People love cheap cars, but hate cars that look cheap

Global health crisis is making us rethink some habits regarding car ownership we’ve so happily built over the past few years

Entry-level models were the most noticeable in the 1980s, when they would use unpainted bumpers and iron wheels
The DS 9 was supposed to have its E-Tense electric version revealed in this year’s Geneva Auto Show, which was cancelled

Private cars are in again

One of the strongest recommendations we’ve been made is to avoid crowds of all sorts. Having your own vehicle is highly effective for that because it means staying away from bus stops and train stations; ride-sharing cars aren’t helpful as we think because, though they take fewer people per day, these people stay closer to the driver and engage in conversation more often. The thing is, most people resort to those solutions for a reason: in general, private cars are rather expensive to buy and keep.

Nissan brought the Datsun name back to life as a low-cost division, which released the GO and GO+ models in 2014 and facelifted them in 2018

A very sensitive topic

Simply put, there’s been no way to make low-cost cars desirable. The easiest is to take a regular model and strip it from items, but that leads us to a standard like the 205’s of the first photo — unpainted bumpers and steel wheels became a thing of the past precisely because automakers were demanded to raise the bar. As if it wasn’t enough, cost-cutting efforts often reach comfort and safety equipment, which makes the whole topic take a wrong turn. That’s why most companies are trying new things.

While the 500 lineup is playful and sporty, the Tipo family is much more rational. It allows Fiat to attract a whole new type of customers

What to do, then?

So far, we can say many people want private transportation more than before the pandemic, but still don’t want cars that literally make them look poor. One possible outcome is the rise of rational cars. Models that combine comfortable cabin, efficient powertrain, attractive design and safety equipment in a way to offer pleasant everyday driving and affordable maintenance at the expense of not being a reference in anything. There already are a few examples around, but they tend to become more popular.

Škoda replaced the Rapid with the Scala using more aggressive styling and only the hatchback body in order to better meet its demand

New rules make new players

Those cars have never prospered because there’s never been a stable demand for them — people have always valued emotional aspects such as breathtaking design or powerful engines. Now that the game has dramatically changed, the time has finally come for rational cars; once companies pay closer attention to them, they’re expected to render traditional low-cost models outdated simply by being more pleasant in everyday use, especially for small families, without costing that much.

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Danillo Almeida

Content writer and engineer-to-be who aspires to work in car design. If you like cars but not the stereotypes that surround them, give my articles a try.