The Best New Performance Cars for Less Than $50,000

You don't need six digits to have a lot of fun.

image
Richard Pardon

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.

image
Genesis
Genesis G70 - $35,985

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.

1 of 24
image
Hyundai
Hyundai Veloster N - $28,320

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.

2 of 24
image
Kia
Kia Stinger - $33,985

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.

3 of 24
image
BMW
BMW 2-Series – $35,295

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.

4 of 24
image
Richard Pardon
Chevrolet Camaro 1LE - $30,995 (2.0 Turbo) / $32,490 (V-6)

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.

5 of 24
image
Chevrolet
Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE - $44,995

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.

6 of 24
image
Nissan
Nissan 370Z - $30,985

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.

7 of 24
image
Honda
Honda Civic Si - $25,930

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.

8 of 24
image
Honda
Honda Civic Type R - $36,595

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.

9 of 24
Don't have the $36,000+ for the Focus RS? Then you can just go to the Fiesta ST. The starting price is just below $21,000, and it's one of the most fun cars you can buy today.
Matt Tierney
Ford Fiesta ST - $22,960

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.

10 of 24
image
Ford
Ford Mustang EcoBoost - $28,410

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.

11 of 24
image
Ford
Ford Mustang GT - $36,475

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.

12 of 24
image
Volkswagen
Volkswagen Jetta GLI - $26,890

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.

13 of 24
image
Volkswagen
Volkswagen Golf GTI - $28,490

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.

14 of 24
image
Volkswagen
Volkswagen Golf R - $41,290

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.

15 of 24
image
DW Burnett/Puppyknuckles
Audi S3 - $45,495

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.

16 of 24
image
Mazda
Mazda MX-5 Miata - $26,650

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.

17 of 24
image
DW Burnett/Puppyknuckles
Fiat 124 Spider Abarth - $30,885

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.

18 of 24
image
Fiat
Fiat 500 Abarth - $22,240

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.

19 of 24
<p>Dodge didn't want to be left out of the group that lets you get a lot of muscle car for less than fifty grand. This one has even more power than the cars from Chevy or Ford with 485 horses from its Hemi V8, starting at $38,995.</p>
Dodge
Dodge Challenger Scat Pack - $41,740

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.

20 of 24
image
Dodge
Dodge Charger Scat Pack - $41,740

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.

21 of 24
image
Subaru
Subaru WRX - $28,395

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.

22 of 24
image
Subaru
Subaru WRX STI - $37,895

If what you're after most is that classic Subaru burble, the Subaru WRX STI can provide. It still uses a version of the old EJ flat-four, which means more of that classic Subaru sound. Now that the Mitsubishi Evolution is dead, this is the undisputed factory-built rally car.

23 of 24
image
Brian Silvestro
Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ - $28,005/$29,475

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.

24 of 24
More From Car Culture