Are there any practical-but-still-fun cars out there in the 25-30 mpg range for $18,000-$28,000?

I am about to graduate from college and also about to get married. I drive a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and we are looking to buy a practical (read: better gas mileage) but still fun second car somewhere in the $18,000-$28,000 range. We’re looking at things like 2010 Chevy Camaro and 2010 Scion tC.

Elliot, Pittsburgh

There are many good choices if you want a fun car with respectable gas mileage in that price range. Six-cylinder versions of the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro and 2011 Ford Mustang should be considered, and numerous sporty hatchbacks like the Volkswagen GTI, Mazda3 and Mini Cooper S can get the job done as well.

If you’re interested in the Camaro, you should definitely wait to test-drive the 2011 Ford Mustang, which hits dealerships this spring. Its new 3.7-liter V-6 makes 305 horsepower, and with automatic transmission it’s rated at 19/31 mpg city/highway; the manual is 19/29 mpg. The V-6 Camaro is rated at 17/29 mpg with manual transmission; the automatic is 18/29 mpg. 2011_ford_mustang
Seeing as the car will be used as a secondary vehicle, these muscle cars’ lack of cargo practicality and small backseat room may not be a huge detractor. However, senior editor David Thomas notes that if you plan to use a child seat, it’s an easier task in the Mustang than the Camaro.

For additional utility, the Volkswagen GTI, Mazda3 and Mini Cooper S combine hatchback usability with good gas mileage and a fun-to-drive nature. We named the Mazda3 our Best Deal for Driving Fun in 2010’s Lifestyle Awards, and models other than the turbocharged Mazdaspeed version are rated with gas mileage up to 29 mpg.

Also consider that the GTI and Cooper recommend premium gas, while the Mazda3 hatchback, Camaro and Mustang recommend regular gas. 2010mazda3hatch
Most people may not think of a diesel car as fun to drive, but one of our editors said he had more fun in the Golf TDI than its turbocharged gasoline GTI counterpart. The TDI is significantly more fuel efficient, too, rated at 30/41 mpg with a manual transmission and 30/42 with an automatic.

Model — Starting price, not including destination fee — gas mileage (mpg, manual/auto)

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Answered by Joe Bruzek on March 16, 2010 in Ford , Ford Mustang , Mazda , Mazda3 , Mini , Mini Cooper , volkswagen , Volkswagen Golf , What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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