It was easy for us to name the best cars we drove in 2015. Picking the worst ones, believe it or not, was a lot harder.
We live in a great time to be driving cars. The sentiment that “there are no bad cars anymore” probably isn’t entirely true, but it is true that the real shitboxes—objectively awful, tried-and-true pieces of mobilized garbage—are much fewer and far between than they were even a decade ago. Hell, Jeep is even discontinuing the Compass soon, a win for all involved.
But your Jalopnik staff drives a lot of cars, and just as not every person can be an astronaut, not every car can be a dream machine. As we look back on 2015, here’s our list of losers, old and new.
It’s important to note that “bad,” much like “good” or “not shit”, is a relative and entirely subjective concept. Some of these cars are legitimately terrible; others don’t hold up to the competition in their segments; others still just came off as disappointing for whatever reason, even if other staffers liked them a lot. Many are just forgettable, but to enthusiasts like you and us, forgettable is the worst thing there is.
There was a lot of shouting when we made this list. A lot of crying. More than usual.
Photo credit Jalopnik
The poster child for why small crossovers are bullshit. It’s slow, it’s not fun to drive, it’s not that practical, the interior is ripped straight from the $14,000 penalty box it’s based on, and its fuel economy isn’t nearly as good as it should be.
But hey! It’s lifted slightly, so idiots will buy 6000 of them a month because they “really wanted an SUV!”
America is doomed. —Patrick George
The current Legacy is by no means a bad car. But it is a boring, slow, numb-feeling, compromised, and again, forgettable car.
Worst of all, it’s a car that used to be cool; once the Legacy nameplate was worn by rally legends and wagons and STI-engined demon sleepers, now it is worn by a midsize snoozemobile that will be put out of commission for good when Honda makes an all-wheel drive Accord.
Buy an Outback or a Forester instead. They’re better. —Patrick George
Let me just say that it’s adorable that everyone else on this list thinks they drove something terrible. Absolutely adorable. They have no idea. Patrick thinks the Trax is awful? That’s as cute as a baby red panda wearing footie jammies and cuddling an armload of baby chicks. I can say this because I have driven the worst car ever built by the hand of man, the 1951 Hoffmann.
The Hoffmann is the Sistine Chapel of abominable automotive decisions. Everything about it is wrong: track wider than the wheelbase is long, a two-stroke engine that swings with the rear wheel that steers, interior dimensions and layout better suited to a mollusk, slow, unstable, asphyxiating, terrifying.
It’s a glorious, barely-mobile cathedral built to honor a cruel god that hates motor travel. It’s so horrible that it broke my brain and now I kind of adore it, in a sick way.
Awful, hateful thing. —Jason Torchinsky
So now I’m no better than anyone else here, since my second-worst-car pick isn’t really that terrible, technically. It’s the 2016 Acura RDX, and it’s basically just fine. There’s nothing strictly wrong with it, as such, but there’s also a pretty conspicuous lack of anything right with it, too.
The Acura RDX is the sort of car that makes your short list of SUVs or crossovers to buy if your shortlist looks like this:
1. Acura RDX
2. Pretty much anything else
I forgot what I was driving while I was driving it. The RDX will certainly get the job of getting you and some stuff from one place to another in comfort done for almost anyone who has one, but I just can’t imagine any human being actually desiring one. Who’s the person who actively wants an RDX?
Life’s too damn short for this sort of anonymous crap. It’s too much money to spend to forget what the hell it is you drive. I’d rather drive the Hoffmann. It’d take a decade off my life, but at least I’d be feeling something. — Jason Torchinsky
Actual rental car not pictured. Photo credit: Newspress
The lone meh car I had all year was a rental car, for reasons that were likely exacerbated by the base rental car spec. The car itself seemed okay. The styling isn’t my cup of tea, but as it’s at least unique enough to be instantly recognizable as a Hyundai, and the Elantra is one of the better looking expressions of Hyundai’s design language. The interior was basic, but functional. It just drove like an underpowered turd that didn’t want to turn.
I’ve apparently grown so used to having just a little more toe-out in my alignment to help with turn-in that I really notice when it’s not there on a front-wheel-drive econobox. Between the hard rental car tires and how the car was set up (or not), this car had the turn-in of a dead squid.
I’d asked former California resident Blake Z. Rong for a more interesting route up to Buttonwillow, where I was going to test out the Élan NP01. He sent me up California State Route 33—which at this point in the year, had a very frigid mountain pass. The road was amazing, and fun even in my goofy little rental that didn’t want to turn. The only problem was that I was driving through the middle of nowhere, and I kept seeing the temperature gauge drop in my car. Was this how I was going to die? Hitting ice in a rental car on crappy all-seasons that will certainly understeer off a cliff?
On Highway 33, no one can hear you scream. —Stef Schrader
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
There are two major things about cars that can put them on my shit-list: poor performance and lack of “soul.” The former is self-explanatory; the latter isn’t so simple. In fact, in some cases, a car gets more “soul” by performing poorly in some areas. Maybe the vehicle is a huge burnout-ripping boat that sucks fuel like an aircraft carrier, or maybe it’s an off-road vehicle that handles like a barge. Sometimes, flaws create character.
That brings me to the Volkswagen Passat: a good car by many metrics, and one that I even called a “decent, efficient mid-size sedan with a good powertrain, nice ride quality and comfortable interior.” I stand by those words, as the car performs well enough considering it’s in a rather unexciting mid-size sedan class.
But in category two, soul, it flounders. The Passat is not a bad car at all, and I might even recommend it to certain people, but because I’m an enthusiast, the very “meh” Passat was my least favorite car to drive this year. —David Tracy
Photo Credit: David Tracy
I love old Jeep XJs. I think they offer a great blend of practicality, off-road capability and comfort. But my $600 XJ is probably the worst vehicle I’ve ever driven for the simple fact that it’s a giant hunk of crap. The powertrain is fine: it shifts smoothly and has plenty of power, but the entire unibody is covered in deep rust, the interior looks like it’s been eaten by a Grizzly Bear, and the side has a huge fold in it thanks to a sideways run-in with a street sign.
It may have been a great vehicle in its former life, but it has deteriorated into a veritable deathtrap— a deathtrap that I intend to off-road at the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab this spring. This is such a bad idea. —David Tracy
Photo credit Dave Burnett/PUPPYKNUCKLES
I shouldn’t even be writing this. The Golf R is, by all accounts (including our own, multiple times) a very good car. I have talked to happy drivers and happy owners, all of whom happily report it is exciting and quick and all the car a person could need. But I had the misfortune of driving on in the worst circumstances possible: right after I had driven a Porsche.
Actually, I drove a Golf R on a bunch of winding country backroads right after driving not only a Porsche Cayman GTS, but also an Alfa Romeo 4C before that. And with those very traditional sports cars fresh in my mind, the Golf R did not feel exciting. The engine droned and the car moved, but without any real thrill or connection to the experience. It was exactly like any other Golf, the only difference being the numbers on the speedometer were higher.
The feelings I had that day were, by all accounts, wrong. But they felt right in the moment, and it’s a reminder that context, when experiencing cars, is everything. —Raphael Orlove
Sadly, for this one I only have one “worst,” as it is the true pinnacle of underachievement. It’s the 2015 Lincoln Navigator. Well, when I say “2015,” I mean that technically the vehicle was built in 2015, but it actually feels like it’s from somewhere in the late Clinton administration.
It’s somehow massive on the outside, with little usable space on the inside (unless you happen to be wearing a particularly large hat). Despite the new Ecoboost V6 engine, it’s remarkably slow yet painfully thirsty. It wallows and sways, and it actually feels disconcertingly like driving my friend’s old Chevy Astro conversion van. Lincoln’s supposed to come out with a new one pretty soon, and surely that’ll be better, but there are plenty of cars on the market that haven’t been refreshed in a while, and those are miles better.
You don’t see too many of these on the roads anymore, and it’s blatantly clear why. —Michael Ballaban
If you’ve ever read this website before, you must know how badly I wanted to like this truck. “Build a cheap, manual-shift truck!” we demand. Like, constantly. Now GM cooks us one and here I am telling you not to buy it.
The base Colorado isn’t a bad vehicle per se. It’s not quick, but basically performs as advertised with decent fit-and-finish inside.
The problem is that it costs $25,000. And for that amount of money you could buy a great used Toyota or Nissan pickup in the same size with the advantage of a few luxury options, a usable rear seat, a bigger engine and 4WD and still have the option to row-your-own gears.
Now a new Colorado V6 with a few options offers enough improvement over what’s available used that if you can afford it, it’s a decent truck to buy. But if you’re buying a base for the sake of getting an “honest truck” or having a manual, the Colorado’s stuck between being a little too expensive and a little to basic to make much sense against something older. —Andrew P. Collins
Driving the warfighting school bus that many Jalopnik readers came to know so well from Doug DeMuro’s columns was like a childhood fantasy coming true.
Climbing into that front seat, with all the proportions and comfort of a cereal box full of springs, you’re so high off the sensation of novelty that it actually takes a full few seconds to realize the dash was lifted straight out of that old boat rotting in your uncle’s back yard.
The engine awakens with a grumble that’s as impossible to ignore as it is uninspiring, and you proceed to stumble through streets like The Hulk after he’s smoked a blunt rolled out of a redwood tree.
Is it good off-road? Not as good as my $3,000 motorcycle that gets 50 MPG and is just as comfortable.
Oh and thanks for having me over, Doug! -Andrew P. Collins
The Suzuki GSX-S750 wasn’t the worst motorcycle I rode this year, but it was definitely the most disappointing. Suzuki made a big deal about it being the naked version of the famed GSX-R750, their mid-sized sport bike that I absolutely adore.
But when I rode the thing, it was bland, boring, soft, and heavy—not worthy of the GSX name or to be seen as a real competitor in the increasingly popular mid-sized sporty naked segment. —Sean MacDonald