While rummaging around in the darkest depths of the internet, I noticed that pretty much every wannabe car news site has a list of the worst cars ever made. So I decided I had to do one myself. But the other thing I noticed is that every single list is the same.
They all go like this:
Ford Mustang II
See what I mean? I guarantee you that at least half of those cars are on every Top Ten Worst Cars list on the Internet. And yes, with the exception of the brilliant and unfairly maligned Corvair, every car I mentioned deserves to be on that list. But nobody really wants to see that list again, do they? That is why I am changing it up, to only include cars I have personally experienced (not driven, though. Of course)
So here we go. The worst cars MotorRev has ever tried.
2010-2014 Honda Insight
Honda’s first generation Insight was a weird and fun little eco-coupe that has found fame as a base platform for all-conquering drag cars. The current generation is a more conventional Prius-fighting sedan, basically a Civic Hybrid by any other name. The one in between was a boring and miserable penalty box that tried (and failed) to serve as a credible budget alternative to the Prius. Oh sure, it was cheaper. But that didn’t mean it was worth it. Performing surgery by yourself, with a chainsaw, is much cheaper than getting a trained professional to do it with actual surgical tools. But there is a good reason why no sane human being will ever opt for the first option if given a choice.
Wait, where was I? Oh yes, the Insight. It was anemic, cramped, plasticky, stiff-riding, loud, unrefined, and came with the single worst stop/start system in the entire history of the automobile. It was not only unrefined and obtrusive, but it also shut off the air conditioning every time it came to a stop, and then took forever to get the AC going again. And then when it just started to do so, you arrived at a red light, and the whole process started all over again. This took place in Baltimore stop-start traffic. In the middle of July. There are few more effective ways to get a car on my bad side than this.
And for all of those sacrifices in the name of fuel economy, the Insight didn’t even get close to the Prius’s mileage. The EPA combined fuel economy rating for the 2010 Insight is 41. For the same model year of Prius? 50. And even though the Prius may be boring, it is a vastly better car than the Insight, which is both boring and bad at everything. There are very few cars that fail on quite as many levels as the second generation Insight.
2016-present Fiat 500X
I really didn’t get this car when it came out. I questioned why anyone who liked the Fiat 500 would have any interest at all in this weird-looking crossover. But then we tested one. And I liked it even less.
The ride is Jeep Wrangler stiff, the visibility is cavelike, the seats are rock hard, and the powertrain is gutless and unrefined. Still, at least it costs over $26K in the (mid-range!) trim we tested.
2011-2014 Ford Focus
When this generation of Focus was new, it was showered with praise from critics. I struggle to see why, because I found it to be just another rental-spec American small car.
To be fair, the exterior is handsome, and I’ve heard the handling is pretty good. But the interior is a hideous mess of lowest-bidder plastics that appear to be melting off the dash, and the dual clutch PowerShift transmission is laughably bad (as it turns out, even dangerously bad). It jerks and stumbles at low speeds (and high speeds, for that matter), and has had a myriad of reliability problems, once inspiring me to christen it the “PowerS**t” in a moment of frustration. In 2015, Ford fixed most of these complaints, but by then everyone had moved on, and the Focus was relegated to perpetual also-ran status.
Note: This only applies to garden-variety Foci. I have ridden in an RS (because I am too young to drive it), and it ruled. I expect I would feel the same way about the ST.
2012-2019 Volkswagen Beetle (base trim only)
My uncle had one of these as a rental once, and it was here that I was introduced to three important facts of life.
One: VW’s base-model plastics are terrible beyond belief
Two: Gray Beetles have a piano-black strip of plastic on the dash
Three: In the middle of June, said plastics get approximately ten times hotter than the surface of the sun.
Just as I did with the Focus, I am exempting certain models from this list, because higher-end Beetles have tolerable interiors
2012 Honda Civic and 2013-present Nissan Sentra
I have pretty much nothing to say about these. They are cars. Cars with boring styling, cheap, noisy interiors, and stiff rides. The Sentra is the worse of the two, but the Honda is about a million times more frustrating. I expect this sort of bottom-feeder crap from Nissan, but I know Honda can do so much better. They just couldn’t be bothered. Which, honestly, sums up the approach to both these cars pretty well.
Our 2017 Subaru Forester
In 2014, Motor Trend named the 4th-generation Forester SUV of the Year. I don’t know what they were smoking when they did, but that’s the decision they made. I’m here to tell you: Don’t listen to MT. We own a 2017 Forester, which is basically the same as the one they crowned SUVOTY, and our Forester is a truly dismal machine with mediocre road manners and an A/C system that broke in the middle of June and stayed broken for about two weeks (or, until we found the time to take it to the dealership and get it fixed). Actually, merely being broken would be much better than what happened to the A/C. Not only did it not blow cool air, it actively blew hot air. And it would not stop.
But my biggest problem with this car is simple. Like the Honda Civic I just mentioned, it feels like nobody who made this Forester really cared enough to make it good. I know Subaru can do better, because we used to own a 2004 Forester, and it was better in every single way than our current one. Better than a Forester made 13 years later. This is not how things should be. The whole point of a new model is that it should be better than the old one, and ours definitely isn’t.
On the plus side, it does have a manual transmission.
Our old 2001 Ford Taurus wagon
Do I really need to explain why this was A Bad Car? This is easily the second-worst car we have ever owned. The exterior was a horrible shade of maroon (sorry, “Metallic Chestnut”), the interior was covered in cracked and peeling tan leather, and it had a bulbous “futuristic” shape that prompted my uncle to nickname it “The Peanut”. We bought it from my grandmother for a price so low I am not allowed to disclose it in this article. And it was pretty much exactly as you would expect. Sluggish powertrain, squishy ride, mediocre everything. It did at least have rear-facing third-row seats, however, and it had character (of a sort), so I find myself liking it more than our current Forester (which has no character whatsoever).
Toward the end of our Peanut ownership, a tree fell on it after a storm. This did not kill it, however. It merely peeled off one of the rear doors and smashed several windows. I have to admit, I was impressed at how it so easily shrugged off being crushed by a tree. We replaced the windows, and “sourced” a door from a junkyard. The door was silver, so it gave our car a two-tone paint job (sort of).
Eventually, though, the inevitable happened. The Peanut started developing myriad reliability problems. I believe they centered around the electrics and the Duratec V6 engine. (The latter was, I think, a noted trouble spot of the Tauruses that had it). Eventually, we donated The Peanut to our local NPR station, and I don’t know what happened to it then. I assume it probably spent a while in a U-Pull-It yard somewhere before going to the crusher. Maybe it received one last blaze of glory in a demolition derby. Sometimes I almost miss it. But don’t tell anybody.
So which car is worst? The Insight, easily. It still astonishes me today how bad that car was, and how miserably it failed in pretty much every single metric. The fact that I prefer a then-10 year old Ford Taurus speaks volumes. The Focus is very terrible, mainly due to the transmission and having one of the worst interiors I have ever seen. The 500X lies towards the better end of the list, as does the Beetle, and the Civic, Sentra, and Forester are, unsurprisingly, middle of the road in this company. Neither the best nor the worst.
That just leaves The Peanut. From an objective standpoint, it is on the bad end of the scale. But nothing about cars is objective, at least not to me. And for that reason, it is the car here that I like the most. Or should that be “hate the least”? In the philosophy of the Subaru Forester’s designers and engineers: “Whatever, who cares?”
If you have any questions or comments for me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find me on Twitter @MotorRevRory. If you are cool enough to know what Drivetribe is, you can find me there as Rory Cahill.
Rory Cahill is a highly sarcastic teenage car enthusiast and amateur automotive journalist, who is especially interested in 80s/90s cars, classic off-roaders, and anything weird. He owns a 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300D Turbodiesel. He is also very interested in rock music and politics, and wrote this whole bio in the third person because he is a filthy, filthy snob