Everyone loves a good sleeper—well, maybe not everyone—but any decent person does (decent people being automotive enthusiasts). Others instead prefer a car that leads the buyer to believe that it is a better performer than it really is, allowing someone to own a flashy-looking car despite having shallow pockets. When designing a car, it is generally thought best to have its styling be representative of the car's strengths and purposes, as well as the automaker's philosophy. However, someone buying an inexpensive, reliable, economical car doesn't want their car to scream cheap and boring. Anyone would prefer styling that says the opposite; something that brings up positive feelings in others as well as confidence in his/herself.
(Disclaimer: buckle up for the ride if you choose to read the writeup for this rambling FEQ, folks. It's a comparatively long one and especially mundane. Also, please don't take "look all wrong" as a negative thing. It can be as good as it can be bad.)
In reality, the idea that a car's styling should represent the car itself is far from being 100% true. Saying such a thing may be advantageous from an advertising standpoint, but really should not be followed when it comes to executing the design. The car's appearance should represent the target demographic itself. An soft-spoken, inconspicuous business executive in the 70s was not looking for a 911 or LS6 Corvette. They want their car to emanate an air of solidity and power, while having an understated presence and stealthy attitude—a car that embodied the quote, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." It must be a car that says about the person what they want people to think about them; an extension of that person. Really, our taste in cars is largely an extension of our own persona. Of course, the car must fit one's taste. We'll say the wealthy person in the 60s liked to go fast. Therefore, the aforementioned hypothetical person would want something like a 300SEL 6.3.
Behind the 300SEL 6.3 (and its 450SEL 6.9 successor which was less of a pioneer) was a fantastic formula. For decades prior to the car, people had loved the "big engine, little car" concept. It followed the idea of more is more. However, when you had to be an adult and put the toys away, more is more became something more like more is no more. Well, I'd imagine that when you had stacks of cash you didn't like that change. You had to have a mature person's car, now—but by no means did you want to compromise in the speed department! You had the money for a fast car that was big and cushy at the same time. Sacrifices were for paupers. Hence, the superluxobarge: faster than a speeding bullet, bigger than a middling midsize. No compromises, bitch.
However, it's not just the wealthy who get tired of sacrificing x bragging right for y. That's where we come into the "(insert category here) bargains" department. Performance bargain? Mustang. Fun bargain? Miata. Styling bargain? Volkswagen. Luxury appointments bargain? Fuck if I know—I never cared. Anyone can get a Camry and pay reasonable money for all-round good, and almost anyone does. Look down the street and tell me differently. Sure, there are plenty of cars that are derivatives of the Camry idea; however, it's a popular item just about anywhere. The Camry's styling definitely represents the car itself: satisfactory, sufficient, logical, un-bothersome, and without quirk. But who's to say your reliable, satisfactory, and logical economy car can't have a little more appeal? Maybe take trade your logic points in for some satisfaction. One (rather poor) example of what you're left with is the Civic (yes, Civic) Del Sol. Far less logical and far more bothersome, with 90s quirky zaniness pizzazz to boot!
There are plenty of examples of these two types of cars, as they have been produced up to this very day. So, for the official FEQ:
Which cars' appearances are misleading in their representation of the car's purpose or performance?
Questions of Friday Evenings past (there wasn't one last Friday):