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Even Car Enthusiasts Actually Prefer Boring Cars

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2016

I think that car enthusiasts actually prefer boring cars to interesting ones. This is perhaps less fact and than opinion -- but in any case, I think it's true. And just remember, you heard it here first.

This thought entered in my mind last week when I was watching "The Grand Tour," that new Amazon situation where Jeremy, Richard and James make a show, and then the entire Internet automotive community spends the next week arguing over whether it was as good as "Top Gear."

During the last episode, Richard says very plainly that he hates the Nissan Juke. This is a common position -- especially among car enthusiasts, who generally have nothing but disdain for the Juke's unusual appearance, frog-eye shape and strange profile. This is fine. I accept this criticism, and life moves on.

But it just so happens that I watched this episode the day after I saw, for the very first time, the final episode of the old "Top Gear" series. In that episode, they test a bunch of older compact SUVs, largely because they've deemed the current range of compact crossovers to be dull and uninteresting.

Perhaps you can see where I'm going with this.

If not, here's my thesis: Car enthusiasts repeatedly insist that they hate dull, boring, average everyday cars -- for example, the modern compact crossovers from the final "Top Gear" test -- while simultaneously criticizing every single thing about unique and unusual cars beginning the second an automaker decides to release one. Car enthusiasts hate the Nissan Rogue for being too boring? Well, great! Here's the Nissan Juke, with weird styling and a turbocharged engine! Except... car enthusiasts hate that, too.

The greatest example of this was when I used to drive a Nissan Cube, which I inherited from my brother when he bought an Xterra and moved across the country. The Cube, by all accounts, is incredibly bizarre. It's shaped strangely, it's asymmetrical, it has a weird driving position, and there is -- inexplicably -- a piece of shag carpeting stuck to the dashboard. I can't explain any of this. It's just odd.

Now, it's primarily boring compact cars that draw the ire of car enthusiasts. The Toyota Corolla, for example, is considered by many car enthusiasts to be reliable, affordable, roomy, well-equipped... and just plain dull. So I figured the Nissan Cube was the perfect antidote to this sort of uninspiring vehicle. Here's a car that looks at all those boring economy cars out there and figures out a way to do it a little differently! Right?!

Wrong.

The scorn that car enthusiasts have for vehicles like the Cube is, in my mind, even more dramatic than the hatred they give cars they consider boring. Many people told me the Cube is the worst car ever made, the ugliest car ever made or the most ridiculous car ever made, and virtually nobody I spoke to told me they'd ever consider buying one instead of a Corolla, a Civic, an Elantra, a Sentra or whatever.

And this brings me back to my point, which is that car enthusiasts don't actually like interesting cars. Sure, car enthusiasts like fast cars, fun cars and exciting cars, but everyone likes those. But in spite of all the complaining car enthusiasts tend to do when their friends buy boring automobiles, it's car enthusiasts who are usually first in line to complain when an automaker attempts to think outside the box and release a non-boring automobile. The Toyota Corolla, car enthusiasts may say, is boring -- but the Nissan Cube is blasphemous.

Of course, this has an effect on automakers. Toyota may realize the Corolla is a bit dull, but they also see its enormous sales figures. More importantly, they see what happens when a car company tries to create something unusual with a vehicle like the Cube, the Juke, the Element, the Aztek or the dozens of other commercial flops that deviated from the mainstream.

Specifically, the unusual car is criticized by the very people who insisted they wanted an unusual car in the first place. And then it goes away.

And so, I'm starting to think that car enthusiasts actually prefer boring cars to unusual cars. But in my mind, you can have your bland economy car. When I'm faced with a choice between a weird vehicle and a normal one, weird wins every time.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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Even Car Enthusiasts Actually Prefer Boring Cars - Autotrader