Not for you, the Brand X generic four-doored sedan. Those Hontoyssan Camcordima appliance-mobiles are just fine if you're looking for a comfortable place to sit in between destinations, but for you, the journey is part of the fun. Maybe you want a ride that's distinctive on a highway packed with beige and gray. Perhaps you crave that little thrill when you turn the key and feel a rumble, and it could be that you're occasionally guilty of leaning into a curve just a little, or taking that freeway on-ramp just a tad faster than is strictly necessary. It could even be that you'd like a car you can take to a local track or drag strip on the weekends to hold the gas pedal a little closer to the floor than would be safe on the street.
The problem is, you've got a mortgage and health insurance premiums to pay, and you've got to save for the kids' college and your own retirement, and so far those lottery tickets haven't done you much good. Car-magazine photos of expensive supercars or tweaked-out aftermarket tuner vehicles are fun to look at, but you need something with manageable payments, low maintenance costs, and fuel economy that's at least measured in miles per gallon, not gallons per mile.
There are, it turns out, a lot of sporty and performance options on the market today at reasonable prices, some of them exceeding the capabilities of cars that would have been considered top-of-the-line just a few years ago.
The cars listed below are by no means a complete list of what's on the market; they're included not based on any specific features - the primary criteria for inclusion are a sporty look and a lot of reviews that proclaim the car is fun to drive. The price ranges are based not on the starting price for a stripped-down base model, bu rather, what someone might expect to pay for a reasonably equipped automobile.
It should come as no surprise that none of the cars in this price will let you experience blistering, pinned-to-your-seat acceleration unless you drive them down a very steep hill. You won't get high horsepower, massive tire-shredding torque, and you'll probably have to settle for a 4 cylinder with front wheel drive. What you will get, though, is a good-to-great handling, lightweight car with a sporty look and decent fuel mileage. Don't write off the low end of the price spectrum as "cheap" - you might be surprised at the quality and performance of even the most inexpensive new cars these days.
Credit: HyundaiUSA.comHyundai Veloster: This new entry into the sport compact market is getting a lot of attention. At 138 HP, a good number for this price segment, it still manages 29/39 MPG, sportscar looks, and impressive handling. Reviewers have criticized its steering and back seat space.
Credit: ford.comFord Fiesta: Though down a few horsepower from the Veloster at 120, the Fiesta has a lower starting price, slightly better gas mileage, and more responsive steering. Its front cabin area can seem cramped to some, and the optional PowerShift transmission can take some getting used to.
$20,000 - $30,000
This price group is where things start to get interesting; there's a wide range of styling (of the "love it or hate it" variety in many cases), and car makers take a variety of approaches to the fun factor.
Labeling this price range as "affordable" is, admittedly, a stretch for many people. But the cars here still fall well under the cost of high-end vehicles while in some cases offering performance that's very close. Sales figures for these cars show there's still demand, as well.