, artistic genius, and creative mastery. As a result, what eventually comes out of the production line is so appealing, that even a bloke who cares less about engines, petrol, or the fact that cars can’t be driven without the steering wheel still buys the machine because it looks cool.
Well, that was as far as fantasy land could take us.
In reality, vehicle design evokes mixed reactions. Nothing of a Paris art exhibition kind but rather likes and dislikes that loudly resonate among customers. In most cases, we can stomach an awkward-looking grille, ill-proportioned trunk, or gaping gaps between panels like those synonymous with the Tesla Model 3.
But no one can stand a true ugly duckling.
Take the Bentley Bentayga for example. A significant number of people will tell you that the headlights point in opposite directions and that throws them off. But then they’ll quickly forget that when the W12 whooshes them to 180 mph or a Continental GT makes all that ugly go away.
But then there are these 10. Looking at them just makes you want to pull over, let that thing drive past, take a 5-hour breather, then get back on the road hoping you don’t see its horror again. Funny enough, some of these ugly ducklings are still being sold today.
10 Bugatti 101 Exner Ghia
Mentioning ugly and Bugatti in the same breath is completely odd. But the 101 Exner Ghia was not a car Ettore Bugatti would have been proud of. Especially so, because this car was built to restart production after World War II ended and Ettore Bugatti plus his son Jean had passed away.
The 101 Exner Ghia launched in 1966 as the joint product of Vigil Exner and the highly famed coachbuilder, Ghia. This Bugatti roadster was powered by a DOHC straight 8 that was made by Bugatti’s right-hand man, Pierri Marko.
But not so many enthusiasts think Vigil Exner designed a masterpiece. He failed to capture what the modern Bugatti was supposed to evolve to, especially given that the Type 101s produced since 1955 had a far much better design.
9 Toyota Mirai
It’s hard to put Toyota on a high pedestal as far as car design is concerned. The company has had several headscratchers that seeing something hideous come out of their production line is not completely out of the ordinary. The Mirai is one of them.
What’s interesting is that this car is still being sold to date, despite the not only horrendous looks but also highly unpopular fuel cell technology that Toyota still develops religiously to date.
Part of the hate directed towards the Toyota Mirai is its striking resemblance to the revamped Prius. The latter has never been a fan favorite. The Mirai’s production numbers also hold testament to how the public has perceived this futuristic car. Between 2014 and the end of 2019, only 10,250 Mirai had been sold globally.
8 Bufori Geneva
Such an unpopular car brand should have at least struggled to build something appealing if they wished their cars to sell as fast as they were being produced. But it seems like that was not the case. This aged dinosaur, marketed as a luxury saloon, was the most hideous thing people at the 2010 Geneva Auto Show had to see.
In their defense, Bufori stated that the Geneva was built to show the mix between classic and contemporary. Well, turns out the two don’t mix that well.
The biggest joke was how the company claimed that this luxury dinosaur was their answer to the Rolls Royce. Rolls didn’t even bother ever adding an automatic coffee machine, which was one of the headlines of this car’s impeccable interior and luxury.
7 Chevrolet SSR
Chevrolet should have stuck with the Silverado instead of making a mockery of itself by launching this super sports roadster, as they called it. This unwanted, truck/roadster/convertible creation was Chevrolet’s grand idea of what the roadster would evolve to.
Well, it turned out that no one was interested in a roadster with a soft top and a bed. Even calling it a roadster feels odd because this looked like three cars squeezed into one.
To save this ugly duckling from extinction, Chevrolet tried to woo buyers with an LS2 engine that could produce up to 400hp. Even the addition of luxury equipment as standard didn’t barge anyone to spend a quarter on this ride. GM quickly axed the entire project in 2006 after a three-year run.
6 Pontiac Trans Sport
Yes, this was the 90s, and minivans were not the sexiest looking cars on the planet. But which kid would want to go to school in such a hideous thing? Even the trans-port pun they pulled up on the name didn’t make the 5-year-olds giggle.
The situation was even worse with automotive critics who were supposed to drive their kids in this thing. They hated it. The problem was that GM tried to tap into the “emerging” sport-styled van market with this horrific design, instead of the more conventional styling that many Chrysler minivans had. The result was an ugly duckling that was branded the “dustbuster”, after a vacuum cleaner that bore the same name.
5 Fiat 500L
This car should be mentioned in the same breath as the Smart Fortwo. They are automotive creatures into which life should never have been breathed. This car was and still is, being marketed as a five-door, five-passenger, high-roof, B-segment, front-wheel-drive compact minivan. Probably that long pitch was designed to keep your eyes away from the bulging headlamps and lackluster interior, that in no way pays proper homage to the cuter styling the Fiat 500 is graced with.
Yes, the 500L lives in the line of the popular Fiat 500. Even more intriguing, is that Fiat has sold over 500,000 of these. However, a 2018 facelift was much needed to make this car less atrocious to the eyes of Fiat 500 purists.
4 Nissan Juke
If you are desperately in need of a cheap and economical subcompact SUV, you can go for a Fiat 500X, Renault Captur, or the sexier Suzuki Vitara. Buying the Nissan Juke will put you on the grease monkey hate list.
Nothing about the Nissan Juke is sexy. Born in 2010, this car was sold to customers by Nissan as one of the, if not the cheapest crossovers you can get in the market. What they forgot to mention, albeit obvious, was that it’s strikingly ugly. So much that the second generation received a major facelift that most consumers can at least stomach.
What’s of even more importance is whether Nissan has fixed the horrendous reliability issues they had with the CVT gearbox in the 1.6 petrol models.
3 Pontiac Aztek
If you are a Breaking Bad fan, calling this car hideous might hurt your Walter White ego. But let’s face it. That chemistry teacher hated it. And so do most other petrolheads.
However, the Aztek was an SUV ahead of its time. It was okay to drive, rugged, and functional, just like a proper SUV should be. But it didn’t try to get the looks that would make the sports in SUV hold a bit of water.
Instead, the exterior styling made it seem like it’s the engineering team that signed off the bodywork and not Tom Peters, who was the chief designer.
2 Fiat Multipla
For Fiat to appear twice, there must be a problem with their design team as it may seem. Yet another compact MPV, the Multipla managed to have an outrageous production run of 12 years, running from 1998 to 2010. Its fate was much like that of the Fiat 500L, which might also hit a comfortable 12-year run.
The Multipla was based on the Brava, but with a shorter and wider wheelbase. For a car that sat six, Fiat never felt that the 103hp power unit was a bit overwhelmed. Nonetheless, the Multipla flew off the showrooms because it was practical and ugly at the same time.
When a major restyling was done in 2004, the designers claimed to have been desperately sad that the new Multipla did not resemble a psychotic cartoon duck.
1 Aston Martin Lagonda Shooting Brake
It should have been easy to pick up the confusion with this car, after reading shooting and brake in the same sentence. Assuming the oxymoron was intended, it might be safe to assume the design was not. Because this is the worst looking car Aston Martin ever made in its factory.
Sold as a full-size four-door luxury saloon, the Lagonda Shooting Brake did not fail as far as luxury was concerned. It had advanced instrumentation for its era and a plush leather interior that sold the luxury pitch.
But that wedge-shaped design was the subject of hot discussion. Yes, the Lamborghini Countach, DMC DeLorean, and Lotus Esprit carried similar design features. But this Shooting Brake shot so far into the sky with an exaggerated exterior design, that it didn’t know where to stop.
The exaggeration was carried into the interior as well. That advanced instrumentation would have received so much applaud if only it worked and didn’t cost four times the budget of the car, at a time when the company was bleeding money.
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