Ugly Cars

OK, to start things off, I’d like to go on record to say that the new Fiat they’re selling here is ugly. It’s lumpy and wrinkled, but lacking the charm of a shar pei. When the ads try to liken the lump of poo to an Italian supermodel, I just roll my eyes.

But the Fiat is a passive sort of ugly, the kind of ugly that mothers the world over look past.

When the Pontiac Aztec came out, I was stunned. My first encounter with one was in a parking lot; I walked a complete circle around the thing, laughing the whole time. I thought, na├»vely, that I’d seen the pinnacle of ugly. Surely nothing could ever surpass it. I mean, come on. Presumably most auto designers want their cars to look good.

Except maybe the ones at Toyota. It started with the Prius, which is not an attractive vehicle. Aztec territory. Particularly offensive: the giant silvery tail light cluster. Two giant festering boils on the back end of every Prius.

The infection spread. More Toyotas inherited this horror, and then it caught on with Toyota’s other labels. Terrible designers at other companies picked it up, putting the awe in awful.

This isn’t to let the makers of big, angular red clusters off the hook. Still ugly, but easier to overlook.

All this in a time when technology allows designers to do just about anything with the tail lights of a car. If I were in charge of the VW, there’d be optional flower-shaped brake lights on the bug – and they’d sell. There is less need than ever before for giant plastic warts on the ass ends of cars. Yet on some vehicles these unsightly growths just keep getting bigger and uglier. I saw an SUV today, painted in a dark color, with giant silvery tumors on its ass so big I was tempted to chase it down to see who made the damn thing. But I had better things to do.

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6 thoughts on “Ugly Cars

  1. You missed my favorites! Honda came out with the Element. Not to be outdone, Nissan produced the Cube, and Scion the xB! Not only are they UGLY, they don’t look very aerodynamic!

  2. If you wrap ugly around sufficient functionality and don’t charge too much, I’m prepared to focus on the function. The Fiat 500 is on the short list of cars I plan to audition when my venerable 2000 Chevy Metro (still running well at 207,000 miles) bites the dust. The Fiat is a reasonable modern analog of the Metro — small (even smaller), cheap (not as cheap, but then nothing is anymore), and offering good mileage (not as good, but nothing short of a hybrid does anymore). And the Metro is no beauty queen, so I can’t be too picky.

    The Honda Element always intrigued me, mainly because of the base interior — wall-to-wall rubber, advertised as hose-outable. That evoked fondish memories of my International Harvester pickup. I would’ve considered the Element a reasonable equivalent to my wife’s Subaru Forester, but she has always made it very clear that the Element is too fugly to be considered.

    I’ve noted the proliferation of big, angular taillight clusters, but I’m more concerned with color-contrasting trim treatments that wrap those lights and then invade more of the car. What’s going on with the back treatment of the Mini Clubman?

    • Yep. The owner of the first Element I saw was a deer hunter, and he was bragging that he just hosed down the interior after he brought his game home!

    • I’m with you all the way on the Fiat. Looks is not the most important thing to consider when buying a car by a long shot.

      I read somewhere that when people actually tried to hose out their Honda Elements, that the electrical system was messed up. A quick search on “honda element hose” brought up both pro- and anti- hose writings. Some said the SRS system can get messed up.

      As far as ugly, the Element always appealed to me for some reason. Perhaps when the driving force behind the ugliness is utility, I’m easier to sell. Somehow that doesn’t get the Aztec off the hook, though.

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