There are some great vehicles out there that never achieved mainstream popularity, but in hindsight, are pretty sweet rides. If you’re willing to drive something a little different, you can find a great deal on a car that may still be mocked by the automotive press and the public but will find a special place in your heart.
We’ve picked our nine favorites that showcase some unique, interesting, or otherwise decent cars that never caught the limelight.
1. Toyota Cressida
Before there was Lexus, there was the luxury-leaning Toyota Cressida. It was built to compete with finer sedans from Europe. What makes this car so underappreciated is its twin-turbo V-6 engine that also powered the Supra. With the Cressida, you get speed, luxury, and increasing resale value as the vintage Japanese market grows.
View Toyota Cressida listings here.
2. Accord Hybrid
You know a Prius when you see one, and so does everyone else. Honda’s problem wasn’t that it didn’t build a great car, it’s that people were wearing their hybridity on their sleeves back in 2005. Expect great mpg and all the amenities and quality Accords have to offer since the Hybrid option came at the top-of-the-line trim level. KSL Cars has lots of new Accord Hybrids, and a few older ones around $5,000.
View Accord Hybrid listings here.
3. Isuzu Axiom
Yes, the styling is pretty unique. If you like the looks, it’s a fine SUV. If you don’t, check out the Isuzu Trooper instead.
4. Pontiac Aztek
They all laughed when you debuted, Aztek. You were odd-looking. Your marketing campaign was all wrong. Your features seemed gimmicky. (OK, you were really odd-looking.) But that won’t stop us from appreciating you now.
The Aztek was built on a shortened GM minivan platform, so parts shouldn’t be a problem. It had some cool innovations like a rear console that doubled as a removable cooler, stereo controls at the tailgate, and an optional attachable tent with inflatable mattress. If you have a thing for ugly ducklings, just try searching for one — they were only built from 2001-2005 — and they’re quite popular now, if not ironically.
View Pontiac Aztek listings here.
5. Chrysler Crossfire
Want a Mercedes with a bolder look? The Crossfire was built back when the three-point star owned the Pentastar, so it’s pretty much a Mercedes SLK underneath. The SLK was a small Benz, and the Crossfire has a sloping rear end, rather than an elongated one. If you like the look, you’ll love the drive even more at less than $10,000.
View Chrysler Crossfire listings here.
6. Volkswagen Phaeton
In the mid-2000s, Volkswagon thought America was ready for luxury. Volkswagon thought wrong. The Phaeton was expensive, going from $80K upwards of $105,000. Now you can get the big German sedan with reclining rear seats for a fraction of retail, and they have a great luxury feel, sharing many components with Bentleys and Audis. What you won’t get is an impressive badge on the grille. But you shouldn’t care about that anyways.
View Volkswagen Phaeton listings here.
7. Pontiac G8
The G8 is not like the other Pontiacs on the playground. It comes from Australia and has a coveted Blaupunkt stereo. You can find them with 415 horsepower V8s and 6-speed manual transmissions. Seriously, tell the Trans Am drivers this is the most powerful production Pontiac ever produced.
View Pontiac G8 listings here.
8. Mazda Mazda5
This hauler is more compact than a minivan, though it has sliding doors like one. You might actually enjoy driving it, too. The toughest part about owning one will be describing what it is to your friends. These were just too different/niche/awesome for their time.
View Mazda Mazda5 listings here.
9. Mazda Mazdaspeed6
Take a Mazda6, which is a fine car, give it a 274 horsepower turbo, a 6-speed manual transmission, and all-wheel drive, and you’ve got a fun-to-drive car. Add a comfortable interior, but make the outward signs of its awesomeness a raised hood and special wheels, and you’ve got a sleeper on your hands.
View Mazda Mazdaspeed6 listings here.
The lesson here is: You don’t always have to follow the crowds and drive a practical minivan. Look for your ugly duckling/swan on KSL Cars and let us know when you find your perfect misfit.