Motoring Trailblazers - Pontiac Aztek

Sat 29th Dec 2018

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Pontiak Aztek
With the Aztek, General Motors told the world that being boxy, square and hard-edged might not be so bad after all. The 1980s had see a whole host of sharp-edged car designs as opposed to the smoother, curvier designs of decades gone by, but as the process of creating bodywork for cars improved, we saw a return to the more aesthetically pleasing designs.

The Pontiac was not easy on the eye, but that was never the plan, the Aztek was a crossover with a purpose and was possibly designed to stand out from the crowd, the geek of the SUV market.

Designed by Tom Peters at GM, who would later go on to create the Chevrolet Corvette, Peters told the media that the Aztek was created to signal a design renaissance for GM and to ‘make a statement about breaking from GM’s instinct for caution.’ Launched in 2000, the all-new Aztek was described by one designer as being ‘aggressive for the sake of being aggressive’ and much of the design style owed to the bygone era of the 1970s.

Despite the brave styling of the Pontiak Aztek it’s likely that this will be a car best remembered for being ugly than anything else. Some of the criticisms included being described as a ‘gratuitous, fierce, animalistic snout’ featuring ‘atrocious proportions wrapped in plastic body cladding’ and ‘looked like a station wagon stretched out by a car bomb’.

Perhaps the worst criticism came from the company’s very own CEO, who said the car looked like ‘angry kitchen appliances’.

But the Aztek was a forerunner for other bold SUVs and without its influence we might never have seen the Nissan Juke or the Toyota C-HR, other vehicles which have gone on to be successful for putting convention ahead of style.

The Aztek saw production between 2000 and 2005, but later claimed cult status as featuring as Walter White’s vehicle of choice in the acclaimed TV series, Breaking Bad.