Before I start, let me admit one thing: there are no really bad cars anymore. The era of the true crapcan went out around 10 years ago, and any new car or truck you can buy these days is, at heart, a decent vehicle. It may not always seem like it, but we’re currently in the middle of an automotive renaissance of sorts. Like most other categories of cars, it’s been evolve or die for SUVs and crossovers. The competition is stiffer than ever, and that has driven dramatic improvements in the power, handling, ride, design and capability of these vehicles.

That doesn’t mean that some vehicles aren’t behind the curve, of course. And in some cases, they’re way behind the curve.

So why do some SUVs fall short? Sometimes it’s a matter of taste. Consumer desires can shift practically overnight, and it’s easy for a manufacturer to get caught out. When gas prices spiked a couple of years ago, large, V-8-powered sport utes became overnight liabilities. Similarly, the rollover controversy that struck the Ford Explorer in the late 1990s was bad news for tall, body-on-frame sport-utes. In recent years, consumer preference has turned toward more car-like crossover vehicles that split the difference between SUVs and cars, offering the best of both worlds — a move that must have folks at Suzuki and Isuzu (who attempted similar vehicles before it was popular) shaking their heads.
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Ranked roughly from smallest to largest, here are the bottom five SUVs and crossovers for 2015. If you’ve got one and love it, that’s no reason to feel bad. There’s a car for everyone, and if one of these is yours, I won’t judge you. Feel free to tell me why I’m wrong, in fact.

Jeep Compass

2014 Jeep Compass High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Note: 2014 Jeep Compass shown here.

The Compass is a good seller, popular and affordable, but it’s got a lot of black marks on its record. For starters, it’s based on the aging and never-particularly-great platform that underpinned the late, unlamented 2011 Dodge Caliber. New, smoother transmissions don’t mask the fact that it’s got crude, unimpressive powertrains. Nearly every other compact crossover offers a more responsive and comfortable ride. The redesigned body is still awkwardly proportioned, and while the rise of the urban crossover means that its moderate-at-best off-road ability isn’t a complete embarrassment, the Jeep badge nevertheless tries to write toughness checks the Compass can’t cash. JD Power and ALG also give the Compass low marks.

Read our review of the 2014 Jeep Compass here.

Land Rover LR2

2010-2011MY Land Rover LR2 Freelander being recalled due to airbag issues Exterior
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Note 2011 Land Rover LR2 shown here.

The LR2 exists deep in "They still build those?" territory. The elderly design is the last vestige of Land Rover a generation ago, and 2015 is its last hurrah. The final LR2s are being built as I write this, and that’s a good thing. The LR2 wasn’t much of an improvement over the Freelander it replaced in 2007, and the Freelander wasn’t that great either. Though tough and powerful enough for off-road duty, the LR2 lacks the easy-to-drive feel of other Land Rovers, and the interior materials are cheap enough to make the rather steep price tag a letdown. The LR2 is also wobbly on pavement. Here’s hoping that its replacement will be a whole lot better.

Read our review on the 2011 Land Rover LR2 here.

Mitsubishi Outlander

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
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Note: 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander shown here.

The Outlander gets all of the numbers right, but falls down in the execution. This three-row crossover does offer impressive fuel economy and handsomely modernized looks, but there’s no hiding the fact that it’s riding on an outdated chassis and making do with aging ergonomics. Performance is acceptable, but the seats are uncomfortable from front to rear. Day-to-day life with the Outlander gets frustrating quickly, and it’s got fussy controls where more modern vehicles have smoother and less complicated operation. Fortunately, Mitsubishi’s made a host of improvements to the Outlander for 2016, so perhaps things are looking up.

Read our review of the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander here.

Toyota Sequoia

2013 Toyota Sequoia High Resolution Exterior
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Note:2013 Toyota Sequoia shown here.

Toyota’s full-size SUV seems to be suffering from a lack of trying. A decent (if uninspiring) performer, it’s been left to rot on the vine without a major upgrade since 2007, and it shows. Towing capacity and performance lag behind that of the other full-size SUVs in the segment. The suspension shows its age also. Perhaps Toyota expected the full-size SUV segment to go away, and just left the Sequoia there to hold its place.

Read our review of the 2013 Toyota Sequoia here.

Nissan Armada

2014 Nissan Armada High Resolution Exterior
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Note: 2014 Nissan Armada shown here.

The Armada full-size SUV suffers from a lack of love similar to the Sequoia. Based on the Titan pickup, the Armada’s got a truckish sort of honesty to it that can be charming, but only when it’s not still exhibiting the poor-riding behaviors that were common to truck-based SUVs 10 years ago. Compared to the competition, the Armada feels like something of a dinosaur. Speaking of dinosaurs, the 5.6 liter V-8 sucks up a lot of them to keep itself moving, too.

Read our review of the 2014 Nissan Armada here.

Having done many "worst-of" lists over the years, there are actually two very pleasing aspects of this collection of behind-the-curve cars. The first, as I mentioned before, is that none of them are objectively bad — they’re just noticeably less awesome than the best in class. The second is that three of the five are on the cusp of being renewed or replaced. In years past, bad cars could stick around forever as manufacturers saved money by not messing with them. That doesn’t cut it any more; even the worst of the bunch are often on the verge of getting better. I think that’s a good thing, don’t you?

Emmy Jackson
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