With these fun-to-drive cars that are also practical, you can hit the town on Saturday night and take your kids to soccer practice on Monday without having to swap rides. These are cars with some flair that you can enjoy driving yet still feel good about owning.
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Here are seven fun cars that you won't be embarrassed to park in your driveway, provide better-than-average reliability, scored well in crash tests, are inexpensive to insure and deliver 30 mpg or better for highway driving, as estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The one category in our scoring that isn't a constant is the insurance cost. Getting a fix on comparative average annual premiums isn't an exact science, and the numbers vary from one reporting site to the next. Mining a number of websites, we set the national average annual premium for all cars at $1,600. Every car on this list has a national annual premium of $1,450 or less.
Additionally, a fun car had to score well in frontal and side-impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In its testing, "good" is the top score. Every car on this list earned a "good" for both measures.
All prices quoted are the manufacturer's suggested retail price plus the destination charge. Fuel economy is based on EPA estimates.
Buick LaCrosse CXL
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city/30 mpg highway
Relative to its retail price, insurance is a bargain for the only domestic car on this list. With its 182-horsepower, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission, the LaCrosse is a fun car that delivers peppy acceleration.
Consumer Reports rates its reliability as "good." Well-equipped, it features six air bags, full power accessories, dual-zone climate control and a seven-speaker audio system with CD player.
Accommodating five adults in comfort, it is a full-size sedan that may not handle like a sports car, but delivers top-notch road manners and ample control.
Fuel Economy: 27 mpg city/33 mpg highway
Receiving a reliability rating of "excellent" from Consumer Reports, the Honda Fit rolls durability, economy and driving fun into an inexpensive and fun car. Among the best entry-level small cars on the market, the Fit uses a five-speed transmission to send output from its 117-horsepower, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine to the front wheels. Responsive steering and crisp handling make short work of the winding curves.
Full-power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, six air bags, and a four-speaker audio system with CD player and USB connection are all standard.
Hyundai Sonata GLS
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg city/35 mpg highway
Hyundai hit a home run with its 2011 redesign of Sonata. With value as its cornerstone, standard equipment includes full power accessories, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, trip computer, six air bags, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player and auxiliary audio jack.
Consumer Reports gives it a reliability rating of "very good." Generating 198 horsepower, the 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine is mated to a six-speed transmission. Acceleration is enthusiastic. Although the independent suspension is tuned more for ride quality, this fun car corners confidently.
Kia Soul Sport
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway
A four-speed automatic transmission ushers production from the 142-horsepower, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine to the front wheels of the Kia Soul Sport. Nimble and athletic, this fun car has a sport-tuned suspension and tackles corners with unshakable determination. Consumer Reports grades its reliability as "good."
In addition to six air bags, standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, trip computer, full power accessories, remote keyless entry, cruise control, storage cubbies galore and eight speakers as well as three months of satellite radio and a USB port.
Nissan Altima 2.5S Sedan
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway
Reliability of the Altima 2.5S sedan is rated as "very good" by Consumer Reports. Its 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine uses a CVT, or continuously variable automatic transmission, to hustle power to the front wheels. Delivering a comfortable ride and decent handling, the tuning of the four-wheel independent suspension is an acceptable compromise.
A roomy people-hauler, its standard equipment list includes full power accessories, cruise control, air conditioning, a trip computer, remote keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player and an auxiliary input jack.
Toyota Corolla LE
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway
One of the best-selling cars in the world, the Toyota Corolla has been delivering durability and smiles for 40 years. Consumer Reports rates the LE's reliability as "very good." Ideal for zipping around town, it is comfortable and quiet. Its 132 horsepower comes from a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and is funneled through a four-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels.
Among its standard features are full power accessories, cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, trip computer, six air bags, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player and auxiliary input jack.
Volkswagen Golf 2.5L 4-Door
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway
A sporty and fun car, the Volkswagen Golf 2.5L uses a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine to develop 170 horsepower delivered to the front wheels via a six-speed, driver-shiftable automatic transmission. Athletic in its handling, it is well grounded in the corners. Consumer Reports rates its reliability as "excellent."
High in content, its standard-features list includes full power accessories, trip computer, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, six air bags, cruise control, and an eight-speaker audio system with CD player and iPod integration.