Like Fashion Week models, some cars strut their stuff better than others. Take the three sassy rides below, with their snazzy styling, spunky engines and swanky cabins — almost like Andrew Christian models sheathed in sheet metal. Yes, these may be smallish compact cars, but each feels a whole lot larger once you slip inside.
HYUNDAI VELOSTER R-SPEC
Mpg: 25 city/33 highway
0-to-60 mph: 7.7 seconds
Quirky but cute, the Hyundai Veloster has one large door on the driver side and two smaller doors on the passenger side. This makes it easier to access the backseat yet still retain the sleek profile of a fastback coupe, except the Veloster is actually a hatchback. Among the various trim levels, the spiffy R-Spec model comes with a feisty turbo and beefy body cladding to ratchet up the butch points. Thanks to the sport-tuned suspension and steering, the R-spec hits all the right notes on switchbacks and straightaways. Superb brakes and large 18-inch wheels help, too. Standard features include rearview camera and Hyundai’s Blue Link emergency telematics system, which lets first responders locate you in the event of an accident. And instead of coffee to perk you up in the morning, you can channel that erotic exhaust rumble to run through the stereo speakers.
VW GOLF GTI AUTOBAHN
Mpg: 24 city/34 highway
0-to-60 mph: 6.1 seconds
When “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” returns this spring, the Fab Five might do well to arrive in a VW Golf GTI Autobahn. After all, there’s oodles of room, vroom and va-va-voom. This four-door sedan has lots of space for passengers (along with a huge cargo area), boasts a high-test engine and looks trendy inside and out. The sharp handling and cornering alone would make this a truly fabulous ride. But the Autobahn is the top-of-the-line model, so all the bells and whistles are here: keyless ignition/entry, xenon headlights, sunroof, 10-way driver’s seat and more. Safety gear includes collision warning, automatic braking, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. That racy rear spoiler is a nice touch, as is the premium Fender sound system and ambient interior lighting (“mood lighting” is more like it). There’s even a cooled glovebox for sodas, moisturizers and such.
Mpg: 28 city/36 highway
0-to-60 mph: 5.9 seconds
Long known as the epitome of button-down chic, BMW also has been upping its eco cred. The latest example: the 330e iPerformance sedan, a plug-in hybrid combining a four-cylinder turbo engine with an electric motor. While the battery-only range is 22 miles, the nav system determines how and when to use the electric motor on your route. A full charge takes up to seven hours using a conventional home outlet (or two-and-a-half hours using a $1,100 fast charger from BMW). Except for the charging port near the front of the car, this plug-in has the same understated elegance as the rest of the 3 Series lineup. Ditto the refined interior, with its clean, modish dash and raised infotainment system. And the 330e drives well, too, with impressive acceleration and a steering system that seems to anticipate your next move. Perhaps the biggest downside is the price, which can quickly top $60,000 depending on options. Still, few cars are designed so well you don’t mind getting stuck in traffic.