5. 2013 Mini Cooper
Starting price: $25,150
Years of driving fuel-efficient but flimsy Geo Metros and Hyundai Excels had given U.S. drivers the impression small cars were not only underpowered, but cramped and inherently bad. As films such as 2002's Austin Powers: Goldmember and 2003's The Italian Job showed U.S. audiences, however, a modernized take on the classic British Mini could not only be fuel-efficient, but fun and fast at the same time.
You could swap out colors, arrange the interior, trick it out with gauges and accessories and use its wide wheel base to hug turns while putting its impressive speed to the test. In the decade after its return to the U.S. market, the Mini sold 2.5 million vehicles and became a cult favorite while the big gas guzzlers faded. Now Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Honda and several other automakers each have sporty, options-packed subcompacts. Meanwhile, the U.S. market became so open to subcompacts that the Fiat 500 that was banished a generation ago has made a comeback. For a marque called Mini, it's had a major impact.
The Mini convertible comes loaded with its Mini Connected entertainment center featuring a 6.5-inch high-definition display, Apple-designed Bluetooth interface and app for smartphone and iTunes connectivity and optional GPS. While's it's also hooked up with Sirius XM satellite radio, Pandora and HD radio, the most indulgent item built into the dash is an Openometer whose sole purpose is to count the number of minutes or hours your convertible top is down during your trip.