For many car buyers, styling is a major consideration when deciding whether or not to buy a particular model. And, J.D. Power research indicates that consumers genuinely care about car design, citing it as a major decision driver when selecting a new car, truck, or SUV.
In reviewing the results of the most recent J.D. Power 2013 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study,SM and specifically the data associated with the Vehicle Exterior category within APEAL, luxury cars tend to score higher than more affordable models. In fact, among the 10 highest-scoring models in the Vehicle Exterior category, all except for the Lincoln MKZ are priced north of $50,000--much higher than the typical auto shopper's budget.
The 10 cars listed below represent the highest-scoring non-premium models in terms of exterior design. They are listed in reverse order, starting with the 10th-highest-scoring model:
10. Mazda MX-5 Miata
A classic 2-seat roadster, the Mazda MX-5 Miata receives high ratings for exterior design by the people who own them. For 2013, a new Club model debuted with a more aggressive appearance in the form of gunmetal-finish wheels, black mirror caps, darkened headlamps and trim, and a sporty door stripe. The Miata's look is unchanged for 2014.
9. Chrysler 300
Chrysler's luxury-themed 300 sedan is offered in a variety of trim levels and with numerous special-edition and appearance packages designed to give the family car a custom look and feel. Buyers can go with lots of chrome and glitz, or tone everything down for a stealthy look.
8. Subaru BRZ
A new model for 2013, the Subaru BRZ sports car offers 2+2 seating, rear-wheel drive, and an exceptionally low center of gravity that contributes to sure handling. Though it is basically a twin to the Scion FR-S, the Subaru does have unique styling details and is offered in an exclusive WR Blue Pearl paint color.
With a classic shape and design cues that trace their lineage to the original Volkswagen Type 1 of the 1940s, the modern Volkswagen Beetle remains a small car with style, one that appeals to the young and the young at heart in equal measure. For 2014, a limited-production version called the Beetle GSR joins the lineup, resplendent in yellow and black paint.
The Hyundai Azera was last redesigned for 2012, replacing a staid and conservative full-size sedan design with the current look, a derivation of what the automaker calls "Fluidic Sculpture" styling language that has transformed every Hyundai model in the past few years. Azera is one of just three family sedans on this list.
5. Mini Coupe/Roadster
Take one Mini Cooper, remove the back seats, chop the roof down, and you've essentially got the Mini Coupe and Mini Roadster. Each of these more rakish variants of the iconic Cooper seats two people, and each can be custom-tailored to the buyer's tastes through a long menu of optional paint, upholstery, exterior décor, interior materials, and wheel designs.
For the past decade, American muscle cars have leaned heavily on retro-themed styling, and the Chevy Camaro is no exception. With the classic 1969 Camaro as inspiration, designers created a modern Camaro that recalls the past while looking forward to the future, an approach that resonates with buyers. For 2014, the Camaro gets a mild styling update, seen here.
Dodge, perhaps more successfully than Chevy and Ford, leverages American car enthusiast longings for the muscle-car heyday of the early 1970s with its Challenger lineup. From an appearance standpoint, inside and out, the Challenger looks most like a modern copy of the original car. A steady stream of special-edition versions keeps the faithful interested in this retro Dodge.
2. Ford Mustang
Ford kicked off the retro-muscle trend with its most recent Mustang redesign, back in 2005. Over the years, Ford has updated the popular Mustang, adding new 1960s styling cues every few years to help ensure that fans of the original pony car remain interested. If you like the look of the 2014 Mustang, get one while you can. The 2015 Ford Mustang is completely redesigned.
Among mainstream models, people who own the Dodge Charger say it is the most appealing car in terms of exterior styling. This full-size family sedan has a rakish roofline, aggressive looks, and retro-themed styling cues, and Dodge offers the car with a variety of standard and special-edition exterior appearance packages to ensure steady buyer interest in the car.