For some drivers, speed and handling is everything. Others prefer cars that get the most out of every gallon of gas. But for many people, the way a car looks is one of the most important factors in their purchasing decision. Cars are like clothes: they’re an external layer that speaks volumes about who we are. Finding a car with the features and style you love is like putting on a perfectly fitting shirt for the first time: you know right away that you’re going to do great things together. And when that car – or shirt – is exactly what you’re looking for at a price lower than expected, it’s a tough deal to pass up. Here are 10 cars with awesome designs that look more expensive than they actually are.
2016 Honda Civic
For decades, the Honda Civic has been a mainstay of simple, cheap, reliable transportation. That hasn’t changed for 2016, but all-new exterior styling has transformed the Civic from a forgettable appliance to one that really pops on the road. With a blend of sharp angles and subtle curves, you could look at the Civic for hours and still find new design details. The sloping fastback body offers a sleek profile, and a chrome grille accent that flows into LED headlights help the front end stand out. Around back, C-shaped taillights are connected by an optional light bar that also functions as a spoiler. Available as a sedan, coupe, and hatchback, the Honda Civic is one of the best combinations of style and affordability available today.
2016 Mazda CX-3
Mazda’s “Kodo” design language is intended to evoke pent-up potential energy, like an animal about to pounce. Whether you agree with that analogy or not, there’s no question Mazda’s CX-3 is one of the best-looking cars in the booming crossover segment. A sharp chrome grille is the focal point up front, while on the side a downward-sloping character line makes it seem like the car is always accelerating. Blacked out support pillars create an appearance of wraparound glass, while the slightly lifted ride height gives the CX-3 a stocky, authoritative stance. Overall it’s an attractive little car that can haul plenty of gear, is easy to park, and is built with Mazda’s fun-to-drive DNA.
2016 Chevrolet Colorado
Pickup trucks are usually designed for utility, without paying much attention to style. That’s not the case for the Chevrolet Colorado, which balances its rugged practicality with tidy looks. It has a more rounded shape than most pickups, but that doesn’t mean it’s soft – a high ride height and muscular wheel arches convey its off-road capabilities. The Colorado’s body has some sharp lines and creases, but they integrate cleanly into the overall design without being too in-your-face. It’s the type of vehicle that would look equally good parked on city streets or rolling over dirt trails. If you need a truck for work or towing but want something with cool design too, the Colorado offers both at an attractive starting price.
2017 Ford Mustang
Over its 50-year history, the Ford Mustang has defined muscle cars in terms of style and speed. That tradition has continued with the current generation, which still looks fantastic even after a few years on the road. The Mustang’s long hood, low roof, and sleek trunk are the perfect sports car proportions, with bulging wheel arches that evoke its rear-wheel drive performance. At the rear, an optional color-matched diffuser aids aerodynamics, while signature three-segment taillights illuminate sequentially when the turn signal is activated. It’s available with several different engines from a turbocharged four cylinder to a screaming 526 horsepower V8, but every Mustang wears the same stylish sheetmetal that guarantees its status as a future classic.
2017 Toyota Prius
Everyone knows the Toyota Prius as a car that gets fantastic fuel economy at the expense of looking extraordinarily boring. Not anymore: Toyota completely redid the Prius for 2016 and it’s more distinctive than ever. While opinions are split on whether this new design actually looks good, there’s no argument that it’s complex and packed with interesting details. Sharp lines and creases abound, giving the Prius an edgy, futuristic look. The headlights have a unique split design, and the taillights feature a curving strip of LEDs that really stand out in the dark. Toyota engineers took to the wind tunnel to refine the Prius’ aerodynamic profile, contributing to its excellent MPG figures. Everyone will have their own opinion on whether the Prius looks amazing or terrifying, but it’s clear that Toyota went to great lengths to pack as much expensive-looking design as possible into the new Prius.
2017 Fiat 124 Spider
Fiat had a hit with their 124 Spider sports car in the 1970s, and they’ve set themselves up for another classic with the new 124 Spider that launched this year. The little convertible is built on the same platform as the revered Mazda Miata, so you know it’s going to drive fantastically. However, Fiat’s entirely proprietary exterior gives a sculpted Italian body to the pieces underneath. The long, low hood has twin bulges which evoke the double camshafts of the classic 124 Spider, but this modern revival packs a punchy turbocharged motor. A character line rises along the doors, suggesting the car’s rear-wheel-drive nature. Angry-looking headlights feature three-section LEDs, while hollowed-out taillights have cool body color matched inserts. Option up to the Abarth trim level and you’ll get a matte black hood and trunk, unique front and rear bumpers, and quad exhaust outlets. The sleek 124 Spider carries on a tradition of stylish Italian sports cars at an approachable price point.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
No one yearns to drive a minivan, but if you have to, the Chrysler Pacifica is probably the best looking option out there. Totally redesigned for 2017, the Pacifica can accommodate eight people in classy and distinctive style. A bold arch over the front wheels runs to meets the chrome window lining, and the curving trim at the bottom of the front bumper is an interesting detail. A black mesh grille and sharp creases on the hood add a small amount of sportiness. The Pacifica’s wide, boxy stance conveys presence and authority, but is highly practical too: it means more space for passengers and their gear on the inside. As a whole the Pacifica’s design is a success, perhaps helping to make minivan ownership a bit more desirable.
2017 Infiniti QX30
With features like intelligent cruise control, speed-sensitive steering, and a leather-lined interior, the Infiniti QX30 should be great from the driver’s seat. But it might almost be better to experience from the outside, because it’s a seriously good looking machine. The body is comprised of flowing lines that draw the eye in to examine the design further. A deep, curving crease runs the length of the car – Infiniti says its engineers had to develop a new manufacturing process to get this detail right. The chrome trim surrounding the side windows ends with a kinked piece on the C-pillar, adding to the visual intrigue. Altogether, the QX30 is packed with details that come together beautifully to form a complex design that will look great for years to come.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee combines the four-wheel drive capabilities the brand is famous for with a solid dose of style. The current generation of the big SUV was introduced in 2011 but still looks fresh after a few years on the road. Jeep’s signature seven-slot grille is the only traditional element, with the rest of the bodywork carrying an impressively modern design. Huge squared off wheel arches give the Grand Cherokee a solid stance and provide ample space for knobby off-road tires – perfect for when adventure calls. A distinctive strip of LEDs line the narrow headlights, while chrome details in the grille, window trim, bumper, and badges provide some subtle flashiness. The interior looks especially premium, with contrast stitching, matte woodgrain trim, and a large LED screen between the front seats available as options. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a handsome machine that looks great in an urban environment, but would still be right at home covered in mud on a rocky road.
2017 Kia Cadenza
MSRP: $32,000 (est.)
Looking for a big, luxurious, and stylish sedan that won’t break the bank? The 2017 Kia Cadenza is worth your attention. Totally redesigned for 2017, the Cadenza is the type of car that can fly under the radar but still has admirable design. A creased line runs down the side, enhancing its long, low appearance. At the front, a slim concave grille is surrounded by LED headlights, with additional LED light clusters near the bottom of the chrome-trimmed bumper. Speaking of lights, the headlights and taillights feature a Z-shaped detail which adds angularity to the otherwise smooth design. Large dual exhaust ports stand out at the back, and gorgeous multi-spoke wheels provide additional visual complexity. While it’s no speed machine, the Cadenza is a comfortable, well-made luxury sedan with a handsome body that looks way more expensive than it is. What’s more, Kia has sold fewer than 30,000 Cadenzas since its 2013 introduction, so if you pick one up you're unlikely to see many others on the road.
Cars design is always evolving, and you usually need to pay big bucks to drive in the latest style. But that’s not always the case – no matter what kind of car suits your lifestyle best, there are plenty of options that look like they cost a lot more than they actually are. That’s the kind of sticker shock any car buyer can appreciate.