Drive! 2014: Best under 30

Posted on 07 Nov 2014 at 6:15am

You don’t need to spend a fortune to drive in style

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Buick’s Encore, top, can haul people — and ass — with urban sophistication; Ford’s Focus, middle, sips gas for under $24k; Hyundai’s Sonata, bottom, delivers 245 turbo-charged horses for $28,575.

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

All gays have two incomes and are rich, right? They all drive Bimmers and shop at Nordstrom? Yeah, well, not quite. Many of us struggle to make car payments, but don’t want to drive ugly, under-equipped cars. Given these fly rides that cost under $30k, we don’t have to.

Chevy Spark. Sporting paint colors like Denim, Salsa and Lemonade, Chevy’s cute compact flaunts style and tech. It comes standard with alloy wheels, A/C and power windows. Access smartphones through USB and touchscreen for Pandora and BringGo navigation. Get 4G LTE wifi. Step into the 84 horsepower, 4-cylinder engine and enjoy 30/39-MPG city/hwy. Spark starts at $12,170.

Jeep Renegade. Built in Italy, Renegade shares architecture with the Fiat 500X. Trailhawk packages employ a crawl mode and skid plates for hard-core adventures. Removable roof panels invite sky. Engines include 160 horsepower/1.4-liter and 184 horsepower/2.4-liter 4-cylinder engines — both attached to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Wade in for around $20,000.

Honda CR-V. Revised styling accompanies fuel economy ratings of 27/34-MPG city/hwy from the 185 horsepower 4-cylinder engine — all for $23,320. Enjoy Pandora, SMS text messaging, Bluetooth and push button starting. Of course, if that bonus check came in, you can toss in more Benjamins for Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Adaptive Cruise, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Honda LaneWatch sideview camera. Excellence comes standard.

Ford Focus ST. ST works it with 18-in. Rado Gray alloys, aggressive facias, Magnetic Metallic paint and fast-charging USB port. Recaro seats, flat bottom steering wheel and heated sport steering wheel conjure Porsche visions. SYNC AppLink allows smartphone owners to download 60 apps. The 252 hp EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual will make you row it until you choke it. All that — and a sippy 23/32-MPG city/hwy — starts at $23,625.

Buick Encore. Like an Ivy League twink, she’s small, but sophisticated. A chrome grille and portholes identify the breed, but urban-friendly dimensions part wind with a 138 horsepower turbo-4 and optional AWD. Enjoy 25/33-MPG city/hwy. Technology includes a 4G LTE wifi hot spot, voice-activated infotainment and heated seats/steering wheel. Safety is enhanced with forward collision alert, blind spot warning, rearview camera and rear traffic alert. Be courageous: Get Brilliant Blue Metallic. Prices start at $24,160.

Scion FR-S. Like that hottie at the gym, FR-S focuses on weight reduction for quick moves. The rear-drive sportster sprints with its 200 horsepower Subaru-built Boxer engine — best enjoyed with a snick-click 6-speed manual transmission, but 25/34-MPG with an automatic. Sexy colors include Raven, Asphalt and Firestorm. Deeply bolstered seats, aluminum pedals and Porsche-style gauges dress the interior. Grip and snip from $24,900.

Hyundai Sonata. Styled to look like the stunning new Genesis sedan, Sonata is a hell of a deal. Base models offer a 185 horsepower 4-cylinder engine that delivers 25/37-MPG city/hwy, but a 245 hp turbo-4 is available for an upcharge. Smart Cruise Control with stop/start capability, panoramic sunroof, heated/cooled seats and heated steering wheel hit the options sheet. Prices start at $21,150 — $28,575 for the turbo.

Audi A3. Barely-rich boys, here’s your Audi! Outside, it looks like Beverly Hills. Inside, a driver-focused dashboard enhances clean Bauhaus style. Clip 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds and touch 130 mph with a 170horsepower turbo-4. Fuel economy rates 23/33-MPG city/hwy. Leather seating, panoramic roof, Bluetooth and divinely-cherubic Bang & Olufsen audio are available. Why not a wifi hot spot for up to eight devices? Bring at least $29,900 to get busy … and sneak in just under our $30k cap.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 7, 2014

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