Ranking the most iconic cars of the last 25 years

February 5, 2014 12:00 AM

Just as there are certain films, albums or works of art that stand out in your mind, there are particular cars that manage to become more memorable. This may be because these vehicles are more reliable, don't require a lot of auto repair or brake service, or simply have a more attractive design. Whatever the reason, these vehicles become so legendary that they will surely not be forgotten for years to come. In the last few decades, there have been a number of innovative and trend-setting cars that have successfully stolen the spotlight. Cars.com published a list of the Top 10 Most Iconic Cars of the last 25 years, and Bloomberg Businessweek also drew up a list of the 25 Most Iconic Cars of the past 20 years. Surprisingly, the sources agreed on a multitude of notable vehicles.

"Aside from Hollywood, there's no industry that creates as many icons as the car business," said Patrick Olsen, Cars.com's Editor-in-Chief. "With so many to choose from, we decided to narrow our focus to cars from the past 25 years, and we looked at which cars truly made a statement."

Toyota Prius
According to the Cars.com panel, the Prius is at the top of the list. Why? Because the vehicle's 36 combined mpg rating makes it an especially fuel-efficient car. Additionally, Cars.com noted that the Prius is largely responsible for launching the green driving trend. Bloomberg also emphasized the Prius' pop cultural success, noting that certain exterior design features also helped to maximize fuel economy and aerodynamics.

Mazda MX-5 Miata
Cars.com selected the Miata simply for its budget-friendly price, sporty silhouette and fun driving experience. Bloomberg also placed the Miata on its list, explaining that the car transformed the roadster market, which had previously been dominated by British automakers.

Volkswagen New Beetle
After the Miata, Cars.com chose the New Beetle, which was the first car to successfully make retro design popular again. Additionally, Bloomberg mentioned this car as one of the most iconic because it provided a modern twist on the classic model, fusing well-loved aspects like the "smiling" front fascia with new updates like moving the engine from the trunk to the front for better handling.

Ford Mustang
Both sources highlighted the Mustang as an iconic automobile. Experts from Bloomberg noted that the Mustang broke new ground by blending retro and futuristic design aspects, which were then responsible for a significant industry trend. On the other hand, Cars.com stressed that this vehicle spurred both Dodge and Chevrolet to design competing retro-inspired cars.

Jeep Wrangler
Next, Cars.com chose the Jeep Wrangler, noting that the Wrangler's perfect fit for off-road driving gave it a competitive edge. Meanwhile, Bloomberg asserted that what made the Wrangler stand out is that the design stayed faithful to the World War II jeeps that inspired it. 

Mini Cooper
Some may be surprised by the fact that both Cars.com and Bloomberg named the Mini Cooper on their lists. However, the panel pointed out that the ability to personalize this vehicle and other quirky aspects of its design, such as the old-fashioned toggle switches to operate the windows, demonstrated that not all small cars are created equal. On the other side of the spectrum is the Hummer H2, which Cars.com explained may not have been fuel-efficient, but perfectly captures the "bigger is better" mentality that was popular in the car business prior to the Great Recession. Bloomberg also admitted that this gas-guzzler's mere size made it iconic, but also highlighted how well the vehicle's features mirrored those of the military Humvees that were used as inspiration for the car's design.

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