We've seen some epic fridge fails in the past, but nothing like this.
Cult brand Smeg has scored the dubious honour of the "worst fridge ever" with its latest FAB38RCRAU model, which earned the lowest result in CHOICE history.
In our independent lab tests, the 504 litre unit scored a "truly chilling" CHOICE Expert Rating of just 22%, based on a raft of serious temperature issues.
"This fridge is the worst we've ever seen in decades of testing," says CHOICE fridge expert, Ashley Iredale.
You get a 1950s-style aesthetic... but you'll also get '50s performance to matchCHOICE fridge expert, Ashley Iredale
"It's even more appalling when you consider that it costs a whopping $3,990. You get a 1950s-style aesthetic from this fridge, but you'll also get '50s performance to match."
Fridge fail means food goes off faster
As well as being "very expensive to run", warns Ashley, the Smeg's biggest sin is its terrible cooling performance and how that affects your food.
Our experts scored it a damning 0% – yes, zero – in our temperature-stability test after witnessing wild and worrying fluctuations (see our analysis below). Put simply, that means food won't last as long and you'll need to buy it more often.
"Its alarming range of temperature issues means perishables are likely to go off far more quickly than they should," Ashley explains. "Replacing them is an extra cost you'll be paying for the lifetime of the fridge."
Why is the Smeg fridge such a stinker?
Previously, Smeg's smaller 326 litre 'FAB' model (FAB32RRDNA1) earned a woeful CHOICE Expert Rating of 34% – but that's nothing on this history-making poor performer. Here are some of the key issues we encountered:
1. No temperature stability at all
This retro unit hit rock bottom, scoring 0% for temperature stability in our tests. "And that's only because we can't give a negative score," says Ashley.
Our lab tests discovered inside temperatures fluctuated wildly – by more than five degrees inside and a staggering 10 degrees in the freezer.
Ups and downs: the freezer can fluctuate up to ten degrees and wreak havoc on food storage.
"Such temperature shifts are really bad news for your food, and can actually be quite dangerous," says Ashley.
"A five-degree fluctuation could see a fridge set at three degrees get as warm as eight degrees. For example, a tray of oysters – refrigerated at eight degrees – could be unsafe and even give you food poisoning."
2. Poor response to outside temperature
Good fridges maintain a constant internal temperature, regardless of what's going on outside.
Not this one. Our experts found it was easily affected by outside conditions and scored it a lowly 22% for this specific test.
If you buy this fridge, you'll need to constantly adjust the settingsAshley Iredale
"If you buy this fridge, you'll need to constantly adjust the settings as the seasons change, or even if there are significant day-to-day changes in the area you live in," says Ashley.
"If you don't, cold weather will make the fridge and freezer even colder, and hot weather will make it even warmer, which could leave you with melted ice cream and much worse."
Our experts found the Smeg was greatly affected by outside temperatures.
3. High energy use and running costs
These don't have a bearing on the CHOICE Expert Rating, but they can affect your budget in a big way, so it's vital to know. Not only is the Smeg very pricey at $3990, but we also found it's "incredibly expensive" to run, which means your wallet's getting walloped twice.
Based on energy-use tests, our experts estimate the Smeg will cost $1707 to run over 10 years, which adds up to a total fridge cost of more than $5,600. By comparison, similar-sized models from other brands we've tested cost between $1074 and $1431 to run for the same length of time.
Worst of all, it means you're paying a lot to run a very poor-performing fridge.
4. It's oversized for its actual capacity
Towering over two metres high, this Smeg fridge is massive and much bigger than similar capacity fridges, according to Ash. That can make it hard to get through doors or into your kitchen.
"We've seen plenty of larger capacity fridges that take up less space in the cramped confines of the modern Australian kitchen," explains Ashley.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.