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Cars.com Names Most-Improved and Worst Cars of the Decade

September 03, 2009

With 2010 model year vehicles already on dealer lots, Cars.com editors reminisced on the good, the bad and the ugly of the past decade to compile their top ten most-improved and worst cars of the decade.

"Despite the current gloom, automakers have really stepped up the past decade and have put out some great vehicles," says Patrick Olsen, editor in chief of Cars.com. "We've seen mass adoption of new vehicle types like crossovers and hybrids. On the other hand, we've also seen a lot of duds."

In order to be considered as one of the most-improved or worst cars of the decade, a car had to be sold at any point in the 2000s; some of these models were only on the market for a few years, while others are still being sold today.

Worst Cars of the 2000s:

Whether poorly executed, ill-conceived or downright dreadful to look at, the 10 cars listed below stood out to the Cars.com editors for all the wrong reasons.

10. Pontiac Aztek(2001-2005): The Aztek was criticized for the duration of its life for its ghastly styling. Were the critics wrong? Yeah, we didn't think so.

9. Daewoo Anything (1999-2002): We had just tested a Suzuki Esteem and marveled at how competent even the cheapest little econoboxes had become when a leather-lined Leganza midsize sedan showed up -- the best Daewoo had to offer. We mused over which would kill us first: the toxic gases from the cheap interior or the recalcitrant transmission and inconsistent acceleration. Three days into the loan, the first Daewoo crash tests in U.S. history came out, and we called Daewoo and told them to come pick up the car. We'd never done that before, and we haven't since.

8. Isuzu VehiCROSS(1999-2002): The outrageous Isuzu VehiCROSS two-door SUV, whose extreme styling drew varied reactions, lasted from 1999 to 2001, and even that's surprising. The fanglike grille uprights made it look like it would eat you, which was scary mainly because inside the VehiCROSS was a place no one wanted to be.

7. Jaguar X-Type(2002-2008): In the early 2000s, the class of entry-level luxury cars was growing. Wanting in, Jaguar came out with the X-Type. Sharing its front-drive platform with a European Ford Mondeo, the X-Type was a too-small, not-so-sporty sedan with all-wheel drive that was hamstrung by some of the forewarned quality issues.

6. Pontiac Sunfire(1995-2005): The Sunfire managed the rare feat of having a worse interior than its GM twin, the Chevy Cavalier. Cheap interior plastics run amok, a coarse four-cylinder engine and horrendous crash-test ratings sealed its fate.

5. Cadillac Catera(1997-2001): In the late '90s, the Opel Omega begat a Cadillac that was sporty in theory but soft and underpowered in practice, rear-wheel-drive in design but front-wheel-drive in feel. And that's just the car. Cadillac didn't help its case with advertising that included the tagline "The Caddy That Zigs," supermodel Cindy Crawford, an animated duck, and the suggestion to "lease a Catera" with the response, "Who's Lisa Catera?" The geniuses responsible for the Catera should have been exiled, but we suspect they went on to develop something called the Pontiac Aztek.

4. Toyota Echo(2000-2005): The Echo subcompact's high seating position and center-mounted instrument panel were two well-intentioned features that were summarily rejected by consumers (though they would find their proponents in later years and other models). Call the Echo ahead of its time if you must; mainly it just wasn't a very good car.

3. Jeep Compass(2007-present): The Compass doesn't belong in the Jeep lineup, a brand known and respected for its off-road ability. It's a soft-roading poseur, and not a good one at that.

2. Chrysler Sebring(1995-present): The previous-generation Sebring wasn't a bad car in its day, but Chrysler dropped the ball with the redesigned 2007 model. With a weak base powertrain, uncomfortable front seats, poor interior quality and haphazard styling, it never had a chance in the highly competitive midsize-sedan segment.

1. Smart ForTwo(2008-present): We don't have a problem with small cars in general (we're big fans of the Mini Cooper), just with ones that don't deliver on the benefits of going small. The pint-sized ForTwo sacrifices a lot of passenger space for a relatively unimpressive 41 mpg on the highway, has an SUV-like propensity to roll over, and is equipped with an aggravating sequential manual transmission. Sure, the ForTwo looks cute, but after you drive it you won't be smiling anymore.

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