AutoGuide Under $30,000 Performance Car Shootout

Sporty cars are not dead. Rumors of their demise are premature. Thrill-packed machinery litters the automotive landscape, available to suit nearly every budget.

When it comes to motoring fun, one of the most intriguing segments is the under $30,000 price bracket, where several enticing choices can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Want a traditional rear-wheel drive coupe or convertible? There is iconic Mazda MX-5 and the Scion FR-S. Looking for a sport compact coupe? Honda will gladly sell you the freshly updated Civic Si. What about a hot hatch? Well, there is an all-new 2015 Volkswagen GTI and a pair of recently introduced Fords, the Focus ST and the Fiesta ST. Or maybe an all-wheel drive street legal rally sedan is more your flavor? Good news, 2015 sees the introduction of a brand-new Subaru WRX. Or how about something completely different, like the Nissan Juke NISMO RS?

But Which One is More Fun?

All of these cars offer a different take on the old ‘fun-to-drive’ adage. But which one is the best? To find out, we assembled all eight cars to perform an epic track and street shootout. Emphasis would be put on how fun they are to drive, how engaging the driving experience is and how quick they are at the track. Superfluous things like audio systems, interior materials and gee-whiz technology wouldn’t factor into the scoring at all, but a small concession would be made to price, fuel economy, comfort and practicality. Most people shopping in this price range are budget conscious and most likely; this will be their only/daily car.

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There are a few notable vehicles missing from the test, so we feel we should take a moment to explain their absence. The all-new MINI Cooper S is not in attendance as we could not gain approval to track test it. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 would not fit under the $30K price bracket after destination charges and the 2.0T is being phased out. The Veloster Turbo may be decently quick in a straight line, and it’s affordable, but it’s not that fun to drive and handling is not its forte.

With our group assembled, we headed out to the test track to time these eight vehicles. But first, we found a twisting set of country roads to put these cars through their paces and see which one is a back-road blast.