One of the reasons why SUVs are so popular nowadays is that the segment has very strict design rules. However, the truth is that those rules were created the hard way: after years of experience accumulated with countless cases of both successful and failed models released around the world.
Unfortunately, some of those cases ended in serious failure. Models which were equipped with good qualities, such as comfortable cabins, powerful engines, and affordable prices, also featured such a bad external design that this one aspect became the main reason why customers turned their heads away from them.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion when it comes to design, of course, but it seems that most car connoisseurs are in unison in their hatred for a few particular ghastly designs in a few specific models. Take a look at them: what do you think of these SUVs listed below? Do you agree with what the majority of people think of them?
Table of Contents
Ugly Chevrolet SUVs
Chevrolet Trailblazer (2016-present)
The large SUV designed for emergent markets became a typical case of half-life facelift where the new parts do not really go well with the old ones. Both upper and lower grilles are divided by thick bars, so there are too many visual elements to interpret. More recently, the upscale Premier trim divided the grille area yet again and added the “Chevrolet” name in unnecessarily coarse lettering.
Ugly Ford SUVs
Ford Flex (2008-2019)
One of the last applications of the New Edge design identity was a full-size crossover which seems to have been designed with nothing but a ruler. While it carried three rows of people with plenty of room, that boxy design was hard to ignore. The 2013 facelift gave it two thick chrome bars, one on the radiator grille and the other on the rear door, but we cannot really say they made it handsome.
Ford EcoSport (2017-present)
After a first generation sold exclusively in Latin America, the EcoSport was revamped in 2012 with a global aspiration but fell short of the global expectations. The 2017 facelift updated its technology but made a lot of visual noise: lower portion painted up front and blackened on the rest, fog lights fighting for attention with the headlights, blackened roof on some trims… too much. Just too much.
Ugly Mercedes-Benz SUVs
Mercedes-Benz R-Class (2005-2013)
After being restricted to few body styles for so long, Mercedes-Benz entered the 2000s with a clear intention to broaden its scope. The R-Class was one of the products of this new wave and even had an AMG version, but things didn’t work out. The circular/triangular headlights were weird, and the long, horizontal roofline was simply undecided between a station wagon, a minivan or an SUV.
Source: art_zzz (www.stock.adobe.com)
Ugly BMW SUVs
BMW i3 (2013-present)
|It seems like BMW was so confident about its fully electric compact model made of carbon fiber that it deemed its design not worthy of the same refinement. From the blackened trunk lid to that deformed rear window, it seems that the maker is obsessed with the appearance of some parts and forgot about others altogether – or simply about balancing the proportions of all of them.
Ugly Chrysler Group SUVs
Dodge Ramcharger (1998-2001)
After a successful career with a sturdy body and old-school design, the Ramcharger lived on borrowed time thanks to the Mexican branch. Taking the front end from the Ram 1500 pickup of that time was a great idea and repeating the two-door body used on the previous generation was acceptable. Borrowing the rear design from the second-generation Caravan minivan, on the other hand, wasn’t.
Jeep Compass (2006-2016)
Something was lost in translation when the Compass reached the production line for the first time. The cool-looking, two-door concept was turned into a misshapen blob which managed to force CJ-inspired circular headlights and hidden rear door handles à la Alfa Romeo 156 into the very same body. Fortunately, the model became much more handsome starting with the half-life facelift.
Source: Виталий Сова(www.stock.adobe.com)
Dodge Nitro (2007-2012)
Based on the second-generation Jeep Liberty, the Nitro was the first Dodge-branded car to reach the European market. However, those tiny windows, lights, and grilles separated by thick columns in a quite boxy body did not look as good as the manufacturers would have expected. At least, some of its trim versions disguised part of that by using a chrome frame that enclosed the headlights and Dodge’s four-part radiator grille.
Jeep Cherokee (2014-2018)
The taillights and the bumper were moved so further to the upper and lower ends of the rear end that the central portion simply became empty. On the sides, the front overhangs could be shorter. Now, when it comes to the front, it received a deformed seven-slot grille, blinkers isolated on top, and ridiculous headlights. Sales only went back to the regular volumes after the 2018 facelift.
Source: Mike Mareen(www.stock.adobe.com)
Ugly GM SUVs
Pontiac Aztek (2001-2005)
There is so much content published on this topic that one could write a book in as much detail as they wanted. The front end looks like a car fell onto another, the greenhouse is boxy, narrow, and tall, the short, sloped rear looks clumsy, and the very first version had too much plastic cladding on the sides. Sadly, not even the half-life facelift could do much to save its image in the market.
Buick Rendezvous (2002-2007)
Sharing the Aztek’s platform did not give it a good start, but the Buick SUV managed to make a few mistakes of its own: the rounded headlights and grille did not match the boxy design of the rest of the body, the wraparound rear windows and windshield look lumpy, the horizontal taillights are inexpressive… and the excessive cladding appeared again. It lived only a little longer than the Aztek.
GMC Envoy XUV (2004-2005)
Creating long-wheelbase versions is tricky. Despite decades of experience with the Suburban, GM managed to deform the original Envoy’s rear end when trying to simply stretch it a little. The problem with the rear quarter’s design is that it simply does not fit with the rest of the SUV; the only good thing there was the possibility to retract part of the roof so as to transport taller objects.
Isuzu VehiCROSS (1997-2001)
This ugly Isuzu SUV is hard to miss. The microscopic lights seemed lost in the middle of excessive plastic cladding. Parallel to that, the only explanation for such a wide C-pillar is harming visibility from the inside on purpose. And those creases applied exclusively to the doors…it’s too difficult to keep trying to justify this car’s design solutions. Let’s just be glad it lasted only a few years in the market.
Ugly Honda (Acura) SUVs
Acura ZDX (2010-2013)
While Acura anticipated the trend of coupé SUVs, it definitely did not help make it popular. The ZDX managed to look too short for SUV standards and too lumpy for a coupé, made the body’s rear quarter visually convoluted with glass dividers and hidden door handles, and had the misfortune to come at the time when Acura’s visual identity was centered on that beak-shaped radiator grille.
Honda Element (2003-2011)
While the small, cube-shaped grilles, lights, and windows are a stylistic problem of their own, seeing all that plastic cladding can only make us ask “why?”. What was designed to be a casual counterpart to the CR-V ended adopting a more conventional trim a few years after the initial debut but did not last more than one generation. Honda decided to compete in the SUV market with other models.
Honda Crosstour (2010-2015)
The result of stripping a ZDX of Acura’s premium design touches is a coupé crossover just as bulky but also visually pointless. The front end was simply inexpressive while the rear end looked like a swollen sedan – this model was initially named Accord Crosstour to use the sedan’s image to help boost its sales. No wonder why this automaker has not released any other coupé SUV ever since.
Ugly Hyundai (Kia) SUVs
Hyundai Santa Fe (2000-2012)
Bulges, cladding, and creases were in fashion in the early 2000s, but only when they were designed with some sense. The very first Santa Fe arrived at a time when Hyundai was lost design-wise and it shows. At least the company learned its lesson some years later: the smaller sibling Tucson came in 2004 sporting a miniature interpretation of the same visual concept but looked much better.
Hyundai Veracruz (2006-2015)
The South Korean maker went another direction with its largest SUV but managed to fail again. The full-size SUV has its visual elements lost in a sea of clean-shaped sheet metal. Besides, those arched roofs and windows look like an ill-advised attempt to make it somewhat sporty. Hyundai would only make the right decision in 2012 when Santa Fe was redesigned to absorb its market share.
Ugly Toyota (Lexus) SUVs
Toyota Harrier (1997-2003)
The Japanese SUV which eventually spawned the Lexus RX debuted with an identity crisis: the front end was bland and generic even for the 1990s, the sides were too similar to the Mercedes-Benz ML’s (which debuted in the same year), and the rear featured visually disconnected third windows and tail lights which seem to have been borrowed from a completely different car, like a sedan.
Lexus LX (1998-2007)
Yes, many people complain about the latest generations because of that oversized spindle grille. However, even worse than such an excessive personality may be having no personality at all. Based on the Toyota Land Cruiser, the second-generation LX sported tiny taillights and a front end where nothing seems to make sense – what were they thinking when creating those double headlights?
Source: Aleksandr Kondratov(stock.adobe.com)
Toyota FJ Cruiser (2007-2018)
While the model did pay tribute to Toyota’s history of off-road capability, it could have done so in a prettier way. Lights and windows seem too small in such a large body, there was too much plastic cladding (a lot of models have this issue), and those C-pillars were just too wide compared to the rest of the visual elements. Those suicide rear doors were a nice touch of creativity, though.
Ugly Nissan (Infiniti) SUVs
Infiniti QX56 (2004-2010)
The badge-engineered version of a full-size SUV derived from a pickup ended just as messy as its origins suggest. The QX56 forced rectangular lights and grille onto a body whose external style was rounded enough to include a weird dome above the front and rear doors. The 2010 facelift, with the lumped front grille and angular headlights at a low position, definitely did not help its case.
Nissan Juke (2011-2017)
This car could be considered as “over designed”: fenders, grilles, lights, windows, all elements fight for your attention, and everything becomes even more overwhelming because it takes place on such a small model. Fortunately, the second generation managed to coordinate itself somewhat better: the aggressive design was repeated, now with a clearer role for each visual element.
Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet (2011-2014)
Beautiful SUVs are usually solid and imposing, while beautiful convertibles are often delicate and sporty. Easy to guess that mixing those body styles would lead to disaster, right? Apparently, not for Nissan: this version of the Murano was ugly regardless of whether the soft top was up or down and soon became a punchline. The base model reached its next-generation only as an SUV again.
Ugly SsangYong SUVs
SsangYong Korando (1996-2006)
Apparently, short-wheelbase versions are also difficult to create. The South Korean maker wanted a smaller SUV based on the Musso’s platform but created a front end whose long and narrow design makes us think that designers got too excited when making prototypes with modeling clay. The Korando would only receive a conventional design years later, as part of the maker’s latest phase.
SsangYong Kyron (2005-2007)
The front end stacks literally four types of grilles. The sides have a crease that is strong enough to make the windows and rear windshield look like they were welded from another car in a rush. And we cannot define why exactly the taillights look so bad: being shaped as medieval shields or having an excessively small size. At least the tail light problem was corrected by the model’s first facelift.
SsangYong Actyon (2005-present)
If Honda already had a hard time executing the coupé SUV design for 2010, doing that five years earlier could only have had a worse result. The Kyron’s sloped rear end looks like it was chopped with an ax, while the front end repulses us with a pointy grille placed at an excessively high position, and those misshapen headlights do not know if they are triangular or circular.
Other well-known and ugly SUVs
Subaru B9 Tribeca (2005-2007)
That weird front end is supposedly inspired by old Alfa Romeo racing cars – no idea why that would be the muse of another automaker. Now, that B9 part in front of the name–no one really knows what happened there. People’s reactions were awful, of course, and Subaru came to its senses right in 2007, when the car went through a rushed facelift. Besides that, it was named only “Tribeca”.
Suzuki XL7 (2007-2009)
After a forgettable first generation, the XL7 had a complete makeover which did not turn out so well. The arched windows just do not go well with the boxy roofline, the axles are too far from the ends, and those headlights seem like Suzuki had no idea of how to fill that room on the front end. That weird design is certainly part of the reasons why the SUV did not have another generation.
Lincoln MKT (2010-2019)
Back when the crossover trend was emerging, in the late 2000s, some cars did better at dictating the segment’s rules than others. While the Ford-owned Lincoln MKT’s side showed a nice mélange of SUV and station wagon concepts, the front was almost entirely taken by the double-wing grille Lincoln used at that time. The full-width tail lights, which enclosed the brand logo, did their part to make things worse.
It is easy to see why those SUVs failed design-wise– excessive use of some components, unbalanced proportions of materials and colors, downright weird solutions, and, unfortunately, a combination of all that in some cases. Again, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it is difficult to make a case in favor of those SUVs. What other ugly ones do you know, whether new or old?