If you have a kid (or two), but still want something fun to drive, buy one of these.
It's starting to become more expensive than ever to buy a new car. In fact, the average price of a car in 2016 was $34,077, the highest that it has ever been. $50,000 really doesn't buy you as much as it used to. Back in the 1990s, an E36 M3 started at under $40,000. Today, it's hard to find a new M3 for under $70,000. Plenty of used cars offer a ton of driving pleasure, but some people want a brand-new sedan to haul their family around in. And it is with these buyers in mind, we have chosen our favorite new driver's sedans for under $50,000.
Even though it didn't make our top five, we wanted to start this list with an honorable mention for the Chevy SS. The SS didn't make our list because GM has already stopped building this car, and we didn't want to include a discontinued model on a list of brand-new cars. We wanted to take this opportunity to mourn the loss of an incredible car that would have easily topped our list if it had lived on for another year. The SS is powered by a 415 hp 6.2-liter V8, which would have easily made it the most powerful on the list. It is sad that cars like this don't seem to have a future in the automotive industry, but we would highly suggest going out to find one of the last of these cars still sitting on a dealer lot.
The M3 may cost well over $50,000 today, but the mid-level 340i is available starting at $47,900 with a no-cost manual transmission and RWD. The 340i comes with a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with 320 hp, which is far more than a E36 M3. We'd order a 340i with the stick to make it the best driver's package, but there won't be much room left to make it a great luxury daily driver. BMW charges a lot for options that don't come standard. A base 340i doesn't even come with real leather on the interior. The 340i is still a nice driver's sedan with the six-speed manual transmission, but the competition has grown over the years and there are some less expensive options out there with plenty of power and plenty of luxury.
The Jaguar XE is a direct competitor to the BMW 3 Series. The XE is a huge improvement over Jaguar's last attempt at an affordable sedan, the X-Type. For true driving pleasure, we'd recommend the most powerful 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with 340hp. This engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic and starts at $41,700. For those who like to row their own gears, Jaguar does offer a six-speed manual on the 2.0-liter turbocharged car with 240 hp starting at just $34,900. Either engine is a great option for a well-balanced driving sedan with elegant British style and charm.
The Audi S3 is the smallest sedan on this list. The S3's small size makes it great at handling back roads, but it may be too small to pull family duty for some people. In other markets, the S3 is available as a hatchback or convertible, but the US only receives the sedan with the six-speed dual-clutch transmission. The S3 shares its 2.0-liter 292 hp four-cylinder engine with the Volkswagen Golf R, but comes in a more executive-looking package with a nicer interior. The base S3 starts at $42,900, which is a bit more than the Golf R with the same transmission. This is the only sub-compact sedan on this list, but its small size doesn't stop it from being huge fun on a back road.
The Subaru WRX is the least expensive model on this list with a starting price of $26,695. The base WRX comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four with 268 hp and a six-speed manual. There is an optional CVT, but we don't have to tell you which we'd recommend. The WRX STI brings the power up to 305 hp and the price up to $35,195. We like the added power of the STI, but the 2.5-liter flat-four is actually older and more outdated than the 2.0-liter unit in the base car. We expect to see an updated WRX and WRX STI soon, but these rally cars for the road are still some of the best driver's sedans on the market.
Our final choice is the mind-blowing Alfa Romeo Giulia. The base Giulia comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder with 280 hp. In the US, the Giulia is not available with a manual transmission, but this doesn't stop it from being extremely fun. The Giulia really has to be driven to be believed. After driving the Giulia, we can tell you the it feels more like a sports car than just a "fun sedan." Alfa Romeo has really managed to build something special here, and we'd gladly sacrifice reliability for the opportunity to drive this amazing sedan.