Fact: There are almost no genuinely bad new cars on the market today in the United States. But there are some that clearly don't perform up to the standards we've come to expect in the increasingly competitive new car market.
That said, there are some pretty miserable new cars available for delivery in other markets across the globe, but high buyer expectations and a tightly regulated safety market have done their best to weed out the “crap cars” once easy enough to find in new car dealers.
With this in mind, the editors of Leftlane put our heads together to compile a list of 10 lousy new cars, none of which we can wholeheartedly recommend. Collectively, we put hundreds of thousands of miles on brand new cars in the interest of delivering unbiased reviews, so we like to think that our credentials are up to par.
We looked only at regular series production cars available for the 2012 or 2013 model year produced by mainstream automakers in the U.S.. To qualify for our list, a lousy car needs to be available in dealerships everywhere – or at least in larger cities – and it probably goes without saying that the car needs to be both pretty lousy in absolute terms and genuinely dreadful against its direct competitive set. To help you in your shopping quest, we've also listed an excellent alternative vehicle that you should look at instead.
In no particular order...
The 10 Worst New Cars
Mitsubishi Outlander. Crossovers – SUV-like vehicles riding on comfort-oriented passenger car chassis – are all the rage, and Mitsubishi was actually one of the first to get in on the game. Unfortunately, time has passed the dowdy Outlander by, which leaves it feeling much older than its circa-2007 design might suggest. A new Outlander set to arrive for the 2014 model year can't come soon enough. We hope it shares little other than its name with the current model.
Instead consider... The Toyota Highlander.
Chrysler 200 Convertible. Chrysler refreshed and renamed its Sebring convertible a few years ago, and while the improvements made a difference, they didn't go far enough. Mushy handling, odd interior proportions and powertrains that either under or overwhelm the chassis make this droptop feel really outclassed. It's time for Chrysler to start over completely, hopefully channeling some of the qualities that make the Dodge Charger and Jeep Grand Cherokee such appealing vehicles.
Instead consider... The Ford Mustang Convertible.
Acura ILX. Here's an example of a car that isn't terrible in absolute terms yet comes up awfully short against its rivals. Based on the Honda Civic, the ILX feels exactly like what it is: A Civic with sound deadening and a nicer interior But with a refreshed 2013 Civic just now hitting the road, the gap between the two has shrunk, eroding what little value the underpowered ILX offered. On top of it all, the ILX is only slightly cheaper than the much more upscale TSX, which makes it no surprise that Acura isn't meeting its sales expectations.
Instead consider... The Buick Verano.
Jeep Compass. Jeep did the near-impossible when it unveiled the refreshed 2011 Compass: It made ugly even uglier. If the Compass was a decent car underneath, we might forgive its awkward looks, but there's no disguising a weak, thirsty engine and a dreadful continuously variable transmission. At least its Jeep Patriot sister is cheap and rather good looking, two accolades we can't bestow on the Compass.
Instead consider... The Mazda CX-5.
Toyota Corolla. The poster child of mediocrity, the Corolla embodies so much of what auto scribes and enthusiasts alike lament about mass market vehicles. Mushy to drive, bland to look at and not even particularly fuel efficient, Corolla is the automotive equivalent of eating every meal at Shoney's when affordable farm-to-table restaurants are popping up all over the place. Come on, America: You can do better.
Instead consider... The Chevrolet Cruze.
Lincoln Navigator. Our eyes! People buy these? We wonder that every time we see a Navigator. The big luxury 'ute that was once a rapper's go-to vehicle has become increasingly irrelevant, not to mention hardly worthy of its sky-high price tag. Truth be told, the stronger-selling Cadillac Escalade is not a huge improvement, but at least the crested wreath brand's rival is faster and a bit more tasteful in terms of its gaudiness.
Instead consider... The Infiniti QX56.
Smart ForTwo. What's cool in Europe doesn't always work so well on this side of the pond. A balky transmission and a wheezy engine make the innovative ForTwo a dreadful companion even on the urban streets it was designed to inhabit. Since nose-in parking is generally illegal here, the ForTwo's biggest urban advantage has been ruled irrelevant. At least Scion's copycat iQ rides and drives pretty well.
Instead consider... The Scion iQ.
Volkswagen Jetta S. Spend your way up the Jetta options chart and you'll find an excellent turbodiesel in the TDI and a sporty GLI, but the base S model offers few assets aside from a low price and a big back seat. Cheaply finished inside, its worst attribute by far is an antiquated 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine that has the gall to be both slow and not particularly fuel efficient. Rivals offer so much more desirability for about the same price, but that's not stopping VW from selling Jettas left and right.
Instead consider... The Ford Focus.
Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon. Compact pickup shoppers have fewer and fewer choices every day, it seems. We urge you, the buying public, to bypass your General Motors showroom's Chevrolet and GMC twins, which combine lousy five-cylinder engines with cramped, low-buck cabins and iffy ride and handling qualities. With trucks like these sitting on dealer lots, it's no wonder that buyers have abandoned this segment en masse. Neither officially returns for 2013, but you can well bet that there are plenty of leftovers sitting around.
Instead consider... The Toyota Tacoma.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Looking like the kind of golf cart retirees in Florida use to whizz through their gated communities, the i-MiEV is grossly outclassed. Not only does its ultra-short range limit it to staying within shouting distance of an electrical outlet, its cramped, cheap interior and goofy styling do it no favors. The i-MiEV is the worst new car we've ever tested.
Instead consider... The Honda Fit EV.