2016 Ford Fiesta ST
Base Price: $20,970
Base Price: $24,100
If you’re looking for a bit of luxury style, the Mini Cooper S caters accordingly. While comparable in performance to the Fiesta ST (189 horsepower), the ’S’ presents a more upscale interior and adds some boy-racer cues both inside and out. It’s far from subtle. It will cost you quite a bit more, however.
2016 Nissan Juke NISMO (and NISMO RS)
Base Price: $24,830 ($28,020)
Crossover type vehicles aren’t typically fun to drive, that is, apart from the Nissan Juke. For those on a serious budget, the lower-spec NISMO is more than enough hot-crossover for the job with 188 horsepower. Care to spend a bit more and the six-speed equipped Juke NISMO RS zips like a rocket with 215 horsepower, though regrettably the all-wheel-drive version omits the manual gearbox.
2016 Subaru BRZ
Base Price: $25,395
Base Price: $25,595
There’s a reason why GTIs are regularly crowned the best performance cars for daily driving. Being equal parts Golf and sports car, they can move you out of an apartment and post competitive track times… all in the same day. The fit-and-finish inside the current GTI is also superb. Fancy a bit more power too? The ‘Performance Package’ adds an additional 10 ponies to the 210 standard horses.
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Base Price: $24,915
Just like the original, the all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5 is a piece of driving perfection. It weighs just 2,332 pounds, puts to use 155 horsepower, drives like an extension of your body, and looks the business. And come 2017, you can finally buy a retractable hardtop version. Looking to fall in love with a car? You found it.
2016 Subaru WRX
Base Price: $26,695
With oodles of rally heritage and looks that could make a supercar sweat, the Subaru WRX is an obvious choice for driving enthusiasts. It also doesn’t hurt that this latest version is 41 percent stiffer than its predecessor and has 268 horsepower. Add in the grippy all-wheel drive and you’ve got yourself a four-door rocket ship.
2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback
Base Price: $25,645
Some will look upon the four-cylinder Mustang with scorn. Their loss, it’s quite the machine. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost charges to 60 mph in under six seconds, and weighs 140 pounds less than V8-powered GT. Can’t bear four cylinders? The 300 hp V6 is actually even cheaper at just $24,145.
2016 Chevrolet Camaro Coupe V6
Base Price: $28,190
Ever since 1967, the ‘SS’ has been the Camaro to have, but that’s not to say the V6 falls short. The all-new Chevrolet Camaro six-cylinder not only has 12 more horsepowers to its name, but 294 fewer pounds to drag around—a result that really translates to the road. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Camaro is also offered, starting at only $26,695.
2016 Nissan 370Z Coupe
Base Price: $29,990
Nissan’s aging Z car just squeaks its way into the sub-$30,000 club. With a 3.7-liter V6 and six-speed manual in basic trim, it’s well equipped to provide many smiles-per-hour, though seekers of true track performance may want to spring for the naughtier (and pricier) 370Z NISMO variant.