It should go without saying that everyone wants to be attractive. That's why they dress the way they do, why they cut their hair the way do, and why they brush their teeth every morning (provided they do, of course).
And although we're all about inclusion here at HotCars.com, we know it's also true that when it comes to guys trying to attract women, his car is a big deal. There are two reasons for that. First, women are all different. Some women go for the rugged type of guy, some for the sensitive type, some for the socially responsible type, and still others favor "the bad boy." The second reason is, unfortunately, when it comes to cars, most guys are the same. Namely, given the choice, most guys would want to drive a flame-breathing beast of a supercar; men lust after horsepower, and we hunger for torque. But the only thing women find attractive about supercars is that for a guy to drive one, he's gotta be pretty loaded. Other than that, it really doesn't say much about that man's personality.
The question is then, what do guys do when we want to make a statement about who we are and whom we'd like to like us for who we are, but we don't have the cash flow to support an expensive garage strategy?
This first group of affordable sex machines is aimed at people (myself included) who know that the hottest thing you can do in a car is put your left foot to work... okay, maybe it's the second-hottest thing. That means you need a clutch pedal (some say, "man pedal") and a stick.
Your smartphone is great, but it mostly links you to an office and long lists of insipid Facebook posts. A manual stick, on the other hand, links you to the road, to the past, and to auto-racing history. It's pure romance. The upside of this is that, for whatever reason, manual transmissions today are almost only offered on the lowest-priced trim for any given model. So, many "cheap" cars are going to come standard with... um... with a standard.
15 Toyota 86
This one is right on the edge of what I'd consider "cheap"; it's available in US markets for right at US$26K. In some ways, it still qualifies then because that's a great price for a great car. The lowest-priced trim comes with a 2L "Subaru-style" boxer engine that makes 205hp. That's pretty good power for this price range, but power is hardly this car's selling point. It's a driver's car. It's a real joy to drive through any twisty turns you throw at it. It's fairly lightweight, which eases the load on the engine and also tends to make it "tail-happy."
The 86 and the Subaru BRZ are twins; there was a third brother, the Scion FR-S, but he died last year—too bad because it was the best looking of the three.
The Toyota here inherits the mantle of "man of the family" because if you're going to buy something from Subaru, it really ought to have all-wheel drive. The delightfully rear-drive 86, on the other hand, gives you a manly 6M and looks dead sexy in the parking lot. I would call it the best in this category... if only I weren't so darn frugal...
14 Chevy Cruze LS
An important thing to keep in mind about cars is that looks are pretty important. I know, right? Who knew that being a superficial "guy" could pay dividends, but when picking out a new car, it does.
The Cruze is available in US markets for just under $20K.
That's a heckuva bargain when you consider how strongly it resembles its big brother, the Malibu, which itself looks a lot like their common brand leader, the Impala. Nope, the Cruze does not have a 3.6 V6 under the hood, but it does offer a blown 1.4 that gives it better agility in traffic. It's not huge inside for passengers, but it's plenty comfy for two and all of their gear. It can be had in a hatch config or with a turbo diesel, and most important, you can get it with a 6M.
13 VW Golf TSI
The "I" in "TSI" stands for, "I know, you wanted the GTI... so did I." But we're trying to stay on the cheap here and the base Golf's racy sibling is a bit out of that range. The Golf is probably the most popular car of all time, even more so than the Beetle. It looks just like its much faster stablemate, and up to about 3d gear, it'll perform the same in most drivers' hands. Why plunk down US$7K or more extra for the GTI? (You already know the answer to that, so I'm going to stick to trying to convince that you don't need to.) The TSI's interior is pretty slick for a car that can be had right at the US$20K mark in many markets. It comes with a proximity-sensing dashboard media controller, one that can be programmed to respond to gestures. But keep in mind how the girls at your high school always felt about the boys who did magic tricks at school talent shows... yeah, that's right—probably best to keep that bit of tech to yourself. Personally, I love all Golfs with a manual, and the TSI is no exception. It comes with a very nice 6M. Despite being a front-drive (like the Cruze), all Golfs corner very well and have never needed "torque-vectoring" to accomplish that. Shifting in and out of traffic in the city, they're the very definition of the lightweight car that a driver can enjoy "tossing" around the road.
12 Ford Mustang
You didn't imagine that we were going to get through a list of cars without one of these things, did you? With the recent release of the egregiously powerful 50th Anniversary Bullitt edition, that makes... um, well, that makes... frankly, I can't even count the number of different Mustang models that have been turned loose on the buying public in the last decade. Regardless, this particular one, the I-4 Ecoboost Fastback, is basically neck-and-neck with the original "Bullitt" Mustang... at least in the area of horsepower. Sure, this car has bigger, "badder" name-badge-mates that dwarf its hp rating, but those all do so at the sacrifice of driving an 8-speed auto. You wanna really look like the King of Cool? Pay over the expected asking price of US$45K or more for that same Bullitt Edition (the first-ever of those models was auctioned for $400K recently, BTW), or save $25K, and buy this instead. Then, drive yourself to Vegas and squander the money you saved on a good time.
11 Ford Focus ST
The FFST presents the lonely guy with the best of all possible worlds: a stick, a hot-hatch, and a great look, all for right at US$25K. The 6M in this car is rally tested, and the cockpit actually feels (and looks) like something that should bear that name. You could dress it up in Recaro seats and trick out the audio system, but why bother (and why break the bank in the process)? The Focus bespeaks a guy who likes to drive, wants to enjoy the ride, and likes to snuggle afterward.
I am a Mountain...
The simplest, strongest, most guy-like pose in the practice of yoga is "Mountain." (That's right—we're talking yoga on an auto-p*rn website.) The Mountain man isn't afraid to get down in the dirt. In fact, he loves Mother Earth, and he wants her to know it. That might mean fewer horses under his whip, but he's not afraid of that either. Here are a few affordable rides that'll show the world that you have the work ethic of a pioneer, the broad back of a lumberjack, and the sturdy trunk of a mighty Sequoia (some also can be had with a man pedal: bonus!).
10 Jeep Renegade 4W Sport
Let's face it—none of us is what we used to be. And if you adopt a Jeep today, you're not getting the same old Willys. But then, that's been true for a while. If you want to spend the money and get closer to the original, buy the Wrangler. But if you live mostly in the city/suburbs and are on a budget, get this one.
With a blown I-4, 6M and 4WD, the Renegade is pretty adaptable to whatever you might decide to throw at it.
No, it won't crawl to the top of the red rocks in Sedona, Arizona, but what US$20K car could? The Renegade is actually a pretty good choice for the man who would be the Mountain. It probably needs some style tweaks to bring it more into line with its brand image, but for now, it's a worthy "little brother" to the Wrangler. As a bonus, pretty much everybody thinks its cute. Guys don't like "cute," but women are unashamedly drawn to it... it's your choice.
9 Mini Cooper Countryman
There was a time when being "outdoorsy" didn't imply parkour or rock-climbing but driving down the coast and picnicking in the woods. Back then, lovers got to those secluded spots in city cars that had hatchback pretensions. The MCC is a bit of a throwback in that regard. But its blown 4-cylinder engine makes it perfectly capable in city traffic, and the extended cargo room and rear access make a perfect getaway-mobile. Like all Minis, it's also been very much beaten with the same "cute" stick as the Renegade. Women love the European overtones of the Mini style; it screams of cramped Parisian streets and the strains of Edith Piaf floating down from open windows. The 6M stick is just "the cherry on the sundae driver," so to speak. Want to be masculine and pastoral all at once? Get this car... Seriously, the words "country" and "man" are right there in the name. How much more do you want for US$26K?
8 Fiat 124 Spider
So, the Countryman is too "family" oriented for you? The other mode of getting to the less-extreme outdoors is a convertible. A big part of embracing our place in the natural world is deeply breathing the air around us. There's no better way to do that than in a Fiat Spider.
The base Spider has a 1.4 turbo that makes 160hp.
It's lightweight and touts a "sports shifter," on top of which it is an undeniably iconic name-badge—not bad for right at US$25K. To the right kind of woman, the sensation of the wind in her hair, the feel of an Italian roadster beneath her, and the roar of the ocean would be pretty heady stuff—same European song but with a Milanese crescendo.
7 Subaru Crosstrek Premium 2.0i
Easily dismissed as a compact crossover, the Crosstrek is a lot more than that. The midrange Premium can be had in US markets for US$23K or less. It comes with a 6M transmission, and it gets 30+MPG on the freeway. It can be a commuter, or it can be a family starter. Someday soon (prediction on my part), it'll become the first-ever production crossover/hot-hatch combo (which is just a fancy way of saying Subaru will probably put be putting a turbo into it soon). The 2018 has a very much improved manual transmission over the old 5M. I won't kid you; it's still very limp in 3d. But, to be frank, all of the Subaru manuals have that issue, including the BRZ and the Forester XT. How does this appeal to women? Well, the next time you're in a bar, sidle up to the hottest group of women you see and mention that you just bought a 'Trek because you're adopting a rescue pup next weekend. If you don't leave with at least 3 phone numbers, you might as well join the priesthood because there's obviously no hope for your love life.
6 Toyota Tacoma SR5
The wisdom in Japan is that every Japanese person must climb Mount Fuji once in his or her lifetime... and it's only the crazy ones who climb it more than once. All that, by way of saying, if you're a male interested in women and you're old enough to have a driver's license, then a pickup is your Fuji-san—you must drive one at least once in your life. The reason is that every man needs to know just how women swoon at a guy driving a truck. It's crazy, but science says it's true. The Tacoma is a Toyota, but it's built in the USA. Its more refined relative, the 4Runner, is more Japanese in that regard, but it's a clunky SUV and a lot pricier than this country cousin. The 2018 Tacoma SR5 can be had in US markets for just under US$25K. That won't be the most luxurious trim, to be sure, but it'll still be a truck. and that'll make the guy driving it a truck guy (and not an Outback wannabe). If you're lucky, you can even find it with the 5M transmission... I should say "luckier."
I am the Rock!
The Rock is...well, on the one hand, the Rock is Dwayne Johnson—pro wrestler, bodybuilder, and movie star. For other guys, being the Rock means being the type of partner his woman can count on. He's decisive, but he always asks her opinion; he's conservative with money but lusty and roguish in bed. He's dependable but altogether unpredictable and spontaneous. And his car says that, too...
5 Honda Civic LX Sport (6M)
Why not the SI, you're asking? The Civic Sport looks like the higher-performance model but actually looks a bit better, too. Better looks and a retail price break of US$5K? Anyone you might be looking to to attract with a rare combination of investment savvy mixed with old school dual-pipery ought to be duly impressed when you pull up in this thing. Honda's interiors are very good quality but not flashy at all. Because that tendency runs through their entire line, it helps to make their cars pretty interchangeable in the eyes of most passengers. Instant "halo effect," eh? Yes, the Sport does lack the under-hood punch of the SI, but in the city and in the first 3 gears, it's very nimble in traffic. And that's where most of us spend most of our time. And seriously, do you really want to be known as the guy with the "uni-pipe" exhaust?
4 Chrysler 300 Touring
About 20 years ago, Germans invaded Michigan when Daimler bought Chrysler. I don't know how things worked out on the business side, but as a fan of the US auto industry, I still dream about those days. Specifically, I mostly dream about the Magnum with a V8... but let's not digress. The new landlords at Chrysler House, Fiat, have been smart enough not to mess with what the previous owners did well. The 300 definitely qualifies in that regard. As one of the remnants of the Daimler era, it gives off a Detroit vibe in more ways than one. The Touring version is available in US markets for US$23K or less. It's a big car and needs all 300hp produced by the 3.6 V6 to make it go. It takes a confident guy to drive it, however, because no matter what anybody says, size matters.
3 Ford Fusion SE
As a company, Ford Motor has bought and sold a lot of brand names over the last quarter century or so. Some of those were high-volume brands like Mazda (see below), but a few were luxury labels like Jaguar and Aston Martin. Though the blue oval may no longer retain controlling interest in all of the stock they've bought and sold, their bloodlines have been indelibly altered thereby. All of that by way of saying that there are several Ford models that still show the mark of previous crossbreeding. Notably, the Fiesta, the Focus, and the Fusion all bear some front-end styling cues left over from the Aston days. Of course, the Aston brand itself is leaning there on the hood of a car—Sean Connery as James Bond's DB5—the most famous design of which came from Italy. Of the Fords with the Aston nosepiece, the Fusion is the most regular guy of those. There's no hood scoop, of course, and the 2.5L Duratec engine makes about 75hp less than Bond's original car did. But if you want to give yourself the look of a solid, Regent Street guy for about US$25K, then this is the car for you.
2 Mazda 3
The Japanese use several different alphabets in writing, one of which they share with the Chinese. Some people believe that in written Chinese, the word for "crisis" combines the characters of "danger" and "opportunity." Wikipedia tells me that's BS. I don't know really know which is true, but I do know that since Ford sold out its majority holding in Mazda (2015 or so), the latter's cars seem to have become better in a lot of ways. Mazda's marketing touts "SkyActiv" as the most important of those ways. It's a torque-vectoring system that's supposed to improve both the car's road handling and response, as well as the aesthetic impression that makes on the driver. In my humble opinion, it does both of those things. No matter the configuration of the car you might happen to be driving, if it has torque-vectoring, you feel it grip corners like an F1 Ferrari. The 2018 Mazda 3 sports that system as well—a 2L VVT engine—the Mazda version of what Ford now calls "Duratec" that produces 155hp. Even though it looks like you're a solid citizen on the outside, the Sport hatchback with a 6M is a ridiculous amount of fun to be had for right at US$20K.
1 Dodge Challenger SXT
Challenger is the poniest-looking of the pony cars. True, when women buy for themselves, they tend to buy the Camaro, but... well, you're trying to attract a woman, not become one... not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. So, how does the Challenger fit into this category, you're asking? This is the 305 hp V6 with 8-speed auto. If you google it, it comes back as a "sports car." And that's exactly why this car leads its category: it IS a sports car. But it's just enough of a sports car. 800 horses are great if you can afford them, but where would you unleash them? Even if you have access to such a track, you can't/won't be going there every day, and most other days, you'll be more in need of a single cutting horse rather than a stampede of equus fari (look it up). The SXT tells anyone who's interested that you're a stallion, but when you run, though you do indeed run free, you never run amok.