Ignored new cars that merit a second look

Larry Printz
Tribune News Service

Call them unicorns.

These are cars or trucks currently for sale but rarely bought. And while their lack of popularity may be obvious to some, it’s mystifying to others. Maybe the vehicle hasn’t seen much change, or perhaps it’s just not popular.

Whatever the reason, these rare birds make an ideal choice if you’re in the market for something new or used, as you can stand apart from the crowd without spending extra scratch. After all, with the U.S. new car market sales expected to reach between of 16 million and 17 million units in 2015, a model that sells only a few thousand units can stand apart.

For this list, certain vehicles, such as exotic sports cars or super high-end luxury cars, were ignored, as their extreme personality or high price tags, or both, restrict sales. Instead, the list focuses on mainstream and premium models that can be easily found.

The electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV hatchback was developed for Japan. Only a few dozen have been sold in the States.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Number sold (January-September 2015): 93

MSRP: $22,995

Why it’s notable: For those who consider petroleum extraction and refinement the source of all evil, an affordable electric car is the ideal solution. And, after a $7,500 federal tax credit, the i-MiEV costs a mere $15,495.

Why it’s rare: If the 62-mile range or its mere 66 horsepower aren’t turnoffs, no doubt its looks are. This hatchback was developed for Japan, not America, so any stateside sales help boost Mitsubishi’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers.

Honda CR-Z

Number sold (January-September 2015): 2,205

MSRP: $20,145-$23,490

Why it’s notable: For those who want to drive a gas-electric hybrid, but do not want to look like an eco-weenie when driving one, the CR-Z is the ideal answer, channeling the looks of the late, great Honda CRX.

Why it’s rare: Its raison d’etre, fuel economy, isn’t as high as you might expect for a hybrid, rating a mere 36 mpg city, 39 mpg highway. And despite its sporty styling, there’s only 130 horsepower on tap. That said, it can be ordered with a manual transmission.

■Lincoln MKT

Number sold (January-September 2015): 3,409

MSRP: $43,210-$45,205

Why it’s notable: Boasting three rows of seats, acres of spacious comfort, luxury amenities, all-wheel drive, an optional refrigerator and up to 365 horsepower, the MKT delivers upscale appeal, good safety ratings and a surprisingly entertaining driving experience.

Why it’s rare: The MKT’s looks never caught on with buyers, and it has done little to enhance Lincoln’s image, although limousine companies appreciate its positive attributes. If you opt for one, avoid getting it in white, unless you want to name it Moby.

The Lincoln MKT’s upscale appeal has yet to resonate with buyers.

■Volkswagen CC

Number sold (January-September 2015): 4,490

MSRP: $32,995-$43,575

Why it’s notable: The CC was among the first sedans with coupe-like styling, which endows it with a luxury look. VW’s 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine powers the front wheels, although a 280-horsepower V-6 and all-wheel drive is also offered.

Why it’s rare: When it debuted in 2009, the CC cost more than a Passat. And the styling, while appealing, didn’t justify the Audi-like prices for a VW-badged vehicle. The CC now boasts a long standard equipment list, making it a smart buy in a stylish sedan.

■Hyundai Azera

Number sold (January-September 2015): 4,639

MSRP: $34,000-$38,200

Why it’s notable: Hyundai’s Avalon rival caters to the same audience, with a large midsize sedan, a V-6 engine and front-wheel drive. And, like the Avalon, it’s fairly unexciting to drive.

Why it’s rare: Large midsize sedans like these are finding fewer buyers these days, and the resulting price wars make attracting buyers difficult. And while the Azera would like to lure Avalon buyers, nothing makes it stand out.