Our recommendations vary, of course, depending on the specifics of what each prospective buyer wants from their cars. But many times, we find ourselves repeating the same recommendations, for the simple reason that if a car is good enough to recommend once, it's good enough to recommend to everyone.
So, without further ado, here's a quick look at the cars at the cars we find ourselves recommending to car shoppers most often across many segments.
MSRP: $35,500 to $36,400
Fuel economy: 24 city / 32 highway
It's one of the most fun all-around cars to drive and, from a price point, it's not terribly hard to get into. The A4 is a little more unique than some of its competition, like the BMW 3 Series, and it drives better – it's more nimble.
MSRP: $18,960 to $23,670
Fuel economy: 27 city / 40 highway
For my age group (mid-20s), the Focus hatchback is a good, inexpensive option. It's roomy for what it is (44.8 cubic feet of cargo space). It gets good fuel economy and it's fun to drive.
Lexus IS 350
MSRP: $40,065 to $42,300
Fuel economy: 19 city / 28 highway
Something of a qualified pick here. I wouldn't buy it over the Mercedes-Benz C-Class or the Audi A4, but this is a user-friendly car that comes with great technology. Even if shoppers in this segment think they want a sports sedan, the IS 350 has got more of the things people want. This is a good all-around luxury car.
MSRP: $15,190 to $20,790
Fuel economy: 24 city / 30 highway
All my friends are poor and have student loans. When they're looking for a good car at an inexpensive price, I like to recommend the Soul. It's a cool-looking car and is has good bang for the buck. It's got a nice interior, and also works well if you have kids. For Millennials, it's the car I recommend. The Mazda3 is a close second. It's cute, zippy and affordable.
Social Media Manager
MSRP: $22,195 to $33,095
Fuel economy: 22 city / 29 highway
Every time I'm asked about the best options in the small SUV or crossover segment, I recommend the Forester. It's a versatile car that stands out among a crowded field. For starters, it comes with all-wheel drive standard and is one of only two cars in the segment that gets the highest-possible crash-test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The interior is roomy, and there's terrific visibility in places that blind spots can otherwise be a problem. Couple that with the fact buyers can oft for Subaru's EyeSight crash-prevention system and this is a safe, versatile car that works well for families and adventurers alike. The Mazda CX-5 is a strong contender in the small-SUV category. The Forester and CX-5 are far ahead of the rest of the pack.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
MSRP: $29,995 to $64,895
Fuel economy: 17 city / 25 highway
One of the big things I like about the Grand Cherokee is you can make it what you want. It's starting price, at $30,000 is pretty reasonable, or you can turn it into a luxury car with different options. It fits different needs for different people. You can be still young or married with kids, and either way it's perfect.
It's perfect for a wide variety of customers, and you don't have to get a monster SUV. Add the off-road capabilities and you've got a versatile car that's not like other SUVs.
Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI
Fuel economy: 30 city / 42 highway
Preface: This is the recommendation that few people listen to. They want an SUV when this wagon is just as practical and gets better fuel economy. With the diesel engine, this vehicle gets better fuel economy than a lot of others on the road, it's versatile and more unique.
MSRP: $24,395 to $29,595
Fuel economy: 25 city / 34 highway
Most of the people who ask me for a recommendation are at least sort of concerned about performance, and the GTI delivers that while checking all the other boxes. It's fun to drive, gets relatively good fuel economy, it's functional, not terribly expensive and the interior comes with lots of features.
When people list off all the things they want, and then add, "But I will still want it to be fun to drive," this is the right choice. Once they buy one, they'll keep on buying them.