With a base price of $14,990, the Volkswagen Rabbit is one of the cheapest ways to spend a truly enjoyable road trip. It uses many of the same interior bits as the more expensive Jetta and GTI, which in pure VW fashion are nicely sculpted. It also uses the same body structure as the quicker GTI, which, of course, was our 2007 Automobile of the Year. An EPA 30 mpg on the highway isn’t remarkable, but the Rabbit’s 2.5-liter in-line five has gobs of torque and can be mated to either a five speed manual or six-speed DSG transmission. Adding two doors will boost the base price north of $17,000, but the price is well worth it if you’re going long distances with three buddies. If you’re ready to pony up some extra cash, Volkswagen also offers an iPod adapter and even a rear seat DVD entertainment system–something hardly expected in this class of automobile. If you’re going to buy one, build it online first. Volkswagen offers one of the most enjoyable interactive configurators around.
It costs a bit more than the Rabbit, but the Mazda 3 hatchback offers more space and more features, including standard seventeen-inch wheels and a auxiliary stereo input mounted in the center console. It also still offers a whole lot of style, despite the fact that the 3 is deep into its product cycle. The Mazda 3 has been on and off our All-Stars list through the past few years, as we’ve always loved its performance, hip interior, and smooth 2.3-liter, not to mention its ability to gobble up a decent amount of cargo. On the highway, stops will be few and far between thanks to a rating of 33 mpg. The 250-hp Mazdaspeed 3 is just the ticket if you’re feeling rushed and are willing to sacrifice ride quality, economy, and $23,000. Mazda claims it will top out at 155 mph, but please, don’t try to show that fact off to your friends on public roads.