When a product becomes synonymous with its category, it's a category-killer. You might be familiar with something called an "iPod" — those used to be called "mp3 players." The same thing often happens with cars. Here are ten cars that Jalopnik readers think defined a category.
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10.) Honda Civic
Suggested By: HotWhipTA
Why It's A Category Killer: Up until recently, when you wanted a cheap, reliable form of transportation, you went with the Civic. Truth be told, you'll still probably go with Honda's mighty Civic, whether you're recommending it to a family member, or being economical yourself. It's the standard response to "I just need something to get around in."
9.) Toyota Corolla
Suggested By: Swine.
Why It's A Category Killer: The Corolla really deserves two spots on this list. The first way it was a category killer was with the original, which provided an affordable and accessible level of performance and quality. It used to be when someone said "car" you probably pictured a Corolla. The new Corolla also defines a category: beigemobiles.
Photo credit: Danakin, flickr
8.) Jeep Wrangler
Suggested By: CptnMorgan
Why It's A Category Killer: 99% of the time when you say Jeep, you're talking about a Wrangler. And when a non-car person says it? More like 99.99%. They even call Range Rovers or Hummers "Jeeps."
Sure, Jeep produces other vehicles, but none are so attached to their name as the Wrangler. It's capable, time-tested, and filled with water. What more do you need?
Photo credit: kenjonbro, flickr
7.) Mazda Miata
Suggested By: Kiwi_Commander
Why It's A Category Killer: Think of small, lightweight, fun to drive, two-seat convertibles. You're thinking of the Miata, because it's the only one you've been able to find on this continent produced in large numbers in the last generation. Mazda built a car so good, it's become the standard go-to answer for nearly every automotive question, even those it seems particularly ill-suited for. If you're looking for some fun open-top motoring, the Miata's the obvious choice.
Photo credit: gryhrt, flickr
6.) Dodge Grand Caravan
Suggested By: unhcampus
Why It's A Category Killer: The Chrysler Corporation invented a segment that came to dominate family car sales for years and years. The Town & Country and Voyager were pretty much the same as the Grand Caravan, but the Caravan's name stuck. We may hate them when we're stuck behind them on one-lane roads or when they're clogging up the left lane on the highway, but if you've got to move an entire little-league team or get your kid to and from college, there's one vehicle that comes to mind first.
Photo credit: Stephen Rees, lfickr
5.) Chevrolet El Camino
Suggested By: Ayabe
Why It's A Category Killer: Ranchero who? There is only one business in the front, party in the back car I'm cool with, and its name is El Camino, unless you live in Australia.
Photo credit: ASurroca, flickr
4.) Ford Mustang
Suggested By: Kiwi_Commander
Why It's A Category Killer: The Mustang is still the standard of measure for affordable sports cars, whether they're from the good ol' US of A or not. Look at nearly any car magazine on your local newsstand on any given day, and there will be one with a "Mustang VS. [insert car name here]" test on the cover. Look up "affordable sports car" in a dictionary, and there will be a picture of a Mustang (followed, of course, by one of a Miata).
Photo credit: aresauburn, flickr
Suggested By: Gamecat235
Why It's A Category Killer: The Mini defined small cars, not just because of its physical size, but because of its packaging. "Transversely-mounted four cylinder engine that drives the front wheels" could be the description of any one of a dozen cars on the road today, a full 52 years after the Mini's launch in 1959. It may not have been the first to do it, but it was certainly the first to make it a success.
Photo credit: loungerie, flickr
2.) Toyota Prius
Suggested By: 01SNKOWNR
Why It's A Category Killer: The Prius has become the measuring stick for hybrid-electric vehicles the world over. Honda makes a new Insight? People confuse it for a Prius. Chevy rolls out the Volt to much fanfare and celebration? Well, yes, but is it as good as a Prius? Whether we like it or not, the Prius is today's "It" green car, and has become completely and utterly synonymous with being earth-conscious and environmentally friendly. It's less of a car, and more of a fashion statement. They're everywhere, and don't seem to be going away any time soon.
Photo credit: alex4981, flickr
1.) Volkswagen Beetle
Suggested By: ckron247
Why It's A Category Killer: The original economy car. The original "It" car. The original car that won't stop running, no matter what you do it. The Beetle is everywhere, so much so that it's come to represent an entire era. What the Mini was to our perception of 1960's England, the Beetle was to our perception of 1970's America: hippies in either Beetles or their larger van siblings. And now its spawned two modern children, and shows no sign of dying out anytime soon.
Photo credit: owash, flickr