Cars have plenty of opportunities to suck. Some simply perform poorly, others are depressingly soulless and then there are ones that just plain look sad or break our hearts. Here’s the rundown of every car that hurt to drive in 2017.
While we had plenty of good standouts to pick from for our Best list, finding things that went the other way was a little harder. I guess you could call that nice news for the automotive industry. Or perhaps we just didn’t get to drive as much janky junk this year as we should have.
Regardless, we did manage to come up with a few cars that were some kind of awful this year.
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Unfortunately, a four-cylinder Giulia we were testing over the summer, a car with not even 2,000 miles on its odometer, shit the bed while we were driving on the highway. This was unusual for a new car, let alone a press loaner. In some circumstances, we might have chalked it up to new model teething issues.
But pretty much every media outlet that had a Giulia experienced problems with it—even the ones that won’t put those problems into stories to stay cozy with manufacturers, but will tell other writers about it over beers later. (Yes, that does happen.)
We all know Alfa Romeo has a reputation for making fantastic driver’s cars, but temperamental ones. Sadly this is still true in 2017, and if Alfa Romeo really wants to compete with BMW and Lexus and Mercedes, it needs to realize buyers aren’t going to put up with that kind of thing and get its act together on the quality front.
So yes, the Alfa Giulia was one of the best and worst Jalopnik cars of 2017. Seems appropriate for this storied Italian brand.
Mike’s Dumb 1991 Yugo
This is just one of the headaches I had to deal with over this car, and there were many:
Fuck that car.
Hyundai Elantra Sport
I must admit that I didn’t take any pictures of the Hyundai Elantra Sport. I must admit I didn’t really write anything down about the Hyundai Elantra Sport. There was nothing sporting about it. It was a toaster with a stick shift attached.
Mine was gray. It was gray in color, it was gray in driving, it was gray in everything. It was boring and slow and bad.
Hyundai can do better, and this one was just a sad trim package.
Mercifully, GM’s rolling brick has been dead for almost a decade. But some of us never got to experience it when it was new, and have been dying to know if it’s as bad as we’ve heard.
Canadian car writer William Clavey got to put a few miles on one this year, and well, he cut to the chase:
“It represented the pinnacle of early 2000s excess, extreme consumerism, General Motors’ arrogance, empty post-9/11 American patriotism, and an absolute waste of natural resources. If there’s an automotive equivalent to the phrase ‘we’ve gone too far,’ it’s the Hummer H2.”
Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia
Every iteration of the VW van enjoys some level of heroic status. At least, that’s what the used market prices on things would indicate. But as quirky and magical and cool as they are, apparently Vanagons are also objectively kind of awful.
From William Clavey’s shakedown in August:
“The Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia is slow, not particularly fun to drive, handles like an intoxicated dullard and isn’t even all that reliable. Yet, it’s one of the most popular vehicular fashion statements on this Earth. Why?”
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
I would call 2017 a truly bleak year. The closest thing I have to a compliment for it is the fact that 2018 is already shaping up to be worse somehow, which just makes me lose my will to go on all over again.
Not even cars could cheer me up this year. Automakers paraded out an endless string of dull crossovers, cynically trying to squeeze as many buzzwords in for millenials who allegedly hate cars instead of—heaven forbid—just building good cars.
The worst offender was Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi gave up entirely on compact and midsize cars for a nearly all-crossover and SUV lineup in the United States. I gave the Outlander Sport a chance, but it was so annoying to drive and frustratingly mailed-in that there’s just no excuse for it.
I know Mitsubishi can make a good car. I own a last-generation Lancer that’s put up with over 140,000 miles of abuse and is still fun to drive. I know it’s possible to make a crossover that doesn’t suck, too, believe it or not. I’ve tested them! The Outlander Sport wasn’t just offensively bad—it was a disappointment.
Worst of all, it feels like a trend. When automakers abandon fun cars—particularly inexpensive ones like the Lancer—for dull crossovers that aren’t exciting to drive, where will the next round of enthusiasts even come from?
Our man Jason Torchinsky can’t keep himself away from objectively awful cars, which is how he ended up behind the handlebars of what’s been called “the biggest failure in British motoring history.” As he explained in November:
“When Sinclair unveiled the C5 in 1985, the company made a point to let people know it was a “vehicle, not a car” as though there was any chance in hell anyone would mistake the thing that looked like you were riding on a white plastic hair dryer for a car.”
“The C5’s electric motor made all of 0.34 horsepower, which is, what, like a part of a horse’s leg and some intestines? It also had a pedal assist, which let you add one humanpower to that incredibly small number, for a total output of, let’s see, carry the two, hardly any.”
So, he loved it. And hated it. And apparently, of all the wacky crap-cans Jason drove in 2017, this was the worst.
BajaLite Class 3000 Race Car
I only spent a few minutes “driving” this 2.4-liter four-cylinder tube-frame long-travel Baja beast, but it managed to break my heart twice in 2017.
Some good friends of mine who do desert racing professionally brought this little monster down from California to the Baja 500, where it was tested and ran reasonably well. Until a wheel feel off about ten percent of the way through the race.
A few months later at the Baja 1000, we clawed and fought and even lead the race (in our class, obviously) for a fair bit all the way to the 500-mile mark until tragedy struck again, a transmission pump seal popped, and the vehicle could no longer move under its own power.
Desert racing is brutal to everybody, that’s a fact. But this car has been a real source of sadness for me this year. To hell with it.
Justin’s Dumb 2015 Ford Focus
I have been driving my Ford Focus SE since May of 2015, and it has been two-and-a-half years of boring frustration, which recently escalated to seething hatred in the last few months.
As most people know, the current Ford Focus and Fiesta suffer from a hot trash automatic transmission that has one of those recalls where the company has to admit there’s an issue because of a major lawsuit, but can’t actually do anything to fix the problem, which is apparently inherent in the dumb design.
Every excursion, big and small, feels like a biblical battle between the car’s computer, your foot on the gas pedal, and the poor gears that have to take all of these apparently overwhelming commands and try to convince the car to go.
There have been times when I was sure my death was apparent as I let off the gas to coast through a turn, usually on an arrow through an intersection, only to realize that the transmission had entered some aloof state, like a neutral gear, when trying to accelerate again, leaving me in limbo in the middle of an intersection. I have never experienced this in any other car. It was like all the little mechanisms would go for a smoke break the moment you lifted your foot, and the grating and violent sudden reengagement of it all made it feel like the car had been sheared off of its mounts.
This was something I had grown to live with, until one day late last month, the day before I was to drive home for Thanksgiving, my heater went out while I was sitting in the drive-thru of a Bojangles. Waiting for my food, I called up the local Ford dealer who kindly informed me they couldn’t take in the car until over a week later due to the holidays, and on my way home the engine overheated. I pulled over to find a coolant line, on a car barely two years old which spends most of its time in a parking lot, had ended its life in a violent and unruly manner. The POS was towed to Ford and my parents came to pick me up.
The lease is up in May. I’m turning it in next week.
Acura TLX A-Spec
It was unanimous between Jalopnik Editor-In-Chief Patrick George and I that the Acura TLX A-Spec was not an enjoyable car. At least, not in the way it seems like it’s supposed to be.
The problem with the A-Spec wasn’t that it was a terrible car. It wasn’t. It was a car, it did what cars should do, and it’s arguably better than many cars a person could buy. The all-wheel-drive system on the A-Spec was great, too—it waded me through the unending downpours that came in hurricane season in Texas.
The problem was that it was a car that wore a mask of what it wanted to be, and turned out not to be that car. It was disappointing. When the A-Spec showed up in my driveway, I loved the exterior. It was supposed to be a sport sedan, and it sure did look like one.
I opened the door and everything went downhill from there. The A-Spec was no sport sedan. I, and Patrick, had been duped.
Alex’s Turboless Chrysler LeBaron Turbo
I’m probably one of the only people that voluntarily bought a K-car LeBaron in the past couple decades. It was my first car and I bought it for $1,200 on Craigslist. For about three years it was my daily driver and more or less ran “well.”
This past spring, the minuscule turbo on my LeBaron decided that it didn’t want to be a turbo anymore and went to the Great Boost In The Sky. The original Garrett T3 turbo had all the size and power output of a grapefruit but it managed to propel the LeBaron at a slightly faster than glacial pace. After the turbo died, my LeBaron replicated the speed and smoke production of an early 20th century cruise ship.
The poor 2.2-liter inline four went from 146 horsepower to somewhere around 80. I still love my LeBaron but I don’t enjoy that the 0-60 time can be measured in the geological record.
- Alex Hevesy
I went on vacation to Italy this summer and we rented a Renault Scenic to get around. Though the car was able to fit five people pretty well, it was otherwise bad all around.
It had a lost and constantly meandering automatic transmission, close to no power or pickup and touchy brakes. The thing was miserable.
I was going to review it for fun, but it was so bad and uninspired that I gave up after 15 minutes of driving and promptly forgot about it. Until now.
- Kristen Lee