With the average transaction prices of new vehicles creeping ever higher, you might think that $25,000 will buy you a whole lotta mediocrity and not much more. But just because a vehicle is average in price, why should it be average in every other way? We don't think it should, and here are 10 cars that prove us right.
1. Chrysler 300:
Chrysler goes old school with its broad-shouldered, rear-wheel-drive 300 sedan. With a V6 engine, huge trunk and a generously sized, comfortably equipped cabin, the 300 proves that style and substance don't always come with a hefty price tag to match.
2. Dodge Magnum:
Even people who don't like wagons find themselves strangely attracted to Dodge's muscular Magnum. With its spacious interior, lengthy options list, underfloor storage cubbies and clever rear door design, this torquey, rear-wheel-drive wagon isn't your typical "stay-way."
3. Ford Mustang:
With a powerful, imposing design that looks back as much as it looks forward, the all-new Mustang demonstrates that the era of the muscle car is far from over. However, this is a thoroughly modern car, with sophisticated engines, traction control, split-folding rear seats and over 125 interchangeable instrument cluster colors.
4. Honda Accord:
There's a reason "Accord" is a household name: it's a world-class family car. Built by Americans for Americans, the Accord is easy to drive, easy to look at and, at well under $25K popularly equipped, easy on the wallet. A quick new hybrid version is also available for 2005.
5. Mazda 6:
Razor-sharp steering, alluring styling and a well-sorted suspension make the Mazda 6 a zesty alternative to the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima, with outstanding warranty coverage to boot. And unlike those competitors, the Mazda 6 is also available as a sexy, practical hatchback and sporty wagon.
6. Mazda Miata:
"Miata" must mean "joie de vivre" in Japanese — if it doesn't, it should. With just enough power, extremely low mass, go-kart handling and, of course, a top that disappears at the flick of the wrist, no other car we can think of taps into your giddy inner child like the playful Miata.
7. Mini Cooper:
Born as a full member of the BMW family, the diminutive Mini Cooper is like a baby raised by a pack of intellectually gifted, luxury-minded wolves with Ph.D.s. How else could you explain its six airbags, electronic wizardry and options like a navigation system, xenon headlamps and a full-length moonroof?
8. Subaru Legacy:
The 2005 Legacy scores high on our list of favorite cars, with standard all-wheel drive, excellent fit and finish and real style inside and out. Even better is the GT model's responsive turbocharged engine and sharp handling. Think of the Legacy as Audi A4 quattro with a roomier interior and a huge discount.
9. Toyota Prius:
NASA could learn a thing or two from the crafty engineers at Toyota that devised the lean, green, fuel-sipping, hybrid powertrain that gives the Prius its unbelievable gas mileage. And with its funky, futuristic looks, the Prius is a rolling proclamation of eco-sensitivity. It's also a very practical midsize four-door hatchback.
10. Volkswagen Golf:
Hatchback practicality, a friend-friendly backseat and a short overall length make the Golf a favorite for urbanites on a budget. But no matter where you live, you can appreciate the high-speed stability that comes from the Golf's autobahn breeding, as well as its classy interior and exterior styling.