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All too often, cheap and cool don’t go together when you’re car shopping. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. Here are some of Top Gear’s picks for cheap and cool cars that you can buy in the United States second-hand for a relative bargain, like the Mazda MX-5.  

  • Volkswagen Golf GTI
  • Austin Mini
  • Caterham
  • Toyota MR2
  • Lotus Elise
  • Mazda MX-5 Miata

Is the Volkswagen Golf GTI a cheap and cool car?

The Volkswagen Golf GTI is synonymous with fun and practicality. Specifically, Top Gear recommends a MkV Golf GTI, which rolled off the assembly line between 2004 and 2009. Better yet, a 200-bhp 2.0L turbocharged hot hatch from 2008 can be yours for less than $10,000. 

Volkswagen Golf GTI MkVs are cheap and cool cars.
2004 VW Golf GTI | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

How much is an original Mini?

The original Austin Mini operated along a similar formula to the famous Volkswagen Beetle, namely being a minimalist people’s car. However, there was an application where the Mini shocked and amazed: racing. The little Mini distinguished itself both in circuit racing and rally stages, proving it would perform regardless of where you sent it. Today, the cheap, cool little cars are rising in value, but savvy shoppers can still find one for less than $20,000. 

Cars like this Austin Mini and Mazda MX-5 are great options for shoppers
Austin Mini Cooper | Simon Clay, National Motor Museum via Getty Images

What is a Caterham?

The Caterham is the last word in affordable track day fun. Considering the lightweight, stripped-down style of the little race car, it constitutes one of the finest out-of-the-box track cars available. Caterhams of just about any generation don’t make a lot of power, but they’re incredibly light, meaning a good power-to-weight ratio. 

Is the Toyota MR2 a cheap and cool car?

The Toyota MR2 attempted to put a mid-engined sports car into the hands of the less wealthy public. Still, the result is a pretty cool, cheap little car that will put a smile on your face without breaking the bank. According to Kelley Blue Book (KBB), you can pick up a 2005 Toyota MR2 in good condition for as little as $11,000. Be sure to save a little money to keep it running. 

How much is a used Lotus Elise?

I know what you’re thinking, “Top Gear thinks a Lotus Elise is cheap as well as cool?” If you find the right example, it doesn’t have to ruin you. While it may cost as much as $50,000 to grab a low-mileage Lotus Elise in the United States, take a moment to consider what you’re buying. For the price of a new sports car, you get a head-turning vehicle with a true racing pedigree. 

Cool and cheap cars like this Lotus Elise punch well above their weight.
Lotus Elise | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

Is the Mazda MX-5 a cheap and cool car?

The Mazda MX-5, often referred to as the Miata, is undoubtedly cheap and arguably cool. Sure, there are stigmas surrounding the little Miata, but the fact remains that an MX-5 will do just about anything you want. If you want a track car, the Miata can deliver. If you want a weekend canyon carver, the Miata has got you covered. 

Better yet, you can snag an earlier model MX-5 in good condition for as little as $5,000.

The Mazda MX-5 is a cheap and cool car that will do anything you need.
2005 Mazda MX5 | National Motor Museum via Getty Images

8 Cheap Cars That Will Make You Look Wealthy Says Ideal Cars

Honorable mention: any motorcycle

Top Gear rightfully concludes that motorcycles are quite simply cheap thrills. For well under $5,000, you can grab a sportbike, cruiser, or standard motorcycle to fit your preferences. You forego the protections of modern cars like airbags and seatbelts, but you get a lifestyle in exchange. Scroll down to the following article to read more about cheap, cool cars!