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Old European luxury cars

Used car filter: after a decade without owning a car, I'd like to get back into the game. I'd prefer to spend $5k or less. I understand this means older cars/higher miles. I find myself drawn to early 2000s VW Golfs/GTIs, late-90s BMW 300 series, '90s Saabs, early '00s Volvos. Are any of these types going to be substantially more reliable or cheaper to maintain than others?
I know that for the ultimate in reliability, I should probably just get a Honda Civic. But that's the last car I had, and while I really liked it, I also like the idea of getting something fun and slightly fancy (but old). Leather seats and all that. I've heard that BMWs are "expensive to maintain": what does that really mean? I've heard similar things about VW. Does buying a European car necessarily mean making good friends with my dealer (or learning to DIY)? I don't mind the idea of 'taking good care of a car, ' but I will be pissed if I am regularly having to spend multiple hundreds of dollars on things that break. Also, are there scheduled-maintenance things on BMWs that don't apply to other cars? Are they spendy?

I don't commute by car; this vehicle will be more for fun and for occasional out-of-town trips in the 2-3 hour-drive range. I'd also like to cross the country with it exactly once. Am open to make/model suggestions beyond the ones I've named. I seek a fun, fuel-efficient 2- or 4-door hatchback, coupe, or small sedan; bonus points if it has enough tire clearance to handle my parents' long, gravelly country driveway without too much trouble. Thanks.

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