Some cars get all the attention while others are the Jan Brady of the bunch. Marcia Marcia Marcia. I test dozens of cars a year, and one of the best surprises is when a car flies under the radar and surprises me with thoughtful interiors, zippy performance, or both. Some of my favorite underdogs include vehicles that may not be selling like crazy at dealerships, but they’re solid, reliable, and have Easter eggs inside that are worth checking out.
For instance: right before Snowpocalypse 2021 in Texas, a 2021 Hyundai Sonata N Line arrived at my driveway. I took it out on the road immediately to scout locations for pictures and it took off like a rocket. I couldn’t resist revving it to see what 290 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque felt like in this car; the answer is that it feels like a hot rod in a sedan body.
Another car that surprised me in the past few months was the Toyota 86. It shares a four-cylinder boxer engine with the Subaru BRZ, and it’s an absolute joy to drive as a manual. The clutch is forgiving and smooth, and although the Supra gets all the love, the 86 is a blast. I also like the Mazda3 2.5 turbo hatchback, which fits into small spaces and has a ton of get-up-and-go moves.
Less sport-minded but decked out with a cushy interior, Nissan’s new Sentra packs a lot of features in for less than $25,000. The top trim has a moonroof and USB-A and USB-C ports, and all Sentras have Zero Gravity seats, which are underrated on their own. For long road trips, the Sentra is very capable. In a similar vein, Kia’s Cadenza is often overlooked; my family drove one from Texas to Florida a couple of years ago and we never felt cramped. Toyota’s Avalon and Infiniti’s Q60 Red Sport 400 are on my list of favorites too.
How about you? I’m curious to know which cars you see as underappreciated.
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