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The Top 5 Ugliest Cars Made by Toyota

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

I love Toyota, Lexus, and Scion vehicles, it's the reason why Teq Digest exists and why I have been an owner of many of the brand's vehicles over the last 20 years. However, some ugly cars from my favorite brand may never become ironically cool, at least not in my eyes. Toyota makes cars for the masses, and this list contains vehicles that were a huge success but makes me wonder if those who purchased them ever looked back at their frumpy, unsightly, and borderline offensive vehicular purchases. While Toyota is known for releasing designs that are usually on the conservative side, I believe there's a case to be made that the engineering department and the penny pinchers worked against the fashionable design team before releasing some of these cars. So, Without further adieu, here are the top five ugliest cars ever made by Toyota.

2008-2015 Toyota/Scion IQ

It might look like low-hanging fruit but this isn't the Toyota C-HR, That car almost made the list but the Scion IQ predates that unsightly little bug by about a decade. The Scion or Toyota IQ if you're outside the U.S. is a fine city car to get around and fit in tight spaces while sipping on gas, think of it as a well-built version of the Smart Car, but just as ugly. Kei cars are minuscule but are jam-packed with personality, the IQ looks like an image that would be generated if you typed in "expressionless frog, anime" on OpenArt AI. The engineering that went into the IQ should be applauded, but the squished proportions, bland rear end, and that pointless C-shaped rear quarter window deserve all of the jeers, luckily you're unlikely to see one of these tiny eye sores if you're in the United States and outside a major city. A funny story before I move on is that about three weeks after announcing the Scion FR-S, a local Scion dealer brought one of these to a local nighttime car meet and was immediately booed for not bringing an FR-S or at least a series release Scion was not a hit for the tuner crowd that night.

2000-2005 Toyota Echo/Platz

Before the United States received the Toyota Yaris and after the Toyota Tercel went off to pasture, we received the Toyota Echo in two-door and four-door variants. The smallest Toyota you could buy at the end of 1999 in the United States was this misproportioned sedan that was nowhere near as handsome as the Tercel many had come to love, while the rest of the world, including our neighbors to the north, received the Vitz hatchback. Before getting into the ugly Echo, let's talk about how the U.S. market didn't receive the Vitz RS, a mini hot hatch that eventually featured a small turbocharger (Phase 2) that helped it produce around 148 horsepower, it was the successor to the Starlet Glanza V and because of poor sales of hatchbacks in general, we didn't have the opportunity to buy these new or their lower powered variants stateside (Canada did). Back to the Echo, it's sold overseas as the Platz which is part of the XP10 chassis code of the Vitz but looks mashed together like a Platapus. The front end has a short overhang with cab-forward proportions that increase as much space as possible on the inside while maintaining a sub-compact footprint, again, great on engineering but not on looks when coupled with an awkward notchback trunk. The front fascia certainly doesn't match the rest of the car, it has a tiny grill and tilted small headlights that just reads bland, it also doesn't match the bulky exterior proportions from the B to C pillar, and the slapped-on "large" trunk area doesn't's just ugly transportation that didn't end up selling well. Inside of the Echo is not any better, everything looks and is cheap, try finding an example with power windows; the cluster is mounted directly in the middle of the dashboard which makes it awkward to drive along with the dreadful seats with your typical early 2000s retirement home fabric that really ruined Toyota vehicles of this era at a certain price point. The Toyota Echo is a fine car to get around in, sure it's slow and boring, but it's also extremely lightweight with coupe versions weighing in a smidge over a ton, but even with the facelift it's not enough visually; they make for a great project car. Stylistically, Toyota learned a few lessons on selling subcompacts in the U.S. by offering 3-door and 5-door hatchbacks variants of the Toyota Yaris that followed, the parrot fish resembling Yaris sedan almost made this look but the proportions were much better, and even the interior seemed like some thought was put into it before being released to the masses. If you have a cool Echo build I'd still like to see it so send some pictures through IG, until then I'll keep dreaming of the Vitz RS nuggets we didn't get.

1975-1979 Toyota Corolla Liftback

I'll probably be subject to some rude comments for this one but I stand by my opinion on this one, the TE51 Toyota Corolla Liftback is the ugliest Toyota ever made. For background, I'm not a big fan of any third-generation Corolla that was sold in the United States, with big bumpers, a goofy front end featuring huge headlights, and just overall heavy-looking body panels... it's not my cup of tea. What is my cup of tea however is the TE37 Levin coupe, which is a beautiful car with the right proportions, stylish details, and a beautiful sounding 2TG under the bonnet. The TE51 liftback Corolla could have a 2TG, 2JZ, or any other engine better than a 2TC and it wouldn't be enough for me to want to be seen in one. The press really didn't like the third generation Corolla when it was introduced due to how big it had gotten, remember that this car and other Toyota vehicles were still a new thing to the American market, it looked as if they geared styling to match what most Americans during the oil crisis purchased, the death trap Ford Pinto and nobody's favorite AMC Gremlin, two cars that polarizing. What makes the liftback variant of this Corolla so ugly is the proportions, a long nose and overhang in the front, and a long overhang in the rear with a half-assed wagon rear end seemingly grafter to the B-pillar, the rear just slopes down almost immediately from the roof and terminates at a pair of off-the-shelf-esque taillights that rest just above the biggest bumper you could fit on a car at the time. The TE51 is hard to dress up, to do so with an American car requires getting JDM bumpers, a set of window louvers to visually create a better roofline, lowered suspension, and wheels that will take the attention away from how ugly this car is. I think the Chevette, Gremlin, and Pinto are generally viewed as ugly and dorky, I would put this Corolla in with that group but at least it is a much better car, the interior takes plenty of cues from the Celica with a driver-oriented dashboard, this is not what makes this car unsightly at all, it is soo 70s. I turned down the opportunity to buy an engine-swapped 1979 Corolla Liftback for $500 many years ago, literally because it was so ugly with original brown paint that did it absolutely no favors whatsoever, it would have been an easy car to drive around but I doubt I could ever park it and look back in admiration. If you trace the body line from the front fender to the rear quarter panel, you'll notice that the headlights are centered with that line while the rear taillights start at about the quarter mark which gives a weird positive rake look that to me accentuates the bulldog butt rear end, no thanks. If you're a fan of this particular model then sorry not sorry, I believe this may be the most versatile Corolla outside of the wagon variant but a vehicle of this vintage should stimulate the senses in a positive manner and not stay around for nostalgic reasons, that's what the other, much better-looking body styles are for.

2001-2010 Lexus SC430

Did you know the lead designer of the Lexus SC430 also designed the Toyota Echo? Well, how did he get this one so wrong? I think it starts with being charged to create a design on what will be the first convertible for the Lexus brand, built from the ground up, and for inspiration, a team of designers will travel to the French Riviera. Imagine the amount of delicious French wine and imported rum from St. Martinique has to be consumed to create a bloated yacht-inspired design like the SC430, it may have driven like a dream but the styling is a nightmare. Ironically, I still see plenty of Lexus SC430s traveling the state of Florida, it is very much an elderly person's car and not the aspirational purchase that the sleek and sexy SC300/SC400 before it was. Through a bigger platform that underpinned the GS430 and a retractable hardtop roof, this 2-seater (really the back seats are for quick storage and not people) gained 400lbs over the previous generation and the exterior was unable to contain its weight. The Lexus SC430 is marine-like in appearance but not in the way it was intended, it looks less like a nautical vessel and more like a creature that can breathe underwater. The SC430's front end enlarges the GS300's outer headlight, pushes them out, and fits a similar-looking grill in the middle for a handsome blobfish look. The back gives off a neo-retro vibe that harkens back to post-war Cadillacs...but without the extruding taillights, this time they're just two slits that sit awkwardly on the edge of the rear haunces of a bland backside. The side profile does little to reduce the bloated dimensions of the SC430, it looks almost like its much cheaper (and almost equally ugly) sibling, the Toyota Solara, to reduce how thick this car looks you should definitely drive it with the top-down. Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh on the SC430 but it was a stylistic misstep in the short history of Lexus coupe/convertible products, it fails to keep the sleek lines of the beautiful sculpted SC300 before it, and definitely cannot be in the same room as the jaw-dropping LC500. A convertible is a vehicle that nobody needs, but many people want which is why it's disappointing to have a luxury convertible that is bulbous and drab in appearance and driving dynamics, but they did look good while running in Japan's Super GT with Eneos livery.

Toyota Mirai (2016-2020)

Launched in the United States on the same day Marty McFly landed in the future (10/21/2015) the Toyota Mirai was premiered just 10 days short of Halloween...which is when it should've been unveiled. Look, well maybe look away, but the Toyota Mirai was and still is a big deal, a commercially available hydrogen-powered vehicle that emits water is a huge leap in the effort of reducing emissions, but it was ugly. Californians were the only people able to lease a Mirai as they remain the only state in the lower 48 that has a hydrogen fuel refilling station network, so it is unlikely you have seen the first or second-generation Mirai as they exist in very small numbers as do the Hyundai and Honda competitors. This may be a good thing to anyone offended by poorly designed cars, the exterior looks like Toyota dropped a clay model of a Prius and rushed to mush it all back together, passing it off as a Mirai because someone's dog ate the designer's homework. In my research, it was very difficult to figure out who, or what group of people designed the Mirai or the FCV-R concept but I wouldn't be surprised if it was just a room full of engineers with strict performance constraints. The front end is purely functional and not in a good way, Prius-esque lights are squeezed at the top of the very tall face while two giant air ducts sit ready at each corner to swallow debris, stray cats, and anything else in its way. The side and overall shape of the car are chunky, the teardrop shape gives the driver and front passenger extra headroom, and some lines on the side of the Mirai probably do some aerodynamic magic to make it a bit more efficient. The rear end needs to go Back to the Future, or just back to where it came from, a hodge podge of other Toyota design elements is spackled onto this large, high-riding rump, and it's not good. A light strip flows from each end of the backside of the Mirai just above what looks like half a set of Lexus LFA lights which coincidentally was built on the same assembly line, and then below that is a bunch of meh...but hey it runs on hydrogen fuel. The interior of the Mirai is just as much of a mashup of ideas as the exterior, you have a screen, a weird Prius shifter, a bunch of piano black plastic, swooping brushed aluminum interior trim, and a center-mounted display for the speedometer and other vitals. To say the first-generation Toyota Mirai is offensive looking is an understatement, the JPD10 needs a large paper bag put over it just to go to the grocery store, it belongs to a design ethos that stated: "When the drivetrain is experimental, the exterior has to look like a failed experiment." Luckily, Toyota and other manufacturers have turned their more dorky offerings into handsome cars, the Prius is now a sleek, sporty-looking sedan, the bZ4x has a weird name but looks like the RAV4's edgy cousin and the second generation JPD20 Toyota Mirai looks like a Lexus GS replacement.

Overall I can say that Toyota, Lexus, and even Scion make vehicles that have conservative styling, periods of bland, vanilla fascias have been sandwiched in with some timeless designs and now edgy cues that are polarizing to the benefit of our favorite brand. The above-listed "ugly" vehicles might not be my cup of tea but might be yours, brands like AIMGAIN, Vertex, and Wald seem to have a solution to make vehicles like the Lexus SC430 look much better than when it left the factory. Every car on this list has a fanbase, people who think they're cute like the Scion IQ or Toyota Echo because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What makes a car ugly in my opinion is a disregard for proportion, detached body styling, and a front end that is styled to fit only one component (IE: a giant grill for cooling while everything around it is just made to fit). It's hard to design a timeless classic like the Toyota 2000GT but regulations, platforms, and engineering be damned, some really good-looking vehicles have graced Toyota dealerships for a very long time, just some of them miss the mark and make you wonder who signed off on a particular design. As of today, Toyota and Lexus each have their own cohesive styling across all of their models, they each share their own respective styling cues and language from the exterior to the interior in a way that actually looks good. Toyota has raised the styling bar for the segments they sell their cars in with a more aggressive, sculpted look, which has left me with nothing to complain about. Lexus on the other hand has a polarizing front fascia with the spindle grill sometimes compared to the Predator's own mouth, in some instances, it can be overpowering like on the LX, but it has been updated on the latest RX, and GX, and looks at home on the LC500; it may not be for everyone but personally it stands out in a positive way. Sales will continue to dictate styling trends, and as we push for more electrification we may gain or lose styling cues that we enjoy looking at as automotive enthusiasts, as a majority of sales today come from larger vehicles and CUVs, we will have a continued presence of rugged, chunky designs that say "this vehicle can handle anything" but we may lose some of the very sleek coupes we had posters of growing up (and still do today).


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