Funky Cars You Love to Hate
By Lauren DeAngelis, U.S. News
You won't hate these cars because they're beautiful. Ugly ducklings like the discontinued Pontiac Azteck and Subaru Baja have given way to sleek shapes such as the Infiniti G37 and Cadillac CTS. But there are still a few duckies on lots waiting for their turn to become swans. Check out our picks for the oddest, wackiest and weirdest-looking autos in production today. And make sure to look closely, because behind those strange exteriors are often some of the most useful cargo areas and spacious cabins in the business. For some cars, beauty really is on the inside.
Chrysler's PT Cruiser has developed a cult following for its one-of-a-kind retro design. With looks reminiscent of 1930s and 40s hotrods, the wagon attracts praise despite its cartoonish feel. Motor Trend says it's the "hottest looking retro rod anyone can afford. No matter where you go, people stare at the PT like it's a Ferrari." It may look quirky to some, but the PT's exterior isn't just about looks. The tall roof provides tons of headroom for passengers and the wagon's cargo capacity rivals that of a minivan.
Chrysler may have thought they had the market cornered with the PT Cruiser, but since Chevrolet introduced the HHR in 2005 the retro-inspired crossover has given the PT a run for its money. Short for "Heritage High Roof," the HHR is inspired by the 1949 Suburban and looks part old delivery truck, part hearse. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman describes it as "sorta cute, sorta homely, with a bit of gangster chic thrown in." The HHR's old-school exterior conceals a versatile interior -- virtually every seat folds flat and the cargo bay is especially deep.
Petite Doesn't Mean Pretty
The tiny Smart Fortwo definitely made a splash when it arrived on U.S. shores earlier this year -- but not just because of its diminutive size. The little car's unique, almost-disproportionate styling is one of its most distinctive traits. About.com aptly sums up, "It's still hard to look at it and think of it as a car. I'd look at all the vehicles parked on my street and think 'Car, car, car, Smart, car, car.'" And speaking of parking, the Fortwo's short, clownish shape translates into park-anywhere capabilities.
In a class full of sporty, streamlined sedans, another small car, the Volkswagen GTI, sticks out like a sore thumb. Its hatchback design means it's taller and quirkier than its other upscale rivals. MSN notes that the GTI "has an especially ungainly appearance, with an overly aggressive-looking front end and chunky shape." However, the GTI isn't funny-looking for nothing. The hatchback configuration provides much more cargo space than its top competitors from Audi and Acura, giving it a rare shot of practicality for its class.
The Cubism Movement
When it hit dealerships in 2003, the Scion xB made quite a style statement -- and not necessarily in a good way. Its boxy, toaster-like appearance went against the emerging trend of increasingly sleek, rounded vehicles. But while some people hated the statement, others embraced the ugly yet functional look. Why? Because the cabin is downright cavernous. MSN calls headroom "astounding," while Cars.com says "there's more room in the xB's backseat than in some midsize cars."
If the Scion xB is boxy, the Honda Element (introduced the year before the Scion) takes cubism to a whole new level. Its utilitarian shape and reverse-hinged rear doors set it apart from your typical SUV. While the xB is often compared to a toaster, Car and Driver bills the Element as a "rolling breadbox." If that's the case, the Element can hold a heck of a lot of bread. Those unusual rear doors make loading cargo easy with an opening that's larger than most minivans. And the Element's height allows plenty of room for even the tallest passengers.
Teenage Mutant Ninja...Trucks?
With large cabins and small truck beds, Sport Utility Trucks (SUTs) look strange no matter what. The Honda Ridgeline boasts one of the most controversial exteriors of all. "The Ridgeline reminds me of the old Rodney Dangerfield joke about how he was so ugly as a kid his parents had to tie a pork chop bone around his neck so the dog would play with him," criticizes the Detroit News. But despite an exterior ranking at the bottom of its class, the Ridgeline has plenty to offer. Its cargo bed may be short, but that means it fits easily into most garages. It also features an in-bed trunk complete with drain plugs for converting into a cooler. The Hummer H2 SUT looks just like a Hummer -- only with the two rear windows chopped off and a teeny-tiny truck bed in their place. Sound pretty? Well, not exactly, but it is pretty muscular and imposing for a pick-up. U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman calls the styling "military chic." Plus, the combat-inspired SUT is the ultimate truck for hauling versatility. Its rear midgate allows drivers to convert it from a five-passenger SUV with a small truck bed into a two-person truck with a six-foot bed.