This should come as little to no surprise to, well, anybody, but different people often have different tastes. And this is a good thing — it’s a part of what makes us unique and keeps things interesting. When it comes to business, however, industries tend to find a happy medium that will make the greatest number of people happy. In the automotive industry, this is your Camry, your Accord, the F-150s and the Silverados of the industry, all meant to appeal to the largest group of people possible.
These types of vehicles tend to err on the side of bland. Not necessarily boring, but nothing particularly attention grabbing. People may not love them, but they won’t hate them, either. And that’s what makes them so popular: They fall right up the middle of road. Then there are others, some so universally panned that they struggle through a short production run before being given the merciful axe and put to rest.
And there are other models that prove to be quite popular with certain crowds but tend to fall to one side or the other and don’t occupy that middle sweet spot where the best-selling, mass-produced vehicles live. They tend to be quirky, strange, and in many ways experimental, often finding legions of devoted fans and buyers who are looking for just that kind of thing. Here’s a list of sixteen of the more polarizing of vehicles, in no particular order.
1. Nissan Juke
The Nissan Juke is perhaps the reigning emperor of polarizing cars. Not only does it look dramatically different from anything else in Nissan’s American portfolio, but it looks dramatically different from anything else on the road. It’s entirely unconventional in every way, and many love it for just that reason. Whether it’s the peculiar face with the top-mounted turn signals or the rakish back with the swoosh tail lights and unusual posture, many find the Juke to be a refreshing take on the modern, bland automobile. One thing’s for sure, though: You either really like the Juke or you don’t like it at all.
2. Jeep Cherokee
Jeep’s newest take on the Cherokee shocked many Jeep purists, who were hoping for something along the boxy, squarish form of the original, but they got this instead. Like the Juke, it puts its turn signals above its headlights, and although it has the badges and the seven-slot grille, it shares nothing else in common with its fellow Jeeps. Bold looks aside, it’s been selling spectacularly well and has been a powerful force behind Jeep’s strong growth this year.
3. Toyota Prius
It’s hard to deny that people who love the Toyota Prius love the Toyota Prius, and it’s easy to see why. It’s among the most capable cars in its class with its versatile lift-back design, and it offers perhaps the greatest combination of practical performance and fuel economy available. However, its detractors point out — perhaps rightly so — that it’s certainly not a looker from most angles, and its performance isn’t going to be setting any records in the near future.
4. Honda Ridgeline
The Honda Ridgeline is often looked down upon by pickup enthusiasts as not being a true truck, largely due to its unibody design and lack of a V8 option. While it may not be able to haul, tow, store, or match the rugged nature of the body-on-frame built pickups, the Ridgeline has managed to carve a niche for itself with those who don’t need a full-size pickup and often carry more people than cargo. The Ridgeline is ideal for some heavy transport, like the odd garbage dump run or furniture moving, but is also practical for the everyday driver, carrying the kids and running errands without burning through copious amounts of fuel. For some, though, there’s just no replacement for the conventional pickup, so the Ridgeline certainly has its haters.
5. Scion xB
Scion, a division of Toyota, was built to be quirky and fun, to better appeal to younger buyers. In order to do so, Scion has created several unique vehicles, like the xB, a boxy little ute that, while undeniably practical and capable for size, sends drivers to one side or the other over its styling. The boxy thing has been a popular Japanese design motif, evident with cars like the Honda Element and the Nissan Cube, but it hasn’t translated well for the American market. Nonetheless, the xB has certainly found a loyal fan base that finds the quirky styling and boxy dimensions to be just what they’re looking for.
6. Mini Cooper Clubman
Like the Jeep Cherokee, Mini has its army of dedicated fans who loved the car for what it was: a modern reinvention of the classic Mini from the 1960s. So when Mini launched the Clubman, which boasted suicide doors and a fully functional trunk with barn-style doors, Mini enthusiasts cried foul that the Clubman was leaving Mini’s true heritage and that it would only get worse from there (it did, with the Countryman crossover SUV). Nonetheless, many have found the Clubman to be a fine balance of practicality and Mini’s signature looks, and the car is among the more popular in Mini’s stable.
7. BMW X6
BMW’s X6 (the X6 M is pictured) is representative of a whole segment of vehicles, which includes the Honda Crosstour and Acura ZDX — it is defined by the stature and posture of an SUV but with the sloping back of a coupe. Some find the combination to be quite appealing, and the X6 and Crosstour have sold well (the Acura, not so much), but others find it difficult to see the point in such vehicles. They offer neither the performance of the coupe nor the full practical nature of an SUV but somehow combine to create a Frankenstein vehicle that offers a little of each type of vehicle.
8. Hyundai Veloster
The Hyundai Veloster is by all means a decent car, but by definition of its funky and unusual styling, it has its fans and its critics. It has two doors on one side and just one on the other, helping to set it apart from virtually every other car on the road, at least in that regard. Though technically a hatchback, it has the raked roof and rear window of a coupe, and its gaping front grille isn’t going to please everyone. Like the Juke and others on this list, the Veloster seems like it was an experiment by Hyundai’s engineers that largely been a positive force for the brand.
9. Smart Car
We’ve all seen them around, and honestly, with just a simple glanced your judgments usually compose themselves right away. That’s right, it’s the Smart Car. Smart builds small, conventional and electric vehicles that are primarily targeted at inner-city residents, who can use the car’s small stature to their advantage for parking and navigating congested streets. Also, the car obviously offers some economical advantages as well. But then there are the aesthetics. It’s hard to deny that the car somewhat resembles a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. Also, the actual utility you gain from the car is questionable. With room for little more than two people, can you actually move anything other than a backpack around?
10. Kia Soul
Kia’s Soul is one of several cube-like vehicles to have hit the market over the past decade or so. Resembling the Nissan Cube and Scion xB, the Soul is famous for sporting an advertising campaign involving dancing hamsters, which likely led to many people hating it right off the bat. But again, the Soul is not quite an SUV, yet not quite a hatchback car. Or a van. It’s somewhere in the middle, and the fact that these cube cars suffer from an identity crisis has many consumers looking for something else to drive.
11. Nissan Leaf
All-electric cars are starting to make some real noise in the market, and the Nissan Leaf is one of the reasons why. The Leaf, an oddly-named compact electric car, sort of looks like a turtle’s shell on wheels. Not to say that it’s a bad vehicle — the Leaf gets the equivalent to 126 miles per gallon. But still, it’s small and all-electric, two things that many American consumers are not quite sold on. If the Leaf had a different look to it, perhaps more people would be willing to give it a shot. But as of right now, it’s sort of bland, and for a lot of people, that’s a no-no.
12. Chevy Volt
It’s easy to love or hate the Chevy Volt. This all-electric model from Detroit’s own General Motors immediately divided the crowd upon its announcement and subsequent arrival in the U.S. auto market. Chevy, obviously seeing an increased interest in fuel-efficient vehicles domestically, pulled the trigger on the Volt, putting some skin in the game. It was likely a wise move, although many American car buffs still don’t like the idea. At least the Volt didn’t also come with some wacky aesthetic designs, and more closely resembles a traditional sedan. Otherwise, it would be even more divisive. The new model should help assuage that division, though.
13. BMW i3
When BMW announced they were wading into the electric and hybrid vehicle arena, most people weren’t surprised. What was surprising was what they showcased when the i3 was unveiled, a small, round and not-very sporty electric vehicle. A far cry from the i8, the i3 is a strange compact car, with a futuristic vibe. Perhaps the i3 simply needs some time to mature, for the concept to sink in? Or maybe BMW just needs to go back to the drawing board? Either way, the i3 is sure to have you leaning one way or another regarding how you feel about it.
14. Ford Flex
Ah, the Ford Flex. Who wouldn’t want a vehicle called a ‘Flex’? And what does that mean, anyway? Well, if the name wasn’t enough of a turn-off, perhaps this crossover’s aesthetics will. Many people think that the symmetrical, box-like exterior that Ford engineered has a sense of elegance, or timelessness about it. Others think it’s ugly, and that Ford is better off sticking to what they’re good at, namely focusing on the Explorer and Escape instead. Or just concentrate on minivans.
15. Jeep Renegade
Jeep is really making a big push to regain some ground in the SUV segment, and part of the company’s strategy is to release some new models to tailor to different tastes. That includes the new Jeep Renegade, which is a four-door mish-mash of Jeep’s popular Cherokee and Wrangler models. It’s also the smallest vehicle in Jeep’s lineup. Can it keep up with the Wrangler in off-road situations? Does it offer the utility and capability of the Cherokee? Or is it simply a cute, brightly-colored alternative to those models? It may be hard to decide for Jeep purists.
16. Lincoln MKT
Lincoln’s been making a big push to regain some market share as of late, including harnessing the star power of Matthew McConaughey in a strange and polarizing advertisement. But among Lincoln’s classy lineup, the MKT stands out. Is it a wagon? An estate car? Or simply a sedan hatchback? No matter what it is, it sure is divisive. It’s strange aesthetics will probably have you leaning towards other vehicles in the Lincoln lineup, the MKT is a $43,000 enigmatic crossover (or hatchback).
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