The American automotive industry has essentially split into three separate sectors: pickup trucks, sports cars, and cheap commuters. From little economy cars to bland crossovers, the cheap commuters stand out because they sell for reasons other than fun, work, and style. Instead, they're just so-so products that buyers plan to drive into the ground.
The problem is that most cheap American cars end up lasting for far less time than their Japanese or Korean competition—all while looking worse, driving worse, and costing even slightly more. So even if the Dodge Challenger Demon and the C8 Corvette are producing headline after headline out of Detroit, other than the big hits, the majority of actual cars leaving Detroit factories are total disappointments.
Keep scrolling for 15 cheap American cars every driver should avoid in 2020.
15. Chevrolet Sonic
via Car and Driver
Chevrolet might just be the worst offender when it comes to cheap cars these days, though GM has always been well-known for terrible attempts at selling badge-engineered vehicles. One of the worst is the Chevy Sonic, formerly known as the Aveo, which was a Daewoo product under the skin. But now, the Sonic is its own beast, developed by GM Korea and also sold under the Holden marque.
14. Chevrolet Spark
via Lou Fusz Chevrolet
Any time Chevrolet sells a cheap car, it's a good bet that the company has outsourced plenty of building to other countries and companies. As if the 2020 Sonic wasn't bad enough, the Spark manages to be even more global, with production in India, Uzbekistan, South Korea, Colombia, and Vietnam. But at least it costs basically nothing.
13. Tesla Model 3
Tesla's Model 3 might not be the cheapest car on the market, but it's certainly cheap for an EV and way cheaper than the Model S and Model X. Plenty of buyers got duped into pre-ordering a Model 3 for the government rebates (which have since expired), only to discover that their "cheap" electric car can barely stay on the roads without breaking down.
12. Chevrolet Trax
Another Chevy, another strange attempt to build a cheap car that will satisfy only the basic needs of city dwellers. The Trax is just a Sonic with a bit more room and a bit more ground clearance. But this little crossover maxed out at a four-cylinder engine, so despite the fact that it can be had with all-wheel drive, it's best not to hope for any rough terrain.
11. Chevrolet Colorado
via Car and Driver
Pickup trucks have grown so large in recent years that even the Toyota Tundra is now a monstrosity. The result is that manufacturers now have to introduce smaller models because what was formerly small is now huge. Case in point is the Chevrolet Colorado, the smaller, entry-level pickup in Chevy's lineup. But it's still comparable to the vastly superior Toyota Tacoma.
10. Ford Escape
Ford has paired its production down to just five platforms, essentially cutting car sales to almost nothing other than the Mustang (and the GT, which is a whole different story). But the Escape, despite a redesign, is just another disappointing crossover that's really just a commuter sedan mixed with a minivan and styled to look ever-so-slightly more impressive.
9. Ford EcoSport
The EcoSport, meanwhile, is Ford's cheapest crossover. The car has been sold internationally since 2003 and is a close sibling of the Fiesta. Using the term "car" is appropriate here because base models come standard with a 1.0-liter inline-three engine, which is about as weak as humanly possible without being radically dangerous.
8. Ford Ranger
Ford's entrant into the mid-sized pickup truck market is the newly revived Ranger, which has actually remained in continuous production internationally. But yet again, this truck sits at a strange intersection where it's a bit too big for some but too small for most buyers. Whether it will become a success in 2020 remains to be seen.
7. Jeep Compass
Jeep's entire lineup has truly suffered as Fiat has come to control more of Chrysler and its subsidiaries. Even with the addition of the Gladiator pickup, as a whole, the lineup is much softer. Models like the Compass aren't even true SUVs—this crossover comes with front-wheel drive in base form, which is just embarrassing given the logo on its nose.
6. Jeep Renegade
Another disappointing Jeep that plenty of buyers might get suckered into purchasing in 2020 is the Renegade. Despite its name—and the ads that use a song of the same name—the Renegade is anything but revolutionary. Instead, it shares much of its underpinnings with the aforementioned Compass, making them both blood siblings with the Fiat 500X and, even worse, the 500L.
5. Jeep Cherokee
Cherokee might be an established name from Jeep's long, successful history—but that didn't stop FCA from absolutely ruining this legend. The fact that a Cherokee could possibly leave the factory with front-wheel drive is almost as depressing as the recent reveal that BMW's new 2 Series will do the same.
4. Chrysler Pacifica
via Garber Automall
As bad as crossovers becoming a serious market presence might be for gearheads to accept, the fact that minivans are still around is truly baffling. The Chrysler Pacifica is one of America's only remaining family haulers that, at the very least, lives proudly with its own blandness—but that doesn't mean anyone should actually buy one.
3. Dodge Journey
via The Car Connection
Dodge has spun off the RAM pickup truck division, leaving the company with a few strange products that seem more confusing than anything else. The 2020 Journey starts at only $23,495 but resembles a boxy van more than an SUV. Where is even a hint of the styling that makes RAM's pickups so unique?
2. Buick Encore
via Cadillac Arabia
Buick might be the single most confusing automotive brand in the United States. Where Cadillac and Lincoln are luxurious, Buick remains cheap, ugly, and irrelevant. Perhaps GM just keeps the company around because it sells so well in China (though even there, Buick is on the decline), but cars like the cheap Encore do nothing to help revive the marque here in the United States.
1. GMC Canyon
via Castle Buick GMC
Much like the Chevrolet Colorado, the GMC Canyon is a pickup truck that should spark instant concerns in the minds of potential buyers. With a base price of only $22,200 for the 2020 model, how can anybody reasonably expect this truck to survive even one year of real work duty without major warranty work becoming necessary?
Sources: CNBC, Motortrend, Car and Driver, and Consumer Reports.