Some cars are beautiful, and some ... well, not to put too fine a point on it, some cars are not beautiful. The proportions are off, or the detailing is overwrought, or a prominent design element clashes with the rest of the styling, or it's bland and boring, or something's just ... not quite right.
And then there are those select few that are total aesthetic disasters. Not just ugly, but dog ugly. Butt ugly. Warthog-beaten-with-an-ugly-stick ugly. Cars it hurts just to look at.
Today's subject is such a car. It was voted "the ugliest car ever made" by the readers of CarData, Whether that's exactly right or wrong--I can think of a few other contenders for that dubious honor--this car is nevertheless one whose body panels insult the very steel they were stamped out of. Continue reading only if you be men and women of valor, for the styling of this automobile is so just plain wrong that it would make even an Aztek owner recoil in horror. So, brave readers, if you do doubt your courage or your strength or the durability of your retinas, come no further, for true hideousness awaits you all with ...
... what is probably the worst rear-end design on any vehicle ever built.
This particular felony offense against good taste is a Rodius, an SUV which also goes by the alias "Stavic" in some markets. The
offender named in the indictment manufacturer is the SsangYong Motor Company of Seoul, South Korea.
I think it is telling that even on the manufacturer's website advertising this car, people are depicted turning their backs on it. Not only are the adults in the photo looking away from the Rodius, it seems like they're covering their children's eyes to keep them from being frightened.
From the front, the Rodius looks like just another SUV--bland and harmless in a Toyota Camry sort of way, but not truly ugly. The problem arises because the designer wanted to use the arched roofline that's all the rage these days, but needed to maintain headroom in the back for the third- or fourth-row seat passengers. The result looks strange from the side, and positively disturbing from the rear quarters. The wheel arches are overemphasized, the dimple-and-side-rib combination on the lower doors looks goofy, and the cat's-eye tail lamps aren't helping any--but those are mere trifles. The fatal flaw is that freaky mismatch between the shape of the rear end and the arch theme the designer was so insistent on.
At this point you may be wondering, as I did, if perhaps this is a cultural thing. Is that rear end echoing a design element from traditional Korean art or architecture? Would a Korean person see something familiar and comfortable in it that escapes you and me because we grew up in a different place?
There's nothing particularly Korean about the styling. The stylist responsible for the Rodius--that's "responsible" as in "should be held responsible"--is not even Korean. He's a British citizen, one Ken Greenley, formerly the head of the automotive design course at the Royal College of Art in London. Mr. Greenley has said that the styling of the Rodius was intended to capture the look and feel of luxury yachts. He may have tried to make it look like a yacht, but ... no, I've seen a yacht or two in my day, and that's no yacht. It's not the dinghy for a yacht. It's not even a Mississippi River grain barge. The Rodius looks like Mr. Greenley crossed a Pontiac Aztek and a Dodge Caliber, and managed to bring out the worst of both.
There is another parallel between the Aztek and the Rodius besides their general hideousness. As with the Aztek, if you can overcome your instinctive revulsion and actually bring yourself to drive a Rodius, you'll find there's a reasonably useful large vehicle under all that ugly. At least, that's what the reviewers in the UK (where a seven-passenger version is sold) have written (see here and here). They are supposed to be popular as taxis for that very reason. Even Top Gear, which gleefully seizes every opportunity to mock the Rodius' looks, had to admit that it was "Fantastically practical ... ."
Actually, what they said was "Fantastically practical, right up until the moment that you discover you can’t get your kids into the car because they’ve all run away through fright." Beauty may be only skin deep, but in this instance, ugly goes clean through to the bone.
I'll leave you with a Korean TV commercial for the Rodius, which depicts one driving along a rockbound coast as Neptune himself expresses his displeasure with its unnatural styling, and ends with it parked on what seems to be an alien world orbiting a gas giant in a distant star system.
I don't speak Korean, so I don't know what the voiceover is saying. I think I do know what it should be saying: "The SsangYong Rodius--a thing not of this world!"
--Cookie the Dog's Owner.
The upper photo is by Flickr user flicchre; the other illustrations are screencaps from SsangYong's Korean-language homepage.