There are some cars that are just strange from the outside in — cars that look weird, drive weirdly, and don’t have a whole lot to offer, other than maybe acting as an exercise for the company’s engineers in design. The Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet comes to mind, as it tries to combine the functionality of an SUV and the enjoyment of a convertible but falls somewhat short on both ends for obvious reasons.
Then there are other cars, which, although they might look pretty unusual, are actually great cars — useful, efficient, powerful, you name it. There are at least a couple of redeeming features about them. Respected auto authority Edmunds recently asked its readers to vote in a poll to determine what the “Best Car With Controversial Styling” was, and they responded willingly.
Here are the 12 cars that made the cut, ranked in order of popularity from least to most.
12. 2012 Mitsubishi MiEV
Mitsubishi’s jelly bean-inspired electric car is certainly quirky, and for an affordable play in the electric vehicle market, there are few better options, provided you don’t need to travel great distances. Like the Smart coupe and other offbeat vehicles, the Mitsubishi MiEV has a loyal following of fans — not enough to make it a mass market success, but enough to keep it coming back for now. Among Edmunds readers, 1.2 percent felt that the MiEV was the best car with questionable styling.
11. 2011 Nissan Leaf
Compared to the MiEV, the Nissan Leaf’s styling is far from controversial — it isn’t a far departure from other compact cars on the road today. It is popular enough to become the leading electric vehicle in the world (we assume because most people can’t afford to put $70K down on a Tesla), and 2 percent of Edmunds’ respondents felt that it was the best car with a controversial appearance, though we don’t see it as being all that controversial at all.
10. 2010 Lincoln MKT
“From its turbocharged V6 to its quiet and upscale interior, the 2010 Lincoln MKT has a lot going for it,” Edmunds wrote of the funky crossover-wagon at the time. “Unfortunately, we think its quirky styling and relatively steep price tag compared to other luxury crossovers may limit its appeal.” It has, and the MKT has had trouble grasping a toehold among intense competition, especially with looks that aren’t for everyone. Still, 2.3 percent of Edmunds readers deemed it the best car of the lot.
9. 2010 Acura ZDX
Its practicality may be somewhat compromised by the raked roofline, and that chrome beak isn’t going to please everyone, but all in all, the Acura ZDX was a solid performer and a good car overall. Some 2.5 percent of Edmunds readers agreed, and beyond its unusual styling, the Acura offered plenty of comfort and class (at least on the inside), and a unique whip for those looking for something different.
8. 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Like the Leaf, we find that there’s little not to like about the Hyundai Genesis Coupe from 2011, which to our eyes doesn’t look controversial at all. That little window swoop looks a bit odd, but overall, it’s an attractive car — and powerful, too, with the potential to harness well over 300 horsepower. Still, 3.8 percent of Edmunds readers thought it was the best controversially styled car.
7. 2014 BMW i3
On paper, the BMW i3 sounds great: An electric range of 80 miles is ideal for city dwellers, and for about $41,000, it’s among the cheapest Bimmers on the lot. But in person, its looks have been met with less-than-enthusiastic praise, if any. Suffice it to say that it doesn’t look like anything else in BMW’s stable. Still, 6.8 percent of Edmunds readers were able to see past its peculiar shape and appearance, and rank it as the best controversial-looking car.
6. 2011 Nissan Juke
Nissan’s Juke has written the book for bizarre-looking cars that are actually quite decent. It was even able to tie with fifth place, as 7.1 percent of the Edmunds survey’s respondents felt that the Juke and all of its unique characteristics were the best of the lot. From what we’ve heard, it’s offbeat appearance doesn’t translate into driving manners, and the thing is apparently a blast in the right conditions. Practical, even.
5. 2014 Jeep Cherokee
Tied with the Juke at 7.1 percent, Jeep’s Cherokee is showing the world that sometimes unusual and controversial sells. It’s been a key player in Jeep’s sales growth this year, despite sharing little to nothing in common with the Cherokees of old. People aren’t letting the strange styling get in the way, because underneath, like the Juke, the Cherokee is as practical and capable as any crossover.
4. 2014 Lexus IS 350
With the new line of Lexus vehicles, it’s most often the hourglass-shaped grille that people find somewhat abrasive. Nonetheless, the cars still offer everything you’d expect from a Lexus, and seemingly for that reason, 8.2 percent of respondents decided that the IS 350 was the best car that suffered from controversial styling. “If you’ve been wanting a roomier IS sedan with a high-end interior, the revamped 2014 Lexus IS 350 is right up your alley,” Edmunds says. “It’s less convincing as a sport sedan, however, and more demanding drivers will likely prefer its European rivals.”
3. 2009 Ferrari California
The California was always a sort of pariah among the Ferrari faithful. It doesn’t look bad by any means, but instead, looks “cute” — an adjective that generally shouldn’t apply to a nearly $200,000 Italian sports coupe. The newer generation looks more aggressive, but older Californias look goofy enough to distract from the pounding Ferrari V8 and sensuous exhaust note. Regardless, 8.7 percent of readers found it to be best, despite the cutesy appearance.
2. 2014 Cadillac ELR
The Cadillac ELR is controversial, through and through — but we find that its looks are the best part of the car. There are those who will disagree, of course, like 10 percent of the Edmunds readership, but we believe the most controversial point of the car is its astronomical $75,000 price tag and lack of performance chops relative to its peers.
1. 2010 Porsche Panamera
Finally, the best car with the most controversial styling was deemed to be the Porsch Panamera from 2010, with a resounding 40.3 percent of the vote and its oddly shaped backend. The front looked magnificent, as a Porsche should, but then the trunk sort of tapered downward in an awkward manner that kind of looked like the engineers couldn’t end the car in time and had to cut it short. Nevertheless, the Porsche Panamera is exactly what one expects a Porsche to be, and for affluent families, there are few rivals.