The Car: Chevy Spark LS
The Best Person to Give it To: Your college student and/or young person just leaving the nest, preferably to make it in the big city.
What’s Great About It: The Spark represents General Motors finally taking small cars seriously. Made and designed in Korea, it’s a smart and highly affordable choice, with an added benefit for millennial — a high-tech MyLink infotainment system. Automakers used to reserve these rigs for high-end cars, but they realized they were losing the youth market (people who’d rather text than drive) that way. Expect 34 mpg combined! Cars don’t come much more economical than this.
The Bottom Line: $12,170.
The Car: Tesla Model S P85
The Best Person to Give it To: The greenie who has everything else, including a big garage for the car and its unique home charger.
What’s Great About It: The Model S P85 is the ultimate iteration of the Tesla experience, with the 85-kilowatt-hour battery and 265-mile range. There’s more than 400 horsepower on tap, a zero-to-60 time of 4.4 seconds, and a top speed of 130 mph — all without a tailpipe! No other electric car can come close to this performance.
The Bottom Line: $104,000.
The Car: Toyota Siena Minivan
The Best Person to Give it To: Family oriented iconoclasts who don’t care about image. Most Americans shy away from minivans because — horrors — it proclaims them as part of a nuclear family. “So what?” say the folks who don’t care what the neighbors think and find SUVs impractical and wasteful.
What’s Great About It: The Siena is a well-regarded van with V-6 power, a six-speed automatic and 25 mpg on the highway. It’s available in seven- or eight-passenger configurations. Writes Edmunds, “There’s just no getting around the fact that a box on wheels is the most space-efficient vehicle for moving people and cargo. And among these amiable beasts of burden, the 2014 Toyota Sienna stands out as a top choice.”
The Bottom Line: $27,780.
The Car: Mazda Miata MX-5
The Best Person to Give it To: The love of your life. This one's for good times together — just the two of you!
What’s Great About It: The Miata isn’t the most practical choice for commuting, and it’s not a great winter car, either. Not that many people on the East Coast own a Miata and drive it year-round. But for pure driving fun in an affordable — and hugely reliable — package, it can’t be beat. The hat trick here was capturing what made the old British roadsters fun, but also making the car as indestructible as a Corolla or Civic. The Miata is the number one “affordable sports car” in the U.S. News and World Report ranking. It’s fuel-efficient, too: Expect 22/28 mpg.
The Bottom Line: $23,720.
The Car: Audi A6 Quattro TDI Diesel
The Best Person to Give it To: The Europhile long-distance traveler in your life, particularly if they’re big on lifecycle analysis.
What’s Great About It: I happen to be testing one of these right now, and I really love it. Forget everything you’ve ever heard about diesels being slow and pokey — the turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve diesel V-6 in this car can manage a 6.1 second zero to 60 time, and all the while achieving a rating of 29 mpg combined. Some versions of this car can achieve 155 mph, with a 3G wireless connection as a further incentive. Talk about cake-and-eat-it-too! Another big advantage of this car over an electric is a huge cruising range: up to 700 miles without a fueling stop.
The Bottom Line: $67,295.
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