Hi Jeremy and Michael, I have been reading your suggestions for more than four years and waited for the right opportunity to ask your advice for my first car. I am a recent graduate and in the market for a sporty two-door coupe in the sub-$30,000 category. It is going to be my daily drive for both summer and winter seasons. My main criteria are interior and exterior looks, driving dynamics and build quality. I have narrowed down my list to the Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Scion tC and Ford Mustang. With that in mind, can you make a suggestion between the four models, or suggest other similar vehicles that offer the best grunt for the buck. Thanks. – Haleel in Toronto
Vaughan: Grunt? For a moment I thought we'd run into Cato in his smelly gym, pumping himself up with dumbbell reps. But then I realized Hal wants muscle in the driveway and not on a broken-down, post-middle-age body.
Cato: Ah, Vaughan, a little homework would do you good, though the effort would strain you. I know you don't want to let a visit with the facts interfere with the divine inspiration that drives your genius, but from time to time a little peppering of facts would serve you well. And the fact is, Hal is not quite ready to surrender to full-bore muscle mania – not at his sub-$30,000 price point.
So forget about a Ford Mustang GT with the 412-horsepower V-8; it stickers for $38,499, and is a monstrous jump from the 305-hp V-6 Mustang at $26,999 to start.
Vaughan: Cato, do you not think 305 hp is enough? Steve McQueen roaring through San Francisco on his best Bullitt day never had that kind of "grunt."
Cato: I just watched Bullitt again on a plane to somewhere. I've driven the actual chase scene through the hills of San Francisco, in a Mustang, imagining a Dodge Challenger in the chase, shotgun hanging out the window. What a movie; I'd argue it made the 'Stang a legend. And what a cast: Jacqueline Bissett, Robert Vaughan, Norman Fell, Simon Oakland, Robert Duvall…
Vaughan: Hal, you have sent Cato to talking about movies and dumbbells, two of his great passions in life. The cars, Cato…
Cato: Hal, forget about the Civic Si and the Scion tC. We went over those with Simon a few weeks ago. They were options for middle-aged Simon, whose working life is confined to a sad, drab cubicle, but they're not for an emerging gearhead like you.
Vaughan: Agreed. But I am glad to see the Genesis Coupe on Hal's list. You can get a V-6 here – 306 hp – but at nearly $33,000 to start it's a budget buster for a new grad.
On the other hand, the turbocharged Genesis Coupe 2.0T Premium puts out a decent 210 horsepower and lists for $27,899. I like the looks of this Hyundai and it certainly performs – quick, responsive, stylish.
Cato: And a little bit on the stealth side of things. I mean, the Genesis Coupe is pretty but not garish or gnarly. The cops aren't keeping an eye out for it like they do for Mustangs and the other option we want you to test drive: a Chevrolet Camaro coupe, the 1LT version at $28,195 to start. Under the hood is a 312-hp V-6.
Vaughan: I think they got the styling of this one just right. It has the Camaro heritage in it – if you remember it, Hal – but it's just too big as it's built on the platform of a large Australian sedan.
However, the Camaro in 2010 did end the Mustang's 24-year run as the top-selling pony car in North America. The Chevy is fast and drives better than anything Steve McQueen could take off the lot in his heyday. Plus it's priced well and made in Oshawa, too.
Cato: I'm seeing something in the neighbourhood of $5,000-plus in sales incentives on the Camaro. And I can see upwards of $4,500 in Mustang sweeteners. Hal, Hyundai isn't as generous but does have a $500 Graduate Bonus on the Genesis Coupe.
I'm a Mustang guy, so I have to put it at the top of my list. Best looks of this trio and the best V-6 versus the Mustang. The 3.7-litre is the same engine Ford uses in the F-150 pickup; it's strong and powerful and delivers more than enough grunt.
I can't warm completely to the Camaro even though its independent rear suspension is superior to the Mustang's solid rear axle setup. That rear end is looking as dated as Steve McQueen's sideburns in Bullitt. But I still like the look of this pony car.
Vaughan: Dumbbells and movies! Dumbbells and movies! You can see why I get a little irritated.
Hal, I believe the Genesis Coupe 2-litre is for you. It's a very refined, well-built little bomb with sports car driving spirit.
My second choice would be the 'Stang but that's really for sentimental reasons having owned a 5.0-L convertible when dinosaurs roamed the world.
HOW THEY COMPARE
Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T Premium
2011 Chevrolet Camaro Coupe 1LT
2011 Ford Mustang Coupe V6
2.0 litre four cylinder, turbocharged
3.6 litre V-6
3.7 litre V-6
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
10.0 city/6.6 highway
12.4 city/7.1 highway
11.2 city/6.9 highway
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.