I have REO Speedwagon on my iPod. One of my favorite snacks is a peanut butter and cheese sandwich. And, if "Teen Mom" is on, you can bet that I’m watching it. We all have one: a band we won’t admit we love, an odd snack we indulge in or a TV show that we swear is just a guilty pleasure.
It’s the same with cars. If you ask me what my all-time favorite car is, I’ll tell you it’s the 1971 Corvette, but the honest answer is that I love mid-‘80s Volvo 240 wagons. You don’t have to go to the ‘80s to find cars with the same guilty-pleasure feel. They may not come from brands that are well-known, or have the most up-to-date designs, but these cars each offer something that makes them worth falling in love with – no matter how much you hate to admit it.
For a closer look at the cars you hate to love, check out our slideshow.
Base MSRP: $63,160
The Cadillac Escalade is the automotive equivalent of the KFC Double Down sandwich. It’s more power, more luxury and more bling than anyone has a right to expect, but man, that excess feels so good. The Escalade’s outsized styling has been a hip-hop favorite for years, so everyone becomes a few degrees cooler just by stepping inside the Escalade’s opulent interior. Of course, the Escalade’s fuel economy (14/18 mpg city/highway) is pretty dismal. But, for people who order the Double Down with grilled chicken, there’s the Escalade Hybrid. Just know that this green monster won’t save you much cash – it costs about $10,700 more than the gas-only model.
Base MSRP: $24,560
Vans used to be cool. Despite Honda’s “Respect the Van” and Toyota’s “Swagger Wagon” campaigns, today’s vans are about as hip as reruns of “Three’s Company.” But when it comes to the Toyota Sienna, that old adage is true: It’s what’s inside that counts. Inside the Sienna’s mom-jeans exterior is a van with second-row seats that recline like Lay-Z-Boy chairs. There’s also a 16.4 inch DVD screen that can play one movie in widescreen format or two movies side-by-side, effectively ending “Yo Gabba Gabba” vs. “Hanna Montana” feuds. If you still feel out of it driving a Sienna, just play the hipster card and claim you’re driving it ironically. Maybe you’ll make the minivan this year’s trucker hat.
2011 Kia Forte
Base MSRP: $14,995
The Honda Civic and Ford Fiesta seem to rule the affordable small car class. Brands like Kia have less cachet, and there used to be a good reason for that. Kia’s early entries were notable for being cheap, but not much else. The Forte is poised to obliterate the idea that Kias are cheap cars. With available coupe, sedan and hatchback body styles, the Forte offers a lot of versatility. Plus, with a low starting price, standard features like a USB port and Bluetooth and recognition as an Insurance Institute “2011 Top Safety Pick,” there’s a lot to love about the Forte, even if you don’t want to admit it.
2011 Buick Regal
Base MSRP: $26,245
Buick is working hard to shed its early-bird-special image. While it still has a ways to go, the 2011 Buick Regal is a step in the right direction. Not only does the Regal have the lowest starting price in its class, but reviewers also say that the Regal performs nearly as well as sport sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Infiniti G. Plus, compared to most upscale midsize cars, the Regal has longer warranty coverage and more standard features, including iPod integration and Bluetooth. Thanks to the Regal, Grandma can have her Buick, and you can have yours.
2011 Hyundai Sonata
Base MSRP: $19,395
Hyundai doesn’t have the kind of automotive heritage that gets enthusiasts’ hearts racing. But, with the redesigned Hyundai Sonata, budget-conscious shoppers will feel their hearts skip a beat. The base Sonata comes with satellite radio, Bluetooth and a USB port. Buyers can chose a basic four-cylinder engine, a turbocharged model or a soon-to-be-released hybrid. The Sonata doesn't have the history the Honda Accord does, but it’s building a reputation of its own. Its super-long warranty should put reliability worries to rest, and its upscale style and features make it look like you spent a lot more than you did.
2011 Ford Transit Connect
Base MSRP: $21,200
The Ford Transit Connect won’t win any beauty pageants. This little van was designed with utility in mind, and puts function before fashion. But if you have a lot of stuff to haul, the Transit Connect is just what you need. It has a cavernous interior and available custom storage solutions, making it a great choice for small business owners. It also works especially well in urban environments, where its compact exterior dimensions make it easy to maneuver. The Transit Connect also has a fuel-sipping engine, so if you use it as a small business runabout, the Transit Connect won’t drink all your profits. If you want to go even greener, you can get the Transit Connect Electric.