Did you own one of these? Let’s hope not.
Ten years is a good measure of time for noticing progress in the auto industry. In ten years, design and technology changes enough so cars that once seemed acceptable under the guise of newness come to light as the poorly executed cars they really were. Now in 2016, it’s important to look back into the 2000s when houses seemed like great investments and Steve Jobs was touring Foxconn to strike up the iPhone contract. This way we can see where cars went wrong and how to not repeat these mistakes.
What do you get when you take a Dodge Caliber platform and try to make it a cutesy off-roader? You get the Jeep Compass, or in Chrysler’s language, the "Jeep Patriot for her." With no standard four-wheel drive, a low ride height, and terrible on-road driving feel, the Compass lacked any attributes that made it a Jeep and was downright mediocre at being a normal suburban cruiser. While capable of handling paved road, it did so poorly. Tack that onto the fact that the car only emerged from Jeep factories because Chrysler thought women wanted a cute Jeep with no practical abilities and you get a rolling pile of misogynistic metal that looks like a Little Tykes car and drives like one too.
The Chevrolet Aveo was GM’s first cry for help before the crash of 2008. It came at a time when huge SUVs were king and nobody cared about small cars. In fact, GM didn’t want to make a small car either, but the federal government had seen enough videos of Al Gore on a scissor lift pointing at polar bears with a laser pointer so they demanded a car that would level out the average fuel economy of the Chevy fleet. This is where the Chevy Aveo was born, as a piece of metal that barley passes federal standards for a car and would keep GM from incurring gas-guzzler fines. It drove poorly, looked ugly, felt cheap, and was the prison cell you hoped the rental car agency would never stick you with.
With the Dodge Neon a migraine of the past, the company got together to recreate a small cheap car that could have some semblance of utility. Instead, what resulted was a bulk on the outside and cramped on the inside boxy mess that handled as well as it looked. It had the aesthetic value of a minivan and with underpinnings from the Chrysler Sebring it handled like one too. The SRT 4 variant seemed like a decent pick for an otherwise snore of a car, but drivers quickly found out that the front tires might as well have been waxed with the amount of understeer that plagued the car. While it improved on the Dodge Neon’s status of being the perfect car for those who have given up on life, it was hardly any better.
Daewoo had it tough from the beginning. Like Hyundai and Kia, it was a South Korean automaker trying to make it in the North American markets, which were hugely hostile towards these cars. Unfortunately, the Daewoo Lanos gave Americans plenty of reasons to continue the prejudice. The car has absolutely no highlights aside from being the star savior in the movie Pineapple Express. Safety ratings that ranked it as “worse than average,” the accelerating might of 105 horsepower, and material quality bad enough that a cheap highway motel was an upgrade relegated this car to the history books. Oh and if you can find one around nowadays, there's a solid chance it wont last another 1,000 miles.
Among this list of cars, the Chrysler PT Cruiser seems like the winner. It was styled by someone with a personality, it was actually a sales success, and it was decently practical. Not only that but the PT Cruiser gathered a solid fanbase when it was released, although this quickly eroded. This is in part because underneath the guise of a hot sedan was an unsafe crash test record and reliability so bad that PT Cruiser owners probably paid college tuition for many mechanic’s sons and daughters. Owners reported engine overheating when sitting in drive-thru lines, oil pans that showered pavement and contaminated groundwater, and enough headaches to cure them of ever wanting to buy a Chrysler again.