Design hero to zero: part 1


The automotive world is littered with success stories of automakers coming up with surprising hits, creating design icons from scratch and capturing the attention of the industry out of the blue (VW Golf, Audi TT, Ford Focus). The way down is often much slower – carmakers gradually give up their dominant position in design until they become a shadow of their former selves – think Cadillac post-1960s, or Audi over the past decade. But sometimes the downfall is sudden and sharp, when in one generation the automaker turns a design leader into a design stinker. This article is the first in a series documenting exactly such cars. Browse through the pics to see the first five offenders and nominate your own candidates in the comment box below.


  1. Couldn’t agree more with you on the Megane, Focus and 407 coupe!
    I haven’t seen the new Q7 in real life yet, so can’t really judge until then. It does look ghastly on the picture you posted, but that could still be just a bad camera angle (I certainly hope so, for Audi’s sake….).
    I’m ambiguous on the E60 5-series. I agree it’s not a natural beauty like the E39, but it was a design statement, and one that defined BMW’s design language for the subsequent decade. I don’t like the “Dame Edna”-style headlights, but I remember being a huge fan of the taillights when the car just came out. And it was a huge commercial success as well. Oh, and remember at that time the best that Mercedes-Benz could do was the uninspired, curves-galore W211.
    My nominees for the next round are the characteristic Fiat Panda second gen to the plump third gen and the ballsy and angular Honda Euro-Civic eighth gen hatchback to the current different-for-the-sake-of-being-different ninth gen.

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