Not every car can be beautiful. While there are always good-looking cars, no one has forgotten the strange lines of the Subaru Baja or the Pontiac Aztek's angular proportions. Though these cars were disliked for their ugly-duckling exteriors, at least they were remembered for their unique looks and innovative features. The Baja and Aztek have long been discontinued, but there's a new crop of ugly -- and sometimes just plain boring -- ducklings on the market.
These cars have the lowest exterior scores in the U.S. News Car Rankings. The rankings do not rely on U.S. News editors' preferences or test drives. Rather, our editors have analyzed credible third-party reviews from major newspapers, magazines and websites. Each car gets a score based on those reviews, and that score represents our assessment of auto writers' collective opinions.
The result is a list of cars many auto experts say have the least appealing looks in their classes. However, just because critics aren't wild about these cars' looks doesn't mean they aren't worthy in other ways. In fact, the positive qualities underneath their less-than-desirable skins may surprise you.
Exterior Score: 5.2 (out of a possible 10)
BMW's new 1-Series sedan is perhaps the most surprising car on the list. Because it's a young model, you'd think the styling should be fresh and cutting-edge. However, while the 1-Series boasts excellent handling and strong build quality, its exterior design is largely unpopular with reviewers. Why? Reviewers see it as an unevenly shrunken version of the popular and larger 3-Series, and describe it as out-of-proportion and misshapen. The Los Angeles Times says it "looks like it has suffered a high-speed hernia," while Car and Driver says it "looks a bit like a 3-series coupe in a fun house mirror." But the 1-Series is proof that beauty isn't skin deep. It was a nominated for 2009 North American Car of the Year and is a Consumer Guide Recommended Pick.
Chrysler Town & Country
Exterior Score: 5.7
Minivans certainly aren't known for their slick styling. However, in recent years automakers have tried to make them look more appealing and less like actual minivans. That's probably why the Chrysler Town & Country receives lukewarm exterior reviews. While competitors such as the Toyota Sienna boast trendier styling and sharp edges, Chrysler's minivan hasn't quite caught up. "Although Chrysler has improved the Town & Country's exterior styling, it still looks like a minivan-which is to say, big and dumpy," says BusinessWeek. But styling doesn't mean much to a minivan owner - it's what on the inside that counts, and the Town & Country delivers. Reviewers find that its handy seating and cargo options as well as its comfortable road manners make it a respectable choice for any family. In this case, prioritizing utility over style might be a smart move.
Exterior Score: 5.8
The Dodge Durango is another example of a car that simply hasn't kept up with design trends. Based on an almost five-year-old design, the large SUV has been discontinued for the 2009 model year. While others in its class, such as the Mazda CX-9, have migrated toward upscale, angular styling, the Durango still takes its styling cures from the Dodge Ram truck. This gives it a more aggressive and macho look than other SUVs in the class, but many reviewers say it simply looks dated. While Automobile Magazine says the Durango's big-rug look "radiates character and attitude," they also add that the look is "a bit antisocial for some." Still, the Durango is a decent hauler, with both V8 engine options generating mostly favorable test drives. Also, since dealers will want to move this discontinued model off lots, you may be able to negotiate a great deal on a Durango - and a great deal is always in style.
Mercury Grand Marquis
Exterior Score: 5.9
With its comfortable, pillow-soft ride and voluminous interior and cargo space, the Mercury Grand Marquis harkens to classic American sedans. Its attractive pricing further recalls its classic American heritage - but its classic styling isn't quite exciting enough for many auto experts. Little changed over the past decade, its exterior is "a familiar profile to anyone who has traveled by taxi (or, uh, police car) in recent years," says Automobile Magazine. Consumer Guide adds that the Grand Marquis is "a nice enough big sedan, but suffers from a Reagan-era basic design." On the plus side, now that the similar-looking Ford Crown Victoria is only sold as a fleet vehicle, the Grand Marquis is your only option if you want to look like a police officer.
Exterior Score: 5.9
Reviewers appreciate the 2009 Kia Amanti's cabin for its nice finish, long list of features, and comfortable seats. Due to its luxurious interior and alluring pricing, it also represents a good value. However, there's nothing eye-catching about its exterior design. Although reviewers don't hate it, they aren't very impressed by it either. Edmunds calls the Amanti's styling "a significant sticking point for some shoppers. It's not a bad-looking car, but in borrowing noticeable cues from other brands like Mercedes-Benz the Amanti's designers ended up with a rather awkward overall look." On the plus side, those similarities mean the Amanti carries design elements from much more expensive cars, further improving its value equation.
Subaru Impreza WRX
Exterior Score: 5.9
Unlike minivans, performance car styling counts for a lot. These speedy rides are expected to look as fast as they can go. Since its 2008 redesign, some reviewers say the Subaru Impreza WRX's looks don't deliver. It still boasts superb performance and handling dynamics, but many reviewers are disappointed with Subaru's decision to tame the WRX's look. The decision was made so that the rally racer would appeal to a broader audience, but it's resulted in the alienation of WRX enthusiasts. AutoWeek writes, "Styling is stale and looks as if the folks at Subaru have the Kia Spectra designer working weekends for them. Not that it's ugly; it's just boring." Still, just because the WRX doesn't look as exciting doesn't mean it's not just as impressive on the inside. The New York Times concludes, "Styling arguments aside, the WRX remains fun to drive and decently priced."