Skip to main content

The Pontiac Aztek is easily one of the automaker’s most hated and most famous vehicles. Known by many as the Aztek car, the crossover SUV debuted for the 2001 model year. The automaker created the vehicle to compete with the other SUVs like the RAV4 Toyota. The Pontiac Aztek only lasted on the market for five years, but it’s perhaps better than most remember. 

Here’s why Pontiac’s ugliest SUV is actually one of the best from its later years.  

Why did the Pontiac Aztek fail?

A Gray Pontiac Aztek
Pontiac Aztek | Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This early crossover SUV from Pontiac failed for one main reason. The Pontiac Aztek is universally considered an unattractive vehicle. The automaker wanted a daring design to compete with other popular options, such as the RAV4 Toyota. However, the problem is that the design process for the Aztek car was a disaster. 

The main problem is that each design team member had a prominent say in how the vehicle turned out. This style of automotive design led to an SUV that lacked balance. The SUV has a weird three-spoke wheel design and an unforgivable double hood look. In addition, the car’s base simply doesn’t seem to belong or fit. Sure, some people may appreciate the Pontiac Aztek exterior, but they are few and far between. 

Of course, few people bought it due to the highly unpopular exterior look of the Pontiac AZ. The automaker initially planned to sell about 70,000 units of the SUV in the first year. However, the vehicle only sold 119,000 units by the time it left production. Most of the world forgot about it until the Breaking Bad Pontiac Aztek was seen for the first time on the show. 

What the Aztek Car gets right 

A Yellow Aztek Car
Pontiac Aztek | JERRY HOLT/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Though imperfect, the Pontiac Aztek was a solid vehicle under the hood. According to Edmunds, the 2005 model contains a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a maximum output of 185 horsepower. It’s a vehicle with both front and all-wheel drive options that uses a four-speed automatic transmission. The Pontiac AZ can also tow up to 3,500 pounds. 

The 2005 Pontiac Aztek isn’t a car designed to win races, but it has a pretty okay acceleration time. It can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour between 8.7 and 9.6 seconds. For the sake of comparison, the same model year RAV4 Toyota can do the feat between 8.1 and 9 seconds. It should also be noted that the Pontiac AZ also has manual transmission options. 

The Pontiac AZ has a decent interior

A Yellow Pontiac AZ was designed to compete with the RAV4 Toyota
Pontiac Aztek |  DANIEL LIPPITT/AFP via Getty Images

The inside of this Pontiac wasn’t perfect either, but it didn’t cause the vehicle to fail. Perhaps one of its most valuable features is that the backseats are foldable and removable. There is also enough room for a decent piece of plywood in the back. Regarding the front of the vehicle, the Aztek car was a product of its time, with all the buttons and controls smashed together. 

The Pontiac Aztek was a mistake in many ways. It’s considered one of the biggest, if not the biggest, automotive flops in history. Though the Breaking Bad Pontiac Aztek is a famous car, it did little to influence people to go out and buy used versions. Nowadays, the Pontiac AZ sells for under $6,000.

Related Pontiac Grand Prix GXP: GM’s Weirdly Innovative Pre-Recession Moonshot

Pontiac Grand Prix GXP: GM’s Weirdly Innovative Pre-Recession Moonshot