Many consider foreign cars to be more desirable than their domestic alternatives. Companies like Honda and Toyota became huge hits in the American market as they offered reliable and fun to drive alternatives to American vehicles. Other than the Mustang and Suburban, American companies don’t really have models that have become household names. Cars like the Civic, Accord, Camry, Corolla, and Tacoma aren’t necessarily the sexiest names in the business, but they are top sellers in their segments and have a reputation for being solid reliable vehicles. Meanwhile, European brands are the most popular choice when it comes to performance and luxury cars. Even when an American car, such as the Ford Taurus, manages to outperform and out-sell its competition, it’ll eventually be ruined in a future generation, and the foreign competition will retake its position at the top.
Imported cars have earned their reputation through creating durable designs and providing solid competition to flaky domestic products. After all, in the past American cars weren’t even close to the Japanese and European offerings in terms of performance and build quality. Despite these foreign brands becoming rather popular, not every car that comes from them is a success. In fact, some of their vehicles are horribly unreliable or just poorly built. As a result, here are 10 cars from the 2000s that are so bad, they will make you buy American, and 10 that deserve your attention.
20 Audi Allroad - Break Down
Audi has a smaller presence in the US than other German brands, as many will gravitate towards the likes of BMW and Mercedes before buying from the four-ringed brand. Cars like Audi’s first-generation Allroad would hardly change this consumer habit. On the surface, this luxury wagon was an appealing offering. In some ways, it was much like a premium Subaru Outback. Featuring Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system and a twin-turbo V6, this practical machine seemed like a smart purchase for those who wanted a capable car that wasn’t an SUV.
However, the Allroad suffered from a laundry-list of problems, including timing chain, air suspension, and transmission failures.
Despite these problems, the car wasn’t particularly fast either, as its seemingly impressive engine only produced 250 horsepower. Don’t let the premium badge and appearance fool you, this car isn’t worth anything.
19 Nissan Altima - Break Down
When it comes to mid-size sedans, the top two cars to pick from are the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Accord tends to be the driver-oriented choice as it can be had with powerful engines and a manual transmission, while the Camry sits firmly in the daily driver category. The Nissan Altima is in-between these two popular models. Its styling was a little more fashionable than its immediate competition, given how bland the Accord and Camry were at the time. It was offered with the usual choice of either an economical four-cylinder motor or a powerful V6. Unfortunately, the weakest link from a driving perspective was its mandatory CVT in place of a normal transmission. Further, this transmission proved to be rather frail, as replacements and rebuilds aren’t uncommon.
18 Scion tC - Break Down
Toyota isn’t usually known for making the coolest cars on the market. Really, its few exceptions are cars that have long since been discontinued, such as the Supra and MR2. In what was likely an attempt to pull in younger buyers, Toyota created the Scion brand. This new brand failed at doing that, as the majority of its cars weren’t any more appealing than Toyota’s standard offerings. Heck, after the brand disappeared, two of its models continue to be sold as Toyotas. The tC was one of the brand’s few unique cars.
This coupe was meant to be an affordable sports car, however, its Toyota Avensis underpinnings and low output motor meant that it didn’t have much performance to offer.
It didn’t help that first generation models weren’t much to look at either.
17 VW New Beetle - Break Down
Volkswagen owes its entire existence to the Beetle. The model was not only a unique offering that was fuel efficient, cheap, and cleverly packaged, but it was also a cultural icon.
This rear-engine commuter car became famous both as a popular ride in the ‘60s and as a movie star in films like the Love Bug.
After many decades of continuous production, the iconic Volkswagen’s production was halted in many countries. Years later, VW decided to pay homage to their famous little car by producing a cutesy retro hatchback dubbed New Beetle. While this model superficially resembled the original car to some extent, this new car was really just a Golf underneath, but without a sporty GTI variant available. Worse still, this New Beetle was based on the old, terrible Golf Mk. IV.
16 Nissan Versa - Break Down
Small cheap cars are usually where foreign companies really shine over the domestic competition. Unlike America, compact cars aren’t usually considered to be penalty boxes like they are in the US. This is due to expensive gas in other countries forcing many to buy small and efficient cars. As a result, foreign companies have more experience producing compacts. That said, it’s not always the smartest idea to buy an old, used budget car, even if it is made by a reputable company.
Cheap small cars, like the Nissan Versa, are usually pretty tired by the time they get traded in.
The Versa was only notable when it was new because it was the cheapest new car for sale in America, which was obvious to anyone who looked at it. Besides a dreadful interior and lackluster driving experience, the Versa wasn’t particularly reliable either.
15 Subaru Legacy - Break Down
On top of the Accord, Altima, and Camry, there’s another entry to the mid-size sedan offerings in the US in the form of the Subaru Legacy. While the Legacy is hardly a new model, only its Outback wagon variant was on anyone’s radar for many years. The newer Legacy sedans, however, are growing in popularity as a reasonable alternative to the other, more well-known mid-sizers from other brands. The Legacy’s claim to fame over those models is its standard all-wheel-drive system and many safety features. However, the Legacy suffers from a problem that has plagued Subarus for many years. Unless the car is equipped with the six-cylinder motor, a Legacy owner can expect to see a head gasket replacement at some point during their ownership, and it won’t be cheap.
14 BMW X5 - Break Down
If there’s one thing that BMW is widely known for, it's for selling some of the quickest and most fun to drive vehicles on the road. The brand has won many awards over the years, but that doesn’t mean that every car that it produces is amazing. The X5 seems like a good car on paper.
Powered by a 4.4-liter V8 and featuring some decent off-road equipment, this vehicle was an early attempt at making a performance SUV that didn’t compromise certain features that modern crossovers would eventually ditch.
However, it’s not a surprise to find out that a decade old German luxury SUV isn’t particularly reliable. Problems can range from transmission issues to needing frequent general maintenance. And being a German luxury vehicle, all of its repairs will be quite expensive.
13 Nissan Rogue - Break Down
The early 2000s demonstrated how many consumers were willing to buy any SUV so long as it had a tall driving position and was within their budget. Or sometimes when it wasn’t. To appeal to customers who were concerned with gas mileage, the car-based crossover became a popular alternative to the SUV; an alternative that continues to hog all of today’s automotive sales. Nissan joined this trend in the late 2000s with the Rogue. Despite having a unique look to it, the first-generation Rogue was an awful vehicle. Based on the already poorly-built Versa, the Rogue wasn’t very good at anything. It didn’t get great mileage, it wasn’t particularly spacious, and it certainly wasn’t fast, given that the only powertrain option was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Worst of all, its only transmission option was a CVT.
12 BMW 7 Series - Break Down
Full-size luxury cars were once the ultimate way to show off wealth in a non-showy way. The biggest name in the business is the Mercedes S-Class, but the BMW 7 Series isn’t too far behind. Despite the brand’s usual dedication to performance, it also makes an incredible luxury car that offers tons of space, a lot of technology for both driver and passengers, and a variety of smooth and powerful motors. While the current 7 Series offers many premium features while being a dependable and capable vehicle, there was a generation of this car that couldn’t do that. Throughout the 2000s, the single worst BMW 7 Series (perhaps the worst BMW ever) was offered to the public. Besides having reliability issues, including doors that can fly open while driving, this 7 Series was also horrifically ugly.
11 Honda Odyssey - Break Down
Honda is easily one of the most popular options for those seeking a reliable vehicle. It became famous in the US by offering the Civic and Accord, both of which were incredibly fuel efficient and offered build quality that was well above most American offerings at the time. One could even argue that this is still the case today. Given the brand’s penchant for creating reliable and practical vehicles, a Honda minivan should be the best option on the market.
Unfortunately, in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the Odyssey had a few problems, the biggest of which was the transmission.
While the Odyssey is certainly as practical as any other minivan, it won’t be any good if the transmission won’t send power to the wheels. Later models luckily restored the traditional Honda reliability.
10 Honda Civic - Worth Every Dollar
Compact cars are where foreign cars shine, and the Honda Civic is one of the best examples of such a car. It was first introduced to the US in the ‘70s as a fuel-efficient choice in a time of turbulent gas prices, cementing the car in everyone’s minds. After many years and alterations to the design, the Civic has yet to be built with a flaw big enough to destroy its reputation. The current Civic may be covered in sporty-looking vents, but the car still serves the same purpose so many years later and will likely keep working as a daily driver for many years to come. The model is even offered in Si and Type R trims, making it a fun choice for those who want a cheap, reliable performance car.
9 Toyota MR2 - Worth Every Dollar
Automakers seem to have universally decided that mid-engine designs are reserved only for supercars. This isn’t too surprising, as such a design will place the motor where the rear seats and trunk would normally be. Given the usual hit in practicality, automakers assume that most consumers, even ones who want a weekend car, won’t buy a that can’t handle a trip to the grocery store. However, Toyota was one of the few brands that was willing to sell a mid-engine car to the average consumer. The MR2 first debuted in the ‘80s, and only came to an end in 2007. Its final generation was fresh for the new millennium, and this MR2 did away with all practicality and basically became a budget supercar. While these cars aren’t super cheap, they’re a lot of fun for the money.
8 Toyota Tacoma - Worth Every Dollar
While trucks tend to be associated with American companies, Toyota has been selling pickups for decades. The Hilux has become an icon as one of the toughest vehicles that money can buy. This truck was eventually sold in the US under the rather generic name ‘Pickup.’ Despite the basic name, the Pickup was popular enough to garner a large following that still exists today, only it now follows the Hilux’s descendant, the Tacoma.
While the Tacoma isn’t as capable as the full-size pickups on the market, it’s still more fuel efficient and maneuverable, which is exactly what its buyers want.
Just like the Hilux and Pickup of old, the Tacoma remains incredibly durable and reliable, so much so that it can have a ridiculous resale value. Despite the natural markup on these vehicles, they can offer many years of trouble-free driving.
7 BMW 3 Series - Worth Every Dollar
There are some cars that will forever remain the king of their segment. When it comes to mid-size sports sedans, that car is the BMW 3 Series. While there have been more powerful or better handling competitors, they often aren’t as refined or well-rounded as the 3 Series. Even though the 3 Series models from the 2000s aren’t as fast as the modern cars and aren’t as incredibly iconic and balanced as the classic E30 models, the E46 and E90 cars are still incredible driving machines for the money. When it comes the M3 models, the E46 was powered by a 330 horsepower straight six, while the E90 had the M3’s only V8, which produced over 400 horsepower. Even though the M3 variants can be expensive to buy and maintain, they will still provide an amazing driving experience.
6 Subaru WRX - Worth Every Dollar
There was once a time when four-wheel-drive vehicles were limited to trucks and Jeeps. Such systems were never associated with performance. However, rally racing saw the first use of this technology in high-performance Group B race cars. Despite those cars bringing performance with four-wheel-drive systems, it wasn’t until the ‘90s that fast four-wheel-drive cars came to the consumer market.
The Subaru Impreza WRX was the car that had both proved its mettle on the rally courses and was a sales success.
Today, the WRX models from the 2000s can be found for decently low prices, while still providing a lot of power and strong handling. It is worth noting that the WRX can suffer from head gasket issues, but the car is good enough to be worth the price of upkeep.
5 Honda S2000 - Worth Every Dollar
Despite Honda’s usual decision to produce practical daily drivers, the brand also manages to create some of the best affordable performance cars on the market. The Civic Type R and Si are both incredible driving machines for those who want something dependable and fuel efficient. Then there’s the NSX, which was once a budget supercar and is now a high-tech hybrid supercar. However, Honda produced another original performance machine in the early 2000s, called the S2000. This two-seat convertible was supposedly a competitor to the Mazda Miata, but the Honda was much faster.
It had a VTEC motor that produced well over 200 horsepower over an incredible rev range.
Unfortunately, its used prices do reflect this additional performance, as Miatas will sell for only a couple grand, where a good S2000 will demand far higher premiums. That said, it’s worth the extra money.
4 Toyota Camry - Worth Every Dollar
Toyota is well-known for producing undying, but boring cars. There were some fast and exciting cars in the brand’s past, but those cars have become few and far between these days. Even the new 86 still doesn’t quite offer the performance that many want from it. However, focusing only on Toyota’s performance cars does a disservice to the brand. Sure, the Camry is a boring car, but it still has its merits.
It’s offered with a powerful V6 where competitors have settled for turbocharged four-cylinders.
It also has a normal automatic transmission on its non-hybrid models, as opposed to other brands that use CVTs that are even more lifeless than an automatic. On top of it all, the Camry has Toyota’s world-renowned reliability and will perform daily duty for many, many years.
3 BMW M5 - Worth Every Dollar
Generally speaking, buying a used high-end German performance car just about the worst financial decision anyone can make. The 2005-2010 BMW M5 is usually a car to avoid when looking for a used premium car. As can be expected, this M5 is prone to a number of problems, all of which are very expensive to repair. And don’t be surprised if some decade-old electronics start going crazy. However, the biggest source of problems is the car’s semi-automatic transmission, which will inevitably fail at some point. That said, the M5 sold in the American market was offered with a six-speed manual transmission that is vastly more reliable. And despite its otherwise questionable reliability, it’s still a 200 mile per hour, 500-horsepower, V10-powered practical sedan. If you can afford to keep it running, it will be worth every maintenance payment. Just avoid that automatic transmission.
2 Honda Element - Worth Every Dollar
Throughout the 2010s, Honda’s lineup has been largely made up of fairly boring and practical vehicles. This is in contrast to what the brand was doing throughout the 2000s. It produced a sporty two-seat hybrid, a practical SUT pickup, and a Civic Si that had a unique hatchback body. Sure, not everyone needs a unique car, but that doesn’t mean that average cars have to be boring.
The Honda Element was a small, quirky crossover that offered a lot of practicality, good gas mileage, and strong reliability in a uniquely styled body.
Compare that to its modern equivalent, the HR-V, which has uninspired looks and little in the way of clever packaging that the Element had. For those who need a practical, economical, and reliable crossover that stands out, the Element is a good value. Just don’t expect a life-changing driving experience.
1 Mitsubishi Evo - Worth Every Dollar
While many automakers have competed in rally championships across the world, there aren’t many that have built their reputation on their car’s performance on the dirt. While Subaru is the only one to still sell a vehicle based on its rally car, it wasn’t the only one to do so in recent history. While the standard Mitsubishi Lancer is nothing special, its Evolution variant is one of the best road-going rally cars in the world, even if it’s a bit out of date. With a turbocharged four-cylinder sending power through all four wheels, the Evo is a formidable car on and off the road, regardless of generation. Some models also out-perform their better-known Subaru competitors. While they hold their value pretty well, these unique models are worth the cost of entry.