Hidden Gems: The Best Cars That Nobody Buys

We’ll let you in on a little secret. These cars and SUVs might go overlooked at dealerships, but they’re all great choices.

2021 Hyundai Veloster Photo: Hyundai

Not every great car is a hit with buyers. Despite their excellent performance, reassuring reliability, and high owner satisfaction, some of the top-rated vehicles Consumer Reports recommends are duds at the dealership. Whether it’s due to style, size, vehicle type, or even age, these great vehicles tend to sit at showrooms.

We think some of them are worth a second look, so we searched for CR-recommended vehicles that sold fewer than 20,000 units in 2020, based on information available from the Automotive News Data Center. By comparison, Ford sold more than 787,000 F-Series pickups—the top-selling vehicle in the U.S.—last year. Overall, 16 models sold more than 200,000 units each in 2020.

Nearly all of the vehicles on this list are sedans, a body style that’s falling out of style as drivers gravitate toward SUVs and pickup trucks. Many of these vehicles are also older models. For instance, the Chrysler 300 hasn’t had a meaningful update since 2011, the Infiniti Q50 hasn’t been revamped since 2013, and the Nissan Maxima was last redesigned in 2016.

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You might assume that you could snag a great deal on an unpopular car, but sales data shows that in the hot market of 2021, even the cars on this list aren’t necessarily waiting to find a buyer at a discounted price. Instead, automakers are building just enough vehicles to satisfy demand—and sometimes not even that many. As parts shortages squeeze the auto industry, manufacturers have cut production of some slow-selling sedans, concentrating on more profitable trucks and SUVs instead.

However, you might uncover a hidden gem. For instance, Toyota sold more than 430,000 RAV4 SUVs in 2020 but only just over 18,000 Avalon sedans—even though the Avalon got higher scores in our road tests, and Avalon owners tell us they’re more satisfied with their purchase than RAV4 owners.

We didn’t include high-end luxury models like the BMW 7 Series and two-seaters like the Mazda MX-5 Miata or Porsche 718, because they commonly sell in low volumes. We also left out EVs: They’re a rapidly growing segment but still a small portion of the overall vehicle fleet, and some aren’t even sold in every state. New cars that debuted midyear didn’t make the list, and we verified that the 2020 numbers weren’t a pandemic-related blip by checking for low sales in 2019 as well.

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