You’ll often hear American car nerds talk about the ‘Malaise Era’. It’s a period spanning the decade between 1973 and 1983, a period when American car manufacturers habitually turned out utter dross. Cars of the lowest standard of design, dynamics and quality that they thought they could get away with.
It was only when they realised vastly superior Japanese and European imports were starting to grab huge numbers of buyers that the Detroit Big Three bucked their ideas up. And even then it was still several decades before they finally worked out how to build cars that were even on the same playing field as competition from the rest of the world.
But the rest of the world had it’s own malaise era, too. It just took a while longer to come around, between about 1988 and 1998. This was a time when buyers walking into a showroom would find nothing but grey, stodgy porridge.
To be fair, few cars of the period were fundamentally flawed in the way so many malaise Yank tanks were. But equally, there was little flair or imagination on show. They were, in short, boring. Painfully so.
The mid-size hatchback segment has particularly badly afflicted. Such cars were massively popular at the time and yet there was so little to recommend so many of them.
Here are 19 of the worst offenders, the most miserable 90s hatchbacks. There’s probably more, I’ve just completely forgotten about them. Which I’ll take as a good thing.
By Only Motors