Unusual cars

Celebrate the unusual with one of these wonderfully different cars and stand out from friends and family

James Wilson
Nov 5, 2021

With the most popular hatchbacks and SUVs being a similar shape and mostly purchased with black, silver or grey paintwork, there's something to be said for making a more radical choice. An unusual car can help you stand out, feel special and even act as a conversation starter. A unique design or feature can help liven up even a mundane commute.

The rarer, more left-field choices aren’t necessarily unusual because they are crazy-looking, some are unusual for the technology they feature - such as how they use fuel or which fuel they use - or because they offer selling points that don't normally go together, like off-road ability and a folding roof. So, whether you fancy an off-road convertible or a car that isn't powered by just petrol or diesel, keep reading to find the best unusual car for your needs.

Happily, while unusual cars can be somewhat niche, they tend to excel in a few specific areas. Some might boast excellent off-road abilities while others might significantly cut the cost of fuel - but without you having to splash out on an expensive electric car. The fact is, for every unusual car out there, there are always a good few motorists who would significantly benefit from driving such an oddity.

Below we've rounded up eight of the most unusual cars available in the UK that should suit different types of drivers. All of the cars in our roundup had to be available for less than £30,000 and with the prospect of low monthly payments with PCP finance. They're also less than seven years old and available in reasonable numbers, despite their unusual traits.

Unusual cars

1. BMW i3 REx

Most unusual car with electric motor and petrol backup generator

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To boost the range of its popular electric i3, BMW decided to fit a small petrol generator that can keep the electric motor running when the battery runs out of charge. This version is the ‘range extender’ or 'REx'. In using this unusual format, the German carmaker helped alleviate 'range anxiety', because topping up the small petrol tank ensures you can get to your destination even if it's beyond battery range.

The i3 REx does not use its petrol engine to power the wheels directly, though, it instead charges the onboard battery which in turn powers the wheels. BMW went all out with the interior, too - not least with the use of a plant-based material to make the dashboard. The doors to the back seats are rear-hinged, which is something of a rarity and allows easier access to the rear seats.

BMW quotes battery capacity in ‘Ah’ or ‘ampere-hour’ with the bigger the number the better for range. As such, it's best to look at models rated at 94Ah and above if you want the greatest possible range per charge (available from mid-2016). A fully-charged 94Ah REx model with a full tank of fuel comes with an official range just shy of 300 miles - although expect to get a little less than this in reality, especially in cold conditions. The combination of low emissions, an upmarket image and a backup petrol engine makes the i3 an appealing company car, as well.

BMW i3 BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Range Rover Evoque Convertible

Most unusual car with off-road abilities and folding soft-top roof

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Yes, you are seeing this right, Range Rover decided to get out the scissors and cut the top off its Evoque. This was a good thing too, as proper off-road convertibles weren't really a thing beforehand. In the past several manufacturers have produced high-riding models with folding roofs or removable roof panels, but there are very few cars that offer serious off-road ability and a proper, fully-folding electric roof. So, the Evoque Convertible is very much an unusual car.

The Evoque’s competence off-road really helps it to stand out against other convertibles, which typically sit much closer to the Tarmac. On-road it's best suited to cruising rather than fast driving, so keep that in mind when considering one if you want a sporty car.

All convertible Evoques come with an automatic gearbox, but there's the choice of petrol- and diesel-powered engines. As Range Rovers are upmarket products, the build quality is good and there's lots of equipment - parking sensors, electric front seats and cruise control are all standard.

RANGE ROVER EVOQUE CONVERTIBLE BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Mercedes C300de

Most unusual car with hybrid diesel-electric power

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Just a handful of plug-in hybrid diesel cars featuring a diesel engine, plus an electric motor, have ever been available in the UK. Several of these wear a Mercedes badge. Highlighted here is the C-Class - the C300de to be exact - which is fast, well-made and very economical (provided you remember to charge its battery regularly).

The C300de’s minimal use of fuel is partly thanks to its efficient diesel engine. However, as diesel engines have fallen out of favour with many motorists - due to question marks over diesel emissions - Mercedes has already withdrawn this electrified anomaly from sale in the UK, despite it only having been available for less than two years.

All C300de models come with a 2.0-litre diesel engine, plus an electric motor and an automatic gearbox. Out on the open road, this translates to more than 300hp and 700Nm, making it a seriously powerful machine. What is perhaps more important, though, is that the C300de can cruise at up to 80mph using battery power alone and is claimed to be capable of up to 35 miles of electric motoring following a full charge, though you're likely to achieve a little less in everyday conditions.

Aside from its hybrid gubbins, the C300de is the same as any other C-Class estate, meaning good build quality and a decent standard equipment level. If the diesel C-Class plug-in hybrid is a little out of budget for you, a petrol hybrid (badged as the 'C300e') can be purchased for less, as this has been around for much longer, so older models are available.

MERCEDES C-CLASS BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Dacia Duster Bi-Fuel

Most unusual current car that, as standard, can run on low-cost LPG fuel

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LPG (or liquefied petroleum gas) is an alternative fuel that most petrol engines can run on with a few modifications. Back in the early 2000s it looked like LPG could be the next big thing, offering the potential for low emissions and low costs, but it never really caught on in the UK. However, that doesn't mean that LPG power isn't worth considering. Especially if you can get a suitable car that is engineered to run on LPG from the factory.

Dacia recently launched Bi-Fuel (in this case, cars which can use both petrol and LPG) versions of its Duster, Sandero and Sandero Stepway models - and it is the Duster we're focusing on here. Aside from the fuelling system (there is a second fuel tank for LPG) Bi-Fuel Dusters are not really any different to traditionally-powered models - they are very affordable SUVs that can happily serve as your main family car.

Furthermore, if you want a high-riding car that not only looks tough but can cope well off-road, the Duster is quite handy on rough surfaces in four-wheel-drive guise. As for advantages and disadvantages? The real headliners are that LPG is not far off half the cost of petrol, so it gives you good scope to cut your fuel bills. Just be aware that not all petrol stations sell it, so it's worth seeing what the availability is like in your area. The positive thing is that you can always top up with petrol if LPG isn't available.

DACIA DUSTER BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Renault Megane R.S.

Most unusual car with agility-boosting four-wheel steering

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British drivers love a hot hatchback - in fact, the UK is one of the biggest markets for regular, practical hatchbacks with a powerful engine shoved under their bonnet. As a result, there are quite a few for sale, but the latest Renault Megane R.S stands out for its cutting-edge four-wheel-steering system. Put simply this allows the rear wheels to turn ever so slightly, which helps to boost low-speed manoeuvrability - giving you the turning circle of a much smaller car - while high-speed stability is also increased.

Adaptive dampers are standard, too, which allow drivers to easily tweak the suspension firmness (by pressing a button) to match their preferred driving style - making things feel more or less sporty behind the wheel. In the Megane’s case, this means the car can feel a little sharper for twisty country roads, or a little less firm to take the edge off long journeys.

Away from the high-tech steering setup, the Renault Megane looks the part - with bright yellow and orange finishes available - plus it is relatively affordable. The muscular 1.8-litre petrol engine means it is no slouch, either, pumping out 280hp and propelling the Megane R.S from 0 to 62mph in 5.8 seconds, regardless of whether you choose the manual or automatic gearbox. As with the standard Megane, there is a large 384-litre boot (which is more than the VW Golf GTI) and ample room in the back for adult passengers.

RENAULT MEGANE BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Jeep Wrangler

Most unusual car with detachable panels

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What if you need a car for driving through an orchard to pick fruit (who doesn’t?) that is spacious but also good at driving through muddy field after muddy field of trees? What is the best car for you? Without a doubt, it would be the Jeep Wrangler, as unlike basically every other modern car, it is engineered so that the doors, windscreen and roof can be removed or folded away relatively easily. Granted, the UK tends to get rather cold and wet, so it isn’t ideal all of the time, but being able to go on open-air off-road trips is certainly a unique selling point.

Being a Jeep, off-road ability is one of the Wrangler’s major strengths - it should deal with mud, snow and sand easily. There are short- and long-wheelbase versions to choose from, with the latter getting four-doors and the former having two. Really, the Wrangler is best suited to spending lots of time off the road rather than nipping to the shops as in day to day driving its rivals are much easier to live with and will cost less to run. That said, rivals can't match the Wrangler's open-air party piece.

JEEP WRANGLER BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Honda e

Most unusual car for its design: mixing retro and high-tech features

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Most things about the Honda e are unusual. Its styling is an intriguing blend of modern and retro design and its interior is unusual in that it looks more like the lovechild of Samsung and Ikea - with lots of wood trim and massive digital displays - than something Honda would typically make. Still, the e is a little electric city car that is surprisingly fun to drive and a great zero-emission option for those wanting a car to nip about town in.

Now, the e hasn’t been for sale all that long, which means that even the oldest versions aren't super-cheap yet, but being electric the lower running costs should help offset the higher initial cost. There are only two trims available; the standard e and the e Advanced, with Advanced models also offering more power at 154hp, compared with 136hp for the standard model. The standard model accelerates from a standstill to 62mph in a brisk 9.0 seconds, with the Advanced cutting that figure to just 8.3 seconds.

The interior of the e is dominated by a wood-trimmed dashboard along with a range of TV-style displays, and standard equipment includes climate control, a reversing camera, heated front seats and Bluetooth. Park assist, a heated steering wheel and uprated speakers are some of the extras that come with the Advanced version. Official range per charge is claimed to be up to 137 miles, whichever version you go for, but expect to get a little less than this on real roads, as is the case with official petrol and diesel fuel economy figures.

MORE DETAILS ON THE HONDA E

8. Mazda 3 SkyActiv-X

Most unusual car for its cutting-edge engine technology

Used deals from £18,000
Monthly finance from £342*

The Mazda 3 doesn’t look especially unusual, in fact, it looks rather good in a sharp but handsome way. Open the door, take a seat and go for a drive and things again don’t seem all that different. So what, then, makes this Japanese car so unusual? The engine, that’s what. Underneath the bonnet is some super-swanky technology that mixes many of the benefits of a petrol engine with some of the benefits of a diesel engine.

In short, it offers the refinement and fun drive normally associated with petrol engines while offering the type of fuel economy that normally comes with a diesel motor. Mazda is very much ahead of the curve here, as no other car maker produces an engine like it. Elsewhere the latest Mazda 3 marks a significant improvement over previous models with its striking styling and great build quality, while the amount of standard equipment is plentiful, practicality is good and the driving experience is amongst the best in a hatchback this size.

There are manual and automatic gearboxes available and there's even a four-wheel-drive option, though you can expect this to increase your fuel consumption. It seems, then, that Mazda has created an everyday hatchback that is suited to all manner of drivers while using some very clever engineering.

MAZDA 3 BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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