Often you hear people say "there is no such thing as a bad car anymore" which is pretty much true. However, once you get under a certain price point there are plenty of bland cars. In that mix of cars that aren't going to cost you an arm and a leg, there are some real gems for people that actually like cars and enjoy driving.
Here are five of them...
The Honda Accord Coupe
I just sold a 2009 Accord Coupe and I miss it. It’s a car that gets overlooked a lot for the Civic by enthusiasts, but the reality is the Accord Coupe has been sitting there for a while being everything the Civic should be. Pick up the new V6 manual coupe and you’ll be having a lot more fun than the Civic owners.
They do suffer the usual Honda Accord faults of more road noise than you would expect and awful speakers, but as a drivers car, there's enough power there to have fun wether you go with the four cylinder or the V6. The gearboxes are a delight, the pedals are in the right place to rev match and the steering feel and weight is in the ballpark all cars should be aiming for.
Handling wise, all you want is some sticky tires and if you’re feeling like you have to do something, a slightly stiffer rear sway bar takes out the factory understeer installed for the normals.
The Nissan Juke.
Cognitive dissonance is the mental struggle of holding two conflicting opinions at the same time, and the Juke is the clearest experience I’ve yet had of that.
It’s an SUV that’s fun to drive through twisty roads.
For some bizarre reason Nissan made the Juke a taut handling tall car. Is not a bizarre choice because to achieve that the requirement is stiff suspension and sway bars. The end result is something with steering that is quick and precise for a twisty road and an enthusiastic driver, but is a bit too bouncy to drive around town doing normal SUV stuff such as changing lanes without signalling and shouting at the kids to quit flipping off police cars.
Don’t buy one, but if you get the chance to throw it down a mountain road; that’s an experience you won’t forget.
The V6 Camaro.
A V6 in something perceived as a muscle car has been frowned upon by people that define a car by its engine for decades. It’s perceived as the poor mans muscle car engine, and being mostly made for rental cars doesn’t help.
However, the 335 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque is not to be sniffed at in the new models, but the key to enjoying a base Camaro is to not think of it as a “muscle car” but instead to think of it as a “fun daily driver”. Chevy has been working on handling and it’s got plenty to keep you moving rapidly through the curves without falling off the road. Then when you want to just get around town and take care of business it’s perfectly compliant and useful.
The Ford Flex
The fact that such a wonderful and quirky crossover is destined for an end of production in 2020 because of it’s lack of sales puts it firmly in the underrated category. It’s the solution for anyone who doesn’t want to be seen in a Minivan, doesn’t want to feel like they're driving a giant SUV, and who finds wagons to be a bit too small.
On top of that if you option four wheel drive and the 3.5 litre ecoboost you have 365 horsepower68 and 350 lb.-ft. of torque on tap - making the Flex a seven seater sleeper.
The Mazda 6
In 2015, Toyota sold 429,355 Camrys, making it the third best-selling vehicle in America. The best selling of course being trucks. In the same year, Mazda only sold 57,897 units of the Mazda 6, which is a shame in the same way as looking at the iTunes charts to see Bon Jovi still making the same album yet again and somehow outselling Radiohead. It makes you want to shake people and shout:
“WHY ARE YOU BUYING THIS WHEN GOOD STUFF EXISTS?”.
It looks fantastic in a timeless way, yet better each year. The engine just wants to go, the suspension is sublime in the way it mixes comfort and handling and Mazda are showing all the other Japanese companies in the segment how to do a great interior. The Mazda 6 really is proof that such a segment often overlooked for it’s blandness can have cars that do the basics well yet be filled with personality and carve their way through the twisties with precision and agility.
A V6 Camaro with manual gearbox, the RS package (HIDs, LED and 20” wheels) for resale, and then the exhaust package for your listening pleasure is an appropriate way to spend thirty two grand.
The Accord comes in top trim only for the V6 and by the time you put 19” wheels on it you’ve just spent thirty three grand.
I haven’t priced a Nissan Juke because as underrated as it is, borrow one don’t buy one.
A Ford Flex with 4WD and the 3.5 litre Ecoboost will start you at $40,000 but if you’re looking for a seven seater with options from the showroom you’re playing near this price anyway.
The Mazda 6 doesn’t come with a manual gearbox as an option in the Grand Touring Trim so for $25,030 you can drive away with stuff that would be options on other cars, or if you wanted to spend some more money you can get some LED fog lights, a boot lip spoiler, a bumper guard a cargo mat and net and still come in under twenty seven grand.