By on November 8, 2012

In September, click-hungry Kelley Blue Book celebrated its “10 coolest cars under $12,000” (With click-triggering gallery!) Two months later, rampant inflation sets in. Now, it’s the “10 coolest cars under $25,000.” Necessarily, the September choices were a bit low rent. Let’s see what you get when you double your budget. All 10 of them. With pictures. And then, we’ll take revenge on Kelley and crown our own super cool car.

10th Place: 2013 Dodge Dart

The car sitting on the tried & true Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform can be made even cooler with a 160-horsepower MultiAir turbocharged engine. In SXT trim, the car was test driven and reviewed by Michael Karesh.

9th Place: 2012 Prius c

For people who think gas stations are not cool, Toyota’s hybrid gives city fuel economy of 53 mpg, for (not much) less than $20,000. The Prius c was fussed over by Bertel even before the car was born, it was driven through Tokyo, and reviewed by Alex Dykes.

8th Place: 2013 Miata MX-5

Topic of a lot of smack talk, and heated debates. Cool, especially when red. The car made first place in TTAC’s Boomerang Basement Bolides triple crown.

7th Place: 2013 Chevrolet Camaro

The $25K budget barely is enough to buy the base version. We have not reviewed the 2013 Camaro yet, but here is Michael Karesh’s take on the 2010 model, along with leafy pictures of repossessed mansions.

6th Place: 2013 Ford Mustang

Maybe not in mint green, but half of the adolescent to semi-retired population will call this the epitome of cool, whereas the other half has to read on. Car TTAC track tested.

5th Place: 2013 Volkswagen GTI

In America, they dropped the Golf name and they only call it GTI. We have a review of the 2010 model. 2013, not yet.

4th Place: 2013 Jeep Wrangler

Come to the cool outdoors (especially in that one)! Alex Dykes took to the woods in the 2012 model.


3rd Place: 2013 MINI Cooper Coupe

Now we are getting to the creme de la cool. Two seater. No inlaws in the back. Aerodynamic roof! 6-speed GETRAG transmission! Tested for you by Alex Dykes.

2nd Place: 2013 Ford Focus ST

Finally, here in America, one of those high-powered hot hatches we saw on websites written in strange languages. Michael Karesh tested the 252-horsepower Ford Focus ST for TTAC.

1st Place: 2013 Scion FR-S

Kelley thinks what we call the hachi-roku is über-cool, or totemo cool, for that matter. We have followed the car long before it was produced. Tests? Each person on TTAC’s masthead must have tested the hachi-roku, at least twice. Here, Murilee Martin’s rendition. And what the heck, I am in Tokyo, it’s Indian Summer in Japan, maybe we’ll take the hachi-roku into the mountains over the weekend. For my signature (ouch) “from the back seat” review.

Vote your own!

Who are we to let allegedly expert Kelley Blue Book editors tell us what’s cool? Cool is what we decide. Please do vote. This time, it’s fun. No lines, no regrets.

Which is the coolest of them all? free polls
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75 Comments on “Now You Pick The Coolest Car For Under $25,000...”

  • avatar

    HYUNDAI SONATA/ VELOSTER/ACCENT Strong 4, nice navigation, decent interior materials and space. Decent fuel economy.

    As an SRT loyalist/fanboy/illegal street racer… I nominate the DART.

  • avatar

    Of the cars listed, I voted for the Focus. Takes all of the cars on the list easy. I’m intrigued by the Dart though. Anyways, my personal pick is not on the list. Don’t know if it sells for under the limit, but if it does I have the winner for you: Fiat 500 Abarth.

    BTW, pls do review the 86 Bertel. It’d be very fun to get your take on it!

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll agree with the 500 Abarth. I spent a weekend with it and it impressed me. A quick handling little go-cart that is bigger than it looks inside. It was hard NOT to get 40 mpg in it as well.

      • 0 avatar


        I’m surprised and happy you were able to enjoy the Cincuecento. From what I’ve been able to surmize of you from your comments (and forgive me if I’m totally wrong), you seem to like big cars with big engines. So, the fact you enjoyed the little Fiat is proof that a well-made small car can find “some” favor in America. Your open-mindedness is refreshing in light of some of the crazier comments on the Spark piece.

  • avatar

    I picked the FR-S from this list, but i do not agree with all of the choices given to pick from. Prius C?? really?? Cooper coupe?? the rest are arguable.

  • avatar

    I’ll take a Focus, a Jeep, and a Miata, and all my wants and needs will be satisfied.

  • avatar

    Depends how we define “cool”. In my opinion the only car in the list that is likely to get compliments from women would be the Mini Coupe. Seriously.

    • 0 avatar

      Guess it depends on what kinda women you talk to.

      My wife absolutely hates the Mini and would much prefer the Mustang or Camaro over the rest of the cars on the list.

  • avatar

    The Focus ST and FR-S are appropriately placed 1 and 2…but everybody knows real cars have RWD (or AWD)so the FR-S is really the only pick.

  • avatar

    the 86 has been so over advertised and pent up that its no longer cool

    one of the traits of cool cars is the unattainable yet not overpriced

    i like the looks of the UK market Focus wagon with the Ecotec 1.6 turbo four (they can make an ST wagon too but thats gilding the lily)

    sure the dash is hopeless and interior room isnt great but we are dreaming arent we?

    • 0 avatar

      “sure the dash is hopeless and interior room isnt great but we are dreaming arent we?”

      Great line and so true. If I may, I’ll be sure to use it in future!

    • 0 avatar

      “one of the traits of cool cars is the unattainable yet not overpriced”

      For that definition to work, would mean only a very limited group of people would be interested in a certain make or model.

      If something is unobtainable means not many were built, or they’ve been long recycled long ago. Or people hold onto them because they are awesome. If they are awesome, then the price would be high. If not many were built, means they sucked when new or were expensive when new or both.

      It is very difficult for something to be unobtainable AND affordable.

      So the real question now is, what is cool? Is it a contradiction?

  • avatar

    When the SRT Dart arrives with the 2.2L DI MultiAir Turbo, I’ll choose that. For now I’ll go with the Focus ST for the bang/buck factor.

  • avatar

    Why was #4 (Jeep Wrangler) tossed from your list? Sure, it might not be the sexiest or fastest on the list, but I still want one in the worst possible way. Crude? Probably, especially when compared to the others. Efficient? We don’t need no stinkin’ fuel economy when you’re romping through the muck. Noise reduction? Really? Take the top down, remove the doors and to heck with it!

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    I was going to vote Subaru BRZ for my friend’s ride. But since only the “high-volume” FR-S was listed, I voted Focus ST instead :P

    Although I’ve seen the Dodge Dart a few times in person, and I must say it’s one extremely HANDSOME car. And the tail lights are extremely cool looking.

    • 0 avatar

      I am surprised to have yet seen a Dart on the road. I am on the west side of LA and I see just about everything. A guy in the garage here has a custom Rolls Royce station wagon for gosh sakes. Maybe they feel it is too low rent around here. I know that is what they thought when I drove my 65 Dart wagon into the same garage.

  • avatar

    I would have picked the GTI if it was built like it used to be! But currently the build quality of VW isn’t up to snuff, so the Focus got my vote.

    I hate the Mini “hat on top” coupe piece of junk.

    • 0 avatar

      The possibility that they’re built like they used to be is why I’ll never buy a VW again. Fool me twice.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure I understand this comment. I owned and drove a Mark I GTI for ten years and loved it. I have a Mark VI right now which is light years ahead of the dear Mark I in every way: performance, interior amenities, utility, safety, NVH, and yes: quality. Two years of driving the Mark VI and it has been damned near perfect.

      The bad old days of the Golf/Jetta Mark IVs are past with perpetual coil pack and window regulator issues.. Volkswagen has vastly improved its quality (18 out of 32) on the last Consumer Report overall manufacturer list. True Delta shows GTIs with average reliability. While that doesn’t sound very impressive, the point is ALL cars are supremely more reliable today, so “average” means one repair trip to the dealer every two years or so. Take out the perpetual complaints from owners about squeaks and rattles being considered a major problem (True Delta filters this out appropriately), and average reliability is truly remarkable.

      But next to articles about the Chevy Volt, I don’t think any topic here at TTAC results in as many negative comments as when VW quality comes up.

  • avatar

    Easy, FR-S. It will hopefully be my next purchase. I also have a soft spot for the MINI, GTI, and Prius (own[ed] and enjoy[ed] versions of all 3). The plaid seats in the GTI were very cool and probably sold me on the car over a WRX. I very nearly bought a Miata. Love them, too.

  • avatar

    FR-S comes in at a lower MSRP than the BRZ so I think that is why it makes the list. But let’s remember Subaru designed / developed and builds it in Gunma, Japan. So it has a Scion badge but it’s not a Scion (by a tC if you want what Toyota thinks is a sporty car).

    I agree with #1 though as the BRZ/FR-S twins have almost no competition with it’s layout. For under $25k you may find a base 2.0T Genesis Coupe and has more power but it does not command the presence the BRZ does from its very low slung body, layout and the supercar feel of the shock towers bulging higher than the hood.

  • avatar

    I love the Wrangler, but where’s it to be voted?

    Anyway, picked the GTI. I think the Mustang is cool, but it must be V8. Yeah, the V6 is a great car, but you gotta have the V8.

  • avatar

    For it to be cool, someone middle-aged would have to be reluctant to be seen in it, so the Miata, GTI, Wrangler, Mustang and Camaro are out. The Prius is an appliance and the Dart has no halo variant yet. The Cooper Coupe is one variant too many and the FR-S is ultimately an old school configuration. So Focus ST FTW.

    But the Abarth is cooler.

  • avatar

    Prius C is cool? Are you guys kidding? My coworker has one, I look at it every day and still don’t see an ounce of coolness about it.

    Also, the Mini Coupe is just plain ugly. Horribly ugly. The regular hatch is much better-looking imho.

    Rest are ok but no WRX? The base version is still under $26K so it should be close enough.

  • avatar

    I have to go with the Camaro, even tho’ I can’t see out of it, “just because”…

    Of course, what is coolest to me isn’t on the list – the Malibu, but at the highest trim, may be out of the price range.

  • avatar

    Are Mazda Speed3s under 25k? Not saying it’s the coolest… but maybe cooler than some of the other cars on the list.

    I mean if Ford gets two don’t see why Mazda can’t.

    I like the looks of the Dodge Dart but that picture is unflattering. The color hides the shape.

  • avatar

    There is a huge difference, between “that’s so cool!” and “I would buy that.” So I voted Mini Coupe, because it’s undeniably funky-cool, but it’s not the best car on the list, nor would I buy one.

  • avatar

    4th Place: 2013 Jeep Wrangler

    Gotta question this one for the price point. You make good mention of the $25K ceiling, doubtful that I could find a Wrangler with any amenities other than some seats, a steering wheel, and 12 mpgs for that bit o’ cabbage; let alone the Rubicon pictured. Then again, many of them seem fantasies like the Focus ST for under $25K.

  • avatar

    Prius C being on here is a joke. No way it should be there.

    I would put the Mustang and Camaro higher.

    Wrangler is too high on this list. I wouldn’t but the FR-S number 1, but it would be high on the list.

    • 0 avatar

      Why not? It’s the most fuel economical car you could buy (not counting the plug-in cars). Saving money and laughing at the losers around you- sounds pretty cool to me.

      • 0 avatar

        Not to impune you directly if your a hybrid fan, but I laughed at ‘losers’ in Priuses from my Trans Am when I had it.

        While I can respect the engineering behind the HSD and its purpose as a city commuter, the things are intentionally ugly IMO and owning one to me would make me feel like a slave to the system… i.e. I have to fight traffic to get to work, I have to own one of these because of the gas I waste in commuting, I can’t afford something nicer b/c of the crushing economic problems in this nation etc.

        A pony car to me says highway, it says freedom, it says America, f*** yeah!

        NOTE: I am aware the dream of ‘America’ is fast becoming a mirage as we as a nation slowly march into an abyss of despair, but I digress from my original point.

      • 0 avatar

        It is economical, yes. Is saving money cool, yes. But, this car is not cool. By your standards, a bus pass would be cooler.

      • 0 avatar

        Hush Puppies are even cooler.

    • 0 avatar
      That guy

      The Wrangler is super cool, one of the last truly puropose built cars left on the road. It’s small inside, it rides like crap, and it guzzles gas, but that’s all ok because it can dominate anything else off road.

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Wrangler is the best selling niche vehicle in America.

      • 0 avatar

        From my small sample size, most Wranglers won’t be off road much. Just like most Corvette will probably never see a track. It is cool, don’t get me wrong, I am just not sure it would be number 4. I would have Focus ST, Mustang, Camaro, FR-S, and VW GTI above it.

      • 0 avatar

        A Wrangler is the next best thing to a horse – you ride ON it, not IN it. I know, I owned a 1992.

        Jeep Wranglers are the epitome of cool, because there’s no other driving or riding experience like it; past, present or future!

      • 0 avatar

        We bought a 2012 Jeep Wrangler SoftTop for my grandson in the military several months back to replace his old Tacoma, and IMO the Wrangler in Dozer and Black is THE COOLEST of them all.

        It’s probably because I am biased but a SelecTrac 4WD Wrangler with a stick shift and a V6 is the ultimate cool no matter where you take it or drive it. And for <$23K plus tt&l, that's a damn good deal.

        The one criteria that matters most is that a Wrangler is a Babe Magnet. If getting laid is a priority, a Wrangler will help the single guy get there.

      • 0 avatar

        @Zackman, I agree with your assessment of the driver position feeling like you’re on a dining room chair a top the chassis. Seriously disagree on the off-road potential of the new Wrangler behemoth, thereby wondering what the broad appeal is. The former TJs and YJs were much more narrow, gaining the ability to actually go anywhere. Anyone who has traveled up and down the goat trails of the Rockies can attest that wide-body 4x4s are generally getting left behind. The AWD cement-mixers are pefect for the mall when there’s trailing to do.

  • avatar

    I had to vote Mustang because I just bought one. I had been comparing it mainly to an FR-S and a Camaro and it just seemed to be the coolest one of them all. The FR-S was solid and drove well, but it just didn’t put the same smile on face as being behind the wheel of the Mustang. It’s as if Toyota couldn’t really shake the appliance thing.

  • avatar

    As a brand new Mustang owner, I’m definitely going to have to vote for the Toyobaru as the coolest car. It’s not necessarily the best at anything, but it looks great and is filling a segment of cars that we need more of.

  • avatar

    Gentlepeaople: I am sorry that a coding error in the polling table made the Jeep vanish. I tried to resurrect it, but it wasn’t reflected in the results. The only alternative I have is to restart the voting, which would lose ALL your votes, which I don’t want to do.

  • avatar
    That guy

    I voted Mustang. Maybe it’s because I’m old school, but a RWD car with 300+hp is just my kind of thing. The left me choosing between the Mustang and Camaro, and I kind of feel like the Camaro is the non-car-guy choice between the two of them. It’s heavier, slower, and feels more isolated from the road.

  • avatar

    Shouldn’t the Fiat Abarth be on the list as well?

  • avatar
    Peoples breakdown

    Hi all. Funny, it seems that the harder a car is to get the cooler it gets. I keep reading about the mythical manual diesel estate car, which here in Europe is basically as boring as it gets. That’s why I voted for the Camaro. Have seen one (1) in flesh since it’s been around.

  • avatar

    Voted Mustang myself for obvious reasons. Won’t be telling my buddy with an FR-S about this poll for obvious reasons.

  • avatar

    Where is the Wrangler on the poll?

    • 0 avatar

      I too would vote for the Wrangler. It’s nice to see that there are still some pure undiluted vehicles for sale in this age of cars that are jacks of all trades but masters of none. In the same spirit of purity I vote for the FR-S (the Miata and Mustang also notable contenders).

  • avatar

    Wrangler, all the way. Front live axle, bathtub body, infinitely customizable, unapologetic 4×4.

    Last of its kind.

    Can’t wait to see how Marchionne will ruin this icon.

  • avatar

    Cool cars need to look decent and I don’t like the looks of the Focus ST or the Toyota. Okay to drive but look pretty awful..

    OTOH the Mustang looks pretty good and is amusing to drive. Same with the Wrangler. Camaro would normally win this but the lowgrade interior and the lack of the ability for humans to see out of it bring it down.

    So those two win this contest IMHO.

  • avatar

    Wow, all those here in Perú are well over 30k. No Dart, no Camaro, no Mustang, and the base focus is about 22k

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