You might not have a $100,000 budget for a performance car, but for half that, you can get a variety of great machines that run the gamut from hot hatch to muscle car to roadster. Here are our picks.
The BMW 3-Series-rival from Hyundai's new(ish) luxury brand was one of the most pleasant surprises of last year. It's a hell of a sports sedan, and you can even pair the base 2.0-liter turbo with a manual.
Hyundai might not have a reputation for performance, but don't let that put you off. The Veloster N is the real deal. It's a bargain, too, at under $30,000, though we'd add $2100 for the Performance Pack. That gets you 15 extra hp, 19-inch wheels with Pirelli P-Zero tires, an electronic limited-slip differential, and bigger brakes.
Mechanically, the Kia Stinger is very similar to the Genesis G70, though its longer wheelbase gives it slightly different handling characteristics. Thanks to its rear hatch, it's a bit more practical than the G70, too. It also drifts.
Sadly, the excellent BMW M2 doesn't slot in under $50,000, but both the four-cylinder 230i and the six-cylinder M240i do. Our pick is actually the 230i for its sweet handling and punchy 2.0-liter turbocharged motor, but the M240i offers nearly the same amount of performance as the M2. The 2-Series might be BMW's cheapest car, but it's one of our favorites, too.
A 2.0-liter four-cylinder arguably doesn't fit the spirit of the Camaro, but the base model is still a good car. Especially in Turbo 1LE form. If you can get past the fact that it doesn't have a V-8, this is a solid entry-level track car. And for around $2000 more, you can have a V-6 1LE, which offers more power and a better soundtrack.
If you believe a Camaro should only come with a V-8—and we're inclined to agree—there's the SS. With the same 460-hp V8 as the C7 Corvette, a manual transmission, and an amazing chassis, the Camaro SS is a world-beater. The 1LE package only serves to increase its capabilities on track.
Yes, Nissan still makes the 370Z. You can decry it for staying mostly unchanged over the last 10 years, but that can actually be an asset, depending on your perspective. It feels refreshingly analog. And the speed-per-dollar ratio is high.
All things considered, the Civic Si is a huge bargain. No, this new one doesn't have a rev-happy VTEC engine like older models, but it has a sweet, 205-hp 1.5-liter turbo four, a great chassis, and an excellent six-speed manual shifter.
You might think a 306-hp front-wheel drive car would be a mess, but oh man, it isn't. It's an absolute monster, with tons of track potential. The Civic Type-R was well worth the wait. If you don't mind the over-the-top styling, it's one of the best sport compacts ever.
The Fiesta ST is sadly going away in North America, but there are still new examples to be found. Get one. It's an absolute joy to drive. This is one of the all-time great hot-hatches.
It's hard not to want a Mustang with a V-8. But with 310 horsepower from its 2.3-liter turbo-four, the EcoBoost makes a compelling case for itself. Spend an extra $5000, and you get a Performance Package that squeezes 20 hp out of the EcoBoost and a host of chassis upgrades. Spend a little more, and you get MagneRide dampers, too.
The Mustang GT is a screaming deal for a great car. You get a 460-hp V-8 in the best Mustang in years. Just make sure you spec the optional $3995 Performance Package to get the most out of your GT. MagneRide dampers are also a (highly recommended) option, and there's even a Performance Pack 2, with more aggressive Michelins.
For our money, we'd opt for the Golf GTI. It's more practical, and arguably more handsome. But the new Jetta GLI is finally a credible alternative. And with a base price nearly $2000 cheaper, it's a great deal, too.
The GTI has always been one of the best hot hatches you can buy, and the newest one is no different. And at this price, it's a steal. For the money, few cars mate such high levels of practicality, refinement, and performance.
If you're looking for the most high-performance VW out right now, look no further than the Golf R. It packs 288 horsepower under the hood and sends power to all four wheels via either a manual or dual-clutch DSG gearbox.
For around $45,000, you can have an all-wheel drive Golf with 288 hp, the Golf R on the previous slide, or, you could buy its Audi sibling, the S3. The S3 gives you subtle good looks, and a ton of all-weather performance. To most people, it doesn't look like much, but this is a seriously quick car.
The new Miata is truly spectacular. It might be the best car you can buy today. Seriously. Jump for the Club package and you get upgraded suspension and a limited slip differential for around $31,000. You can't lose.
It may not be as much of a masterpiece as its Miata sibling, but the MX-5-based 124 Spider Abarth still makes for an solid driver's car. And unlike the Miata, the Abarth is turbocharged, which means torque at low revs.
Though the 500 Abarth's MSRP starts at just over $20,000, current incentives at dealerships will likely land you an even better deal on this slow-selling car. For a car so cheap, you'll be surprised how much fun you're having behind the wheel.
Of course Dodge offers a ton of horsepower for not much cash. The Challenger Scat Pack has even more power than either the Mustang GT or Camaro SS, with 485 horses from its Hemi V8. That's some serious value.
For the same price as the Challenger, you can upgrade to four doors with the Charger Scat Pack and still get that massive 6.4-liter 485-horsepower Hemi V8. You also get six-piston Brembo brakes up front and Nappa leather performance seats.
The Subaru WRX is truly excellent. It's more civilized than ever and still just as fun to drive. If you absolutely need all-wheel drive, this is the affordable performance car to get.
You wouldn't necessarily think that Toyota and Subaru working together would create a fun car. Well, it did. The Toyobaru twins are legitimate Miata competitors that were built with the enthusiast in mind. You can't go wrong with either one.