• Image Credit: VW

    If you are one of the many heading off to new car showrooms this week to take advantage of big sales, think about buying "cool," and not just sensible. Actually, choose right and you can have best of both worlds.

    There's no question that the right car can significantly enhance your "cool" factor. With the right Porsche, Benz, Bimmer, Lambo or Ferrari, a zero can go to hero in the eyes of almost everyone.

    But there is a problem: Price. The coolest of the cool cars will set you back $50,000 at the very least. That's a lot to spend to boost your image.

    We here at AOL Autos dug around to find genuinely cool cars that won't break the bank. In fact, some of these cars can be had for a downright bargain.

    Here's our list of the coolest cars under $30,000. Click through and check out what each of us picked (and wish we owned.)

  • Michael Zak: Subaru BRZ
    • Image Credit: Subaru

    Michael Zak: Subaru BRZ

    Base MSRP: $25,495
    Invoice: $24,327
    Fuel Economy: 22 mpg City, 30 mpg Highway

    The Subaru BRZ is one of the best cars I have driven all year. It doesn't look like much on paper, I know (200 hp, 151 lb-ft of torque), but do not be fooled.

    The fact is that the BRZ's lightweight body and stellar dynamics make this one of the most fun cars to drive in any price range. Taking this on a twisty canyon road (or even a freeway on ramp, for that matter) will push any reservation you may have had about its seeming lack of power right out of your mind. The BRZ's low center of gravity, fantastic gearbox and peppy boxer engine make it an utter delight to drive. I guarantee you'll crack a smile as soon as you get behind the wheel.

    And what makes the BRZ even cooler is its look. The Subaru-Toyota partnership that produced the BRZ as well as the Scion FRS nailed the aesthetics. The aggressive stance coupled with its mean front end and fluid lines make this one of the sharper looking cars on the road.

    The BRZ starts at $25,495 and comes in two different trims, Premium and Limited, which both come with lots of options and a surprising amount of versatility. You can't really lug around your family, but a couple of golf bags and groceries won't be a problem. 

    Take all of that and combine it with 30 mpg Highway and you've got one very cool car.

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  • Pete Bigelow: Mazda MX-5 Miata
    • Image Credit: Mazda

    Pete Bigelow: Mazda MX-5 Miata

    Base MSRP: $28,950
    Invoice: $27,364
    Fuel Economy: 21 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway

    Woe is the state of the classic American convertible. Sales of droptops staggered to a low of 1 percent of the entire market last year. Analysts started predicting that someday, perhaps soon, convertibles may become extinct.

    The Mazda MX-5 is a delicious exception. Sales are up nearly 10 percent this year, perhaps for the simple reason that Americans again have a little spare cash to afford an impractical purchase like this stunning little roadster. And the fact that it’s not too big a chunk of change makes it all the more appealing.

    For less than $30,000, you can own one of the best sports cars on the planet. Forget about the power and brawn on the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro, the Miata will make you feel like you’re driving a car for the very first time. Its driving dynamics and I-4 engine make it a joyful companion for any road trip.

    You can buy the base model for less than $25,000. But go ahead and spend a little extra on the electric-powered electric hardtop. Not only will motorists appreciate the ease in dropping the top, but the hard top will make the MX-5 a little more practical.

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  • Adam Morath: Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec
    • Image Credit: Hyundai

    Adam Morath: Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec

    Base MSRP: $28,750
    Invoice: $27,002
    Fuel Economy: 18 mpg City, 27 mpg Highway

    There aren't many cars under $30,000 that will take you from 0-60 miles per hour in less than 5 seconds, but that's precisely what makes Hyundai's Genesis Coupe R-Spec such a standout. The R-Spec's 3.8L V-6 engine produces 348 horses and 275 lb-ft of torque, making this one of the fastest cars for the money. Pair that power with a rear-wheel drivetrain, Shiftronic 8-speed paddle-operated transmission and driver-selectable 3-stage electronic stability control system and you've got a cool coupe with some serious track chops.

    The Genesis Coupe also has the looks to match its specs--an already sleek and sporty exterior received an updated fascia and LED tail lamps for 2013. And, with 10 cubic feet of cargo space, a BlueLink infotainment system and available limited-slip differential (to get you out of those slippery situations), there's no reason the speedy R-Spec couldn't also serve as your daily-driver.

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  • David Kiley: Volkswagen GTI
    • Image Credit: VW

    David Kiley: Volkswagen GTI

    Base MSRP: $23,995
    Invoice: $23,035
    Fuel Economy: 21 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway

    Volkswagen is well on its way to coming back full throttle in the U.S. after declining for many years. The new Jetta and Passat are selling gangbusters. The Touareg SUV is a serious piece of work. The latest incarnation of the Beetle is pure fun, especially in turbo form.

    Often looked over by the average carbuyer (but not the aficionado or VW-file) is the GTI. Built on the Golf, this unassuming hatchback is pure fun to drive. It starts at $23,995, we recommend getting the 6-speed manual. The 2.0 liter four cylinder engine rocks and rolls, takes twists and on-ramps with the best cars we drive all year, and all in a package that from the outside says grocery-getter.

    The black with red stitching interior is gorgeous and befits the speeds you will be driving. Some of the best seats in the business and all the audio pleasure you could ask for. The plaid cloth seats are a tradition with the GTI and add to the fun and cool quotient.

    Seriously, we doubt you will be able to drive any faster in a much more expensive Porsche on U.S. roads, so our advice is to buy the GTI for your daily dose of fun and cool. Pocket the difference from what you would have spent on a Porsche and take a few vacations to Germany to drive on the autobahn.

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  • Sharon Silke Carty: Fiat 500 Abarth
    • Image Credit: Fiat

    Sharon Silke Carty: Fiat 500 Abarth

    MSRP: $22,000
    Invoice: $21,145
    Fuel Economy: 28 mpg City, 34 mpg Highway

    Pretty, sexy, stylish, hot, cool, whatever. You can throw a ton of adjectives at the Fiat 500 Abarth that all describe how it looks from the outside. But if it isn’t fun to drive, is it really cool?

    Thankfully for the Abarth, it is the sweetest car in the 500 lineup. The base model, the plain old 500, feels like a dud next to the Abarth. The base model gets 101 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque, and is priced starting at $16,000.

    But throw in an extra $6,000 for the Abarth, and you get a 1.4 liter four-cylinder engine that gets 160 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque. It’s a big improvement for this pint-sized car, making it feel much more nimble and exhilarating.

    Abarth, for the uninitiated, is an Italian racing car maker that started in 1949. Its logo is a stylized scorpion, which adorns the 500 Abarth’s engine cover. The car comes in fewer colors than the base model – just black, grey, red and white, thank you very much, but you can add on some racing stripes to make it more personalized.

    For a starting price of $22,000 the Fiat 500 Abarth is a pretty awesome-looking set of wheels, and a pretty sweet driving experience.

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