Top Five Car Styling SetbacksCar designs that should have been left well alone
06 May 2011
Cars are getting ugly. No, not the title of a straight-to-video film starring Vin Diesel in a Ford Scorpio minicab – the reality is much worse.
Ugly and dull-looking cars are everywhere, affronting our eyes and reducing the aesthetic appeal of our streets. We’ve picked out some of the worst offenders – five cars from the past decade that have taken a definite step backward in the styling stakes.
In truth, none of them were particularly beautiful to start with, but we won’t let that stop us from giving them an (entirely subjective) pasting. We should also add that most of our choices are pretty decent cars in other respects. And remember, if you’re driving it, you don’t have to look at it…
2005 BMW 3 Series
The bread-and-butter of the BMW range, the 3 Series had always been handsome in a conservative kind of way. That all changed with the 2005 E90 model, the first Three to show the stylistic influence of Chris Bangle. An American designer who honed his skills at Vauxhall/Opel and Fiat, Bangle was determined to take BMW in a radical new direction. Out went subtle curves and in came ‘flame surfacing’, with creases and body panels that were both concave and convex.
The 3 Series was actually one of the least radical of Bangle’s BMWs, and familiarity has dulled its once-controversial impact. But park an E90 next to its E46 predecessor and the differences are clear; while the earlier car is an object lesson in understated good looks, the E90 seems fussy and over-styled. For the sake of our streets, the replacement, due in 2012, can’t come soon enough.
2010 Mazda 5
With the notable exception of the Renault Avantime, people carriers just aren’t sexy. The need to transport up to seven passengers is apparently incompatible with seductive good looks, and the best you can usually hope for is inoffensive blandness.
That’s what Mazda achieved with the original 5, launched in 2005. Try to picture it without looking at the photo on the right – impossible isn’t it? So when Mazda revealed the new 5 in 2010 (in truth, more a comprehensive facelift than a new car) the designers were determined to make it distinctive
They succeeded. The latest 5 has gaping fish mouth that only its mother could love and bizarre full-length creases along its flanks. They’re inspired by the wind blowing across water (obviously), but look more like the aftermath of a parking accident. As one of the Which? Car team commented: “If you took off the Mazda badges it could be a Ssangyong”. Nuff said, really.
2010 Nissan Murano
When it first appeared in 2002, Nissan’s Murano 4x4 had all the makings of a cult hit. It boasted a (slightly detuned) version of the 3.5 V6 engine from the 350Z sports car and space-age styling that was like nothing else on the road. Plus, if you buy one in black, it bears an uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader’s helmet.
Sadly, that brawny petrol V6 was also the Murano’s Achilles’ heel; its 23mpg thirst sent buyers scurrying towards diesel Freelanders and X3s. Five years later, Nissan finally answered our calls with a relatively frugal (35mpg claimed) 2.5-litre diesel engine. Ironically, it then sabotaged the Murano’s other USP with a facelift that even David Gest might baulk at.
While the basic proportions of the car remain the same, the Murano’s nose is now adorned with enough chrome to shame a Fifties Cadillac; it looks like the stylist slapped the shiny stuff on with trowel. The result, if you catch it in your rear-view mirror, is just plain terrifying. Be afraid...
2010 Porsche Cayenne
Porsche was clearly so enamoured with the 911 that it transformed its first 4x4 (and indeed, the more recent Panamera luxo-hatch) into a bloated facsimile of that classic shape. Much has been written about the Cayenne’s ugliness, so it’s something of an achievement that Porsche contrived to make the latest 2010 model look even worse.
Chief among the changes is a front end that’s yet more 911-esque, with sleeker curves that seem at odds with the Cayenne’s boxy shape. Searingly bright LED running lights – the gaudy jewellery of every upmarket German car – are now housed within the air intakes.
At the rear meanwhile, there are no such distinguishing features; the portly Porsche offers unfortunate echoes of the Hyundai Santa Fe. Still, none of this changes the fact that the Cayenne is now Porsche’s best-selling model – so what do we know, eh?
2011 Volkswagen Eos
Let’s be honest, the latest Eos isn’t an especially ugly car; park it next to a Peugeot 308CC and it actually starts to look quite handsome. But the Eos is bland. Blander than a fresh coat of magnolia paint, in fact, and as instantly forgettable as an ex-Big Brother contestant.
It wasn’t always this way. The original Eos of 2006 did at least have its own identity, with pointy headlamps and a chrome-ringed snout that set it apart from other coupé-convertibles.
Now the 2011 Eos is here, and it has the Volkswagen family face – as seen on every VW from the Polo supermini to the Phaeton limo. To make matters worse, the German giant has just launched a new Golf cabrio and – we’re not exaggerating here – it looks EXACTLY THE SAME as the Eos. Call it vanity, but we thought one of the reasons for buying a convertible was to look cool. In the new Eos, nobody will give you a second glance.
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