Trucks & SUVs

Why the 2001 Pontiac Aztek Isn’t Completely Irredeemable

Some cars are so ugly that only the designer could love it, and the Pontiac Aztek falls into that category. It almost looks like a cross between a station wagon, an SUV, and a sedan, but somehow fails to do justice to anything.

In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find another vehicle to compare it to, which is a good thing. Crossovers are very popular, but the Aztek turned out to be a total flop and may have played a role in the downfall of Pontiac.

Still, the Aztek seems to have developed a loyal following of owners who wouldn’t part with their Aztek for anything. So what is it that they see in this strange little vehicle that doesn’t fit in anywhere? Does it actually have any redeemable qualities? Let’s check out some of the facts so you can decide for yourself.

What the heck happened?

That’s what most people ask when they see the Aztek. Pontiac was responsible for bringing us legendary vehicles such as the Grand Prix, the GTO, and the FireBird. With such a legacy to pull from, how exactly did Pontiac produce such an uncomely monstrosity? 

Well, as it turns out, it was supposed to be a cross between a Camaro and a Blazer. We kid you not. In an interview with The Fast Lane, the original designer Tom Peters stated, “What if you took a Camaro and a Blazer and put it in a blender?” Sounds great, right? 

It would have been great too, if it had happened that way. Instead, a committee was brought in to design it together. Everyone had a say, and tons of ideas came into play, and what we ended up with was Frankenstein’s crossover.

It was a mismatch of this and that, and had absolutely no cohesion. There’s certainly no trace of either the Camaro or the Blazer in it, and future models did little to improve it. 

Who fell in love with the unlovable

There’s always that odd-looking little dog at the pound that is so ugly everyone falls in love with it. The Pontiac Aztek is definitely not the equivalent of that in the car world. It’s more like the deformed skunk you see on the side of the road that you speed up to avoid.

Still, someone who loves skunks will stop, take selfies with it, and may even decide to take it home, stench and all. Why? Because it’s so wrong, it’s actually cool to like it. Most people would be horrified that you posted a selfie with a skunk, but there will always be that weird friend who loves you for it.

The Aztek probably doesn’t even have this to recommend it, and the crossover would have fallen into obscurity if it weren’t for Breaking Bad. It took a chemistry teacher who created a drug empire to make this troll of a vehicle popular. Fans of the show actually fell in love with the confused little crossover and saw something redeemable in it. 

Others love the Aztek because of its versatility. It has some crazy storage options, like the cooler in the console. If that’s not cool enough for you, then for the right price, you could add in a tent.

Car camping is only now gaining a strong following, and the Aztek helped start that. Is it weird? Absolutely. That’s probably why the Aztek has such a loyal following.

Critics aren’t on the Pontiac Aztek bandwagon

To say that auto experts aren’t in love with the Aztek is an understatement. CBS News named the Aztek as one of the 15 ugliest cars in the world. Car and Driver was even more brutal. According to the car review site,

“It’s so powerfully ugly that a blobfish wouldn’t be seen next to it. If you saw something that looked like the Aztek scurry out from behind your fridge, you might have difficulty deciding whether to kill it or kill yourself.”

Rather than praising Breaking Bad for featuring this odd misfit, Car and Driver thinks that the show resurrected something that should have remained forgotten. 

There are some critics, like AutoTrader, that think the Aztek may be so wrong, it’s kind of cool. Not everyone agrees, of course, but does that really matter? One thing is clear: There is no middle ground with the Aztek. Everyone either loves it or hates it.