This post comes from Autoblog Open Road, our contributor network. The author is solely responsible for the content, and any opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Autoblog and its editors.
These people will inevitably come to you again later and say, "Dear, So-and-So, I know you like cars and I have a related question." It happens to all of us and the following is one specific example in a segment I'd like to call: Car Thoughts from Non-Car People.
Today's question came about during a conversation with a friend who was lamenting not having the money for a Mercedes. He wants the car's 'status symbol' more so than performance. He also wants something that isn't just a souped up version of an economy car. This prompted him to make the bold claim: There are no interesting new cars for under $30,000.
That is quite a statement and one that I don't agree with at all. So, that got me thinking, what new, interesting original cars are available for under $30,000? That being said, taking out anything built off of an economy car takes out a lot of what I would consider interesting cars. I mean, I don't own a Golf R for the reliability. I do agree with him however, that it doesn't turn many heads. If you are trying to impress people, hot hatches are generally going to be too subtle looking. Yes, I know, the loud exhaust and massive rear-wing on some do not fit that description. Although, they don't fit his criteria of a 'status symbol' either.
So, what are we left with for our options? Well, my first thought went to the Mazda MX-5. According to Mazda's website, the starting price for the 2016 Sport version is $24,915. Now, right off the bat, I have to confess I am not a convertible fan. There is however a special place for the exception that is the Mazda MX-5. I have heard and read so many great reviews of this car that it had to come in at the top of my list. The new styling, too, gives it a much more interesting and bold appearance.
Now, what if you aren't a Mazda fan? Then how about the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider. According to Fiat's website, the starting MSRP for the Classica is $24,995. I haven't actually seen one of these on the road yet. When I do, I know that it will certainly catch my eye, which definitely gives it points in the interesting game. Fiat still being relatively new in the US Market also makes this a unique and interesting pick.
So, what if you don't necessarily want a convertible with near perfect 50/50 weight distribution? Then you go with something American. Obvious choice: Ford Mustang. Now, the only reason I hesitate at even having this one on the list, is that they are becoming far too commonplace. Also the more obvious 'status symbol' Shelby GT350 is not available in this price point. The same problem comes about when you consider the Chevy Camaro, the Dodge Challenger, and the Dodge Charger. The entrance fee to get into any one of these families is very reasonable, as muscle cars should be. That, however, creates the problem of them being too common and therefore less interesting.
Lastly, we have the Subaru BRZ. According to Subaru's website, the BRZ comes in at $25,495. It falls kind of in the middle somewhere. It's naturally aspirated and a light weight two-door coupe. There's just something about it that doesn't stand out to me for this question. I love the styling of the car and I think it is eye-catching, but at the same time I don't think it would fool anyone into thinking it was worth more than it is. It's a good car, but I think in regards to the matter at hand it just doesn't quite measure up.
Given all those options, I think I would take the Mazda. If I had to get something new and interesting under $30,000. If, however, I can get him to open up to the idea of a used car, then this question just blew wide open. Therefore, if those are your qualifiers and you don't like Mazda, then may I suggest you reconsider those parameters?