Cars Cooley would buy

Culture
I check out a lot of new cars every year -- about 100 that we shoot here at CNET and almost that many at the world�s big auto shows. But if you think I look at every one and want it, you�re very wrong. I�m Brian Cooley with the Top 5 -- really, the only 5 - cars I shot in 2011 that I looked into buying for myself. #5 Ford Transit Connect. Yeah, people look at me like I have two heads with this one, but I love the idea of a stand-up van that isn�t some huge, ponderous pain in the ass to drive and fuel. Its based on a Ford Focus, so things stay economical. It has basically no tech, which is fine by me in something like this; I�ve got a Android, phone, a window mount and a AUX cable. Let�s haul some stuff. #4 was another Ford, the Mustang GT. I would have ranked this higher if it were the V6 which I think is the sweet spot in the Mustang line since that is a powertrain you can drive at 7/10 in the real world unlike this affordable V8 monster which has a superb new 5.0L engine, one of the best interiors in the U.S. car biz, great lines and SYNC -- though the interface needs a redo. #3 Kia Optima. This is my go-to car right now when someone asks me what car they should buy. Handsome lines courtesy of ex-Audi designed Peter Schreyer, an interior no car in this price class has a right to offer, plentiful and usable center stack technology and real responsive driveability which is often overlooked for performance stuff like HP and 0-60 times. #2 is the Fiat 500C. Now, I�m a Fiat partisan from way back as you may now but, that notwithstanding, I love how the 500 leads the brand�s return to the U.S. with stylish looks, a great modern version of the retro ragtop, adequate tech and fun, if underpowered, drivability -- all under 20 grand. Step up to the more powerful Abarth version we�ll test soon and the car�s story should come full circle. Before I get you to #1, here are the three cars I recalled hating without having to look back at my notes: � The Mini Countryman. It costs too much, the shtick is tired, and the one they sent us died and had to be hauled away. � The Smart. ForTwo. And I had such high hopes for this little piece of crap. But M-B is going to relaunch it in 2012 and I think it has one more chance at a win. � The VW EOS. First car we ever rebadged. �Nuf said. OK the #1 car I configured and pencilled out for myself in a long, lovely �what if� was the 911 Carerra GTS. Believe me, I�m as allergic to the whole 911 cliche as you are, and they even sent us a yellow one -- GACH!!! -- but on the road the GTS reminds you why this car is a classic: Its the only car this year -- maybe in the history of CNET Car Tech - that I can say feels like an �extension of the driver� with a straight face. Light, responsive, yet built like a brick shithouse. Its got serious power - right now - but is totally livable day to day. Lots of tech, which is very good but trailing BMW and Audi, but that�s not the point. No car I drove this year succeeds so well at delivering what its sets out to do. Find all my car videos at CNETTV.com, just pull down Car Tech under Tech Shows. And find more Top 5�s like this at top5.cnet.com

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