Don’t worry, Motor1.com readers. I’ve cleared my inbox in preparation for the hate mail I’m about to get. Before you click send, however, take another look at the Audi S4 – any S4 – and give me a reason why I should be excited about how it looks. It’s not that the car is ugly, and I don’t necessarily hate it. Let’s just say I’m disappointed, which frankly, is so much worse than hate.
Sure, it can be fun to drive but be honest Audi owners – how much time (or money, or more accurately, both) do spend fixing your S4? How many thousands of dollars have been lost to dumb mechanical problems that would damn most other cars to a shameful place in automotive hell? To be fair, the whole issue of poor reliability and ridiculous maintenance costs apply to a range of German vehicles, but at least the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW have endearing personalities.
I get there’s a Q-ship factor at play here, and as someone who once owned a Mercury Sable station wagon with a Taurus SHO V6 swap, I do understand the sleeper appeal. But Audi just doesn’t push the right buttons for me, or perhaps they aren’t pressed in the right order. It’s over-engineered and prone to expensive failures, with components wrapped in a boring package that fails to satisfy both the boy-racer and the subdued adult in me. In a world filled with sports sedans, the S4 is at the very bottom of my list.
– Christopher Smith
The Ford Mustang is an American icon. It’s been the subject of documentaries and feature-length films, as well as the centerpiece of books and TV shows. And I hate it. It’s not so much that the Mustang isn’t fun to drive – both the 5.0-liter V8 on the GT model and the 5.2-liter V8 on the GT350 model are riotous, and the rear-wheel-drive setup makes it perfect to toss around. It’s more the general vibe the Mustang gives off.
While the Chevrolet Camaro feels more advanced with a superb modern chassis, and the Dodge Challenger, even with its old-school components, is relatively charming, the Mustang doesn’t feel like a cohesive thought. It’s like a mishmash of retro and modern cues.
For one, that new front fascia is its worst look. The interior, meanwhile, is a mess of retro pieces shoehorned into a space that feels cramped and cheap – some of those dials feel like something you’d find in the Pep Boys aftermarket section. The only thing I do like about the Mustang (outside of its engines), is the rear. At least it’s nice to look at as it’s driving away.
And yes, I know it’s the best-selling of the three (Camaro/Challenger) and thanks to its Coyote V8, one of the most versatile in terms of tuning. But it falls easily to the number three spot on my list of muscle cars. Hell, I’d rather have the four-door Charger before this thing.
– Jeff Perez
It’s not that I hate the Kia Stinger. It’s that I hate the hype surrounding it. Let’s be honest: the Stinger is a good car, and it’s great to see a vehicle manufacturer embrace rear-drive sportiness. That said, it’s not the great car automotive-dom wants you to believe it is. For one, the rear damping is all off, and it makes for a slightly unsettling driving experience as the rear-end continues to bounce around after hitting a bump in the road whilst the front-end has already settled down. Let’s not ignore the wooden feeling brake pedal, either.
The interior is also a bit of a letdown. Well, at least compared to its Genesis G70 chassis-mate, which not only offers superior suspension tuning and a better brake pedal but a superior interior with better ergonomics and materials.
I know what you’re thinking: “Well, of course, the G70’s interior is nicer, because it’s part of a more expensive car.” Au contraire! While the $32,900 Stinger 2.0T is $2,000 cheaper than the entry-level G70 2.0T, the highest-end 365-hp twin-turbocharged V6 Stinger GT is actually $700 more expensive than the equally powerful and better-built G70 3.3T with the Sport package. Let’s also not forget that the four-cylinder Genesis is available with a six-speed manual transmission, a feature not offered in the Kia.
If the Genesis G70 didn’t exist, I might be able to ignore the Stinger’s misgivings. But why put up with its issues when there’s a superior product sold in Genesis showrooms? When it comes to the Stinger, the hype isn’t real.
– Greg Fink
The Mazda CX-9 is a full-size crossover aimed at customers who hate the very concept of a full-size crossover. Which begs the question: Why buy one at all? Oh yes, it drives great. And it looks fantastic, too, but try to do any full-size crossover things with a CX-9 and you’ll be SOL.
Interior storage space is seriously lacking. How’s a busy parent supposed to store and hide iPads and juice boxes? In the CX-9, they can’t.
"Oh, but that’s just a small sacrifice. Surely, the driving experience makes up for this oversight," you’re thinking.
Well, clearly you don’t need a full-size crossover, because no matter how enjoyable it is to drive, the CX-9's crisp steering, torque-rich engine, and well-tuned damping simply can't drown out your children's incessant complaining about the cramped third-row seats. Seriously, the CX-9’s rearmost row is tight, and its 29.7 inches of legroom trails that of the Subaru Ascent by a full two inches.
If you need a full-size crossover, then get a full-size crossover. If you want a sports car, then get a sports car. But don’t try to kill two birds with one stone by getting a CX-9, which offers neither the versatility expected of a full-size crossover nor the dynamics of an actual sports car.
– Greg Fink
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Everyone on the Motor1.com team knows I don’t like convertibles, so the venerable Miata has one strike with me before it’s even reached the plate. Why? Because removing roofs doesn’t make cars better, it makes them worse. It adds weight, reduces structural rigidity, and obliterates privacy (I like to listen to my podcasts privately, thank you very much).
The Miata’s second strike comes courtesy of its cartoonishly small size. I am not a large person, yet I find getting into and driving the Miata surprisingly uncomfortable. I have some friends, large friends, who happily hop in and drive with their knees above their hips and their brows blasted by wind, and I call them masochists.
Strike three is the fact that, despite everyone’s assertion to the contrary, the Miata isn’t the best-handling car of its ilk. The tandem Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86 are. In many ways these three cars are alike – their size, their general lack of grunt (though the Miata is getting more power this year), and their exceptional handling prowess. But the coupes are better in my book because of their steering, which is perhaps the most direct, accurate, and communicative of anything I’ve driven.
That’s three. You’re out, Miata.
– John Neff
Mini Cooper Hardtop
I have owned a 2006 Mini Cooper since the day it was delivered on October 31, 2005. In that time, the little hatchback has served as a faithful companion without ever having any serious mechanical issues. However, it’s my last modern Mini unless the company can find some creativity again.
BMW got things right when it initially revived the Mini brand as a compact, three-door hatchback or convertible with a gargantuan list of customization options to suit any small car buyer’s taste. The brand screwed things up when the execs lost sight of making one good car and instead used the platform to fill every niche a person could think of. Remember bad ideas like the backward-baseball-hat styling of the Mini Coupe or the quickly killed Mini Clubvan delivery vehicle?
The third generation was a chance to get things right, especially thanks to the greater platform and engine sharing with BMW, but the new Hardtop dropped the ball. It hung onto the retro-modern styling long after the fad died, and the larger size made the already tired styling look flabby.
Sorry, Mini, but no thanks on anything you’re selling today.
– Chris Bruce
A Nissan Juke is built at the Sunderland plant in the U.K. every 105 seconds, and that means it’s everywhere on European streets. More than one million have been built during the crossover’s eight-year life cycle, so they’re just about everywhere. But why is that? What do people see in this subcompact crossover?
Call me old-fashioned, but the car’s design is not my cup of tea – to say the least. I do applaud Nissan for having the courage to come out with such a polarizing design, but the face of the Juke just gives me nightmares. It looks like it was just stung by a bee while the side profile is equally weird with the tiny greenhouse and “hidden” rear door handles. The back of the Juke isn’t any better, although those taillights shaped like a boomerang are kind of interesting.
Design aside, the Juke is seriously cramped on the inside where none of the exterior’s funkiness can be found. Nissan decided to go crazy with the styling but for whatever reason played it safe with the cabin’s appearance. There’s also the poor visibility and small trunk compared to rival, while the low roofline is a concern for rear passengers suffering from claustrophobia. After so many years on the market, the Juke is definitely showing its age on the inside especially when compared to much newer subcompact crossovers.
I was glad when Nissan replaced the Juke in the United States with the conventionally styled Kicks, but the Juke soldiers on in Europe where it will get a second generation in 2019. Hopefully, Nissan has found a way to keep it funky while toning down the weirdness.
– Adrian Padeanu
Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86
Hell, I’ll even throw the Scion FR-S in here for good measure, just to make sure you all really know I mean business. So let’s do this thing. The ToyoBaru twins, the "entry-level sports car of our dreams," the "gateway to rear-wheel-drive happiness." Nope.
There are some people who would say I am harping on the wrong thing if I am first to mention the ToyoBaru’s power output. "Come on, Clint. It isn’t about the power – it’s about driving engagement." Tell you what, at 250 horsepower, I will hear that argument. But right now, with 200 starving horses under the hood and no turbo to motivate them, the car is TOO SLOW.
It drones loudly and clumsily all the way to its 7,500 RPM redline, while not gathering much speed in the process. It’s so slow and uneventful that the rest of the driver engagement stuff becomes irrelevant. And that’s a shame because the car’s steering and handling are actually pretty decent.
One other knock before I go: The interior. Especially in 2019, The ToyoBaru’s infotainment setup, if you can call it that, is laughable. For a similarly priced Miata, you can have a functional infotainment system that makes the car better, not worse. With most BRZ/86’s checking in around $30,000 with options, you shouldn’t have to make that many excuses for your shiny new sports car’s early-2000’s era interior.
We should all root for car makers to keep producing affordable, rear-wheel-drive sports cars, but I just don’t think this particular model will go down in history as one of the greats. Perhaps the long-awaited new Supra will return just in time to remind us why we love Japanese coupes to begin with.
– Clint Simone
Hate is such a strong word. Can I say strongly dislike instead? There’s nothing horribly wrong with the Jimny, other than it looks like a ridiculously happy version of a 1980s Micro Machines toy car. I just don’t understand the fascination with this pint-sized SUV. Yes, it’s a nifty off-roader but that’s about it. The interior is cramped for two people never mind four, and forget about carrying any sort of gear should you want to take three friends on a weekend off-road camping adventure.
Its on-road manners are terrible, it’s laughably underpowered, and it feels cheap. I know, I know, that’s because it is cheap – approximately $20,000 in U.S. currency. But for that coin I can buy a very nice secondhand Jeep Wrangler with more power, more space, and infinitely more cool factor. Tooling around in the Jimny might be fun for a week or two, but once that initial infatuation wears off you realize it’s too small, too slow, and too boring.
– Christopher Smith
I know, I know – according to many, the Golf is literally the hatchback. Some argue it offers the best overall package in this segment but there are a couple of things that always bother me about that car. In my eyes, it’s a typical love-hate product and I’m afraid I’m on the hate side. Excuse me for that
First of all, the Golf is too conservative for my taste. I know that’s been the Golf’s winning formula for decades and is part of Volkswagen’s DNA but most (if not all) of its direct competitors look smarter, more sophisticated, and more modern. The interior might be generally well-structured but it’s too old-fashioned especially in the lower trims. What annoys me probably the most about the cabin is the rear seat backrest angle.
But if you are okay with the humble design inside and out, you’ll have to deal with some reliability issues over the years of ownership. Not only people complain about electrical problems almost all the time (power windows, alarm, etc.), but the Golf is also an average-performer at best in Consumer Reports’ surveys. I’ve heard many people saying “when it’s not in the shop, I love it.”
And the price? With an MSRP of $21,845, the Golf is among the most expensive offerings in the hatchback segment. Bear in mind the all-new 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, for example, starts at $19,990. If you load a new Golf with all the cool goodies in the order list, you might end up getting something with four intersecting rings instead.
– Anthony Karr
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