The Worst Cars I Have Ever Driven

The bad but good, and the just plain bad

6w ago

There are so many ways to define what makes a car good or bad. An Ariel Atom is great in a lot of ways to a petrolhead, but beyond useless as a hearse, for example. For a tool that does a very similar job for the vast majority of people who use it, a car can be judged in so many different ways. A car has to make sense with the purpose it was designed for. So, I’m going to go through some cars that I have driven that could be seen as bad that were still good, and some that were just outright terrible.

As a gift, I was given a driving experience day that was described as an ‘Auto Circus’. In short, lots of cheap bangers that have been weirdly modified. Double-decker cars, throttle and brakes in the bottom car and the steering in the car above. Essentially, the best set up for crashing into everything in sight as you race around an oval track. A knackered Accord with the steering rack reversed, on a handling course. And some Reliant Robins on a dirt (mud really) track, which didn’t need any modification to be way out of their depth. All terrible for any sensible use yet I was laughing most of the day.

At a friend’s 18th birthday party I met someone with a Sunbeam Stiletto, a rear-engined car from the late sixties, and they were nice enough to let my friend Matt and I have a blast around the local country roads. A brave decision. The door cards and handles were missing from the interior, and when it came time for Matt and me to swap places in the driver’s seat we couldn’t get the doors open. So we had to climb over each other in the cramped cockpit. There was no way I wasn’t driving this driver aidless death trap.

As part of my job I occasionally have to go on training courses which tend to be in industrial estates in random parts of the country. The company’s policy means I’m often in a hire car for these courses. So I’ve had a good sample of the uninspiring fleet at the local Enterprise branch. Such gems as the Ford Kuga and Vauxhall Insignia have been graced by my indifferent ass. They’ve served their purpose though, even if the constant swaying around corners in a Vauxhall Mokka annoys someone who is used to a 3 Series. One car really got under my skin though...

It’s thanks to a four-speed automatic gearbox that belonged in a car a decade or two older than which it sat in. Shame on the second-generation Hyundai i20. I was on the motorway desperately pulling the gear lever into ‘manual’ mode searching for the missing fifth gear. The over-worked engine was sitting high in the rev range, drinking fuel. It annoyed me so much because it was just lazy engineering, likely pushed by accountants. Hyundai seemed to agree that this was a bad decision and have over-corrected with the third-gen by chucking in a seven-speed double-clutch instead (bit much).

Check out my podcast, available on all major podcast providers!

Join In

Comments (2)

  • If we're talking about failure to fulfill its intended function, my mom's old XC90. Any Volvo is supposed to be confident in inclement weather but a Volvo SUV is supposed to be entirely unfazed by any road in any weather conditions. Unfortunately, it was FWD and often struggled for traction at even the slightest hint of damp.

    That car circus sounds like a lot of fun. Was this like a business where you got to rip around in some novel contraptions or just some friend with an unwanted car and a field?

      1 month ago
    • It was a business on when red letter day type things a few years ago, can't remember the name of it off the top of my head

        1 month ago