The 2000s was the era of technology, energy and, frankly, everything. There were no limitations on anything. The sky was the limit… until the Great Recession plagued America in 2008. Then things changed. But before then, cars like Hummers and Ford Excursions were rampant. No one cared about the gas-guzzling nature of such cars. It didn’t matter how ruthless the car was to the public, the environment, or the landscape. It was all about the size—bigger was better.
All that changed when the energy crisis of 2003 became more evident and gas prices continued to soar. Then, people started looking back and wondering if taking their kids to a soccer game in a gas guzzler was the most efficient mode of transportation on the planet. It was then that alternative cars started becoming more appealing to the public. Cars like the Prius and the Bentley Continental had been around before but made their presence felt more.
That’s not to say all the cars listed here are judged solely on their reliability, fuel economy, and safety. Not every car here will be a Toyota, a Honda or a Volvo. No, there's more to it than that. Some cars fail in every aspect—exterior, interior, and safety, for instance—thus, they end up in the worst category. Some are good at meeting various criteria. Inevitably, others were listed because of my disposition.
Let’s dive in.
20 2005 Ford Excursion
This car was so bad… so bad that it’s good, though. It was the longest and heaviest SUV ever to be used publicly on the road. Based on the Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup, the Excursion looked gigantic next to a Toyota Camry. While it drove like a Hummer or, more reasonably, like a mini truck, its width wasn’t as big as that of a Hummer, which was a relief to the owners in the parking lot. The three-ton gas guzzler was a reasonable vehicle for soccer moms back in 2005. Its sales were good when it came out in 2000, but when the energy crisis of the 2000s loomed on the horizon and gas prices soared—it didn’t even make it as far as the rocket-high gas prices of 2007—people walked away from it. It’s included here as a relic of what an SUV was construed as back in the day.
19 2009 Range Rover Sport Supercharged
The Brits did produce a nice car here. Why wouldn’t an all-aluminum 4.2-liter V8 that’s normally found in the Jaguar be amazing in the hood of the Sport Supercharged? Production started back in 2004 and has continued strong since.
As good as that was, the one in 2009 was even better with the 5-liter V8.
It doesn’t balk at top speed, and the ride remains comfortable even when the RPM needle nears the red zone. On that note, it has a great acceleration. The look is also daunting, and unlike some of the other cars out there, the Sport Supercharged saw a continued improvement. Kind of funny how the initial concept wasn't at all similar to the production vehicle—the concept was a low-slung SUV.
18 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Turbo
The SS Turbo was one of the few variants produced by Chevrolet in the Cobalt lineup; the other one was a supercharged, and the other a naturally aspirated car. All three had their own magic, although the Turbo seems to have taken the game to an entirely new level. Unlike your conventional sports car—which looks all flashy and exciting—these look more subdued. But don’t be fooled by the looks at all. They're still sports cars that can easily beat you on the road. The Turbo was special because it had new electronics and better traction assistance. More importantly, the power generated from the turbo was available during shifts to a higher gear, making it highly coveted. The compact car looks fashionable enough, also.
17 2001 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
I guess Chevy was getting tired of producing the mediocre cars again and again. So, Chevy got serious and designed the Z06 in 2001. Chevy’s C4 from 1997 stood no chance against what the Europeans were producing. But all that changed in 2001 with the Z06.
The only thing the ZR1 had better was the top speed. But besides that, the Z06 was the winner in everything else, including the weight.
Dropping a few pounds by making it carbon-fiber friendly and making it look a bit edgier with the cuts and curves made the car look more fabulous. It even cost less money than the Z01. The grip and handling also got better. So now, you had a car that not only looked tantalizing but also gave that feel during the ride.
16 2003 Toyota Prius
Toyota has made good decisions since its foundation (except with the Scion, though), and the Prius was another genius invention. In production since 1997, the Prius has only seen an increase in demand ever since, with no signs of slowing down. Tesla is a great car and is moving toward becoming more prominent in the electric sphere, but both back then and even now, Prius remains the top-selling hybrid car.
The sale numbers are staggering. It reached the one-million milestone in 2008 and the two-million mark by 2010.
While some might not have liked the car due to its look, the majority favored the engine. This was more so true after hurricane Katrina hit the US and hiked the gas prices, forcing people to realize the value of the Prius.
15 2007 Audi A5
Audi brought the A5 into the market with success. The car was simply dashing, with the upscale version being ever more dashing. Even now, the two-door coupe looks stunning, and the Audi badge is as status-worthy as ever. With the 3.2-liter V6, the world is great at any speed. But push your limits a little by going into the next gear and a higher speed, and the A5 will come right with you. The steering is smooth and comfortable at all speeds, but at higher speeds, the wheels keep to the ground while the steering wheel responds more nimbly. It’s one of the best sports cars to have from the 2000s era. A lot of famous people also own the A5, including Steve Jobs’s widow, Laurence Powell Jobs. Some of the upscale versions have more power but still look similar to the A5.
14 2001 Lotus Elise
The Lotus Elise first saw the market in 1996. While the first-generation cars were a novel-looking sports car, things had to change by 2001 when the European government tightened the crash rules and regulations. So, Lotus partnered with GM and created the second series of the Elise, which was built on a newer chassis. The second series was designed after a concept car, with the design being heavily computerized. It looks cozy and stylish, with a smiling front grille. The second series was in production for a decade, but the early years were famous because of its appearance in console racing games and internet-forum bench racing. While internet access wasn't widely available before the arrival of the early-2000s Elise, the car became more popular as the internet started being more accessible.
13 2005 Chrysler 300
Despite the dwindling popularity of the second-generation Chrysler, the first-generation 300 was a bomb when it came out in 2005. I mean, it was the rad car to have. The long hood and the full-length body of the car garnered plenty of attention. Even President Obama owned one—it looked elegant, spacious, and a bit stern in a positive way. And for some reason, the hip-hop industry loved it.
It showed up in countless rap albums; Snoop Dogg even called the CEO of the company in 2004 to ask for a 300C.
Various magazines and websites placed it at the top of their lists. In Britain, where Bentley originates from, the 300 was the poor man’s Bentley. Some people even swapped the badges, given the structural similarity between the two. It’s truly a great car produced by America the great.
12 2006 Ford GT
While we're all spoiled by the 2017 Ford GT, the 2006 GT was no less of a boss. The GT is modeled after the four-time champion of 24 Hours of Le Mans, the GT40, and acts as the supercar for Ford. When it came out in 2006, the design was simply radical. Unlike some of your other sports cars, this one had a full-length body and looked like a rocket on wheels from the side. And quite frankly, it was.
The 5.4-liter V8 produced 550 HP and 500 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to finish the 0-60 race in mere 3.5 seconds.
Roughly ten years ago, the GT sold for $150,000 brand-new. A decade later, the price has soared as high as $400K. Why? Because it’s still holding up well after a decade.
11 2003 Bentley Continental GT
That was the year when the first Bentley was released under the tutelage of VW AG. Some people weren’t sure if VW could handle a high-end product like the Continental GT. After all, a superstar automaker like Rolls-Royce used to own Bentley before VW acquired it; and while VW is good company, people were afraid it wouldn’t be able to keep up with the Bentley name. But it did—right from the beginning. That was also the year when VW decided to make the Bentley Continental GT available to the masses by employing mass-production manufacturing techniques rather than the more expensive coach-built method. The two-ton-plus beast needed the heavy-duty W12 to move the car, but the Continental GT was still a success when it came out, as a lot of rich and famous people bought it.
10 2007 Jeep Compass - Break Down
While the new ones have been redesigned and look a bit more handsome—Jeep-like to be more exact—the ones in 2007 weren't exactly worth the trouble. In fact, back in 2009, it was thought that Chrysler would discontinue the Compass due to the feedback from the public. (It continues to be in production, though; however, that’s proven to be a mistake, as even the one in 2018 isn't faring that well in performance.) Men were a big fan of the Patriot, as it had the broad vertical grilles, and the overall appearance seemed more formidable with the truck-like chassis. On the other hand, women seemed to favor the Compass. But the compass was lacking some basic things, including the standard four-wheel drive. It’s not the best car if you’re considering one from the 2000s.
9 2003 Kia Amanti - Break Down
I’m not sure whether it’s a coincidence or not, but the oval-shaped lamp head reminds me of a Mercedes—but that’s about it; after that, it’s a concoction of poorly executed designs, front to side to back. This was supposed to be Kia’s luxury flagship vehicle. But besides the Mercedes look of the front, nothing else was Mercedes-like. That was unfair of me; Kia was not competing with Mercedes. Let me rephrase: Nothing was even Toyota- or Honda-like. The resale value was extremely poor. Once you took it, you essentially lost all that money, as there was no reliability from Kia. If you were looking for something from Kia, you should've waited a few years and gotten a Hyundai Genesis because the Amanti wasn't going to get you anywhere. In fact, production stopped in 2010.
8 2007 Chrysler Sebring - Break Down
The production of this started in 1995 and stopped in 2010. It had some good things to offer, from various equipment to a good fuel economy. Before it came out, the Sebring was hyped as being one of the finest models from Chrysler. But when it came out, it was a catastrophe like the Aztek. Now, you might remember character Walter White driving the Aztek in the show Breaking Bad. While that actually increased the popularity of the Aztek, leading to more sales, the Aztek was one of the biggest failures in production-car history. And the Sebring ended up being something similar. The Aztek's exterior isn't as shocking as that of the Sebring, yet the interior feels cheap and plasticky. The numb steering makes the drive a chore.
7 2005 Ford Focus - Break Down
When Alex Trotman designed the Ford back in 1998, he aimed for it to sell strongly—and strongly did it sell. You could claim it was even better than just a good car. It was a great car. The compact nature was meant to entice people who just wanted a basic transportation that looked good, had good handling and drive, and was famous across the globe, selling worldwide. That was until they decided to do things differently for the second-generation cars in 2005. The car went stale thereafter. There were various weight-intensive features added to the slim car that made it a bit more sluggish; the drive became less thrilling, and thus, the ride became tedious also. Overall, the second generation was a disappointment, more so in the other parts of the world outside of the US.
6 2002 Chevrolet Aveo - Break Down
In a land where freedom and prosperity reign supreme, where obesity and bigotry run rampant, one wants to drive a luxury car, not a subcompact car. The wild roads of Nebraska, the windy highways of Wyoming, and the heated streets of Florida all welcome each and every compact, mid-size, and full-size car. But when it comes to a subcompact car, all roads seem to unearth a stop sign and un-gravel themselves, as if desperately saying no to these subcompact cars. Every road, every turn, and every pavement will yell and beg for mercy.
Literary writing aside, the Aveo is quite disliked by the US public, despite it being famous in the rest of the world. Besides, what Chevy produced wasn't the best in its category, performance-wise.
5 2008 Dodge Avenger - Break Down
Revitalizing the Challenger in 2008 was a solid move by Chrysler. But coming back with the Avenger wasn't. From looks to style to engine, the Challenger had it all, but the Avenger fell flat on the ground. While the Challenger offered a unique look and a reasonable price—which the competitors didn’t—the Avenger didn’t have much to its name or make.
The transmission options were limited, and the engine was infirm. Once you got inside the car, you could loudly hear the noise of the engine as you tried to listen to that favorite song of yours.
The look was slightly distinct, which might've given it a slight edge. But at the end of the day, when it came to luxury, there were plenty of better cars on the market.
4 Hummer H2 - Break Down
GM started out with a solid concept: take the beast-looking military vehicle and civilize it enough to be used by the public. Much like a lot of things in life, the public was enchanted by something it couldn’t have; the grass is always greener on the other side. And it seemed to be the case once we got to the other side—we made contact with a bulky ride; we were in the biggest non-truck vehicle, and we filled our ego. But once we had it, we realized that maybe that’s not the best option for us. We kept losing a lot of time because we kept spending so much time finding a parking space. The mileage isn’t the best, and the off-roading prowess is only mediocre. Why did we buy this, again?
3 2000 Smart Fortwo - Break Down
The best thing about this car is how artfully the name was derived. It was devised when Swatch and Mercedes joined forces to produce Swatch Mercedes ART. And you can tell that “Fortwo” comes from the two-person seating capacity. That was the best part about it. Besides that, there are very few people who like these types of cars. Even if you excuse it for its looks—and I’d even argue it has more of a problem than just its looks; you would’ve had to overlook what a “car” stands for—you can’t reasonably overlook other things. You won’t feel safe driving it on a highway; the merging will always be scary. And you'll shift a little when trucks pass by, for quite a while, since trucks are rather long in comparison.
2 2001 Pontiac Aztek - Break Down
The front looks like it has a car’s equivalent of a double chin. The SUV feels compact and looks compact, all because of a poorly executed design. The rear end simply looks ugly. The model in 2001 was exorbitantly priced. All that led to 27, 322 units being sold in 2001 when 30,000 were needed to be sold to break even; GM forecasted sales of 75,000 units. The story doesn’t even stop there.
In 2007, Time magazine labeled it as one of the worst cars of all time. Come 2010, and it was ranked as the 34th worst invention of all time by Time magazine.
Yikes. In 2008, The Daily Telegraph listed it as the ugliest car in a list of 100 ugliest cars of all time. Ouch.
1 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser - Break Down
This is probably one of the ugliest cars on the list. I was debating between this and the Pontiac Aztek as to which one was going to make it as the worst car of the decade. I personally decided on this. This car has everything in its favor—for being the worst. From hood to interior to safety to the exterior, everything wreaks havoc. Chrysler intended to revive the 1930s look. I’m not quite sure what they had in mind, but it looks awfully close to a Tempo Hanseat, which was created by the Germans back in 1924, and, thankfully, was made defunct in 1977. From front to back, it looks like a mess. The high h-point seating and the narrowed hood weren't forgiven by the public.
Sources: topspeed.com; doubleclutch.ca