Maybe if you put a bag over its...tail? Was the Pontiac Aztek the ugliest vehicle ever made or a trendsetter ahead of its time?
I’m used to having people stare at me when I drive by. Well, not me, exactly, but the various cars I rotate through, on a regular basis. Call it the head-turn factor, if you will, for it’s one indication of how well a product stands out in today’s competitive and overcrowded automotive market.
Some vehicles grab your attention because they’re just plain beautiful, the Mercedes-Benz CLS, for example; others because they’re rare and exotic – a Bentley or a Lamborghini. Then there are the odd ducks that simply stand out, and these days there are a whole bunch of them coming to market.
There’s the Kia Soul, made famous by those hip little hamsters in a commercial that’s gone mega-hot on You Tube. Nissan’s weighed in with its own offering, the decidedly funky Cube. And, of course, we can’t ignore the xB, now in its second generation. The boxy crossover was the product that put Scion, Toyota’s youth-oriented brand-within-a-brand, on the map.
What do they all have in common? They’re basically all boxes on wheels, and more than a bit retro, with a hint of the classic, full-sized van in their DNA. That said, their designs are all a bit out of the norm, they’re definitely not minivans, nor are they SUVs. Each has a decidedly distinctive take on an otherwise fundamentally simple shape. The asymmetric Cube tries hard to be cute, Scion is L.A. street smart and Soul boasts hip-hop sensibilities, with its flashing interior lights.
But above all, they’re designed to deliver maximum functionality – which is, after all, the thing that boxes, or vans, if you prefer, do best. So, it should be no surprise that the combination of form and function is connecting so well with today’s buyers, especially young ones also attracted to the reasonably low price tag of these three models.
Then again, maybe it should be a surprise.
It wasn’t all that long ago that American buyers turned a big thumbs down on another quirkily-styled box-mobile that attempted to combine incredible functionality and flexibility — arguably a good bit more than the newer Soul, Cube and xB – and a bold styling statement.
I’m referring, of course, to the late and largely unlamented Pontiac Aztek.