Take a gander at the country's best-selling cars and you'll find a list of decent but mostly unexciting vehicles, the kind of safe choices clearly favored by the masses.
But just because your neighbors don't have one doesn't mean that a car isn't worth some serious consideration. In fact, we think the best choices are almost always hidden a layer or 2 deep.
With that in mind, we harnessed our experience sampling every new car on the market to put together a list of 10 seriously underrated cars. These might not be the best-selling or most talked about cars on the market, but they definitely belong on your shopping list.
Casting a wide net, we looked at every segment of the industry, from the most obscure to the most commonly-shopped, to find cars that might not be on your list. Add them. We promise they're worth a look.
10 Seriously Underrated New Cars
Acura TSX. Essentially in a class of its own, the TSX offers executive class luxury for about the same price as a larger mass-market sedan. In other words, think of it as a cut-rate BMW 3-Series for the price of a Honda Accord. European-style driving dynamics and a bundle of high-tech features make it a genuinely enjoyable 4-door for only a few bucks more than the underwhelming Acura ILX. And if you want to really stand out from the crowd, the “just right” Acura TSX Sport Wagon is a brilliant carry-all.
Chevrolet Avalanche. Get 1 while you can! A cross between a Chevrolet Suburban and a Chevrolet Silverado, the Avalanche is all the full-size truck many buyers will ever need. It boasts a more comfortable, lighter-duty suspension than its Silverado counterpart, plus an innovative “midgate” that allows the body panel between the cab and the bed to fold down for extra long item storage. If you regularly use your truck like the guys in the brochures and TV ads do, buy a Silverado. If not, grab an Avalanche – but act fast since 2013 is this truck's last year.
Chrysler 300. Now that Chrysler's gut-wrenching “Imported from Detroit” ad campaigns have run their course, we feel like the big and bold 300 sedan has fallen too far off the buying public's radar. And we don't know why! From the $30,000 entry-level up to the tire-burning SRT8, there's no reason to be ashamed of any 300.
Dodge Durango. While your neighbors in suburbia have filled their driveways with Ford's uninspiring Explorer, you can stand out a bit from the crowd with a Durango. Boasting machismo from every angle, the Durango offers either a reasonably fuel-efficient V6 or a growling, muscle car-level V8. More than just a hoot to drive, the Durango features an especially upscale interior and many of the same bones that have made the smaller Jeep Grand Cherokee the most awarded SUV ever built.
Ford Flex. Looking more Star Trek than ever these days, the boxy Ford Flex is a perennial candidate for “best road trip car... ever.” Its roomy cabin and comfortable, flexible seating arrangements are worthy of minivan status, but its styling is more like boxy wagon or squished crossover. Frankly, we don't really know what to call it, but we still like it – especially when it's ordered with the powerful optional EcoBoost turbocharged V6 engine.
Hyundai Genesis. Behind its bland looks, the Genesis is the steal of the century – especially in rocketship R-Spec grade. For thousands less than a base model V6-powered Mercedes-Benz E350, the Genesis R-Spec includes a ferocious V8, a taut suspension and just about every conceivable luxury. It is the definition of a sleeper, an unassuming 4-door that will spank more ostentatious cars at every traffic light drag race.
Lexus CT 200h. A sporty 5-door hatchback hybrid with Lexus-level luxury? If this 1 doesn't tick off just about every category box, we don't know what does. Luckily, the CT 200h works exceedingly well. Its taut chassis and zippy steering make it a hoot in the twisties, while its itty-bitty 4-cylinder hybrid powertrain sips fuel. Moreover, not only is it reasonably priced, it comes with the kid-gloves service that has made Lexus dealers the standard of the industry.
Mazda CX-5. Actually, we nearly put all of Mazda on this list, but the CX-5 is the brand's freshest crossover and this classy vehicle really stands out in a very competitive class. Much more rewarding to drive than the Honda CR-Vs and Ford Escapes that dominate the sales charts, the CX-5 is as at home on a twisty canyon road as it is navigating the Safeway parking lot. Heck, we've even put the CX-5 to the test on a race track. Try that with a Toyota RAV4! Moreover, the CX-5 is a fuel miser, sipping less fuel than just about any other crossover you'll find.
Nissan Juke. With a face only a mother Boston Terrier could love, the Juke isn't likely to win any beauty contests. Still, just being behind the wheel of 1 gives us plenty of reason to smile. Lurking behind those bugged-out eyes and odd proportions is the soul of a sports car, which is stirred by a turbocharged engine and a high-tech all-wheel-drive system. Moreover, a trio of driving modes make the Juke ready to tackle the whims of any driver.
Volvo C30. Nah, we didn't think there would be much of a market for a 3-door Volvo hatchback in the United States back when the Swedish automaker first launched the pint size C30 in 2008. And, well, we were right. But this stylish car is remarkably practical, comfortable and sporty, feeling like a grown up – but still spunky – MINI Cooper. This year is the C30's last, but its swan song is the expensive but snappy 250-horsepower Polestar Limited Edition model available in high visibility Rebel Blue.