If you are willing to go secondhand, you don't have to pay a lot to drive an interesting car. Cool cheap cars are out there, and while everyone's definition of the word varies most of the time, a cool car is one that is either fun to drive, great looking, or just offers a certain style and image that appeals across a wide range of demographics. Some cool affordable cars are harder to find than others due to their relatively low production numbers, but the miracle of depreciation has put many intriguing automobiles within the reach of the average driver. Let's take a quick look at 10 cool cheap cars out there on the used market.
1) Used Honda S2000
A used Honda S2000 provides a stunning combination of performance and value. There's no doubt that the dashing two-seat drop top is one of the more exotic-looking cool cheap cars, but its Honda drivetrain helps to ensure that a used Honda S2000 won't come with Italian-level repair and maintenance bills. A 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine produces 237 horsepower, sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission, and the S2000 is a favorite amongst track enthusiasts looking for a dual-purpose car that they can also run on the street without having to worry about reliability. Honda discontinued the S2000 in the summer of 2009 following a few years of low sales figures, but its unique characteristics are still worth consideration.
2) Used Subaru WRX
A used Subaru WRX has long been the target of compact car enthusiasts seeking cool affordable cars to modify for more speed, better handling, or hotter looks. The Subaru WRX is a tuner's dream thanks to the fact that its turbocharged four-cylinder engine responds exceptionally well to modifications. A standard all-wheel drive system makes the WRX a viable option in the wet, in the snow, and on dry tarmac, and a five-speed manual transmission helps to manage the vehicle's output. Later model years also offer the option of a six-speed manual or an automated continuously variable transmission. Throughout the years, this high-performance Subaru Impreza variant could be had in either sedan or hatchback body styles, adding further versatility to what is already a well-rounded car.
3) Used Ford Mustang GT
American muscle depreciates quickly, and the Ford Mustang GT is no exception. The Ford Mustang GT has undergone several revisions over the past few years that have seen prices on older models drop like a stone, which helps the coupe qualify for inclusion on our list of cool cheap cars. 2010 and earlier models might not have the same level of power as the current edition of the car, but 315 horses from a 4.6-liter V-8 is nothing to sneer at. Transmission choices for the retro-styled Mustang include a five-speed manual and a five-speed automatic, and the GT can reach 60 mph from a standing start in just a few ticks over five seconds.
4) Used Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V
A used Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V flies a little under the radar as far as cool affordable cars go, which means that there's a bit more exclusivity associated with owning this model. The SE-R Spec V was available for limited years during the fifth and sixth generation of the Sentra, and adds a stiff suspension system, bigger brakes, and a snazzy body kit to the standard Sentra platform. All were powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, but fifth-generation models in the early 2000s has a 175-horsepower output; in the sixth generation, from 2007 to 2012, the Spec V yielded 200 horsepower.
5) Used Mazda RX-8
A used Mazda RX-8 makes it onto our list of cool cheap cars thanks to its lightweight design, supernatural cornering capability, and unique rotary engine. The Mazda RX-8 is also noteworthy for offering a coupe body style that comes with an additional set of small rear-hinged doors that provide easy access to the vehicle's very livable rear quarters. The RX-8's 1.3-liter Renesis rotary engine can be relied on to produce up to 232 horsepower when matched with its available six-speed manual transmission - output that comes at a staggering 9,000 rpm, giving the Mazda even more of a race car feel. A six-speed automatic gearbox can also be had with used editions of the RX-8. Mazda discontinued the RX-8 in 2011, giving this cool coupe plenty of time to depreciate to affordable levels.
6) Used Jeep Wrangler
It's an almost universal truth: used Jeeps are cool cheap cars, and the Wrangler is among the best of the bunch. No, a Jeep Wrangler might not be fast, nor is it particularly comfortable, but there's something about the SUV's almost unstoppable off-road capabilities that gives it a rugged charm. Add in the fact that you can peel off the top - and remove the doors - and you have a winning formula for coolness. A 3.8-liter V-6 powers Jeep Wranglers, starting with the 2006 model year, and it offers up 202 horsepower and can be shifted via either a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is, of course, standard with the Wrangler.
7) Used Honda Civic Si
A used Honda Civic Si is not only a cool affordable car, but it also happens to be a practical one, especially if found as a sedan instead of a coupe. A Honda Civic Si looks a bit sportier than its standard cousin, but slipping behind the wheel reveals that the changes to the compact car's platform are far more than skin deep. Extensive chassis tuning helps to make the Civic Si an entirely different beast, giving it surprisingly neutral handling for a front-wheel drive car. To keep it affordable, check out examples from the eighth generation Civic, 2006 to 2011. This version of the Civic Si features a high-revving 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that blasts out 197 horsepower. A six-speed manual is the only gearbox to be found with the Civic Si.
8) Used MINI Cooper
Although they are a bit expensive new, a used MINI Cooper hatchback satisfies the coolness quotient required to be on this list while also offering a comfortable and nimble ride, the availability of high end features, and better-than-expected practicality given the ability to fold down its rear seats and haul a respectable amount of cargo. A used MINI Cooper's base engine is a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder unit that is tapped to produce 118 horsepower, and the choice must be made between six-speed manual and automatic transmissions. All editions of the car come with its iconic, 1960s-influenced styling.
9) Used Nissan Cube
A used Nissan Cube proves that cool affordable cars don't have to be fast - sometimes, they just need to be funky. The Nissan Cube wears its Japanese-influenced styling with pride, offering North American buyers the chance the drive something that hasn't been watered down by the need to accommodate foreign markets. The rounded rectangle that is this compact crossover is weird and wonderful at the same time, especially considering the patch of shag carpet that it wears on its dashboard and the transparent rear pillar designed to help improve visibility for the driver. The Cube is powered by a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that is good for 122 ponies, and transmission options include a six-speed manual and a continuously-variable automatic. The Cube was only available in North America between 2008 and 2014, so shop around for a solid, yet well depreciated example.
10) Used Toyota Tacoma X-Runner
Sport trucks are a lot of fun, and a used Toyota Tacoma X-Runner is one of the slickest-looking cool affordable cars around. The Toyota Tacoma X-Runner offers a slammed suspension system, a ground effects kit, 18-inch rims, sticky rubber, a loud stereo, and a hood scoop to charm fans of trucks that are designed to do more than just haul and tow. The X-Runner, which is available as an Access Cab model (seating for as many as five passengers), comes with the Tacoma's top-tier 4.0-liter V-6. This gives the driver 236 horsepower to play with, and depending on whether you are more into show or go, the X-Runner can be picked up with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. The Tacoma X-Runner was available in limited quantities from 2004 until 2013.