Unreliable, ugly and terrible to drive: these are the worst cars ever made
There are many, many horrific contenders for the title of worst car ever made – so many in fact that picking the absolute worst isn’t easy. When you also consider that cars have come a long way over the years, a bad car by modern standards might not necessarily be that awful compared to one from the 1980s. But then again, does that make it even worse when manufacturers miss the mark in this day and age?
In the same breath, there are cars from yesteryear that may have appeared fine at the time, but looking back now it’s easier to see just how bad some of them really were. There are, of course, some models which were dreadful from the start, giving their makers a reputation which could hang over them for decades to come.
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How the worst cars are made
These days, car manufacturers spend millions on vehicle research and development, so you’d think it would be impossible to produce a bad car. Focus groups tell firms what buyers want, and regular planning meetings help to ensure that every department – from engines and chassis to design and marketing – is pulling in the right direction.
Once a new car is in development, it will be benchmarked against its key rivals to ensure that it can match (and preferably beat) what's already being sold. With all of these things in place, a car manufacturer really will have tripped up quite badly if it manages to produce a total dud.
But it hasn't always been like this. In the past, it felt like some manufacturers had a 'suck it and see' approach to launching a new model. Some cars probably had good feedback when released as a concept, yet the final production model was so badly executed that it destroyed the goodwill of any car buyers who may have been tempted to buy it.
Then you have the badge-engineered models. Some of these try to add polish to an already ageing design with half-baked upgrades, and these tend to be prime ‘worst car’ candidates. And so do efforts where one maker simply takes the fruits of another firm's labours and slaps different badges on it: the end result often falls short of expectations. Finally you have cars that come about as the result of ungodly partnerships between makers that probably seemed like a good idea at the time but clearly weren’t.
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On top of that, there was the 70s. Back then the UK car industry was lucky if it got a whole working week out of its staff, as they regularly stopped short at the factory gates to set up a picket and go on strike instead. In the end, the quality of the cars that were eventually built was so poor, it makes you wonder why anybody bothered turning up for work at all.
The worst of the worst
Taking all of these worst car categories into account, we picked some woeful wonders from the last 50 years, with the 1970s, 80s and 90s providing the bulk of the roadgoing rubbish.
Which models are the worst? We’ll let you be the judge, jury and executioner of the following, so-bad-they’re-criminal cars…
The term ‘car’ is being generous to the G-Wiz. It had the performance of a sleepy vole and the structural integrity of your slippers
The Indian-built G-Wiz electric car actually qualifies as a quadricycle in the UK, so you can drive it if you've only passed your CBT motorcycle test, and you can get behind the wheel from 16 years of age, too. Unfortunately, the G-Wiz will earn you zero street cred when compared to anything you can ride on two wheels.
The G-Wiz was built at Reva's factory in Bangalore, India, from 2001-2012, but quality control wasn't exactly to Audi standards. The bug-eyed front end and tall, flat panes of window glass make it look awkward, while the variety of crooked shut lines on every model and mismatching paint finishes meant no two cars left the factory looking the same. If you were really unlucky, the G-Wiz would leave enough of a gap between the bodywork and doors to let the rain in, too.
Reva claimed that there was room for two adults and two kids inside, but you'd be packed in like sardines and the electric motor would probably succumb to the challenge of hauling the extra weight. The original DC motor boasted a heady 13kW of power, which is about as much as you'll get from the average starter motor today, although as the basic G-Wiz weighs around 600kg, the electric motor could just about cope with one person on board.
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Early cars had six conventional lead acid batteries under the seats, giving the G-Wiz an official range of 50 miles. In reality the battery would be spent long before then, especially if you had tried to attain the G-Wiz's faintly terrifying 50mph top speed.
An upgrade to an AC electric motor and better batteries meant more consistent charging for later models, although even better was the addition of disc brakes up front. Yes, that's right, while the old G-Wiz could accelerate briskly enough, drum brakes made an absolute meal of stopping in a timely fashion.
Having said all that, the real problem with the G-Wiz was the comparative lack of safety it delivered. It was only after 2008 that it had any semblance of a crash structure, developed with the help of Lotus, but even then, the G-Wiz was a potential rolling coffin at any speed over 30mph – a motorbike may be unsafe, but at least you have the option of stepping off to avoid an accident, with the G-Wiz, you're stuck.
It's no surprise that the G-Wiz found favour as a city car, and it was a hit in London in particular. Amazingly, it was the best-selling electric car in the world up to 2009. But then major manufacturers finally came on-stream with their own electric models, and instantly consigned the G-Wiz to the worst cars of all time charts, where it’s safer for everyone.
A worst car classic, the Austin Allegro provokes nostalgic smirks from those who remember it and fits of furious anger from past owners
Along with the Morris Marina, the Austin Allegro was a product of the malaise that was British Leyland in the Seventies, although with its dumpy styling, it's clear that the Allegro left a more permanent mark than the Marina.
The Allegro was born in 1973, although its development period was rather brief. When Leyland Motors and British Motor Holdings merged in 1968, Leyland bosses were shocked to find out that BMH didn't have plans to replace the top-selling but ancient Austin 1100. So the Allegro was rushed into production. It's possible that in the hurry to market, bosses missed the fact that the Allegro's chief rivals were being sold as versatile hatchbacks, and were proving popular with buyers.
As it turned out, the lack of practicality was the least of the Allegro's problems. The bulbous lines were an acquired taste, to put it politely, while the Allegro's 'Quartic' steering wheel looked ugly, but was a necessity so that the driver could see the dials properly. The Metropolitan Police had the Quartic wheel swapped out of the Allegro panda cars that it ordered 'because it didn't suit police driving style’ (yeah, right!), but the strange steering wheel disappeared completely by the time of the first Allegro facelift in 1975.
That facelift addressed a few issues with the original car, while another update in 1979 improved the Allegro further, and also saw the introduction of the Equipe, a boy racer variant with silver bodywork and funky-for-the-time orange stripes. However, with the Golf GTI bringing new-found performance to the class, the Allegro felt even more out of its depth.
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The updates tried to address the Allegro's problems, but the damage had already been done. It wasn't very spacious, had a range of asthmatic engines and was priced higher than its chief rivals, too, so it's no wonder it failed so miserably. And those cars that did find owners were nothing but trouble, with the constant threat of breakdown looming large every time you'd think about going for a drive.
One potential danger was that over tightening the wheel bearing nuts could result in bearing failure, and it's gone down in motoring folklore that there's so much flex in the Allegro's construction that if you jack it up in the wrong place, the back window will fall out and the doors will jam shut. No wonder the car earned the nickname 'All Aggro'.
It's fair to say that the Allegro wasn't a sales success. It was on sale for nine years and sold around 650,000 models – but its Austin 1100 predecessor sold 2.1 million examples in all of its badge engineered guises. The arrival of its replacement, the Austin Maestro in 1983, couldn't come soon enough.
Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible
A ghastly chunk of retro automotive Americana foisted onto the UK market, the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible was as bad as it looked
The Volkswagen Beetle has a lot to answer for. We're not talking about the original Beetle, mind, this is the late-Nineties version. The New Beetle kicked off a craze for 'retro modern' remakes of old models. While the Beetle was successful, as were the MINI and Fiat 500, the Chrysler PT Cruiser was less convincing, especially when the roof was chopped off.
It had started so well for this retro looking hatch, too. The original Plymouth Pronto Cruizer concept followed in the footsteps of the hot rod-inspired Plymouth Prowler, and its bulbous wings and tall grille gave it the look of a Fifties custom car that would certainly appeal to the US market.
But the late Nineties was a difficult time for Chrysler. It was in partnership with Mercedes, and the German firm wanted to make cuts to bring Chrysler back into profitability. It did this by dropping the Plymouth brand, so the Pronto Cruizer became a concept without a home, while the production version appeared with a Chrysler badge on the nose.
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Now called the PT Cruiser – PT standing for Personal Transport – the concept's transition to reality hadn't been very successful. There was a taller roof with larger windows that you could actually see out of, and the overall design was more upright. The PT Cruiser was no oil painting compared to the concept, while in the US Chrysler classified the car as a truck, in an effort to bring the average emissions of its commercial vehicles down.
Still, Chrysler brought it to the UK, where it sold in modest numbers, mainly because it wasn't competitive with other retro models like the MINI and Beetle – thanks to poor build quality and sloppy handling.
Whoever decided to add a convertible to the line-up probably had good intentions, but the execution was pretty poor. Removing the roof meant that any structural rigidity that existed disappeared completely, so Chrysler had to add a ghastly roll hoop between the front and rear seats. Bosses claimed the roll bar helped airflow over the back seats, but it got in the way when getting in and out, even with the roof down. It's no surprise that the PT Cruiser Convertible was only on sale for two years and few found homes.
Clearly designed last thing on Friday during a power cut, the SsangYong Rodius is one of the oddest-looking machines of the modern era
People carriers aren't famed for their stylish good looks, but even in this segment some cars are more pleasing to the eye than others. At least the Renault Espace had a fairly elegant shape, while the Citroen C4 Picasso proved you can have a spacious car with a futuristic style all of its own. However, the SsangYong Rodius set the bar so low for styling, it's a wonder any were ever sold.
Korean firm SsangYong was in a muddle in the early Noughties. Its ageing line-up of off-roaders was in need of updating, while bosses clearly believed that adding a people carrier to the range would bolster sales. In 2004, the Rodius arrived, and it was almost immediately met with derision.
The styling was the work of Brit Ken Greenley, who also designed some of SsangYong's off-roaders at that time. According to the firm, the design was supposed to take inspiration from luxury yachts, and if you squint, then maybe you can make the similarities out.
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From the nose to the back doors, the Rodius looked decidedly average, reminiscent of The Apprentice favourite the Chrysler Grand Voyager from some angles, but it was at the back where it all came undone. The line of the door frame drops dramatically like that of a coupe, but the roof continues straight to the back of the car. This combination of shapes gave the Rodius a look like it had a shonky extension grafted on the tail, and it put a lot of buyers off.
Things didn't get much better when you were on the move, and further cemented the reputation of the 'Odious Rodius'. Power came from an old 2.7-litre Mercedes diesel, but the Rodius was so heavy that performance and economy were chronic, the soft ride was wallowy and cornering of any description was best avoided. The only redeeming feature of this MPV was the amount of space it offered at a bargain price, which will be even lower second hand.
SsangYong launched a second generation MPV in 2013, but the Rodius name was so tarnished by the first model, that in the UK it gained the Turismo nameplate, along with more conventional styling.
The end of MG Rover was comprehensively hastened by the launch of the CityRover, a small car with few redeeming qualities
While the Allegro and Marina were symptomatic of the British car industry of the Seventies, in some ways the CityRover became a poster child for the demise of MG Rover in the Noughties. The supermini could have helped to turn the firm around, but in reality it was too little, too late.
Like the Alfa Romeo Arna, the CityRover was produced out of necessity by a company with limited resources to build a new car from scratch. In this instance, MG Rover needed a new supermini to slot in below the Rover 25, and in essence be a spiritual successor to the Austin/Rover Metro. With no obvious options from Europe, MG Rover looked to the East, and the Indian-built Tata Indica looked to fit the bill.
Agreements were drawn up, and in 2003 Tata's production line in Pune began assembling CityRovers. The only differences between the CityRover and Indica was the Rover grille and badges, while different suspension settings were added under the skin. Power came from a single engine, an 85bhp 1.4-litre petrol from Peugeot, which limited the car's appeal, although of bigger concern to buyers was the car's starting price at just under £7,000.
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Even though the Rover badge carried some prestige, buyers weren't convinced by the CityRover's poor quality. The Indian-market Indica had already been in production for five years when the CityRover was launched, too, so it felt dated even as it first appeared in showrooms.
The reviews weren't very favourable, either. Poor quality, modest performance and vague handling all counted against the CityRover, especially as it was priced so highly. MG Rover was so concerned with avoiding negative publicity that it refused to lend a car to the BBC Top Gear TV show. Instead, presenter James May, who was little known at the time, went undercover at a Rover dealer to secretly review one on a customer test drive.
MG Rover must have known it was on a hiding to nothing: an update in 2004 saw prices dropped by £900, but by then the damage had been done, and the writing was on the wall for the company as it finally went bankrupt in 2005.
The Morris Marina is that rare thing, a truly bad car that was a sales success. There’s no accounting for taste
If any car deserves a place in this list, it's the Morris Marina. While it sold in big numbers – over a million in 13 years, if you also include the later Morris Ital – it was only ever meant to be a stop-gap while British Leyland got its house in order.
It took only 18 months for the Marina to go from drawing board to production, but even in that short period it was beset by problems. The idea was to keep it simple to get it on sale ASAP, but that meant some good ideas were dropped before production. The Marina was designed to compete with both the Ford Cortina and Escort, so it fell between them in terms of size, while a two-door fastback version was meant to be a rival to the Ford Capri. But to cut costs, the fastback ended up using the same doors as the saloon, which compromised its sporty looks, and it ended up being the cheaper version of the Marina.
That wasn't the only piece of cost cutting, either. Rather than develop a new suspension set-up, the Marina used the obsolete chassis components from the ancient Morris Minor, while a switch to a different set of BL engines meant the car's design had to be tweaked to make room for them, resulting in a bloated look for the car.
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A poor suspension set-up and live rear axle meant the Marina handled pretty badly, with the rear end liable to bump steer on rough roads, while early examples, especially ones with the larger, heavier 1.7-litre engine, had chronic understeer due to the wrong front suspension being fitted on the production line. Another 'quirk' was that windscreen wipers were fitted the wrong way around, because engineers reported that they lifted from the windscreen when vertical, which was thought to be distracting to drivers. Rather than remedy the problem, simply switching them around was thought to be a good enough fix.
Surprisingly, the Marina was a sales hit, although poor quality, the propensity to rust and the cannibalising of Marinas to keep other BL models of the era going means that today there are only a handful of cars left on the road. Although it seems like it's a car that's hard to feel sorry for.
The butt of countless jokes, the Reliant Robin was missing more than a wheel and will be remember as one of the worst cars ever
Like the G-Wiz, the Reliant Robin three-wheeler borders on not being a car at all. It's a myth, however, that it can be driven on a motorcycle licence – the earlier Regal only qualified, but the Robin was too heavy to do the same. The licensing requirements changed in 2001 anyway, so you need a full driving licence to drive a Robin, even though it doesn't have the full complement of wheels.
The Robin’s basic formula had been the backbone of Reliant car production since the company’s founding in 1935. Unfortunately Reliant's small fibreglass-bodied three-wheelers have also been the butt of jokes for decades, certainly helped no end by the appearance of Regal vans in Only Fools And Horses and Mr Bean.
In reality, the Robin was an evolution of the Regal. The first model was launched in 1973, featuring a 750cc four-cylinder engine, although this made way for a rip-snorting 850cc motor in 1975. Thanks to the Robin's lightweight fibreglass construction, this meant it could achieve a nosebleed-inducing 85mph and economy of 70mpg. But as the Robin was launched during the Fuel Crisis of the mid-Seventies, its combination of a low list price and running costs had appeal.
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Despite what some TV shows would lead you to believe, the Robin wasn't a liability in corners. Of course, with all of the car's weight centred in the middle of the nose, you had to be a bit circumspect with sharp turns, but the Robin wouldn't roll over at the slightest sight of a bend. And besides, it was front-engined and rear-wheel drive – that's like a BMW, right?
The Robin lasted for eight years, before it was replaced by the Rialto, which again stuck to the three-wheel formula. But the Robin didn't die, as it returned in 1989 as a more upmarket model alongside the Rialto. Prices had crept up, and top-spec versions cost up to £9,000, although the new car market had changed considerably since the 1970s, and sales weren't as good as in the past.
A Mk3 Robin arrived in 1999, and it was the first Reliant designed on a computer, although the firm still had to graft Vauxhall Corsa headlights into it. The last car was short-lived, with a final run of 65 models sold in 2000, while the very last Reliant-built Robin was built on Valentine's Day in 2001.
A poster child for communist cars in the UK, the FSO Polonez was Eastern Bloc austerity made metal
If it wasn't for Fiat, many Eastern Bloc countries of the seventies and eighties wouldn't have had a car industry at all. Lada in the USSR, Zastava in Yugoslavia and FSO in Poland were all sustained by building licensed versions of old Fiat saloons. And for the latter, Fiat-sourced family car production kept it in business for 45 years.
The FSO Polski Fiat 125p was built by the state car manufacturer from 1967, and by 1978, it was feeling old even by Eastern Bloc standards. So the company set about producing the Polonez to replace it. We say new, but the Polonez used exactly the same chassis as the 125p, while the asthmatic 1.3- and 1.5-litre engines were carried over with minor revisions.
What set the new car apart was its hatchback body. The five-door replaced the upright saloon body of its predecessor, and it had lines penned by leading Italian design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro, with assistance from Walter De Silva, who went on to head Volkswagen design. With such alumni drawing the lines, you might expect the car to be a design icon. And it is, for all the wrong reasons. The long wheelbase, narrow track and extended front and rear overhangs meant the Polonez was no looker, made even worse if you went for a later car with a 'sporty' bodykit.
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The plan was for the Polonez to use a new 2.0-litre engine from Fiat, but a lack of funds meant this didn't happen, while the new car and ageing Polski Fiat stayed in production side-by-side for another 13 years!
The Polonez was big, but the puny engines meant it was no scorcher. Later cars finally had engines sourced from Fiat, while other motive power came from Ford, Peugeot and even Rover's K-Series petrol. One of the main attractions of the Polonez was that it offered a lot of car for not much money, and crash tests of the period proved that it was strong in the event of an accident.
Quite shockingly, the Polonez stayed in production in various guises until 2002, although once the Eastern Bloc crumbled, and decent second-hand cars became available, the Polonez was done for outside of its home market. UK sales ended in the mid 1990s, and today the Polonez has all but disappeared – the DVLA currently has 10 registered examples on its books.
An early crossover SUV, the Vauxhall Frontera was ahead of its time in some ways, but horribly behind in others
Car makers have always tried to take a fast track into new categories to make a quick buck. And while the current demand for SUVs and crossovers is the strongest it's ever been, Vauxhall attempted to make an impact with its own SUV model in the 1990s.
The Vauxhall Frontera was the product of another misguided partnership, this time between Vauxhall's parent firm General Motors and Japanese maker Isuzu. GM used Isuzu's 4×4 expertise, chiefly in the form of the Isuzu MU off-roader, to create its own SUV for Europe. The MU wasn't just used by Vauxhall, though, because the car was sold across the globe under assorted names.
As well as being called the MU (which stood for Mysterious Utility), it was sold by Isuzu in the US as the Amigo and Rodeo Sport, and in South America as the Frontier. Then there were the badge engineered models, starting with the Vauxhall Frontera. Other versions included the European Opel Frontera, Australia's Holden Frontera, the Chevrolet Frontera in Egypt and Chevrolet Rodeo in Central America. And finally, there was the Honda Jazz. Yes, really, the MU was sold in Japan with the same name as Honda's supermini in the UK.
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UK Fronteras were built in the UK at the old Bedford factory in Luton, Beds, alongside their Opel and Holden counterparts. But this was one car where Made In Britain didn't spell a quality product. The Frontera was rushed to market, and with woeful on-road handling, and a range of thirsty and unreliable petrol and diesel engines, the car didn't have many redeeming features at all.
Poor handling, whether you chose a short or long wheelbase version, was just part of the story. A bouncy ride meant the car was uncomfortable, too. The cabin was cramped on the short-wheelbase model, while the boot was compromised by a side-hinged tailgate. You'd be lucky to get more than 20mpg through regular driving – that's if you had the car back from the garage long enough to drive it, because the only off-roading most Fronteras would do would be up on jacks to get it repaired.
The first Frontera was built from 1989-1997, and despite its poor reputation, it was replaced by a second-generation model. That car was marginally better than the original, but it also had too many faults to be taken seriously. The Frontera name was consigned to the history books in 2004, while its replacement, the Vauxhall Antara, arrived in 2006.
Citroen C3 Pluriel
The Citroen C3 Pluriel was claimed to be five cars in one, making it undesirable in more ways than was previously thought possible
Ever had a bad idea on a drunken night out that you’ve instantly regretted? The Citroen C3 Pluriel is the result of a similar sort of phenomenon, after the French manufacturer decided it was going to roll five cars into one for reasons that still aren’t fully understood.
Based on the existing C3 supermini, the C3 Pluriel was designed to be a family hatchback, a saloon with a sunroof, a convertible, a roadster and a pick-up truck. Naturally it excelled as none of these things, with a number of packaging choices that, looking back, were just plain daft.
Sliding the canvas roof back was easy enough thanks to the electronic system, however removing the roof rails was both fiddly and physically draining. Once off, they couldn’t be stored in the car, which meant if it rained at any point on your journey, you were stuffed.
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By dropping the rear seats down flat and lowering the tailgate, you could convert the C3 Pluriel from its convertible form into its pick-up guise, suitable for carrying surfboards according to Citroen. But this was legally problematic (by which we mean very much illegal) in the UK as doing so obscured the number plate, which you’d be obliged to move to somewhere visible.
Beyond that, the C3 Pluriel was shoddy in several other respects: the interior felt cheap, the car was dull to drive (and the handling got noticeably worse with the roof rails removed), the interior was cramped and poor build quality caused leaks according to some owners.
How a vehicle this misguided was signed off as recently as 2003 is anyone’s guess.
Nissan Micra C+C
The Nissan Micra C+C had several major flaws, as well as being a fashion disaster
When the Nissan Micra C+C was launched in 2005, the reviews – while not overly generous – weren’t all that bad: the car earned praise for its build quality, its low running costs, its clever folding roof and even its ride.
However, some mistakes are glaringly obvious with the benefit of hindsight, like when Steve McLaren was appointed England manager, or when Scooch were sent to represent the ever unsuccessful UK at Eurovision with a song entitled Flying the Flag. The Micra C+C is in that category.
Let’s get the styling out of the way: all designs are objective of course, but the C+C’s was the closest thing you could get to what Barbie and Ken might drive if they were made of flesh and not plastic. When TV show Top Gear reviewed the C+C, Richard Hammond felt compelled to wear a bag on his head, such was the embarrassment of being seen driving it.
Elsewhere, the Micra C+C was littered with shortcomings. The four-speed automatic gearbox was sluggish (and £900 more expensive than the manual), the boot space fell dramatically (from 457 to 255 litres) with the roof stowed, and the rear seats were so useless even Barbie in doll form would struggle for leg room. The front seats weren’t exactly spacious either.
The Micra C+C lasted for four years before Nissan decided to pull the plug.
The Suzuki X-90 was a two-seater SUV built between 1995 and 1997, performing poorly in every market it was ever sold in
Sometimes when a car is designed well, it just looks right. You know? Whether it’s the proportions, or the way the lines highlight the shape or the vehicle, or sometimes it’s just a perfectly judged colour scheme. The Suzuki X-90 was the exact opposite of those things, with styling that was just utterly, utterly wrong.
Not for the first time, a manufacturer fell foul of having so many targets that it failed to hit any of them. Someone at Suzuki had the bright idea of making a sports car that was practical, leading to the creation of the X-90; a two-seater SUV. This sounded great on paper but quickly it became clear that the new offering was neither sporty to drive nor useful to live with.
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The X-90 was sold with a 1.6-litre petrol engine that could muster 94bhp, with the option of four- or rear-wheel drive and the choice of five-speed manual or automatic transmissions. As such the X-90 was tremendously slow, and reliability wasn’t great either.
In terms of handling the steering was woeful with lots of vibration arriving through the steering column, and thanks to its high centre of gravity the performance in corners is probably best left undescribed. Add into the mix that the luggage space (already diminished by the presence of the spare tyre) was in terribly short supply, it’s no wonder that the X-90 was removed from sale in the UK after just 18 months.
For many, the Hummer H2 was a symbol of everything wrong with American motoring
The Hummer H2 was revealed in 2002 and designed to mimic the military’s Humvee; a tool for navigating warzones and striking fear into the enemy. Quite why this appealed to some American car buyers is a mystery, but the H2’s reputation since is anything but.
You see, the H2 never escaped the impression that it was all bark and no bite. It retained the Humvee’s hoops on the hood that allowed the military machine to be dropped from airplane cargo holds, but on the H2 they weren’t actually stuck to anything, so were entirely pointless.
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The H2 also retained the alloy wheel caps that protected the Humvee’s tyre inflation system. But the H2 didn’t have a tyre inflation system, so again the feature was useless. Visibility was rubbish too, any why? The rear windscreen was reduced in size to make way for air vents that were entirely fake.
Then there was the driving experience. The H2 was widely thought to be uncomfortable, with a variety of rattles on the move suggesting build quality wasn’t up to much. It started off with a 6.0-litre V8 engine but 0-60mph took a good 10 seconds, and the fuel economy was embarrassing: General Motors was fortunate that it didn’t have to give official figures owing to the H2’s weight, but several publications ran tests that returned 10mpg.
Of all the great US exports, the Hummer H2 isn’t one of them.
The Peugeot 1007 was supposed to set a trend with its electric sliding doors. Alas, it failed
Not all terrible cars are the result of poor decision making. The Peugeot 1007 was previewed as the Sesame Concept car in 2002, causing a lot of excitement among motor show visitors with its electric sliding doors. Peugeot therefore gave the go-ahead to send the car into production, only for the 1007 to be laughed off by actual buyers.
How come? There are a few reasons. While the sliding doors were useful in a tight spot – such as a supermarket car park or multi-storey – access to the rear seats wasn’t really any better than in the average five-door supermini. So the feature wasn’t really worth the effort. Or the added expense, for that matter.
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Then there was the weight. The 1007 was a very heavy car for its size at almost 1,300kg, which meant that the engines had to be worked hard to achieve any meaningful acceleration. For one thing this was noisy, and for another it sent fuel economy figures tumbling. Another number that fell dramatically was the price: with the 1007 originally costing £10,000, Peugeot had to chop that figure significantly in order to attract any sales.
Just over 50,000 models were sold in 2005, with a steady decline thereafter until the 1007 was killed off in 2009. Few people missed the stiff ride, cheap materials or ponderous cornering ability, although the doors remain a cheap novelty on the used-car market if you want to impress your friends but can’t afford a Tesla Model X.
The Lada Riva was a worse copy of an already bad car, making it one of the worst ever made
What ingredients would you put together to make a dreadful car in the 1980s? You’d probably start with something already quite old, such as the Fiat 124 of the 1960s. Then you’d make it heavier, replace the starter motor with a crank starter for added inconvenience, and then for one final splash of danger, perhaps make the brakes worse. Sounds awful, right?
Regrettably, this is exactly what Russian company VAZ (Volzhsky Avtomobilny Zavod) did to produce the Lada Riva, which has been used as a shining example of ‘why communism is bad’ ever since.
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Produced in large numbers for the first time in 1980, the Riva actually started life in 1970 as the VAZ-2101 and didn’t arrive in western Europe until 1983. Producing just 57bhp from a 1.2-litre engine, the long-since obsolete mechanicals meant it was hopelessly unreliable, while the bodywork was vulnerable to rust.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Lada Riva was a successful export in eastern Europe and did well enough in the western side of the continent to justify its sale there well into the nineties. Key to its success was its low price, the car costing just £3,158 (almost £11,000 in today’s money) in 1984.
Eventually emissions regulations and financial uncertainty made it unviable in the region in 1997, although production continued in domestic markets and was still being built in Egypt as recently as 2015. An incredible production run considering how flawed the product was.
The Kia Pride was the only car the South Korean company sold in the UK initially, serving as a reminder of just how far it’s come
In 2018 Kia was declared the ‘Company of the Last 30 Years’ at the Auto Express New Car Awards, in recognition of its progress as a manufacturer in the UK.
Today, modern Kia’s are well-built, practical, economical and good value for money, but that hasn’t always been the case. The South Korean firm’s first contribution to the UK market was the Kia Pride in 1991, and the kindest thing that can be said about it is that it serves as a stark reminder of just how far (we really can’t stress the ‘far’ enough here) the brand has come in the past three decades.
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Manufactured in South Korean under licence from Ford, the Kia Pride was actually based on the Ford Festiva. When it finally arrived on these shores, it was only offered in the most basic L trim possible, which had famously horrible, white-walled tyres – the cherry on top of an already quite ugly, boxy exterior design.
Initially it was offered with a 1.1- or 1.3-litre engine, although the former was killed off after a couple of years when Kia moved away from carburettors and added fuel injection technology, rebadging the Pride with the 1.3i monniker. A raft of trim updates followed over the years, but none could alleviate how terrible the Pride truly was. It was briefly pulled from sale in 1999, before returning for one last hurrah that ended for good in 2000.
When it was launched in the UK the Perodua Nippa was the cheapest car on sale… for good reason
Perodua is the largest car manufacturer in Malaysia, having been founded in 1992. The company’s first car was the Kancil, a five-door hatchback that did remarkably well in its home market, allegedly selling over 700,000 units having proved popular with learner drivers.
It eventually came to the UK in 1997, rebadged as the Perodua Nippa. Essentially a lightly modified Daihatsu Mira, the Nippa used an 850cc engine producing just 42bhp. With the car weighing only 675kg the top speed was 84mph, although you’d have been better off measuring the 0-62mph time with a calendar rather than a stopwatch.
As such, the Nippa was designed for (by which we mean ‘only capable of’) city driving, with its narrow dimensions and surprising amount of interior space making it ideal for families needing to get about town. It was also capable of over 50mpg, and its initial £5,000 asking price for the entry-level EX trim made it the cheapest car on sale in the UK at the time.
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Not convinced of its terribleness? The Nippa’s blase attitude to safety meant simply getting into one was either an act of bravery or unspeakable stupidity. Airbags? No. Seat-belt pre-tensioners? No. Anti-lock brakes? Not a chance. These were things even the cheapest cars of the time were expected to provide, and the issues were only addressed when the Nippa was replaced with the Perodua Kelisa in 2003.
It did at least have child locks on the rear doors, although quite why you’d want to prevent an innocent youngster from escaping a part-car-part-death-trap is up for debate.
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