The Ugliest Cars of the 2000s
The decade introduced some regrettable metal.
The 2000s brought us Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, an excess of lame boy bands, and the final episode of MTV's Total Request Live. If most of those weren't bad enough, the decade also introduced some of the most memorable ugly cars ever seen, from roads to congested shopping mall parking lots to fast food drive-thru lines and everywhere else you turned.
For more entertainment and sheer laughter as part of Automobile's ongoing series of ugly cars, here is an abbreviated list of the best/worst ugly cars made in the 2000s:
2006-2014 Subaru Tribeca
Deriving its name from a happening New York City neighborhood, the Subaru Tribeca featured a grille that screamed bland personality and insecurity. Initially launched with an ad campaign that featured "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas, the original Tribeca "boasted" a design met with more than a few snickers. Subaru made revisions for the 2008 model year, but they didn't help much; a rounded body and triangular grille were not enough to stop this ship from sinking. Tribeca total sales didn't quite reach 77,000 units, making it one of the worst-selling vehicles in the U.S. Still, though it definitely qualified for entry onto lists of ugly cars, the Tribeca did not go out without a fight: it won awards for its interior and safety before riding into the sunset.
2002-2007 Buick Rendezvous
Despite its dreadful appearance and place right at home among other ugly cars, the Buick Rendezvous actually surpassed projected sales and helped General Motors recover from the blunder that was the Pontiac Aztek. An aggressive value-pricing strategy helped make the Rendezvous a lot more affordable than supposed competitors like the Lexus RX and Acura MDX. Sharing its bones with the Aztek, perhaps the Rendezvous' biggest transgression transpired in the rear where everything blended together. Not even a commercial featuring Tiger Woods could trick consumers into buying this oddball.
2003-2010 Kia Amanti
The executive-level Amanti sedan was regarded as Kia's flagship vehicle, and it had an alter ego named Opirus. While there is much to say about the awkward roofline, specifically toward the rear, the front end takes the cake here. To keen observers, the Amanti was a botched copy of a 1990s Mercedes-Benz E-Class and a more than worthy entry onto anyone's list of ugly cars.
2007-2012 Dodge Nitro
Fiat Chrysler got out of control in a single decade and is responsible for producing some of the most memorable ugly cars born in the 2000s. This automaker failed to win over consumers with the Dodge Caliber, PT Cruiser, and Jeep Compass; the Dodge Nitro, a Jeep Liberty on steroids, did not do FCA design any more favors. Sales never gained traction, and Nitro production effectively ceased in 2011.
2003-2007 Saturn Ion
Do you remember that cool commercial of objects being thrown at the Saturn Ion? Saturn's dent-resistant marketing campaign with the slogan "People First" seemed promising, but it could not prevent the inevitable end. Ugly cars? The short-lived Saturn Ion disappeared into another galaxy and was replaced by the Opel Astra. On the bright side, it at least gave us the Saturn Ion Quad Coupe with those bitchin' rear clamshell doors.
2006-2011 Chevrolet HHR
Launched at the 2005 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Chevrolet HHR reminded us—and everyone else—of another four-wheeled catastrophe. Of course, it was no coincidence the HHR closely resembled the Chrysler PT Cruiser as the two shared the same designer, Bryan Nesbitt. Though Chevrolets of the 1940s and 1950s inspired the HHR's design, the car indeed looked more like a PT Cruiser spin-off. The Chevrolet HHR reached its best sales in 2007 with 105,175 sold.
2001-2007 Suzuki Aerio
Just as dorky-looking as the Toyota Echo, the Suzuki Aerio was internationally known as the Suzuki Liana, short for "Life in A New Age." Famous for its three-year stint on Top Gear, the bubble-shaped Aerio came in the form of a sedan and hatchback.
The Aerio SX hatchback had a sportier appearance yet looked deranged with its narrow front end and enlarged body. With the exception of China, Aerio production ceased in 2007 worldwide; it was replaced by the Suzuki SX4.
2003-2011 Honda Element
Including the Honda Element on this list of ugly cars pains us, because it was useful, practical, and even fun to drive, especially if you opted for the available manual transmission. Today, it's become something of a cult classic, and we appreciate it overall.
Built on a modified CR-V platform, the Element featured rear-hinged side doors and a brilliant interior design that provided ample cargo space. It exceeded expectations when introduced, and Honda sold a total of 67,478 examples. Impressive sales, however, did not diminish this box's weirdness in terms of pure styling. Regardless, the Element managed to snag "Top Safety Pick" and "Dog Car of the Year" awards between 2007 and 2010 before production ceased in 2011.
2007-2011 Jeep Compass (First Generation Pre facelift)
Jeep Compass haters can say what they want, but this mishap of a compact SUV is here to stay. Take one good look at the U.S. sales numbers, and the demand for the Compass might surprise you. The second-generation Compass isn't too offensive, owing to its Grand Cherokee-resembling makeover in 2016. However, the first-gen model—pre-2011 facelift—is taxing on the eyes with its clumsy look.
The Jeep Compass made its official debut at the 2006 North American International Show in Detroit, and U.S. sales of the 2007 model exceeded 18,500 units. And no matter how fugly the front end was, Compass sales doubled the following year. Looking at the numbers, consumers appear to have a love-hate relationship with the Compass: In 2017, for example, sales took a plunge but then made a strong comeback by more than doubling in 2018 after an all-new model debuted.
2001-2010 Chrysler PT Cruiser
It might seem incredible now, but this little retro family hauler won MotorTrend's 2001 Car of the Year award, so it can't be too hideous—right?
At the time, many people were infatuated with the PT Cruiser, and its styling was much more palatable as the retro-design craze gained momentum around the turn of the century. But not everyone saw beauty in this Chrysler: Personally, I remember walking home after school and seeing examples of the car everywhere—and wondering why anyone would buy one. Indeed, the PT Cruiser experienced such a surge in popularity upon its launch that some people were happy to pay their local dealer more than the sticker price for one. Inspired by the styling of 1930s hot rods and taking after the 1997 Chrysler CCV prototype, the PT Cruiser was also available as a two-door convertible. Time and shifting sensibilities, however, have not been kind to the PT Cruiser's appearance.
2001-2005 Pontiac Aztek
If it weren't for fictional chemist Walter White (Bryan Cranston) driving a Pontiac Aztek in the hugely popular series Breaking Bad, most people would struggle to find a lot of redeeming qualities in this vehicle. Despite some interesting features, most people couldn't—and still can't—get past its exterior design. The geometric mashup of Buick Rendezvous and Toyota Prius put forth its best efforts in becoming the next SUV on everyone's must-buy list, but it failed.
The Aztek did not receive any love from the get-go. There was some glimmer of hope sales-wise from 2001-2003, before the Aztek saw its darkest days during its final year of production. Intended for the Generation X consumer group, the Aztek's pricing could not compete with its more attractive rivals. Still, J.D. Power and Associates in 2001 gave the Aztek the "Most Appealing Entry Sport Utility Vehicle" award.