I've always been partial to Volkswagen Rabbits, and their descendants, for a number of reasons. Here, a Chicago Tribune car guy takes a hypothetical with someone looking to spend $30K, recommending good cars that will leave $5K for other purposes.
Among compact sedans, the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra are economical models that will go out the door for less than $25,000 loaded. In the midsize class, the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are two excellent choices, though if you would rather not drive the same car as your grandparents you could look at sexier sedans such as the Ford Fusion or Kia Optima.

If you want sportier handling along with the practicality of a hatchback, the Volkswagen GTI would be a good fit. Perhaps the most practical choice of all would be a Toyota Prius, which is extremely economical to operate, has a sterling reputation for reliability and offers the flexibility of a hatchback.
The latest version incorporates the latest stupid design fad.
This phenomenon of LED lights is one of my least-liked in current car design. Part of it does come down to the execution, and I can think of several cars that look as though designers were given a crate of stick-on LEDs from a craft store on Friday and told to come up with something interesting by Monday.
It's carried off well by Volkswagen, however.
I've always thought of a Golf to be a friendly looking car and even in recent GTI and R forms, it's looked aggressive without being too intimidating. That appears to be changing as the Mk VII R gets these great semi-squircular LEDs up front that combine with the shape of the hood and headlights to make it look like the car is staring you down if you're in its way. It's worlds better than the silly LED dots that used to surround the headlamps on the Mk VI.
Perhaps by the time I return to the market for another Golf, there will be a dependable hybrid drive version available, something now an option that I'm no longer towing a sailboat anywhere.

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