Pontiac Aztec
Published July/August 2011

The 10 Worst Cars of 2000 – 2010

Hindsight is 20/20 — especially for the manufacturers (and owners) of these least-desirable vehicles of the decade

BYJim Prueter
Today, it’s nearly impossible to find a really bad car. For all the news about recalls, gas mileage and J. D. Power’s quality rankings, auto manufacturers make very few mistakes. In fact, even the worst cars today would have earned a quality award a decade ago.
 
Quite frankly, the worst I have to say about a car today is that I don’t like the styling, or it isn’t as much fun to drive as its competition. Gone are the days when cars like the Ford Pinto caught on fire with a rear-end crash, the front end of a Chevy Vega would break off, or you could practically watch a Dodge Aspen rust right before your eyes.
 
Still, we take a stab at listing our top 10 worst cars of the decade:
 
10. Jeep Compass
(2007 to present)
When is a Jeep not a Jeep? When it’s a Compass. Sure, it comes with the signature seven-slot grille up front, but all similarities end there. It’s even built on a Dodge assembly line in Illinois rather than Toledo, Ohio, and is basically a rebadged Dodge Caliber. The odd styling looks frumpy, and the interior is nothing but hard plastic. Simply put, the Compass gives the iconic Jeep brand a bad name. And contrary to its name, it doesn’t even come with a compass.
 
9. Jaguar X-Type
(2002 to 2008)
Looking for an entry-level luxury car to compete with the likes of BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class, and Lexus ES, Jaguar unveiled the X-Type. But the X-Type, even with its all-wheel drive, wasn’t anywhere near the sportiness, quality, or cachet enjoyed by competition, and additionally suffered with quality issues.
 
8. Subaru Baja
(2003 to 2006)
Is it a car? Is it a truck? It can’t seem to decide. This automotive conflation is easily one of the most bizarre-looking vehicles we’ve seen. We’re sure the heavy plastic cladding along the lower body was meant to make the vehicle look rugged, but instead it made the vehicle look more like a Nike running shoe.
 
7. Plymouth/Chrysler Prowler
(1997, 1999 to 2002)
Built as a Plymouth, it was discontinued in 2001 and then sold as a Chrysler Prowler for the 2001 and 2002 model years. Fewer than 12,000 total Prowlers were built, all with a retro-roadster hot-rod design. The problem? They forgot to make it a hot rod. Completely underpowered with a V-6 engine, it didn’t even have a manual transmission, which made it completely impossible to smoke the tires with the requisite burnouts. Hot rodding rule No. 1: There is no such thing as a factory hot rod. Hot rods are homemade only.
 
6. Toyota Echo
(2000 to 2005)
This inexpensive subcompact proves that even Toyota can make serious mistakes. With odd proportions and cartoonish looks the tall, narrow Echo had tiny tires, felt “tippy” on the highway, and offered excessive body roll when cornering. Echo was meant to capture young drivers but even they rejected its weirdness.  
 
5. Chrysler Sebring
(1995 to 2010)
Unfortunately everything about this car screams airport rental. Did anyone ever actually buy a new one from a dealer? Exterior styling was awkward at best, interiors were cheap plastic with uncomfortable seats and the car came equipped with noisy underpowered engines. As one critic wrote, “It’s not just bad, but a veritable chalice of wretchedness, a rattling, thumping, lolling tragedy of a car.”
 
4. Hummer H2
(2003 to 2009)
If ever a vehicle was a target of cultural excess and completely out of step with our nation’s social and environmental conscience, the H2 was it. Arrogantly huge with an unquenchable thirst for gasoline, the H2 not surprisingly elicited the scorn of greenies everywhere. While Toyota was building the Prius, GM was opening stand-alone Hummer dealerships. All in all, the H2 became a complete public relations disaster for GM. Last year, Hummer ran out of gas and closed its doors forever. 
 
3. Pontiac Aztek
(2001 to 2005)
Arguably the ugliest, most hideous production vehicle of all time, the Aztek was clad in more plastic than the entire 90210 ZIP code. It’s nearly impossible to imagine what GM designers were thinking when they came up with this mess and then got GM brass to approve it.
 
2. Daewoo
(1999 to present)
Actually, any Daewoo model built between 1999 and 2002. Daewoo products were known for extremely poor build quality, cheap materials, and significant safety issues. The Korean automaker declared bankruptcy in 2002. Even most car rental agencies refused to buy these cars for their fleet.
 
1. Smart
(2008 to present)
Sure it looks cute and I actually like driving small cars like the Mini Cooper, for example. But one trip behind the wheel and you won’t be smiling for long. The diminutive Smart, with its annoying sequential transmission, scary-small road presence, and unimpressive gas mileage, is overall the worst car we’ve ever driven.
JIM PRUETER, an automotive writer based in Phoenix, has provided reviews and advice about cars for more than 20 years.
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