While most cars and crossovers seem to look largely alike these days, the auto industry has seen its fair share of truly distinctive models over the last decade. Unfortunately some of them stand out for all the wrong reasons.
According to the findings of a recent survey conducted by CarInsurance.com in Foster City, Calif., the egg-shaped Smart ForTwo two-seat minicar is the “most embarrassing” ride on the road, and by a wide margin. Other models comprising the rogue’s gallery of “cringe worthy” models listed in the accompanying box include true eccentrics like the boxy Nissan Cube, the militaristic Hummer H2 and what is widely held as one of the ugliest cars ever built, the Pontiac Aztek.
“All these cars are bold statements. You either love them or hate them,” says CarInsurance.com managing editor Des Toups. “But even considering that, a lot of people don’t like the Smart ForTwo, and those who don’t like it seem to despise it.” The unfortunate ForTwo garnered such pointed responses as “too girly,” “too dorky” and “it looks like I couldn’t afford a full-size car.”
Unfortunately, nobody actually surveyed the owners of such automotive atrocities if they felt humiliated to drive them, but rather CarInsurance.com asked 1,500 participants to look at photos of models from the past decade to determine in which they would be most embarrassed to be seen. Some included on the list, like the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Honda Element and Volkswagen New Beetle, were well received when initially released, but haven’t worn well over time.
Confirming the old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the survey found that just about any vehicle could be embarrassing when seen in the proper light. To that end, those surveyed found purple, bright yellow and orange to be the most discomforting car colors.
Among vehicle types, minivans were among the most vilified, with a large percentage of men considering them to be a vehicular travesty. Inexpensive compact cars led the list with fuel saving hybrid-powered models and large gas-guzzling SUVs and pickups also cited.
What’s more, the survey confirmed the notion that one of ill taste can render even the most desirable vehicle shameful. More than a third of those polled cited tacky headlamp eyelashes to be among the most obnoxious automotive accessory abominations, followed by exaggerated spoilers and wings, bumper stickers and stick-figure family decals.
By this measure, a purple Smart ForTwo fitted with false eyelashes and a wing-like rear spoiler could well be the most mortifying model possible.