On a budget but love driving? Buy one of these five.
With new car prices rising each year, people's perception of car costs can often be way off. $25,000 doesn't get you much these days, but there are still some cars that are fun on this budget. We've compiled a list of the top five most fun cars for less than $25,000, based on starting MSRP. A few start at just under $25,000 and can be optioned above the budget, but we only included base models that we would still recommend. This budget may be small, but these cars can still be huge fun.
The obvious choice for a list like this is the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Starting at just $24,915 for the base Sport trim with the six-speed manual, the Miata comes in just under our budget. We would prefer to have the Club model with Brembo Brakes, BBS wheels and stiffer suspension, but even the base MX-5 is a ton of fun. The Sport trim doesn't come with the navigation head unit, which stays true to the basic Miata formula. It's worth noting that the base Fiat 124 Spider also starts at $24,995. The Fiat is the softer of the two cars, so we'd recommend the Mazda for adrenaline junkies after getting to drive both.
The Volkswagen Golf GTI just barely made our list with a starting price of $24,995 for the base S model. The GTI is one of our favorite hot hatchbacks on the market, and the S trim is the most affordable version available. This model doesn't come with the Sport Package, which includes VW's advanced front differential and a 10-horsepower boost. But with 210 hp to play with, the GTI S is still a great car. We love the base model's spartan plaid cloth interior and six-speed manual transmission. The DSG in the GTI is a great option, but enthusiasts will be perfectly happy with the simplicity of the base GTI S model.
The Hyundai Elantra Sport is a sporty sedan that came out of left field with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 201 hp. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. We recently had the chance to sample this exact drivetrain in the Kia Soul Turbo, and we were staggered by how good it was. The Hyundai may not be as exhilarating as the GTI, but it is much more affordable with a starting price of just $21,650. This means that the Elantra Sport is the first fun car on the list that can be optioned nicely and still stay under budget. If you want fun, but don't want a basic car, the Elantra Sport is for you.
The Honda Civic Si remains one of the most under-the-radar affordable performance cars on the market. The Civic Si has never been the flashiest car, and has been overshadowed in recent years by an influx of new, affordable performance cars. The new Si starts at $23,900 and comes with an all-new 1.5-liter turbocharged engine good for 205 hp. This may not be as much power as we expected from the new Si, but Honda's reliability is a strong selling point here. The Si sacrifices its high revving, naturally aspirated engine in favor of a turbocharged unit, which means that it will have more torque and can be tuned to produce more power.
Our final choice may be a lame duck, at least in the US. The Ford Fiesta ST is amazing value starting at just $21,240. If you haven't had a chance to drive this wonderful little hot hatch, then we highly suggest you take a test drive. The 1.6-liter 197-hp engine won't overwhelm you on power, but the one-choice-only six-speed manual and excellent driving dynamics will put a huge grin on your face. There is some uncertainty about whether or not Ford will continue to sell the Fiesta in the US. We sincerely hope that Ford keeps the Fiesta here, because we couldn't stand to lose this great performance hatchback.