Friday, September 9, 2011

Ugly door handles can RUIN a car

Door handles, while small and seemingly unnoticeable, are a crucial part of car design. In my opinion, European-style handles (think Mercedes) are most attractive, and have made their way onto most cars by now. However, quite a few car designs have been harmed by ugly door handles, like this BMW Z4. This awkward looking coupe/convertible could've been slightly improved with the handles seen on any other car in BMW's lineup. Click through to see some more examples:

#1: The dreaded 90s-00s GM door handle
Corvette C5 Z06
Look carefully at the door handle of this Corvette Z06, and compare to the pictures below. As mentioned in my previous post, this is a major reason why the C5 will lose appeal over time:

Buick LeSabre
Oldsmobile Intrigue

Pontiac Grand Prix
Chevy Malibu
There are even more (Impala, Aurora, Monte Carlo, Cutlass, Bonneville, Century, Regal, etc.), but need I continue? The fact that this ubiquitous door handle made its way to the Corvette disgusts me.


#2: The Toyota Camry door handle
1991-1996 Toyota Camry
1996-2001 Toyota Camry
The Toyota Camry is the world's most uninspiring car. It is popular because it has excellent reliability and build quality - not because it looks good, because it doesn't. Notice that Toyota carried over the same bland door handle across 2 generations of Camrys, as well on many other cars in its lineup, ruining them as well.

Toyota Celica
Toyota MR2
Lexus LS
Lexus ES
Toyota Avalon
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Solara
Toyota 4Runner
Toyota Supra

 #3: Nissan's hideaway SUV rear door handles
Nissan X-Terra
A sporty 2-door SUV can be pretty cool (think Land Rover Defender, Evoque, Jeep Wrangler, Hummer H1, Isuzu Amigo, Ford Bronco), but lack the functionality and space that a 4-door SUV provides. In an attempt to achieve the best of both worlds, some car companies - especially Nissan - have moved the rear door handle to the C-pillar to achieve the look of a 2-door SUV. However, I think this is really ugly and impractical - I am not tricked by this trompe l'oeil at all. And, by the way, it must be difficult for children to reach that high, which is counterintuitive given that children typically sit in the backseat. Aside from the Nissan X-Terra pictured above, here are a few more examples:

Nissan Pathfinder / Infiniti QX4
Nissan Armada / Infiniti QX56
Nissan Juke
The designers must have thought...could we make this any uglier? Yes! Let's add weird door handles to the rear doors!

Jeep Compass
 What a disaster the Jeep Compass is. The Nissan-like rear door handles add to the car's confusing mess of a design.

Honda Element
The Element's rear door handles are not as bad given how small the back doors are.


#4: Miscellaneous Examples:
Renault Twingo

If you travel to any European country, you are bound to see many Renault Twingos on the road. Unlike Americans, Europeans love small, economical hatchbacks, and the Twingo definitely fits the bill. However, the styling is too cutesy for my tastes, and the round door handles do not help.

Audi A3
Everyone knows I'm a HUGE Audi A3 fan. However, if I have 1 gripe, it is the outdated door handles: why hasn't Audi put the same handles on the A3 as on the rest of the lineup?

Ford Thunderbird
The Thunderbird remake had a lot going for it, but always fell short in my eyes. Imagine how much sleeker this car would look with the European-style handles seen on all of Ford's models today...

Mazda 626
The Mazda 626 actually gives the Toyota Camry a run for its money on the most boring car ever made. The 626 has absolutely no style, except for its ugly, overstyled door handles, which make me not want to get inside this car even more. There is an extra crease in the door handle that just should not be there. It is subtle, so you may need to enlarge this picture to see what I'm talking about...

Honda CR-Z
I understand that Honda wants to be edgy, but the CR-Z's door handles are weird looking and do not look easy to open. Traditional handles may have looked sleeker.

Nissan Micra
Fortunately not sold in the states, the last-gen Micra looked like it was frowning from the side-profile. This frumpy design actually may have been improved with a more traditional kind of door handle.

Pontiac Trans Sport / Chevy Lumina / Oldsmobile Silhouette
Yikes! In its day, this minivan looked futuristic, but its design certainly has not stood the test of time. The door handles are quite avant-garde, something the already bonkers design did not need.

Porsche 911 996
Why not end with a bombshell - for first time in Porsche's history, the Porsche 911 996 and first-gen Boxster moved away from traditional door handles to the ones pictured above. For that reason alone, I do not like either model when I see them on the road. Everything else about the 996 and Boxster is beautiful, but the door handles impair the designs to such an extent that I would never buy either car. Fortunately, Porsche reinstated its old traditional door handles in the 997, 991, and refreshed Boxster.


  1. I never realized the visual impact of door handles until I read this post. Verrrrry interesting! You are so right, and your examples are really perfect. It's amazing how a subtle little design for a door handle can ruin the entire look of a car. Kind of like wearing a beautiful dress but with runs in your stockings.

  2. All of your examples look like they came from the same door handle factory ... inharmonious bumps on the side of the car. I like door handles that are unobtrusive, don't stick out too much and are the same color as the car. The ones you point out look like they are stuck on. How about some example of good design?

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