Call them wallflowers, call them ugly ducklings, call them whatever you want. But there are cars that are very reliable and good in a lot of ways, but just haven’t caught on with the public for one reason or another.
The following list of cars represent really good values when you head into dealerships, because they’re the cars dealers have the hardest time selling. They also get the least amount of advertising, so an automaker’s mistake can be your diamond in the rough.
Here are our selection of cars that have been unsuccessful in the marketplace, but represent a real value for buyers.
MSRP: $19,495 to $26,395
Fuel economy: 23 city, 30 highway
The Compass launched to terrible reviews from virtually every legitimate news outlet, and was hastily criticized by Consumer Reports.
But after Fiat took over the Chrysler brands in 2009, it set out to save the Compass, as well as the Jeep Patriot, and did a terrific job improving the interiors and ride.
The Compass has been criticized by some for not being a "real Jeep." But we drove it in Jackson Hole, Wy., the SUV crawled rocky creek beds and had no trouble with deep snowy roads. This makes it a great choice for a lot of individuals and small families, especially in snow states.
Because the Compass got off to a bad start is now being phased out to make room for an all-new vehicle developed by Jeep and Fiat, there are great deals on these much improved vehicles.
The lowest starting price for a 2-wheel-drive Compass was lowered from $18,505 for the 2012 model to $15,493 for the 2013 model. The range of base prices for different trim levels ranges between $15,493 at some dealers and $19,701. We priced a 4x4 Compass Sport for $21,045 before destination fees. That drops below $20,000 with rebate.
There is O% financing for 36 months or up to a $1500 rebate.
MSRP: $15,995 to $25,695
Fuel economy: 23 city, 30 highway
The Jeep Patriot is a kind of twin to the Compass. They are built on the same assembly line, but while the Compass is a bit more rounded in its shape and corners, the Patriot sports a more traditional boxy Jeep look.
Like the Compass, the Patriot got a lot of criticism out of the gates, but was seriously upgraded by Fiat in 2009 and 2010. And like the Compass, AOL Auto’s Best Deals tool puts the lowest starting price for the Patriot at $15,784 for a 2013 front-drive Sport. You may well get north of this price when you add some features you want. But this is a great starting price for a vehicle this substantial.
If you want to save yourself some money by opting out of the 4x4 versions, buying a set of snow tires for the winter months will help. That will cost you about $1,000 minimum with an inexpensive set of steel rims.
Fuel economy on the Patriot is not too bad, at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. All but the Limited editions of the Compass and Patriot come with a 2.0 liter I4 engine that kicks out 158 horsepower.
MSRP: $45,285 to $47,280
Fuel economy: 17 city, 25 highway
The Lincoln MKT definitely has curb appeal, but it has not done well in sales. This could be good news for buyers.
The MKT is a very smooth driving car, filled with high-quality interior materials that make it feel more expensive than it is.
But it’s been so unsuccessful that Ford has decided to market it a replacement for the defunct Town Car fleet car, selling it primarily to limousine and airport "black car" businesses.
That could work in your favor, since many fleet buyers already get good deals.
The sticker price for the base model MKT is $42,815, but there is a $2,000 rebate to start with. The lowest price we find in dealer inventory is $42,612 for an MKT with a $45,175.
MSRP: $30,885 to $43,850
Fuel economy: 18 city, 25 highway
The Ford Flex is another one of those vehicles that we absolutely love, but there are few of us in this club. Ford has struggled to sell healthy numbers of Flex crossovers.
Why do we like it so much? It is an incredibly comfortable vehicle, comes with a useful interior package, and gives a car buyer a compelling alternative to a minivan.
Why hasn't it sold better? The exterior design, which is reminiscent of old Jeep Wagoneers and Ford Country Squires of another era, just seems a bit dowdy to many a buyer. The lines carved into the side doors, to pay homage to old "woody" station wagons, was also a questionable design touch that has not played well with everyone. Plus, it drives like a tank, making it difficult to park.
According to our Best Deals tool, the best starting price for a 2013 Flex SE is $27,770. Granted, you can climb all the way up to above $40,000 for a Limited Trim level. But this is a great starting price for a family crossover we love.
You can also get a $259 per month lease for 24 months with $3745 down for a FWD SEL trim level.
If you see a bunch of them on your dealer lot, though, dicker hard.
MSRP: $19,999 to $28,999
Fuel economy: 20 city, 29 highway
If you have been paying attention, you know that Suzuki's U.S. distributor has filed for Chapter 11.
That said, there are new Suzuki vehicles out there being sold off. Suzuki says all currently valid warranties will be honored. If you buy a new Suzuki today going forward, the existing new-car warranty will be included.
Once the stand-alone dealers fold, getting cars fixed could be a little bit inconvenient. And parts delivery to whoever fixes your car could take longer if history is a teacher after a car company, especially an import, folds. Your resale value will take a beating to on Suzukis.
All that said, we were very impressed with the Suzuki Kizashi, which was advertised on the Super Bowl the last two years. The Kizashi is a four-door sedan with optional all-wheel-drive, a snappy easy-to-use dashboard layout, nimble handling and a nice look at curbside.
Dealers with Suzuki's on their lots are knocking thousands off to get rid of them. There are only a few thousand nationwide, though.
You could be the last one on your block to buy a Suzuki.
MSRP: $15,755 to $26,305
Fuel economy: 28 city, 36 highway
Why would a Honda Civic be on this list of unpopular cars? The Civic was redesigned for the 2012 model year and the consensus is that Honda designed the new car blindfolded. The interior came off looking every cheap.
The biggest headline of disapproval was from Consumer Reports, which did not put the car on its recommended list after decades of the Civic being a mainstay. But we think they went a bit too far.
The Civic is still a reliable sedan. Exciting? No. But the Civic has been to U.S. consumers what the Volkswagen Beetle was to post-war Europe.
What do we like? The ride is comfortable and smooth. The fuel economy is good. It comes with a roomy interior, and is available in several drivetrains including hybrid and natural gas. The DX starts at $15,995. But the really good news for buyers is that the negative publicity has knocked an average of 11% off the MSRP, according to our Best Deals tool.
MSRP: $28,820 to $42,270
Fuel economy: 13 city, 18 highway
The Nissan Titan came into the market much ballyhooed. The truck threatened to take on Ford, but it didn’t work out that way. Call it bad timing, or bad luck, but when the newest Nissan Titan came onto the market for the 2008 model year, it didn’t do as well as the folks at Nissan hoped. The collapse of the economy and housing construction didn't help matters.
It’s a good truck with respectable towing capacity and capability, but Chevy and Ford and proved to be too formidable of competitors for the Titan. And Ram's new 1500 pickup is even making Ford and Chevy nervous, as well as making most buyers forget all about Titan.
Truck buyers are intensely loyal and aren’t going to switch brands easily.
Our Best Deals tool shows dealers are offering up to $8,000 off on some models, bringing the deal price to $20,766 down from $26,832. That makes this brawny pickup definitely worth checking out.
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