Dark Side of the Ute: The Dorkiest Car-Trucks of All Time
We’ve named our favorites, now it’s time for some lowlights.
The yin and yang of automotive design has perhaps never been better represented than in the reflected glory and horrors of utes—car-trucks. For every fun and well executed car with a truck bed, there exists a monstrously proportioned, poorly conceived counterpart just begging for someone to haul it off to the scrapyard and put it out of its mongrel misery. Having already tallied the leading lights of the ute world, we now turn to the dark side and chronicle, in alphabetical order, the worst cargo-conscious cars ever approved by the boards of major automakers.
Chevrolet Montana/Tornado / Opel Corsa Utility
Model Years: 2003-Present
Available Engines: Various; a mix of small-displacement four-cylinder gas and diesel units.
Styling: Did someone forget to install the rest of the roof and a hatch?
Fun-to-Drive Factor: Something like 125 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque fighting against a mere 2,650 pounds of curb weight could possible deliver a smile, as long as no one sees you behind the wheel.
Actual Utility: 1,620 pounds of payload capacity.
Why It's Dorky: Nothing says performance like a pair of faux scoops feeding fake air to the rear fenders.
Dacia Logan Pick-Up / Nissan NP200 / Renault Tondar Pick-Up
Model Years: 2008-Present
Available Engines: Various; a mix of small-displacement gas and diesel engines.
Styling: "You pull this end, I'll pull that end. "
Fun-to-Drive Factor: Can you handle the awesome power of its sub-1.0-liter three-cylinder turbo?
Actual Utility: It can handle 1,763 pounds of payload, which is fairly incredible, and 600 pounds on the tailgate.
Why It's Dorky: You get to tell all your friends that, yes, your truck does share a platform with the Nissan Micra.
Model Years: 1975-2006
Available Engines: Various; diesels and turbos, all below 2.0 liters.
Styling: This earlier example gives off catfish vibes with a reverse-induction power dome on the hood.
Fun-to-Drive Factor: One of the few trucks that was sold in front-, rear-, and four-wheel-drive versions during its three decades of production, no version of the Pick-Up ever exceeded 72 horsepower.
Actual Utility: In the U.K. this was marketed as the Shifter, which we assume is what the cargo was doing around corners.
Why It's Dorky: Nicknamed the papuc, or "slipper." Because it looks like a slipper.
Datsun U620 Utility Coupe
Model Years: 1972-1979
Available Engines: Various; 1.5-liter four-cylinder to a 2.2-liter four-cylinder diesel
Styling: Two-door, four-passenger body with an oddly tilted cargo bed that gives it that see-saw styling that's just—mwah. Oh, and it has style lines.
Fun-to-Drive Factor: Everything's great until you brake hard and the roll-up fabric bed cover flops over the roof and blinds the driver.
Actual Utility: If you've ever lamented the fact that your sedan's trunk wasn't completely exposed to the elements, look no further than the U620.
Why It's Dorky: Only sold in Japan, this coupe-truck was too weird to exist outside its home market.
Dodge Rampage / Plymouth Scamp
Model Years: 1982-1984
Available Engines: A 2.2-liter four-cylinder making 96 horsepower.
Styling: Like a Monza with a truck bed, which is weird because Chrysler didn't build the Monza.
Fun-to-Drive Factor: Front-wheel drive with a live rear axle and rear leaf springs. Sixteen seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph. Agony, thy name is Rampage.
Actual Utility: You can't fit a motorcycle back there, which means you're less likely to be killed by a motorcycle impact to the back of your head when driving Rampage. Which we suppose is a safety feature. Oh, and 1,145 pounds of bed capacity.
Why It's Dorky: Dodge never afforded the trucklet a turbocharged engine or a true Shelby model, either of which could have dramatically transformed its doddering image.
Fiat Strada / Ram 700
Model Years: 1996-Present
Available Engines: No fewer than 11 engines have been offered in the Strada.
Styling: The ultra-short wheelbase of the current model makes it look like Fiat's designers simply forgot to complete a car and ended up with a truck, but at least you can get factory inclinometers in the dashboard.
Fun-to-Drive Factor: A baker's dozen of seconds separate you from 60 mph in the diesel model. Older gas models aren't much better.
Actual Utility: 1,400 pounds can be handled in the bed.
Why It's Dorky: The Fiat Strada Adventure came with enough plastic cladding to threaten the Subaru Baja's faux-roader dominance, but you're still getting stuck.
Ford Courier / Ford Bantam
Model Years: 1998-2013
Available Engines: Various; a full range of diesels, and a trio of Zetec four-cylinders.
Styling: Ford took the global Fiesta's front end and pasted it on two different utes, giving each completely different rear-end treatments and setting one loose in South America and the other in South Africa.
Fun-to-Drive Factor: The Courier actually participated in three different racing series in South America during its middle age.
Actual Utility: Other than taking the pole position on Sunday?
Why It's Dorky: The Fiesta's proportions were done no favors by this segue into pickup-land.
Ford Falcon Ranchero
Model Years: 1960-1967
Available Engines: Various; two fun families of six-cylinders named the 'Thriftpower' and the 'Mileage Maker,' plus a pair of Windsor V-8s.
Styling: The Falcon's modest econo-styling didn't benefit whatsoever from having its hindquarters lopped off.
Fun-to-Drive Factor: The V-8 iterations could be called sprightly.
Actual Utility: A modest 800 pounds of payload.
Why It's Dorky: When Oddjob used a Falcon Ranchero to collect the compacted remains of a Lincoln Continental wrapped around $1 million in gold bullion in Goldfinger, the load was—at minimum—an astonishing nine times the ute's rated cargo capacity.
Ford Falcon Ranchero (Argentina)
Model Years: 1973-1992
Available Engines: Various; a Pinto-sourced four-cylinder, several straight-six options, and a rare four-cylinder diesel.
Styling: Imagine if Ford had kept building the Falcon well into the '80s. Because that's exactly what happened in Argentina.
Fun-to-Drive Factor: Virtually nonexistent.
Actual Utility: It can handle 1,576 pounds out back.
Why It's Dorky: The Argentinean Ranchero got progressively squarer as time went on, in terms of both style and driving experience.
Peugeot 207 Hoggar
Model Years: 2010-2014
Available Engines: A pair of four-cylinder diesel engines.
Styling: Where should we put the fuel filler? How about inside a tunnel that cuts deep into the wheel arch, right above the big plastic step that's sliced into the bed panel, which is itself hovering over the fake plastic running boards.
Fun-to-Drive Factor: The Escapade model adds extra ground clearance so you can strand yourself that much further from civilization.
Actual Utility: 1,636 lbs in a cargo bed smaller than Volkswagen Golf's trunk.
Why It's Dorky: It's like a Dustbuster with a pickup bed, which surprisingly hasn't triggered a lawsuit from the Ghost of General Motors Past. Also, it's called the Hoggar, which makes us think of Hoggle from Labyrinth.
Model Years: 2003-2006
Available Engines: Naturally aspirated and turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-fours.
Styling: Like an Outback without the 'back. '
Fun-to-Drive Factor: Turbocharged XT models are a blast with a bag over your head.
Actual Utility: Six inches longer than an Outback, you can haul 1,050 pounds of, uh, cheese back there.
Why It's Dorky: It's a BRAT with none of the whimsy—or maybe the wrong whimsy? Either way, so few people bit on the Baja that Subaru eventually leased out its assembly line space to Toyota to build Camrys. Is there a sadder epitaph?