The affordable performance car is not dead yet. Although the herd may have thinned over the years, there are still several choices available on the market today for less than $30,000.
Yes, cheap sports cars do still exist, even if we are applying that term loosely. Best of all, there is a little something for everyone. Want front, rear, or all-wheel drive? We have you covered. Looking for a Coupe, Sedan, Hatchback, or Roadster? Got those as well. Like turbochargers? Or are you more of a naturally aspirated fan? Not to fret, both are well represented.
Below we have highlighted the nine best cheap sports cars still on sale today.
Starting off this list is America’s pony car, the Ford Mustang. With a 310 hp turbocharged engine, it is one of the most powerful cars on our list and can be had with a six-speed manual transmission or ten-speed automatic for under $30,000. Although it may not be possible to get the performance package, or the V8 for that matter, the base Mustang is still a lot of rear-wheel drive car for the money.
A completely different kind of sports car, the all-weather Subaru WRX is equal parts practical sedan as it is an all-out performance car. The only vehicle on this list equipped with all-wheel drive, the 268 hp turbocharged Subaru can be equipped with a six-speed manual or sport CVT automatic. Due to be replaced in less than a year, the all-new WRX looks to only improve on the current model and will hopefully still start under the $30,000 mark.
All-new this year, the Honda Civic Si continues a long tradition of performance-orientated compact Hondas. It may not be the fire-breathing Type R, but the Si is still no slouch. More efficient and practical than most on this list, with a turbocharged 200 hp engine, six-speed manual transmission and limit slip differential, the Si is a purpose-built sport compact. The 2022 sedan is more grown up than the out going model and should appeal to a broader range of consumers.
Hyundai‘s lineup of ferocious N cars do not quite meet the $30,000 price ceiling, so the 276 hp Kona N, Veloster N, and Elantra N don’t make the cut. But there is still a fun, performance-orientated Hyundai well under the price cap – the Elantra N-Line. It, and its corporate cousin the Kia Forte GT, are direct rivals to the Honda Civic Si. With a 201 hp turbocharged engine, the Hyundai/Kia pair offer enthusiasts a choice between a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and a six-speed manual.
Shifting back to the land of big rear-wheel drive coupes, there shouldn’t be any surprise to see the Chevrolet Camaro on this list. Like the Ford Mustang, the Camaro comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine as standard equipment, but it gives up some power, only making 275 hp. But, unlike Ford, Chevrolet offers three separate trim levels of the Camaro under the $30,000 price ceiling and the ability to opt for the 335 hp V6.
And while on the topic of V6-powered muscle cars, there is the Dodge Challenger. Just squeaking in under the price cap, the entry-level Challenger comes equipped with a 303 hp V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. Larger than every other coupe on this list, the big Dodge can seat four people with relative comfort, but unfortunately does not offer a manual transmission for the V6 engine.
If a lighter weight, more responsive sports coupe is more your thing, there are the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR 86 twins. All-new for 2022, the cars received a larger 228 hp engine as well as revised suspension tuning. Always a smile inducing pair, the new cars have improved in nearly every way, making them still a blast to drive on a track while making them more usable in day-to-day driving. Either car can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission for less than $30K.
Arguably the only true sports car on this list, the Mazda MX-5 Miata is the only two-seater convertible available for less than $30,000. What can we say about the Miata that hasn’t been said for decades? It is still probably the most fun-per-dollar car available on the market today, and Mazda continues to improve on the formula. Only the entry level Sport trim is available under our price cap, but that still nets a 181 hp engine and six-speed manual transmission paired to 2,341 lbs. drop-top with near perfect weight distribution.
Last, but certainly not least on our list the is the hot-hatch Godfather; the Volkswagen GTI. New for 2022, the base GTI S just tucks in under our $30K price cap. It comes equipped with a torquey 241 hp turbocharged engine and six-speed manual transmission. The GTI continues the recipe of blending performance and refinement in a practical compact hatchback package. It truly is a car that is more than the sum of its parts.
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