NEW YORK (MainStreet) It's clear that Gen Y-ers, saddled by student loan debt and facing high unemployment, are buying fewer cars--with Americans between ages 21 and 34 purchasing just 27% of new cars in 2010, a drop from 38% in 1985.
But no one needs to buy a Mercedes-Benz S-Class to hit the road; here is a list of eight stylish rides that won't break the bank.
Chevy Sonic Hatchback
MPG:26 City/35 Hwy
This subcompact out of Detroit allows you "Buy American" street cred with a 1.8 L four-cylinder turbocharged engine and nice lines to boot. A Testarossa this is not--with only 138 horses under the hood, but it will merge you onto the highway just fine and more than make up for its shortcomings in the money you save.
Chevy Spark I4 LS Hatchback
MPG: 26 City / 35 Hwy
This cutesy, futuristic ride allows you to be thrifty but hip. The colored appliques line the door panels and dash to match the exterior for what becomes a nice integration. Of course, with 84 hp and 83 lb-ft of torque, it's not going rev and roar in any sort of impressive fashion, but with heritage from GM's Daewoo acquisition, this is a unique domestic purchase with a little bit of foreign flair.
Ford Fiesta S Hatchback
MPG: 29 City / 39 Hwy
The Fiesta is a fun ride that plays to the tech-savvy motorist with Ford's Sync system, with a USB port and Bluetooth. Its forward leaning stance is attractive enough, and with a history dating back to 1976 and in its sixth generation, the pint-sized vehicle has earned its keep as a staple on the American highway.
MPG: 28 City / 37 Hwy
Hyundai perenially has the highest customer loylty rating, and the reliability of the automaker adds extra value to your already economical purchase: you're paying bottom-dollar for a investment that will last you many years. With 138 hp and 123 lb-ft, the performance is adequate coupled with the nice feel of the interior compared to other vehicles in this segment.
MPG: 28 City / 36 Hwy
The Kia Rio is a peppy, fun ride that makes you feel like a Californian even if you're on the back roads of the Northeast. The tiger snout grill has an attractive pucker, and the new vehicle, unveiled at the 2011 New York Auto Show, has ISG (idle-stop-go) technology, the "start-stop" engine shut-down mechanism to save gas for when the car is idling. It has excellent manueverability and feels just that much easier to slip into a tight parking spot.
MPG: 25 City / 30 Hwy
Don't buy this car just because the hamsters dancing to "LMFAO" in the ads tell you too; do it, because the spacious, boxy Kia is true to its name. The uniquely shaped Soul, with a 1.6L four-cylinder engine and 138 horses under the hood, has a youthful feel, but that might be to its discredit in some of the cheap-feeling interiors. Still, it's a statement ride with a capacious interior.
MPG: 29 City / 35 Hwy
This sporty subcompact is a fun one and similar to the Ford Fiesta--as part of Mazda's Dearborn heritage (before the Mulally sell-off). Because it's already lilliputian, the 1.5L inline four-cylinnder and 100 hp complete with 90 lb-ft of torque makes this little devil feel spunky even if the specs don't let on as much.
MPG: 27 City / 36 Hwy
The Versa a fuel efficient, no-frills ride. It has a little more room than your typical vehcile in this segment, and the driving dynamics probably mirror the low-ball price; that said, if price is most important, ths vehicle is a fine, economical investment.
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