Worst cars of the year? 2012’s least-inspiring efforts

Automotive history
The Mini Paceman is certainly one of the ugliest cars of the year

Like the Razzies before the Oscars, it’s time to look at the automotive lowlights of 2012 and hope that the car industry learns from these experiences to make a better motoring future for us all (of course, pigs might start flying too), before we move on later this week to celebrate the best that the year had to offer.  While it might be unfair to describe these as the worst cars of the year (in fact, some of them are really rather good), they are all still underwhelming in one way or another.

Plus, we recognise the entirely unsurprising demise of the car industry’s most infamous leader.

Unexpectedly ugly – Audi Q3

Audi's entrant for ugliest cars of the year is the new Q3

Audi Q3 – looks like an origami roller skate

It’s said that even great artists can have a bad day.  Well, it certainly applies to Audi with the new Q3.  Audi’s designs are normally smooth and slick – even if their cars do tend to all look alike, they are usually exceptionally well executed and finely detailed.  The Q3, however, is visually the runt of the Audi litter.  It’s proportions are awkward and unless you option huge wheels when you order one (which will ruin the ride), it looks a bit like an old-school roller skate.  Even with big wheels, it still looks like an Audi A3 on stilts, so you may as well just get a new A3 and enjoy a car with similar room but better economy and performance for less money.

Unsurprisingly ugly – MINI Paceman / MINI Coupé

MINI - always an entrant in Ugliest Cars Of The Year

MINI – stretching the badge’s credibility with these offerings

BMW has spent the last decade trying to build a whole car company out of the image of one model, and the current range of MINIs reflects the inevitable problem with that approach – it’s impossible to make a 4.1m long bulky 4×4 coupé (the Paceman) look anything like a small hatchback from the 1960s.

BMW’s first MINI, launched in 2001, was a good-looking car and a spectacular success.  Its successor, launched in 2006, just managed to retain enough of the original Mini’s appearance and proportions to justify the name.  But ever since then, BMW has struggled to broaden the range while keeping any semblance of resemblance to the car which gave its name to the whole company.  Their latest efforts (Countryman, Paceman, Coupé) are astonishingly ugly vehicles with considerable limitations compared to their competition, and are surely heavily dependent on people’s association of the name with the original.  How much longer can that last, especially since MINI are rumoured to be adding a 5-door hatch, an MPV and a saloon to the range in coming years?

Why are we here again? – SEAT

Are SEATS among the most pointless cars of the year for 2012?

The SEAT Ibiza – it’s not bad, but why not just buy a Polo?

The Volkswagen Group is a massive organisation, comprising the VW, Audi, Škoda, SEAT, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti and Porsche car brands.  Out of all of those, SEAT is the one brand that seems to have no real purpose for existing.  One of SEAT’s roles is to sit under VW as a budget brand, which is a job being done much better by fellow family member Škoda.  It was then suggested that SEAT would be a sporty brand in the Alfa Romeo mould, yet its range is notably unsporty and uninspiring.  There is not one model in the SEAT range which is any better than other comparable cars in the Volkswagen family, so why bother having the brand at all?

Pointless TOWIE design detailing – Land Rover Range Rover

Range-Rover-door-vents-worst-cars-of-the-year-2012

Who put those fake door vent things there? Has Posh Spice been let loose in the design studio again?

Whilst it is apparently a very fine car to drive or be driven in, it’s a pity that the Land Rover design team managed to make their new Range Rover flagship look even more chintzy than the old one. Over the decade of the previous model’s production cycle, Land Rover took BMW’s original design (BMW owned LR at the time) and progressively blinged it up with lashings of chrome and fairy lights. The new Range Rover picks up where they left off, with even more bling, but the most pointless detail is surely the huge trio of vertical lines on the front doors, which serve no function whatsoever but are supposed to represent the air vents from the previous model. Chavtacular.

The Golden Photocopier award – Volkswagen Golf

cars of the year - Golden Photocopier Award - VW Golf

Can you tell which VW is the Golf and which is the Polo?

Having been held by Audi for many years, this award has moved to parent company Volkswagen for 2012.

The VW Golf has been the benchmark for smallish hatchbacks for nearly 40 years now, and the new model recently launched looks set to continue the tradition.  Volkswagen is traditionally conservative in designing each new Golf, but the new model has taken this to new lengths.  Not only does the new Golf look very similar to the old one, it also seems that VW has taken the blueprints for the Polo and simply enlarged them by 1.25x.

Ugliest concept car – Bentley EXP 9F

Bentley EXP-9F, one of the ugliest cars of the year. Any year.

Bentley EXP-9F concept: The Elephant Man of SUVs

Not just the ugliest concept car seen in 2012, but possibly the ugliest ever, was undoubtedly the Bentley EXP 9F 4×4.  Bentley’s idea for taking on the Range Rover in the overpriced luxury SUV market was a tank-like design apparently drawn by a 9-year-old.  Fortunately, Bentley’s overlords at Volkswagen appear to have taken heed of worldwide derision for the EXP 9F’s looks, and it is being substantially redesigned for production.

Ugliest modified car – Mansory Mercedes CLS

worst cars of the year - Mansory Mercedes CLS - ugliest modified car 2012

Not exactly what Mercedes-Benz designers had in mind

Mansory are renowned for their, er, dramatic modifications of prestige vehicles, and 2012 was no exception. With bodykits for the Lamborghini Aventador, Bentley Continental GT and McLaren MP4-12C being unveiled this year, Mansory are able to uglify almost any exotic car you can imagine.  But their assault on the Mercedes-Benz CLS narrowly edges their other efforts to be the ugliest of them all.  Truly awful.

Unsurprisingly sacked – Dany Bahar, ex-CEO of Lotus

Dany-Bahar-disaster-cars-of-the-year-2012

“And next, we plan to build 43 new models and sponsor every racing team in the world”

If Lotus fails to survive its latest perilous financial situation, historians will no doubt hold Dany Bahar largely responsible. Whether or not that’s fair, he certainly presented the motoring world with a big enough target in less than 3 years as CEO. Recruited for his supposed marketing expertise after spells in brand marketing roles at Red Bull and Ferrari, it became quite clear that Bahar had no idea how to run a car company, let alone rescue one which had been slowly sliding towards oblivion for several years. While few in the motoring media wanted to jeopardise their relationship with Lotus and be denied free loan cars by printing doubts or criticisms, others had less hesitation in pointing out that launching six brand new concept cars when you had no money to build any of them was more than a little foolish. As was spending money sponsoring racing teams in a multitude of categories, none of which were running Lotus cars (the Lotus F1 team, for example, has absolutely nothing to do with Lotus Cars). Embarrassingly, the Lotus Indycars had to be black flagged from the Indy 500 in May for being so slow that they were endangering the other cars. Never has a car company’s image been so tarnished as Lotus under Bahar’s reign. Very few people seem to have been disappointed when the Malaysian owners of Lotus finally pulled the trigger and sent him packing.

Well, now that we have the worst aspects of 2012 out of the way, click here to read about the best cars of the year on TheCarExpert.co.uk!

Rodney J. Pilkington

Superstar guest blogger Rodney J. Pilkington writes selected articles exclusively for The Car Expert, when he’s not conquering civilisations, winning various martial arts World Championships or saving Gotham City.

3 Comments

  1. For me, the ugliest car this year was the BMW 1 series. I don’t know how they made the new one even uglier than the old one!

    Reply
    • Stuart Masson

      I agree Jose, it’s not pretty. Luckily for BMW, the new 1-series was launched in 2011, not 2012, so it wasn’t eligible!

  2. Hello! I simply wish to offer you a big thumbs up for the great information you have got here on this post. I will be returning to your blog for more soon.

    Reply

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