We get it. Not everyone can afford a $90,000 BMW M3 Competition Pack and certainly not an all-out supercar like a 911 Turbo. These cars are indeed worth the money if one can afford them, but think twice before dropping six figures on a machine that may be outdone by one of lesser value. In this article, we'll list off some of the best bargain sports cars that you can buy today. Some of these can keep up with the purebreds like Ferrari and Lamborghini, while others are just too fun to pass up.
In a world where every auto manufacturer makes about thirty-some odd models, it's daunting to find the perfect car that will suit your needs and fit in your budget. Performance cars' prices now are increasing more than ever, thanks to the introduction of space-age materials and exquisite quality. Try buying a performance car from BMW, Mercedes, or Audi that doesn't have carbon fiber or Alcantara in it. Those materials add up, and they'll only keep improving as long as the speed "arms race" rages on. More cars need to have more power, refinement, efficiency, and safety than ever before, and with that, a lot lose what matters most. It's genuinely hard to find reasonable cars with a manual transmission or a light curb weight—both attributes of what we like to call "drivers' cars." The cars on this list are a return to form and for a little less than the rest.
20 Subaru WRX STI
The WRX is rally champion for the road. It’s a car you can fishtail to the top of a ski mountain with a whole set of gear and then go down with the same amount of pizzazz. Its 2.5L 4-cylinder engine makes 305 hp and 290 lb-ft. Get the STI model, and you’ll get a massive spoiler (they have to give the people something since they discontinued the hatchback). 0-60 is dealt with in 5.3 seconds for the $37,000 Japanese Sub. It's a favorite among JDM fans everywhere for its remarkable potential for tuning, tweaking, and modding. It's worth mentioning that it’s been four years since the outgoing STI has been released, and next year, they'll be unveiling the new replacement. Expect more power, more efficiency, and hopefully a nice hatched rear. Maybe it's worth the wait.
19 Camaro ZL1
If you don’t like the look of Corvettes and want something a little more “understated” but still brutal, you can buy another model from Chevy. It's called the "Camaro," and it comes with varying levels of trim. The ZL1 package is possibly the best deal. In it, you get the same 6.2L supercharged V8 engine from the ZO6 Corvette as well as wicked aero and super sticky tires. For $61,500, you can have the manual coupe, and for an extra $6,000, they’ll chop off the roof so you can hear that V8 roar. Not only can the ZL1 get to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, but you can also tweak your Camaro to have the camber you want, chassis stiffness, and change the angle of the aero. Opt for the 1LE package, and that can be fiddled with endlessly—and then some. The Z28, which came before this, was a masterpiece, and the new ZL1 is only an improvement upon that model, which means it's gooood.
18 Golf R
The Golf R started life as a cute, innocent hatchback but then got into his parents' liquor cabinet and has been transformed to the R. The "R" stands for "Really Hardcore." The same 2.0L 4-cylinder that's in the GTI now makes 292 hp and gets to 60 in 5.2 seconds thanks to its 4MOTION all-wheel drive. The R is even faster through the corners than any Golf before it. This hatch does everything right and will never bite back, which has made it a fan favorite. It's a completely livable mega-hatch for the daily grocery shopper and can change its personality on a dime if you find yourself at a set of lights versus Vin Diesel. There's controversy whether this is the best hot hatch ever made or is simply too sterile and easy to drive. Check out the other two hatches that made it on this list, and comment with what you think is the best!
17 Jaguar F-type (2.0L)
The Jaguar F-Type is one of the most gorgeous cars on the road today. Get the coupe, and you'll be treated like a Bond villain wherever you go; choose the convertible, and you'll get to hear a symphony of pops, bangs, and growls from the exhaust. The 2.0L is no different. Sure, it’s the smallest and most modest in the line of F-Types, but it’s also the cheapest and still has a good amount of punch to back up its name. The V4 makes 296 hp and gets to 60 in 5.4 seconds. That's a good amount of grunt for a base model. Admittedly, the other F-Type variants are much better in terms of performance, quality, and aerodynamics, but their prices increase exponentially as the trims get better. The range-topping SVR is a blinding $122,000. That's twice the amount of the 2.0L! If you want to ride in style, feel special, and command 296 horses with the flex of your right foot, then look no further.
16 Infinity Q5 Red Sport 400
For $53,000, there's very little that can match this Infinity. With its whole slew of safety features, limited slip differential, luxurious cabin, and a 3.0L V6 making 400 hp, the Infinity is a huge bargain. Not to mention, it's rear-wheel drive (good for burnouts) and has double wishbone suspension in the front (good for corners). It also comes in all-wheel drive for you skiers out there. The 0-60 sprint is dealt with in 5.1 seconds, and its top speed is a hot-hatch-smashing 153 mph. Infinity is riding a hard bargain with this one, seeing as it has more power than an Audi S4 and a BMW 335i for a similar price. All of a sudden, the German cars don't seem as alluring. Just one question, though: why would they call it the Red Sport if it comes in other colors?
15 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack
Dodge has a rebuttal for the engineers at Infinity with its Charger Scat Pack edition of the Charger. The Scat pack is $13,000 less than the Infinity and has a V8 with 485 hp to the rear wheels only. That's enough to get it to 60 in 4.3 seconds. Quite fast. How do they manage to sell such a fast and cheap car, you may ask? Well, the Scat Pack lacks some amenities that its other, next-level trim (SRT 392) has, such as leather seats and a sunroof. Once checking those boxes, the price begins to show. Nonetheless, out of the box, the Scat Pack Charger is faster than the majority of the cars on the road and for a lot less. For around $40,000, you can have a shouting V8 and muscular looks for about as much as a fully loaded BMW 2-series.
14 FIAT 500 Abarth
A true pocket rocket, the Fiat 500 Abarth is the epitome of small, zippy fun. Its tiny four-cylinder makes 160 hp and has a 0-60 time of 6.9 seconds. This little FIAT isn’t about speed. Its philosophy is to be fun, aggressive, and full of personality. The 500 makes a boisterous burble out of the back and is completely hilarious. Spec the manual, and you'll have more smiles by the end of the day than anyone else for twice the price. Oh yeah, the price... it starts at $20,100 for the automatic, but save yourself some cash, and get the manual. In comparison to the Dodge Scat pack, it costs half the price and is definitely not half the fun. This thing can zip around town faster than most supercars, and if you live in a place which is sunny every day, you can spec the pseudo-convertible version. Who wouldn't want a little FIAT in their life?
13 Audi SQ5
The SQ5 is a swift car for around town and can be for almost anyone who has a right foot and a beating heart. This Audi brings together speed and convenience in a way that makes it competitors want to rip their hair out. Truly, it's too easy to achieve crazy speeds in this car. Your grandmother could hustle this car around the city with ease. With its justifiable price tag of $54,000, the SQ5 brings that German engineering and luxury everyone yearns for. It has 354 hp from its V-6 engine, allowing it to haul 5 passengers to 60 in 5.1 seconds. If it weren’t for the quad exhaust pipes and silver side mirrors, one would think it’s just another soccer-mom car. There's a reason why this car sells like hotcakes. You should join the party if you want convenience, style, and the famous four rings on your hood.
12 Corvette Z06
Despite being one of the most expensive cars on this list, the ZO6 delivers supercar performance for a third of the price. Starting at just under $80,000, the ZO6 is equipped with a 6.2L VB engine making 650 hp and an identical 650 lb-ft. The ‘Vette shoots to 60 mph in just 3.3 seconds. That’s identical to a Ferrari 458 Italia! What the Corvette has that the Ferrari doesn’t is an optional manual transmission. The Corvette has been praised for being a true monster on the road and maybe even being too fast (which is always a good thing). If the ZO6 is out of your reach, then the normal Stingray with its 450 hp is another great choice, and at only $55,500, it's much more attainable. Don’t like the Stingray? Then the Grand Sport is another option—having the chassis and the tires from the ZO6 but the power plant straight out of the Stingray.
11 Dodge Hellcat
Want the cheapest ticket to 707 hp? Fork over $65,000 and that dream becomes a reality. This V8 will obliterate its rear tires faster than you can say “Please don’t! Those cost $1,000 a set!” Nevertheless, the Hellcat is the biggest bang for your horsepower on this list by far. That's approximately $92 per horsepower, which is pretty hard good. In comparison to the Subaru from before, you’d pay $121 per hp for that. You get more than twice the horsepower for less than double the price. Pretty enticing. The Hellcat has become the poster boy for the "Fastest Cheap Car Ever Made" and lives up to that name. Use the special red nuke-starting key, and all 707 hp is at your disposal. Makes one wonder why there even are two sets of keys in the first place. Throw the normal key out the window and exclusively use the red key!
10 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
The Genesis Coupe is a car that's slipped through the cracks. It's never been a front-pager in the automotive magazines or a special feature on hit automotive TV shows, but maybe that's the beautiful mystique behind the Genesis Coupe. It looks no more threatening than its cheaper trims but delivers an absolutely sublime driving experience. The "Ultimate" trim level gets a 3.8L V6 engine making 348 hp and is put to the road by the rear wheels only. This car has been out for two years, but check local dealerships, and you can expect to grab a used one of these for under $30,000. Sure, it's not the most refined coupe on the market, but it'll deliver thrills, speed, and understated looks for a seductive price.
9 BMW M2
The M car we've all been waiting for! A true return to form! Back to basics fun! Have you heard one of these sentences spoken while talking about the BMW M2? If you have, then you're just like the rest of us. It's hard to argue with the hype of the M2 since it's very similar to the first M3s ever made. It has a shorter wheelbase, a V6 turbocharged engine, and a manual transmission and is significantly cheaper than the outgoing M3/4. Does this mean that it's a return to form for the BMW Motorsports division? In a word, yes. This is a car that was made for the enthusiasts and didn't chase headline figures. It was simply a car set up to be an absolute riot on a curvy road. With its 365 hp, it's hardly a slouch. It does cost somewhere north of $54,000 but the price doesn't increase by tens of thousands of dollars per option since the M2 comes with the least number of options for an M car. The most expensive optional extras are the automatic transmission and the special blue paint. Steer clear of those extras, and your car is just as fast as any other fully loaded M2 straight out of the box.
8 Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG
The GLA 45 will make that M2 look like a slug because it gets to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, thanks to its 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Coming in at $52,000 base price, it's less than the M2 but has an extra two doors and can carry a family along with their junk. The GLA is one of the more captivating AMGs because it's basically a hot hatch with the same hammer of an engine that's in the CLA 45 sedan. That 355 hp 2.0L engine is the most powerful 4-cylinder ever made. It's also very unassuming, for that matter. Not speccing the optional spoiler will fool everyone into thinking you drive an innocent crossover. Little do they know, you have yourself a dart for the city. It also comes with a dual-clutch 7-speed automatic for crisp, quick shifts, unlike the AMGs before it.
7 Audi S3
For a little less than an Audi S4, you can have its equally competent little brother, the S3. The S3 has everything that's expected from an S model: dual-clutch automatic, leather stitched seats, a pokey turbocharged engine, and quality second to none. The 4-cylinder makes 292 hp through all four wheels in common Quattro fashion. the 0-60 run takes just 4.6 seconds, which would humiliate supercars a decade ago. With its base price of $43,000, it's easy to justify getting one of these for the city. It's efficient, easy to drive, speedy, and boasts fabulous engineering. If this isn't enough grunt for you, look to the RS 3, which costs an extra $10,000 more but has an extra 108 horsepower and gets an extra cylinder just like the legendary Audi Quattro of before.
6 Ford Mustang GT
The Ford Mustang has been the sports car of the people since the '70s and has continued to deliver affordable speed for decades. The new Mustang is no different. There are varying trim levels from the EcoBoost 4 cylinder, all the way to the Shelby GT350's 5.2L V8. The car on topic today is the 5.0L V8 with 460 hp. This pony car is around $50,000 and delivers all the performance you need from a front-engined, manual transmission, brute of a car. It gets to 0-60 in 4.3 seconds, as well as finishes the quarter mile in the 12-second club. There are few cars on sale today that can give you this visceral of a driving experience for so little. What makes people gravitate towards it may be its performance and bombastic V8, but the looks just scream "cool guy." Not to mention, the 'Stang can do a standstill burnout in its drive selection just as the Focus RS can do drift mode.
5 Cadillac ATS-V
This is a sedan that can take down the best of the best. The ATS-V is a bargain performance sedan that will make you grin from ear-to-ear. It's powered by a 3.6L twin-turbocharged V6 making 464 hp. That's more than the M3, which it set out to beat. It also gets to 60 in 4.2 seconds and costs just shy of $63,000. That may sound expensive for a Cadillac, but consider that it has the most trick suspension in the game. It's so good that they sell their suspension to Ferrari to use in their supercars. I've driven this, and it's truly a sensation in the corners. Look past the dreadful CUE infotainment system with its clunky features, and you have a sedan that's dollar for dollar better than any super sedan on the market today (besides the Alfa QV of course). If anything, it breaks the mold of the black German sports cars everyone drives and adds a little flair to your everyday life.
4 Nissan 370Z
You probably heard of how stupendous this car was from its features in Fast and Furious. This Nissan has the same DNA as its older brother, the GTR and for a fraction of the cost. The 370Z starts at around $30,000 and is available in all sorts of trim levels, shapes, and sizes. The 370Z is an update on the famous 350Z and gets more performance as a result. This Nissan has 331 hp and gets to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Not exactly slow. Its rear-wheel-drive layout allows for glorious skids and celebratory burnouts. If the normal 370Z doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stick up, then look to the 370Z NISMO--the track-oriented version. It gets 350 hp, an extra .2L displacement to its engine, sticky tires, and aero, aero, aero. It does cost $15,000 more which is why it doesn't exactly belong on the list, but it still costs less than the Caddy.
3 Honda Civic Type R
No surprises that this made the list. This hot hatch was built to dethrone the latest supercars and all for a hair under $35,000. This front-wheel-drive rocket has a spine-tingling 306 hp from its 2.0L 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. Sorry, no automatic here. It's also the fastest FWD car to go around the Green Hell in 7:43.8. That's pretty darn fast for a car with five seats. The one downside to this car is its looks, which are polarizing, to say the least. The more I look at it, the more I begin to like it, though. Despite its looks, it has superb chassis balance and just enough power to make the front wheels grip without torque steer. This long-awaited successor to the Type Rs that have been on sale in Japan for decades now is selling fast, so if you want one, you better hop on that waiting list fast!
2 Ford Focus RS
Finally, the last hot hatch! After this, you can make up your mind which one is worthy of your round-about $40,000: the Civic Type R, the Golf Type R, or the Focus RS. One thing's for sure—the letter "R" sure is popular these days. This RS was surely popular when it came out a year ago. It caused quite a commotion for being an extremely capable and quick four-wheel-drive hatchback with its basic manual transmission. Its 2.3L 4-cylinder makes 350 hp and torque, so it does have more oompf than the Type R, which may justify its price tag of just over $41,000—$6,000 more than the Type R. For that, you get four-wheel drive, as stated before, and Drift Mode! That setting allows you to pull off skids with ease. The car was developed closely with master-drifter Ken Block, so you can expect it to be pretty darn good. Unlike the Type R, it doesn't have the jaded looks, and unlike the Golf R, it brings a little ruckus to the party.
1 Kia Stinger GT
One of the most spoken-about cars of the moment right now, the Stinger GT is quickly changing people's preconceived notions about Kia. The Stinger GT wraps speed, reliability, quality, and value all into a nice $39,000 package. In that package, there's a 3.3 L V6 with 365 hp and a 60 time in just 4.7 seconds. The four-door will waft five people in luxury to their destination with little drama. It isn't an all-out super saloon, but it's a bonafide cruiser. Think Aston Martin-style of cruising. The Kia gets more standard options than its competitors, such as the Audi A5 Sportback and the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe for a much lower price. Expect to see these on the road a lot more than before. Journalists have praised it for being a nice break from the mold and a surprising competitor to the Titans of Stuttgart.