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May 18, 2018

9 min. read

Thanks to tightening emissions and fuel consumption standards, car designers tend to prioritize efficiency and aerodynamics over distinctive shapes, which means that soft curves and blob-like body shapes are now the norm. This curvy trend started in the late 70’s, when a sudden spike in fuel prices forced manufacturers to come up with more fuel-efficient designs and it never really let up. In fact, boxy cars are all but a thing of the past. Today’s square-ish cars like the Mini and the Kia Soul might feature sharp lines at the back, but studying the front part you’ll notice the same swooping curves that adorn the vast majority of modern passenger vehicles.

It’s hip to be square!

There are some holdouts though, as you’ll see in this list. The following five vehicles are some of the most iconic vehicles ever produced and three of them are even more remarkable in that they are still being produced several decades after their introduction. Is it a coincidence that they all feature sharp angles and tall windows? As boxy car enthusiasts, we think not!

Volvo 240 (1975-1993).

The venerable Volvo station wagon is a such a fixture in TV series and movies that some refer to the 240 as “Sweden’s biggest film star”. As the preferred mode of transportation for history teachers across North America, the Volvo wagon’s appeal transcends car culture. It is lauded for being reliable, easy to work on by mechanics and gearheads and admired for its practicality and logical design by people who otherwise have zero interest in cars.

It may have been out of production for a quarter century now, but consider this: the 240 was so popular that it outlived its successor, the 740 (1982-1992) and some versions like the 1983 GLT Turbo are now deemed collectibles. Not bad for a utilitarian car that was originally touted for its safety features.

A white van parked in a parking lot.

VW “bus” (1950-2013).

With a shape so simple that it could conceivably have been sketched by a child, the VW bus harks back to bellbottoms, flower power and Woodstock. Its history stretches even further back, all the way to postwar Germany, where VW introduced it in 1950 as the “Type 2” (the Type 1 being VW’s first ever car, the even more iconic Beetle).

Part of the reason the VW is so captivating is the fact that the driver sits right on top of the front wheels. The engine was put at the back, which allowed designers to create the classic flat front that gives its front-row occupants a panoramic view of the world ahead and tons of storage space behind.

Last year, Volkswagen teased the world with an electric concept vehicle that heavily borrowed from the Type 2’s classic lunchbox design. Whether or not it will ever be produced is still up in the air, although it’s hard to believe that VW will simply ignore the buzz that surrounds its timeless microbus.

A red and white vw bus is parked on the side of the road.

Mercedes G-Class (1979-present).

The military-inspired SUV is generally regarded as being more adept off than on the road. Despite that, the G is routinely seen in urban settings and many celebrity swear by it for its imposing presence, luxury appointments and powerful engine.

The most remarkable thing about the G-Class is that its body shape has remained mostly unchanged throughout its 39-year production run. Google “1979 G-Class” and you’ll see more or less the exact same body shape that is currently sitting in Benz dealerships across the globe.

A black mercedes g class parked in front of a building.

Lada Niva (1977-present).

Known simply as the Lada 4×4 since 2014, this inexplicably cool-looking Russian SUV turned 40 years old last year. As of this writing, Lada was rumored to be working on a next-gen version of the 4×4, which it will sell alongside the legacy Niva design.

Lest you think that the Niva is a quaint anachronism, we’ll have you know that some of the upper trim levels, like the Urban, feature such modern amenities as air conditioning, electric windows, heating AND folding side mirrors along with 16” alloy wheels. Luxury personified!

By the way, did you know that Lada is planning to return to the Canadian market in 2019? This means that the rugged Niva – or most likely, its next-gen successor – is slated to make a triumphant return on Canadian roads after a 20-year hiatus.

An orange suv parked in front of a blue building.

Jeep Wrangler (1986-present).

The Wrangler is so iconic that it’s more famous than its manufacturer. Try pointing to one and calling it a “car” and any toddler within earshot will immediately reprimand you: “That’s a Jeep!”

The quintessential North American off-roader is beloved despite its shortcomings when the dirt turns to tarmac. Consistently criticized by auto journalists for its rough on-road manners and sub-par build quality, the Wrangler’s popularity has only increased in recent years, with U.S. sales peaking in 2015 and remaining near record highs over the last two years. Why is it still so popular? One theory is that the car’s humble military roots and off-road prowess give it a rugged, earnest personality that people find endearing.

A black jeep parked on a dirt road.

Have a boxy car that you love (or maybe don’t love) so much?

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