We can't believe that all of these awesome cars are cheaper than a Civic.
We really like the Honda Civic Type R. It's cheaper than the competition with a semi-affordable base price of $33,900 for the 2018 model, which is even less than the previous year. Unfortunately, most Honda dealerships are charging a markup on the Type R, which means that people are paying well over $50,000 for them in some cases. We knew that we could find plenty of cheaper alternatives to the Type R on the used market. Our only requirements were that the cars had to cost less than the Type R's MRSP and have some kind of hatch.
When we came up with our cheap alternatives for the Kia Stinger, we were surprised that a used AMG Mercedes was actually significantly less expensive. Likewise, you can also get an AMG Mercedes for less than a Civic Type R. Unfortunately, Mercedes doesn't sell a hot hatchback in the US, but is does sell the slightly raised up GLA 45 AMG. This mini-SUV packs 355 hp from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo. This is around 50 hp more than the Civic and you are getting a Mercedes with a hand-built AMG engine. We found 2015 models for less than the Civic's roughly $34,000 price, with low mileage of around 20,000 miles.
The Audi TT isn't technically a hatchback, but it does have a rear hatch, so we wanted to include it on this list. We knew that we could probably find a TTS, which shares a drivetrain with the Volkswagen Golf R, for less than the price of a new Type R. However, we discovered that it is actually possible to buy a first generation TT RS for less than $34,000. The first generation TT RS was only sold in the US in 2012 and 2013. The car produced 360 hp from a 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbo and only came with a six-speed manual transmission. Like the Type R, the TT RS was a limited edition model that is extremely rare to see on the road.
People who buy a Civic Type R want to know that they are purchasing the most exclusive and most powerful version of a fun-to-drive economy car. That is why we have recommended the John Cooper Works Mini. The JCW is the most powerful and exclusive version of any car the automaker offers. JCW models come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 228 hp. This may not be as powerful as the Type R, but these cars are mostly lighter and can be more fun than the Civic. Buyers can even choose which body style they'd like, because Mini sells JCW versions of the Cooper, Clubman and Countryman SUV.
If exclusivity is what you are after, look no further than the Volkswagen R32. Like the Type R is to the Civic, the R32 was the most powerful version of the Golf before it was renamed the Golf R. Only 5,000 units of this car were built in the US for 2004 and 2008, making it quite collectible. Both models were powered by VW's wonderful 3.2-liter VR6 with 240-250 hp. VW kept the options list simple for these cars in the US. If you want a manual transmission, you have to buy the 2004 model because the 2008 model was DSG only. Despite their rarity, both generations of the R32 can be had for well under $20,000.
The Acura RSX may be the least powerful car here, but it is our budget option. In the last model year of the RSX, Acura built a Type-S model with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 201 hp. It may not give the same performance as a modern day Civic, but the Type-S does have the slick manual transmission that Honda is known for as well as a high-revving VTEC engine. A nice example will set you back around $10,000 to $12,000, making it our most affordable Civic Type R alternative.