New cars just aren’t what they used to be. No, we’re not getting all crotchety and decrying the evolution in styling and technological breakthroughs that have literally reinvented the automobile during the last quarter millennium. Rather, we’re bemoaning the fact that, unlike as in past model years, there’s a dearth of truly wretched cars on the market for us to openly and readily ridicule.
Despite the recent spate of recalls in the auto industry, it’s difficult to find catastrophic fault with today’s new cars. It’s been ages since the industry produced vehicles that were so mechanically misbegotten they’d, say, drop a transmission to the pavement within days after being picked up at the dealership.
1. BMW 7 Series
BMW’s flagship sedan seems to have lost its edge in recent years. It’s wrapped in languid styling and just doesn’t feel as sporty as it did in earlier renditions; an odd product lineup includes an expensive and not especially efficient gas-electric hybrid model. Consumer Reports takes the 7 Series to task for being “a ponderous, technology-laden vehicle with ungainly handling,” and is included in the publication’s lists of lowest-scoring cars, worst overall values and most expensive operating costs in its class. Not to pile on, but it also gets a rock-bottom resale value rating from ALG and a below average performance score from J.D. Power.
2. Cadillac XTS
Tell the truth we find the big and benign full-size front-drive XTS sedan to be something of a guilty pleasure. Unfortunately, a boulevard cruiser like this falls short in today’s ultra-sophisticated luxury-car market. Consumer Reports cites the XTS as being among the industry’s worst values, and we think the Chevrolet Impala offers equivalent accommodations for less money. The biggest Caddy also gets low marks for initial quality and performance from J.D. Power and a below-average resale value rating from ALG.
3. Dodge Journey
Dodge’s seven-passenger crossover SUV is long overdue for a redesign and tends to show its age ungracefully. Of particular demerit is the base 2.4-liter 173 horsepower four-cylinder engine that’s mated to a dated four-speed automatic transmission; the Journey is better off fitted with the optional 3.6-liter 283-horsepower V6 engine and smoother shifting six-speed automatic transmission. While it does offer some novel features, Consumer Reports calls out the Journey’s “below-average reliability, lack of agility and a transmission that’s reluctant to downshift.” It receives low scores in reliability and performance from J.D. Power and a below-average resale value rating from ALG.
4. Fiat 500L
While Fiat’s comely 500 coupe and convertible exist as a worthy alternatives to the MINI Cooper among those seeking small and fun urban hipster transportation, the longer four-door L just doesn’t keep pace with comparably priced family minded compact crossovers. The 500L receives low marks in initial quality and performance from J.D. Power and a below-average resale value rating from ALG.
5. Jeep Compass
Recent cosmetic updates have helped boost sales of this compact crossover, but it remains a lackluster entry in a crowded market segment. Its base engine is a weak 2.0-liter 158-horsepower four-cylinder engine and its optional 2.4-liter 172 horsepower four doesn’t fare much better – Consumer Reports calls it “dull and sluggish.” Though the Compass can be fitted with a “Freedom Drive II” 4X4 system that affords modest off-roading, it’s otherwise outclassed by the competition. CR says the passenger cabin is “cramped and cheaply trimmed.” It receives low marks in initial quality, performance and reliability from J.D. Power and a below-average resale value rating from ALG.
6. Jeep Patriot
Most everything said in the previous caption about the above Jeep Compass applies here, except that the Patriot assumes more-traditional Jeep exterior styling. Consumer Reports says it benefits from “a compliant ride and mostly simple controls, but little else stands out.” It otherwise gets low marks in performance and reliability from J.D. Power and a below-average residual value rating from ALG.
7. Jeep Wrangler/Wrangler Unlimited
Though some might argue the iconic Wrangler and its four-door Wrangler Unlimited version are among the best-performing off-road vehicles, they suffer from limited passenger comfort, harsh and erratic ride and handling abilities and excessive wind noise at higher speeds. True, they get great resale value, but the Wranglers placed among the lowest scoring models in Consumer Reports’ testing, with the Unlimited also falling on its worst-values list; the original Jeep’s descendent also gets low marks in initial quality, performance and reliability from J.D. Power.
8. Lincoln MKS
Continuing with little more than just cosmetic revisions since its debut for the 2009 model year, this full-size Ford Taurus-based model, in the words of Consumer Reports, “doesn’t cut it as a luxury sedan.” Powered by a choice of a turbocharged or non-turbo V6 engine, it gets a below-average performance rating from J.D. Power and a below-average residual value ranking from ALG. CR’s editors further cite it for being one of the worst values among new cars. Adding insult to injury, the MKS is fitted with the MyLincoln Touch multimedia operating system that confounds and distracts drivers at every turn.
9. Lincoln MKT
The luxury version of the boxier-looking Ford Flex seven passenger crossover SUV shares its engines and many features with the aforementioned MKS, and has been around for nearly as long as that model without undergoing a major update. It receives below-average scores for initial quality and reliability from J.D. Power and below-average marks for depreciation from ALG.
10. Mitsubishi iMiEV
The small and oddly shaped four-door i-MiEV is an all-electric car that’s rated at the equivalent of a meek 66 horsepower with an EPA-estimated operating range of just 62 miles on a charge (or less, depending on vehicle speed, ambient temperature and use of accessories). Mitsubishi hasn’t released 2015 model information as of this writing, but the automaker lowered the price by $6,000 last year, which makes it one of the most affordable EVs on the market. Unfortunately, it not only receives a rock bottom rating for residual value from ALG, Consumer Reports gives it one of the publication’s lowest overall performance scores.
11. Mitsubishi Mirage
Widely panned, Mitsubishi’s return to the subcompact car market provides affordable transportation and little more. It falls short in so many regards, none the least of which is sluggish acceleration from its 74-horsepower three-cylinder engine. Not only does J.D. Power give it below average marks for performance, it’s among Consumer Reports’ lowest scoring models.
12. Nissan Armada
Nissan’s large and lumbering SUV is based on the Titan full-size truck and while it’s roomy and capable of towing a decent-sized boat, it’s a handful to drive with a bouncy ride and heavy handling. The Armada gets low marks from J.D. Power for initial quality and reliability, and garners among the lowest overall scores from Consumer Reports. According to CR, “its overall fuel economy of 13 mpg is abysmal, reliability is poor and ownership costs are the worst in the category.”
13. Nissan Titan
Long in need of a refresh, Nissan’s full-size pickup truck tends to be also-ran in an intensely brand-loyal segment; it’s handily outclassed by entries from Chevrolet/GMC, Ford and Ram, and to a lesser degree, Toyota. The Titan is rated both below average in residual value from ALG and in performance from J.D. Power; it’s also noted as being among Consumer Reports’ worst values.
14. Scion iQ
The eccentric iQ is a micro-sized two-door hatchback with oddly aligned seating that’s said to accommodate three adults and one small child, though it’s best driven solo, if at all. It gets below average ratings across the board for residual value from ALG and initial quality, performance and reliability from J.D. Power. It’s also among Consumer Reports’ lowest rated cars (to quote CR: “the rear seat is awful, the cabin is loud and acceleration is molasses-like”).
15. Smart ForTwo
Easy parking is arguably this two-passenger micro-car’s only virtue; it gets decent fuel economy, but any savings at the pump are negated by the car’s need for premium-grade fuel. While the ForTwo is reasonably affordable, it’s rated below average for depreciation; it’s also among Consumer Reports’ lowest-scoring new cars. CR slams the unfortunate ForTwo on the basis of its “tiny, two-passenger cabin, a herky-jerky transmission and an under-powered engine,” going so far as to call the Smart, “a dumb choice.”