By Don Armstrong
This is a great time of year to buy a new car. Summer is over, weekend road trips are calling and end-of-year closeout prices abound. In this issue of Bay Area Houston, we offer a couple of fun cars that would be a perfect fit for exploring Texas backroads.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
When a car doesn’t necessarily look like a hot rod, we sometimes call it a “sleeper.” In the case of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, we think that title fits. And what car guy doesn’t like to fool another car guy?
The heart of the GTI is a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, 210-horsepower engine. Like the Fiat, there is an automatic transmission available, but why? This car begs you to row its 6-speed manual transmission through twisty, hill-country byways.
This hatch/sedan has a straight-forward interior design that compliments this fun, but practical, runabout. Comfortable seating and soft-touch materials add to the sporty look. One complaint that dogged last year’s model was its infotainment system. That has been addressed through voice-to-text messaging and both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration including a USB port.
Completely redesigned for the 2015 model year, all of the 2016 – 2017 body panels remain the same.
Base price for the Volkswagen Golf GTI is $24,995. There is a 292-horespower version call “R.” It begins $35,655. Good luck finding one.
Fiat 124 Spider
This latest addition to the Fiat lineup should appeal to everyone who has ever dreamed of owning an affordable, 2-seat sport car.
The Fiat 124 Spider is built on Mazda’s new MX-5 Miata platform, but don’t think this is just a rebadging. The 124 is 3 inches longer up front, to accommodate the Fiat power plant, and 2 inches in the rear, for proportionality. Its sheet metal is also unique to Fiat and, in our opinion, a bit sharper.
Power is generated by a 1.4-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers 164-horsepower through a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission and delivered to the rear wheels. If you don’t know how to drive a do-it-yourself transmission, please learn. The automatic, although capable, just doesn’t cut it for this type of car.
Most of the interior is shared with the Mazda but the quality of materials seems slightly better and increased sound deadening is most appreciated in the Fiat.
Pricing starts at $24,995. You’ll want the one with extras that goes for about $30,000.