Bonnet scoops are supposedly one of those achingly cool indicators of a proper performance car. There to allow more direct air flow into the engine, or maybe just for improved cooling in a high-performance setup, a good one complements a car’s brawn or its naked potential for speed.
A bad one can just be embarrassing. It’s the pair of socks in the front of your underwear. While this one is open for plenty of debate, we’ve picked out a few bonnet scoops that just don’t work for us. For some the problem is that they’re about as necessary as a duck in a phone shop. For others it’s that they look terrible. Either way, feel free to disagree as we list our top offenders in the world of bonnet scoopery.
If it’s one thing a well-executed family bus needs it’s a totally superfluous bonnet scoop. Or… maybe not. The Sedona, optimistically named the Carnival in markets outside Europe, was launched in 1998 with a weirdly large scoop fronting its otherwise remarkably dull body. It was like someone had put an MPV on a bonnet scoop for some reason.
Whether or not this was technically functional for the low-output engine options, it looked utterly ridiculous, like you’d just been to a car parts shop and put it on there yourself after taking experimental medication. It’s a big thumbs-down from us.
Toyota Celica (MkVII)
Once upon a time the Celica was a rally hero, iconic in Castrol colours and still a great-looking car today. Then the MkVII came along. It was a pretty thing, but in front-wheel drive only and with a chassis that had all the dynamism of a morning milk delivery, it was as sporting as an elderly Labrador.
And yet, it had a bonnet scoop. Blessed with less purpose than a hair dryer in a monastery, this scoop was purely for style. To give it its due, when buyers ticked the ‘massive rear wing’ option on the 189bhp T-Sport version it seemed to suit the overall effect better. That car’s 2ZZ four-pot revved to over 8000rpm and sounded like a nest of hornets in attack mode, at least giving the sharply-styled but soft-edged Celica some performance, but the bonnet scoop added nothing.
Mini Cooper S & JCW
The first BMW-era Mini Cooper S, released in 2001, was supercharged. The scoop at the top of its stubby and handsome nose led straight to a little blower that pumped the 1.6-litre engine’s power up to an angrily-delivered 163bhp. Unfortunately, that engine had a habit of eating itself in too many examples, so it was replaced with an all-new item in the all-new R56 generation in late 2006.
And the scoop? It stayed, because it had become a defining aesthetic feature of the Cooper S and JCW models, but now you could tape it over and it’d make no difference. The days of the scoop’s purpose had gone: yet another aspect of the Mini had become solely style-led. At least the turbocharged R56 made up for it by being an absolute hoot.
Suzuki Alto Works
Realistically, a water-cooled engine needs a fair amount of power before a more direct means of air induction becomes necessary. That makes the ridiculously aftermarket-looking bonnet scoop on the 1987 Suzuki Alto Works look a bit misplaced. The Works was the first kei car to hit Japan’s legal power limit for the class… at 64bhp.
But, basically, what you got was a tall, narrow city car best suited to shopping trips and possibly falling over around corners. Giving it this bonnet scoop was like giving a pug puppy an aggressively-studded collar. At best, it’s a bit of a joke. If you’re on board with that, go nuts!
Come off it, Toyota, the Supra’s feeble scoop was neither one thing nor the other. It wasn’t authentic enough, it didn’t look particularly natural on the car’s nose and it lacked any oversized shock factor; the thing that makes the old Mazda 3 MPS’s equivalent work so well.
The more pictures of it that you look at, the less right it seems. It comes across like a cheap aftermarket add-on that was designed for a much smaller car. It’s definitely better off without it.
Nissan Pulsar/Sunny GTi-R
After all our bleating about non-functional bonnet scoops, here’s one that actually serves a purpose. The rare and surprisingly special Nissan Pulsar GTi-R was built with an SR20DET turbocharged four-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive. It kicked ass courtesy of massive traction and 227bhp, which, at the time in the early 1990s, was a huge number. The Pulsar didn’t weigh a whole lot, either, and was massively tunable.
Named the Pulsar in Japan and the detuned Sunny in the UK, it was a purposefully ugly thing that would still keep hot hatchbacks honest even today with a rumoured 0-60mph time of 5.4 seconds. That scoop was one of its least attractive features, though. Long and louvred, it looked like it needed a rhinoplasty. Surely there was a neater, more stylish alternative to the cooling dilemma? At least, from the driver’s seat, you didn’t have to look at its worst side…