The lemon is a funny thing and a funny name for something that isn't just a sour citrus fruit. What exactly is a lemon? It means something quite different in the automotive world. If a car is a lemon, that means, rather simply, that it's bad. Usually exceptionally bad, actually. The kind of car that kind of exists on the roads as wasted space, the kind of car that proves to be a curse to the owners, or worse, proves to be nothing at all, like many of the cars to come out of the late 90s and early 2000s.
The worst part about lemons is that sometimes they are a bit more insidious than just a bad car that doesn't run. No, there is a special category of lemon: the kind of soul-sucking consumerist mass production insult that sells for one reason: good advertising and an affordable, simple price. These lemons should have never been on the roads, yet somehow they still are, years later, clunking along in mediocrity, soullessness, a complete lack of any kind of character, persisting on, an eyesore on any and all roads, refusing to be forgotten, though mysteriously there's nothing memorable or remarkable about them at all.
Let's take a look at some of these lemons, call them out for what they really are, whether they are poorly designed and lifeless, or actually unreliable. Here's a lineup of 20 lemons of the last twenty years that are still on the roads, and no one knows why.
20 Pontiac Solstice
The face of this car is not a pretty one, with strange eyes and two slit nostrils, it looks like some sort of strange cross between a bat, a pig, and a rather dim-witted snake. The clearly cheap material covering the car only adds to the rather underwhelming impression of this lemon.
Bestlifeonline.com talks more about this sad car and Pontiac in the mid-2000s: "At least they tried some novel ideas in the aughts. Though, like the Solstice, here, they were regularly hampered by bad ergonomics, terrible engineering, and poor performance."
19 Maserati Ghibli
It may come as a big surprise to see a Maserati on this list, a car company renown for high-performance luxury sports cars. It surprised me to read more about this car in my research and to find out just how much of a lemon this car really is.
According to bestlifeonline.com, "The Ghibli is the worst offender. For $80,000, you’re getting a sports car with a bad build quality that also happens to be loaded with interior bits from Dodge. Frankly, the vehicle isn’t even worth half of its MSRP." Perhaps the most surprising lemon of them all.
18 2002 Jaguar X-Type
Despite a truly bad front end on this sad lemon from the early 2000s, the Jaguar X-Type was one of Ford's first messes after they acquired Jaguar.
"In its attempt to turn the front-drive compact car into an 'all-wheel drive' sports sedan, Jaguar ran smack into the limits of platform engineering. The result was the English version of the Cadillac Cimarron, a tarted-up insult to a once-proud marque and a financial disaster." Yes, this really is one of the most lemony of lemons featured, due to its massive fall from grace, its huge blow to the once unsullied Jaguar name.
17 2002 Audi RS6
It might seem surprising to find an Audi on this list, especially one with the RS badge, alas, we find it here for a number of reasons, primarily it's reliability issues. Despite these, it's common to see them still plaguing the roads we all drive on, though it's less of an eyesore than others in this list.
MSN tells us about some of these substantial issues: "A combination of so-so reliability and eye-watering repair costs befitting its bespoke nature mean the reliability index is woeful - the worst performer Warranty Direct has ever seen during its 15 years in business."
16 PT Cruiser Convertible
While this entry is technically about the convertible version of the PT Cruiser, the fact of the matter is that any PT Cruiser belongs on this list of lemons. The most baffling part of the whole thing is how wildly popular and successful the model was for Chrysler.
It beggars belief, really, because of just how bad, unreliable, soulless, and lifeless this sad mass production car was. Nothing about it made it a good car, yet we all are forced to see them almost every day we drive on the roads. Such a travesty.
15 2002 Buick Rendezvous
The Rendezvous is a car following after a trend, with size to compete with all of the SUV's that were quickly becoming all of the rage. Yet, this Rendezvous stood out from the rest in a number of particularly citrusy ways.
As you can struggle to see, mostly because it's that hard to look at, the Rendezvous isn't exactly pretty. More like the kind of face only a mother could love, and barely at that. There may not be a worse looking car in the world, to be frank. That and the reliability is not good, and the car really brings nothing to the table by way of drivability.
14 Hummer H3
The entire Hummer brand can be described in one plural word: lemons. There is a real reason why they went out of business so quickly, because they started out great and immediately started making terrible decisions.
Top Speed tells us a little bit more about why the H3 was so bad: "The engine was pathetic, as was the handling. The H3 was hard to see out of and got worse gas mileage than the space shuttle Atlantis. Despite the large size, the rear-seat wasn’t that spacious and you can get better cargo room in a Ford Fiesta."
13 Chevy Aveo
The Chevy Aveo may just be one of the blandest and tasteless lemons on this list. While some car lemons can be called sour because of how poor or unreliable they are, this one isn't necessarily that, it's overwhelmingly bland.
There really is nothing to this car, a mass-produced cheap box of, well, nothing. And there are loads of them still on the roads, this hatchback version as well as the sedan shape. It makes no difference which one we talk about, either.
12 Land Rover Discovery II
While the Land Rover Discovery was the beginning of something that would turn out to be a pretty incredible thing, and a movement that has shaped cultures on both sides of the pond, that doesn't mean the company is immune to the age old lemon problem.
According to bestlifeonline.com, the Discovery II was "an off-roader befitting it’s heritage. It was also a mess of shoddy electronics and common issues like failed head gaskets, power steering pumps, and drive shafts." Yes, indeed, while it could go off-road, you'd have to bring virtually every part of the car as a spare. That just gets heavy.
11 2006 Chevy Malibu Maxx SS
There really is nothing about this Chevy Malibu that is deserving of the SS logo. "Chevy went through a spate of slapping the once-hallowed “SS” performance moniker on sub-standard cars in the ’90s and ’00s, but putting it on this weird vehicular tragedy of a hatchback-wagon blend was just bad," says bestlifeonline.com.
They couldn't be more right, either, having personally owned one of these myself. It's like swimming in a sea of plastic that can't merge properly because of its lack of power, acceleration, or handling.
10 Chevy Metro
It's pretty clear to almost everybody that this car belongs on this list, more than any other, even if it isn't necessarily the worst lemon offender of them all. It's a Geo Metro. The way you feel when you hear that name is exactly why this car is on the list.
It's soulless, has no semblance of power or handling, with a puny 50 horsepower engine, and no pizazz of any kind. Not that a car necessarily needs that. Plus, according to bestlifeonline.com, people say they've driven these things over 250,000 miles. So that's why we still have to look at them every time we drive.
9 2008 Chrysler Sebring Convertible
The Chrysler Sebring has an extraordinarily worthy spot on this list. Like Top Speed says about the car: "We’re honestly not sure why anybody would want to buy one of these vehicles unless they were practically free. Give us a bicycle, scooter, or a good pair of sneakers and we would take them over the Chrysler," it's hard to understand this car.
The convertible version is only worse, adding less structural abilities, more weight, and more things to go wrong with it.
8 Pontiac Aztek
To illustrate just how bad of a car the Aztek is (not that it needs any illustrating, just look at it), Time magazine, in 2007, called the Aztek one of the worst cars of all time, and in 2010 named it the 34th worst invention ever.
When Pontiac debuted the concept for this SUV, people were pretty excited, it had unique looks, but a lot of promise as a new rugged alternative for the Jeep. Alas, by the time it came out, they had tinkered with it, creating a plastic clad mass of bad looks, and lackluster performance.
7 2008 Jeep Compass
The Jeep Compass may perhaps be one of the worst offenders on this list, and one of the sourest lemons. Top Speed has some pretty choice words to explain more about it: "It wore a Jeep badge, so we thought it might be good on the dirty stuff. No, not at all, and it wasn’t even good on the road either. The Compass doesn’t offer standard four-wheel drive, or anything else traditionally Jeepish. Like putting a four-cylinder in a Mustang, this vehicle is an abomination."
Exactly right, Top Speed. There most certainly hasn't been a less "Jeep" Jeep, or a more iconic example of a lemon.
6 Ford Excursion
The Ford Excursion is the result of a craze that has swept the nation, an obsession with big vehicles. It can mainly be attributed to Ford, as the entry featuring the Ford Explorer explains. This is, indeed, one of the most over-the-top massive lemons in this lineup.
Time Magazine talks a little about the faults of this titan: "It weighed 7,000 lbs, measured almost 19 ft. long and stood 6.5 ft. tall. . .Ford argued that many of its customers — ranchers, farmers, um, tugboat enthusiasts — needed a vehicle this big with over 10,000-lb. towing capacity. Maybe that was true, but that didn’t keep Suzy Homemakers from driving them to the mall."
5 2004 Kia Amanti
Once upon a time, Kia was not a very competent car brand, nor a very popular one. Yet, they were on their way up, and managed to sell quite a number of sub-par lemons to a large audience of people.
This is just one of those examples, the Amanti. Like Top Speed says: "The car was bad looking inside and out, drove like a bus, and weighed as much as one too." It was their attempt at a luxury car to compete with Honda and Toyota, and it turned out to be a complete lemon, one that we still have to see driving the roads.
4 Ford Explorer
Time Magazine claims this to be the source of the massive crossover craze that has been taking over the US ever since the genesis of this car, and we agree with them.
Here's what they say about it: "The Ford Explorer is responsible for setting this country on the spiral of vehicular obesity that we are still contending with today. People, particularly women drivers, discovered that they liked sitting up high." Despite many more efficient options, they still opted for the SUV." In other words, people became addicted to the pose.
3 Pontiac Grand Am
There really isn't all that much about the Pontiac Grand Am that is grand, beyond the fact that it a grand lemon in almost every aspect. It didn't stop sales from proving to be marginally successful, and we are unfortunate enough to have to see these almost every time we drive.
Bestlifeonline.com sums it up nicely: "Pontiac’s plastic obsession continued with this affront to any sort of design intelligence. Doubling down on the Rubbermaid styling with plastic cladding galore, this time they paired front-wheel drive with an anemic 4-cylinder engine." Talk about a lemon through and through.
2 Scion TC
While the Scion TC is far and away from the worst offender on this list, it's a bit of a mystery as to why it is as bad as it is. It's very simple, really, as it's designed and marketed as a small, sporty, quick little sports car coupe that remains all around practical.
But that's what it isn't. According to bestlifeonline.com, the TC has "a weak, buzzy power plant, wallow-y, rolling handling, and a cheap and noisy interior." How hard can it be, especially when there are plenty of similar cars that actually handle well?
1 Toyota Echo
The Toyota Echo is a lemon from a company that really isn't known for many lemons. Yet, taking a look at this strangely shaped, oddly stanced, strangely misshapen and unbalanced two-door sedan, it's not really much of a surprise to find out that it is a lemon through and through.
According to Top Speed, "Some might call the car ahead of its time, but let’s face facts, the Echo wasn’t a very good car. Some of its innovative features still haven’t caught on. Being green never hurt so bad."
Sources: Top Gear, Best Life Online, & Motortopia