10 great first cars

With prices under $25,000 (some way under) these cars make excellent choices for those shopping for their first new set of wheels.

Mitsubishi Lancer
If you're looking for a small sedan:
Mitsubishi Lancer
Base prices: $14,000 to $18,500

Engine and transmission: 152 horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 5-speed manual or shiftable continuously variable automatic transmission

Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 29 highway with automatic transmission; 21/29 with manual

The new Lancer looks aggressive, and the GTS version has plenty of power. Unfortunately, a stepless, continuously variable transmission blunts the performance feel, making the Lancer more ordinary to drive than its big rear wing would suggest. (Steering wheel paddle shifters, which make it act like a six-speed, help a bit.)

Still, it's a very capable and handsome car. Those looking for more aggressive performance should wait for the redesigned Lancer Evolution that will show up here early next year.

Possibly the best thing about the Lancer is its stereo. It sounds great and comes with a 30-gig harddrive that stores a copy of any CD you play in it. Album names and track names are grabbed wirelessly from an Internet database. After a while, it's like having an enormous jukebox right in the car.










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