Typically when a car gets redesigned, it gets better. An automaker has likely spent years improving its performance, styling and comfort to make car shoppers take note. A redesigned model can spark sales, and the most successful ones can change the course of an entire brand.
Related: More Top 10s
However, not every redesign is a success. The editors at Cars.com have come up with 10 of the worst attempts at overhauling a car since the millennium turned in 2000. And to prove first impressions count we’ve included some of our thoughts from the cars’ original reviews that seem to still resonate today.
1. 2013 Chevrolet Malibu
There is no more competitive segment in the auto industry than that of midsize sedans. When the Malibu got a redesign two years ago it delivered a decent-looking, quiet-riding and well-equipped four-door. There was just one big problem: The backseat was too small. OK, the interior could have been finished better … and the transmission wasn’t great. But almost anything in a car can be fixed quickly for a refresh … except the size.
“There’s much to like about the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, but consumers may have a hard time reconciling not only its looks and interior but also its value and spaciousness versus the class.” — expert review by David Thomas
2. 2008 Ford Focus
The first generation of the Focus to hit the States was a European compact that featured a high-quality interior and a unique style that were lacking in the segment up to that point. Then Ford decided to make a cut-rate Americanized version that was all basic transportation and no flair. It took years before we got the Euro-Focus back on our shores to right this wrong.
“There are still a few gems to discover in Ford’s most affordable car, but in the end it will probably only influence shoppers on a value basis.” — expert review by David Thomas
3. 2011 Scion tC
The first Scion tC was a well-rounded compact coupe with styling and content just right for its target demographic. How could Scion go wrong? It cheapened what our editors considered an upscale cabin for the class. Now the tC no longer feels like you’re getting more for less, and you don’t get to haggle over the price, either.
“The two-door 2011 Scion tC boasts a fresh look, generous room and an improved drivetrain, but cabin quality is just barely competitive — a few steps down from the class-leading original.” — expert review by Kelsey Mays
4. 2004 Nissan Quest
If you’re wondering how today’s out-there Quest got so out-there, you can look all the way back to the 2002 model. What was once a bland but competitive minivan to the Honda Odysseys and Toyota Siennas of the world went off the tracks, adding a lot of chunky styling and those four little sunroofs. It had its fans but doomed the Quest to niche status, where it remains.
“Of the minivans available today, Nissan has pushed the limits of design the furthest with the futuristic-looking Quest.” — expert review by Mike Hanley
5. 2011 Volkswagen Jetta
This one seems like such a no-brainer we’re guessing everyone will be asking why it isn’t higher on this list. It garnered enough votes to make it to the middle of the final 10, but remember, it beat out dozens of nominations to land here because of VW’s failed Americanization of the its famed compact sedan. Not all of Volkswagen’s efforts to make its models more U.S.-friendly have been so off the mark; see the Passat, which won our Best of 2012 award, and the 2015 Golf and GTI, which are two terrific redesigns this year.
“Despite a starting price of just less than $15,000, most Jetta trim levels cost considerably more than that, so the new car will still be seen as a premium offering in the compact-car segment. That’s a problem, because the interior isn’t as nice as the one in the car it replaces.” — expert review by Mike Hanley
6. 2010 Ford Taurus
The venerable Taurus has had a tough time in this millennium. It was sent out to pasture in favor of a giant sedan called the 500, as well as the more popular Fusion midsizer. Ford realized its mistake and changed the 500’s name to Taurus before redesigning it in 2010. Even though the new Taurus is a better performer than that grandfatherly transport it replaced, it was too cramped inside for its considerable exterior girth. We like to remind people that the car is longer than a Honda Odyssey minivan and they quickly understand just how oversized it has become.
“Unfortunately, along with its improved looks, the 2010 trades off some of the attributes that made it attractive in the general sense.” — expert review by Joe Wiesenfelder
7. 2002 BMW 7 Series
Automobile designer Chris Bangle doesn’t have a ton of fans at Cars.com, it seems. His first design statement for BMW didn’t fully execute on his vision for the brand, and it left the world with a mod version of what was once pure German elegance personified. Add to it that the first application of iDrive lived inside the darn thing, and you can understand why it makes this list.
“It put a lot of people off buying the new 7 Series, and subsequent generations toned down the styling considerably.” — Aaron Bragman in Top 10 Most Polarizing Cars
8. 2004 Nissan Maxima
The Maxima used to be one of Nissan’s biggest sellers. The 2004 edition began the car’s transformation to a larger vehicle, much like the Taurus. However, this was an awkward evolutionary step with chunky styling and poor performance to boot, for a car that was once rather sporty. The next generation solved a few of the problems in terms of styling, but hope really lies in an upcoming revamp.
“Ever since the Altima became a midsize sedan with an optional V-6, experts have wondered why anyone would pay thousands more for the equally powerful, slightly larger Maxima.” — expert review by Kelsey Mays
9. 2007 Chrysler Sebring
The Sebring is an easy car to pick on, but it was this generation that laid the groundwork for what was once not solely a rental car option. The new Sebring lost any hint of elegance with its blocky backside, and the interior was far behind the competition of the day. It didn’t help that the base engine led to a louder and less-refined ride.
“The driving experience is marred by a tight, ill-fitting cabin and a merely adequate base powertrain.” — expert review by Mike Hanley
10. 2009 Subaru Forester
Don’t be confused, the 2009 Subaru Forester is actually a terrific compact SUV that we recommended when it came out and that we continue to recommend as a used option too. So, why is it here? Folks just loved the boxy styling of the previous generation. The 2009 version maintained the terrific visibility of past Foresters, but not that low center of gravity that made the SUV feel so well planted. And none of the turbo versions from the 2009 model year and on have been as fun to drive, either.
“The SUV remains as practical as ever, but now boasts enough refinement to merit serious consideration from anyone shopping the latest Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.” — expert review by Kelsey Mays
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears, Ian Merritt, Mike Hanley, Joe Wiesenfelder; Nissan Maxima manufacturer image