7. Mini Cooper (2002-06)

Even as the Explorer and H2 dinosaurs roamed the land, there was a new little mammal making its way across the Atlantic as a rebuke to their entire existence.

Years of driving fuel-efficient but flimsy Geo Metros and Hyundai Excels had given U.S. drivers the impression that 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.

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