There’s a very good reason why legacy brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes stick to alphanumeric names for their cars.
Naming cars is a tricky business, you either get it just right and build a Jensen Interceptor or the Dodge Viper, or you get it spectacularly wrong and make the Honda That’s.
And that brings us to our list of the most truly horrible car names ever to exist.
1. Honda That’s (2002-2006)
The ‘That’s’ is a specific version of a kei car called ‘Life’, produced in various forms for different countries between 1971 and 2014.
It was launched in 2002 as a 5-door ‘tall wagon’ hatchback/kei car for the Japanese market and we’ll never know what made them think ‘THAT’S’ would be a great name for a car.
It was powered by a minute 656 cc engine, both with and without turbo-charging, and despite the weird name, it actually sold like hot cakes.
Maybe because it only cost around $6,000 back then.
2. Mazda LaPuta (1999-2005)
You don’t have to be fluent in Spanish to know that ‘puta’ isn’t exactly a regal term.
Although in Mazda’s defence, the Laputa was launched in 1999, back when we didn’t really have widespread access to the internet and streaming services.
But that was then and this is now, and now we’re over-exposed to South American characters in Hollywood movies and telenovas, and everyone and their dog knows that ‘puta’ is Spanish for – how can we say it nicely – a night-shift street worker.
3. Subaru Brat (1978-1994)
Yes, Subaru is a Japanese brand but believe it or not the BRAT was developed specifically for the North American, which makes it even worse because it seems no one at Subaru North America actually spoke English at the time.
It was launched in 1978 as a light-duty pick-up truck and BRAT is actually an acronym for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter.
Amazingly, despite the odd looks and the unfortunate name, it remained in production until 1994.
4. Dodge Dart Swinger (1969-1976)
Back in the 1960s, Dodge evidently wanted to capture the free-spirit vibe of the era by launching a special-edition version of the Dart called the ‘Swinger’.
The Swinger 340 was introduced in 1969, and was equipped with Rallye suspensio, a limited-slip diff and a funny name.
Forty-odd years later, in 2012, the Dart nameplate was revived for a compact car loosely based on the Fiat Viaggio.
Fortunately, the Swinger name never came back.
5. Mitsubishi Pajero (1981-2021)
Even though there are many other cars with much worse names – the Mazda Dump and the Daihatsu Scat spring to mind – the Pajero deserves a spot in the top 5 because it is by far the best-selling car in the world if you only consider cars with dubious names.
Pajero may sound neutral to most people but there’s an entire continent (well, except three of four countries) where the word ‘Pajero’ is slang for… a man who enjoys spending time alone. In the bathroom.
This was a major problem in Spanish-speaking countries, especially in South America, but Mitsubishi quickly realised this and decided to fix the issue by marketing the Pajero as ‘Montero’ in certain regions including Mexico and the Philippines.