What you expect in the buildup to something does a lot to influence how you perceive it. Like, did you know that if you expect to be tickled, you’ll actually find it more tickle-y? Madness, isn’t it.
So, if you’re expecting a car to be great before you get into it, then you’re giving it a lot to live up to. And, because the end result could go either way, we were interested to find out what cars out there defied your expectations.
From great cars that were worse than you predicted to awful cars that ended up being way better than you imagined, these are some of your best responses.
2 / 17
“Might not be the answer you’re looking for but, my ‘96 Saturn SW2. Got it cheap for delivering pizza. Couldn’t believe how much abuse it took, how easy it was to fix, and how much fun it was to drive.
“Other than that I’ve been surprised by how the reputation of the Prius has become.”
The SW2 was part of Saturn’s S Series, which debuted back in 1990 and was in production all the way to 2002.
Suggested by: motodroid23
3 / 17
“2001 Hyundai Elantra. I was a firm refuser of Hyundai products for the first five years I traveled after having a ‘97 Sonata V6 for an extended rental. The young lady at the rental counter I’d been dealing with for a couple of years insisted I try one telling me they’d done great things with it (the reality was they didn’t have much else since their lot was mostly empty). She wasn’t wrong and I eventually wound up owning a 2004 that was still solid when I got rid of it with 195k miles.
“They’re excellent compact sedans with competent handling and strong acceleration for an econobox even with the automatic. The AC was in particular outstanding and the front seats comfortable even on long trips. What’s amazing about how much improved that generation was is that it used the bones and drive line of the previous one.”
Outstanding AC and comfortable seats is all most people need in a car. So, why aren’t we all just driving round in Elantras?
Suggested by: Scott Sanford (Facebook)
4 / 17
“This one sticks out because I EXPECTED it to be awful. Last year my brother and I flew into see our family in TN and landed in Nashville. As it’s cheaper to fly to Nashville – as in a LOT cheaper – we decided to rent a car to get us the rest of the way. I always rent the crappiest cheapest cars because I don’t care.
“So what did we get? A Chevy Spark. When we first saw the thing it was almost a joke. Tiny ass little thing. And my brother is 6 foot 3" so I worried he was going to be sitting with his knees up to his chin.
“But you know what? It was actually 100% totally fine! Not only did my brother fit comfortably but it was perfectly fine in terms of acceleration, comfort, fuel economy and on top of that, since we decided to spend a day in Nashville- super easy to park in tight spaces. It was surprisingly loaded. Power windows, mirrors, an infotainment system with Google and Apple play, AC, actually comfortable seats and so on. And its small size made it actually sorta’ fun to drive. Like a go-cart. These are $13k NEW. Now granted I’ve heard the engines fail in these things at an alarming rate. But hell – if you got five years out of it you’re still coming out ahead.
“It far exceeded my expectations and it’s a shame they stopped selling them as they make perfect cars for people on a budget.”
If you go in with super low expectations, you’re bound to be surprised by what you experience. That’s how I approach each day, anyway.
Suggested by: the-easter-bunny
5 / 17
“1995 Volvo 940 naturally-aspirated 114 HP cast iron block ‘tractor engine’ with RWD was actually a pleasure to drive. A wee bit doggy with the AC on, but still a surprisingly competent sedan considering its weight and engine.”
The Volvo 940 is a heavy car that could be ordered as a sedan, station wagon and even a hearse. We can’t confirm which spec this poster was surprised by.
Suggested by: Scott Nauert (Facebook)
6 / 17
“Decided to get a Tesla Model 3. Timed it perfectly and bought about two weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. I wanted it strictly for my 80-mile commute each day.
“Since then, I have learned to leverage A Better Route Planner and TeslaFi and now it is my default car for all trips barring any luggage space limitations. I’ve had it nine months and put 25k miles on it.
“I figured owning an EV was going to be a world of compromises: ‘Can’t go there, because where will we charge?’ If anything, with the Supercharging network, the compromises are few. It has encouraged ‘bad behavior’ as we go on a lot of trips that we otherwise would not have due to fuel costs.”
The Tesla Model 3: surprisingly practical. They should put that on the posters.
Suggested by: soloyosh
7 / 17
“Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody. I was expecting the same car as its narrower brother. I was wrong the extra handling makes the experience totally different. Having mostly all the Hellcat Widebody components means adding power to this car will be easier.”
For around $50,000, the Dodge Charger Scat Pack is a quick way to an awful lot of car.
Suggested by: Justin Hill (Facebook)
8 / 17
“I had the pleasure of driving a 992 Porsche 911 Carrera at a local driving experience event. A lot of hype surrounds the Porsche 911, so I had high expectations. I only got to drive for a few (fast) paced laps around a short track, but I immediately understood the appeal.
“Earlier in the day I had briefly driven a BMW M2 Competition and an M5 Competition. I’d also driven a Jaguar F-Type Coupe R in the past. All excellent cars, but nothing comes anywhere close to the way the 911 feels from behind the wheel. It’s hard to put into words just how good it is to drive… I could only dream about what it would be like to drive a Turbo S or GT3.
“A lot of cars fall short of the expectations we make based on hype… but the 911 is different. It’s every bit as good as people tell you it is. It seriously forced me to change the way I feel about cars that I’d always thought were ‘all hype’.”
It turns out good cars are, in fact, good. What a shocker.
Suggested by: shanepj13
9 / 17
“EcoBoost Mustang. It has plenty of power for the road. My only gripe is that I couldn’t rent a manual version.”
For about $27,000, you can get an EcoBoost Mustang that kicks out 310 hp and will do 24 mpg. It’s the muscle car we deserve, but not the one we need right now.
Suggested by: @IAmGaroott (Twitter)
10 / 17
“In a good way – I’ve talked about this ad nauseum, but here it goes – I bought a Dodge Grand Caravan after renting one for a week and realizing that I needed one in my life. No it’s not perfect – driving dynamics are meh, infotainment system is abysmal, and it’s not that efficient. But the cargo and people hauling abilities – chef’s kiss.
“Runner’s up – Every rental Chevy from the last five years, because I assumed they still sucked. Cruze, Malibu, Impala, Sonic, Colorado – all weren’t amazing, but much better than I thought they’d be. I grew up in a Chevy household, and had some truly terrible ones from the ‘80s up through the late 2000s. Seems like they really got their act together after the bankruptcy.
“In a bad way – 2014 Ford Focus. When the 2013 came out, it was the darling of the automotive press. A true ‘world car’ with great efficiency and driving dynamics. So when I needed a compact car for a beach trip, I jumped at the chance to drive one. And I hated it. I hated the seats, I hated Sync, I hated how little cargo area there actually was despite being a hatchback. But mostly I hated that DCT. It shuddered and jerked its way through a 1000-mile round trip like an old Chrysler A413 with a bad solenoid. We tried to offload it at the Enterprise in Myrtle but they said they didn’t have any cars (I’ve since learned that there was a memo at Enterprise about not swapping out these cars because they were having so many complaints). A few years later I got a 2018 and discovered that everything was still just as bad.
“Dishonorable mention – a 2018 Toyota Corolla that just felt really poorly made despite the LED headlights and all the active safety stuff (including an emergency braking system that tried to kill me).”
Everyone should drive a minivan at some point in their life.
Suggested by: dbeach84
11 / 17
“Good: Porsche Cayman S. I had always heard that they were great to drive, but it was certainly beyond my expectations. The sound of the flat 6 just behind you, the grip, the tight steering… such a thrill. I’ve driven faster cars that didn’t give me the fizz like the Cayman S.
“A close second place: Kia Soul. I had one as a rental car and for the price, I was surprised at how good of a car it is. It was plenty comfortable and very practical.
“Bad: Infiniti Q50 Red Sport. 400hp, twin turbos, AWD. Sounds good on paper, but the car did absolutely nothing for me. It was too quiet, didn’t feel fast, and the interior was meh. Nothing about it was particularly compelling. It had so much potential but felt very half-baked.”
Who would have thought that Porsche, known for making good cars, could actually make a good car? We never saw that coming.
Suggested by: Andrew Piland (Facebook)
12 / 17
“Ever since I was a young lad, I wanted a Toyota Tacoma. I grew up in the 90s riding around in beat up Fords and Chevy’s, never really seeing one in person, because there were no Toyota dealers within an hour’s drive. But in magazines, on TV, and on video games, it was the king. I loved how they looked, and I heard tales of their indestructibility. Sounds crazy, but to me it was like some kind of exotic. I knew someday I had to have one. Time passed and I became a Jeep guy, but then in adulthood, I finally became well-off enough to explore buying a new tacoma. I still to that day had never ridden in one, so the excitement was intense as I climbed up inside that burnt-orange TRD Pro.
“What came next? Not instant disappointment, but a slow burning realization over the course of a 20 minute test drive. Without making this too long, I realized that not only did I not love it, driving it actually got on my nerves. The seating position, the flinty ride, the tinny sounding doors, the weird throttle mapping, the absolutely SLUGGISH transmission, and squishy brakes all came together and I came back just feeling so let down. I had gotten too used to the way a Ram pickup felt, and I think I blame my expectations more than anything Toyota did wrong.
“It just wasn’t for me, and I was in shock about that.”
Is this an instance of “never meet your heroes?” It sounds like it could be.
Suggested by: caddywompis
13 / 17
“My ‘94 C4 Corvette I got for $4k with the idea I was going to cut it up for another project. After driving it for a month, I was sold. Corvette fan for life now.”
Imagine loving a parts car so much that it becomes your personality.
Suggested by: David McDermott (Facebook)
14 / 17
“I’ll be that guy… Miata.
“I was shopping for a Mustang GT after having one as a rental. During that process, a Miata (NC) showed up nearby, and I figured I should give it a try. You read ‘Miata is always the answer’ everywhere, but it’s almost become a parody of itself as time has passed. Is it actually true? Can’t be right?
“And it is. It’s potentially the best ‘slow car fast’ driver you can get. It’s really fun at speeds that aren’t illegal. The difference between the car I thought I wanted, and the Miata I test drove was stark. Only one of them was legitimately fun.”
It’s always the answer, Dolsh is right.
Suggested by: dolsh
15 / 17
“Honestly, the Kia Soul. I bought a ‘22 Turbo for my aging parents, but the quality, features, performance, space, comfort, and egress/ingress were impressive for a vehicle that ‘feels’ small and economical.”
The Kia Soul was a popular answer today. You seem to like its affordability, size and practicalities quite a lot.
Suggested by: Peter Trevino (Facebook)
16 / 17
“Bad: Smart ForTwo.
“Everyone was raving about them when they were first sold over here (I talked to someone who liked it more than the Mini they previously owned). They seem to get really good reviews in Europe as well. So I finally got to drive one.
“What an awful, wretched device. We all know about the transmission, so I’ll stay away from that. The steering was dead and it understeered horrifically. The seats were basically formed concrete with fabric placed on top of them. Anything over 55 mph decreased your life span by 1/3.”
I’m not sure why, but the Smart is a divisive car these days. Some people love its small size and funky styling, others aren’t fans of the small German machine. Which camp do you fall into?
Suggested by: fijist
17 / 17