We are living in a golden age of fast affordable cars, coupes, sedans, and hatchbacks that push the limits of performance without simultaneously doing serious damage to one's bank account. Champagne speed on a beer budget is the order of the day for 2016, and even teetotalers can appreciate the outrageous horsepower and handling available from a wide range of modern automobiles that are inexpensive to own, operate, and in most cases, insure. Let's take a quick look at 10 fast, affordable cars.
1) 2016 Ford Mustang GT
The 2016 Ford Mustang GT marks the latest generation of a long line of fast, affordable cars stretching all the way back to the vehicle's debut in 1964. The Ford Mustang GT retails for $32,395, and for that price you get a 435-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 that additionally sends 400 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. If you want to grab even more performance for not much money, the Track package installs bigger Brembo brakes, heavy-duty engine and transmission cooling, and a limited-slip differential. 60 mph arrives in a scant 4.7 seconds for the Ford coupe.
Photo Credit: General Motors
2) 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
It would be impossible to mention the Ford Mustang GT without giving equal space to its cross-town rival, the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS, which has been fully updated for this year. The Chevrolet Camaro SS cribs an enormous 6.2-liter V-8 engine that provides 455 horses and 455 lb-ft of torque, managed by a six-speed manual transmission. The Camaro SS' $36,300 price of entry also includes a limited-slip differential right out of the box, along with a stiff suspension system, 20-inch rims, and the MyLink infotainment and communications interface. The sprint to 60 mph in the Camaro SS is about a half second faster than that of the Mustang GT.
3) 2016 Nissan 370Z
The 2016 Nissan 370Z might not flex its muscles in quite the same way as either of the domestic coupes so far profiled by this list, but this two-door sports car is just as quick and exciting to drive as its American counterparts. The Nissan 370Z continues the brand's long-standing tradition of building a track-ready performer at an affordable price ($29,990 for the base model), built around a supple chassis, a snug two-seat cockpit, and a 3.7-liter V-6 engine good for 332 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission that can automatically match revs while downshifting is included with the 370Z if you order the available Sport package, which also includes a limited-slip differential, and lightweight 19-inch rims. The NISMO version adds even more flexibility. You’ll hit 60 mph in just five seconds when flooring the Nissan's go-pedal.
Photo Credit: Subaru
4) 2016 Subaru WRX
The 2016 Subaru WRX is notable for its ability to be a fast, affordable car in all sorts of different weather conditions, thanks to the grip provided by its standard all-wheel drive system. Subaru dropped the Impreza name from this model for 2015, helping the WRX stake its own territory. Whether blasting through snowbanks or snaking down a canyon road, the Subaru WRX enjoys 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque thanks to its new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, boosted by a twin-scroll turbocharger, an intercooler, and direct fuel injection. Order up a 2015 WRX with either a six-speed manual or a new CVT option. The WRX, which starts at $26,595, sizzles its way to 60 mph in an impressive 5.4 seconds with the manual gearbox.
5) 2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
The 2016 Hyundai Genesis Coupe presents itself as an even more affordable alternative to models like the Nissan 370Z, especially when found in its entry-level form. Last year, Hyundai streamlined the Genesis Coupe lineup, phasing out the turbo four-cylinder and focusing on the 3.8-liter V-6. Starting at $26,950, the Genesis Coupe provides 348 ponies and 295 lb-ft of torque, put down through a six-speed manual or a tarted-up eight-speed automatic with rev-matching and paddle shifters. The rear-wheel drive 2016 Genesis Coupe arrives at the 60 mph mark in just 5.3 seconds.
6) 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T
The 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T is a bit larger, and heavier, than muscle car equivalents like the Mustang GT and Camaro SS, but the payoff of a large and practical interior plus the car's retro looks serve to balance that out. The Challenger G/T is powered by a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which churns out 375 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, and can be paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission as well as a standard six-speed manual. For a base price of $31,995, the Challenger R/T propels you from 0-60 in 5.8 seconds.
7) 2016 Ford Focus ST
The 2016 Ford Focus ST breaks the mold of our fast affordable cars list - so far, in any case - by presenting a front-wheel drive hatchback platform that has been boosted by way of a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine and a considerable amount of chassis tuning expertise. With a system in place to mitigate torque steer, the 2.0-liter unit under the hood of the Ford Focus ST provides 252 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, numbers that permit the compact to surge to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. A six-speed manual is the sole transmission option for the hatchback, which starts at an MSRP of $24,425, and if you are comfortable paying a bit more, then you can specify items such as Recaro sport seats and HID headlights with the Focus ST.
Photo Credit: Mazda USA
8) 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata, completely redesigned for this year, is the most affordable roadster on the market. Though it’s not especially fast, it’s definitely quick, and made all the more exciting by the possibility of fresh air. The Miata is known for its exceptional chassis tuning, which makes this sports car more about handling than about power. The 2016 Miata provides 155 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and a six-speed manual gearbox comes standard with an automatic available as an option. Though hardly the point, the Miata gets excellent fuel economy for its class, and overall, represents a bargain at its starting price of $24,915.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen of America
9) 2016 Volkswagen Golf R
A true high-performance version of Volkswagen’s hot hatch is a rare and noteworthy occurrence. The latest Golf R arrived last year, based on the seventh-generation Golf, powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder that puts down 292 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque through all four wheels. Buyers can opt for a six-speed manual, which achieves the 0-60 sprint in 5.3 seconds, or a dual-clutch automatic, which takes just 4.9 seconds to get to 60 mph. The 2016 Golf R starts at $35,650, which is a hefty premium over the pedestrian version of the Golf, but comes with goodies like bi-xenon headlights, leather sport seats, and a dual exhaust.
10) 2016 BMW M235i
The 2016 BMW M235i stretches the limit of what could be considered “affordable” with its MSRP of $44,150, but given that the compact coupe is essentially the modern reincarnation of the popular E46 M3 at a much lower price, we're going to include it on this list. The BMW M235i is essentially a worked-over version of the discontinued 135is coupe, which means a 320-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine is standard, along with the option of a close-ratio six-speed manual. The motor also generates 330 lb-ft of torque, and the rear-wheel drive coupe maintains stability by way of an adaptive suspension system and quicker steering when compared to the base 2 Series. An option to upgrade to BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system is available. 60 mph ticks by in just 4.8 seconds for the BMW.