Several years ago, car shoppers primarily concentrated their purchases on typical sedans, minivans and SUVs, as well as the occasional sports car. But in the last few years, a growing number of buyers are choosing niche cars not easily defined in any one traditional automotive segment. We've listed some of the top unique new cars that fill a special niche on the market for buyers looking to stand out from the crowd.
With its long body and boxy shape, it's easy to consider the recently updated Ford Flex a tall station wagon. But the 7-passenger Flex also earns its stripes as a crossover, where it competes with more traditional rivals like the Chevrolet Traverse and Chevrolet Tahoe. Regardless of its classification, the Flex is undoubtedly unique, from its flat roof finished in white or black to the FLEX badging across its hood. But while the Flex's styling may turn off some buyers, we enjoy the model's fresh take on the crossover, especially considering its starting price in the low-$30,000 range before options. We also love the available EcoBoost V6, which transforms the already amusing Flex into a laugh riot thanks to a whopping 355 horsepower.
While its styling may polarize car shoppers, Honda's 5-door Crosstour--essentially an Accord sedan with a sloping roof and a rear hatchback--is a practical family vehicle that you'd never lose in a parking lot. It also comes in several different configurations so that buyers can choose exactly which Crosstour is right for them. A base-level model, for example, starts around $28,500 and uses front-wheel drive and a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. For shoppers who need more power, the Crosstour can also be had with a 3.5-liter V6, while buyers in northern climates can also add all-wheel drive. And while an Accord sedan is an excellent choice for many shoppers, we think the Crosstour's unique styling--and its increased practicality--makes it a far better choice for buyers who don't want to get lost in the crowd.
Is it a sporty coupe or a practical hatchback? Hyundai's unusual Veloster straddles the line between the two segments, offering a low, sloping roofline but a roomy cargo area befitting a larger vehicle. And don't forget its asymmetrical assortment of doors, which provides both practicality and novelty. The Veloster also newly available with a 208-hp 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant, giving it enough power to compete with more traditional rivals like the Volkswagen GTI and upcoming Ford Focus ST. Best of all, shoppers interested in the Veloster can buy a base-level version of the car for around $18,000 including shipping, while the spry Veloster Turbo starts at $22,725 with shipping.
Why buy a traditional compact sedan when you can have a Kia Soul? While its tall roof and hatchback bodystyle aren't for all buyers, those who choose a Soul over a more conventional compact will get a practical new car with standout styling. They can also take advantage of terrific fuel economy figures, which run as high as 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg in highway driving. Given its individual appearance--and a base price of less than $15,000, including destination--it's no surprise that more buyers consistently choose the Soul over its ordinary Forte sedan stablemate.
Lexus CT 200h
Although the fuel-efficient Lexus CT 200h highly resembles a typical hatchback, the hybrid 5-door boasts styling and sizing that would've been unthinkable for traditional Lexus buyers just a few years ago. The CT 200h even managed to outsell its HS 250h stablemate, leading Lexus to drop the more conventional sedan earlier this year in favor of the sporty hatchback. And while the CT 200h may not boast the exciting styling of some other vehicles on our list, it does offer several unique colors to brighten things up, including Matador Red and the striking Daybreak Yellow. We also like the CT 200h for its reasonable base price of around $30,000, and fuel economy of more than 40 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Nissan's bold Juke could pass as a small crossover or a compact car--but regardless of classification, the Juke's wild appearance means that its drivers will stand out from the crowd. With base models starting at just over $20,000, it's also priced reasonably--especially considering a long list of standard equipment that includes keyless entry, Bluetooth, an iPod interface, curtain side airbags and an automatic transmission. The Juke also features a punchy 188-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder--a tiny motor that easily matches the SUV's personality due to its eagerness to rev up when passing power is needed.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
Toyota's brawny FJ Cruiser isn't a traditional SUV in any sense, but that hasn't stopped buyers from showing a healthy devotion to the tough truck. Its reasonable starting price of around $27,000 including destination certainly helps sales, especially considering the FJ Cruiser boasts a powerful 260-hp 4.0-liter V6 and a long list of equipment. But we think most buyers like the FJ Cruiser for its bold, jungle-tackling styling and immense off-road prowess--two features uncommon on many of today's SUVs. And despite the FJ's popularity, the SUV will still stand out in a parking lot, especially in its eye-catching Army Green or Magma exterior finishes.
What it means to you: With our list, shoppers looking for unique new cars can break free of the traditional molds of automotive segments.