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 2014, 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.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 01 - 2014 Ford Mustang GT
The 2014 Ford Mustang GT is the latest in 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 $31,210, and for that price you get a 420 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 that additionally sends 390 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. The Mustang GT also features 18-inch rims, fog lights, and a rear spoiler, and 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.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 02 - 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS
It would be impossible to mention the Ford Mustang GT without giving equal space to its cross-town rival, the 2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS. The Chevrolet Camaro SS cribs an enormous 6.2-liter V-8 engine that provides 426 horses and 420 lb-ft of torque, managed by a six-speed manual transmission. The Camaro SS' $34,350 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 accomplished in roughly the same time as that of the lighter Mustang GT.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 03 - 2014 Nissan 370Z
The 2014 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 to available Sport package, which also includes a limited-slip differential, and lightweight 19-inch rims. You'll hit 60-mph in just five seconds when flooring the Nissan's go-pedal.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 04 - 2014 Subaru Impreza WRX
The 2014 Subaru Impreza 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. Whether blasting through snowbanks or snaking down a canyon road, the Subaru Impreza WRX (which is offered in sedan or hatchback body styles) enjoys 265 horsepower and 244 lb-ft of torque form its 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available with the WRX, which starts at $25,995, and the compact pocket rocket sizzles its way to 60-mph in an impressive 5.3 seconds.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 05 - 2014 Hyundai Genesis Coupe
The 2014 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. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T is motivated by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is good for 274 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, and deft shifting of its standard six-speed manual transmission sees 60-mph arrive in 5.7 seconds - not bad for a vehicle costing just $26,350. Opting for the R-Spec trim installs a few more go-fast goodies, including Brembo brakes, a limited-slip rear differential, and sport seats, on top of a suspension system that has been tuned to provide better feedback.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 06 - 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T
The 2014 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. It's also important to consider that the Dodge Challenger R/T's 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 churns out 376 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, numbers that are good enough to propel the six-speed manual edition of the coupe to 60-mph in 5.5 seconds. The R/T starts at an MSRP of $30,495, and opting for the Super Track Pak provides gear like up-rated steering and brakes combined with performance-oriented electronic stability control settings and a beefier suspension system.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 07 - 2014 Ford Focus ST
The 2014 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 $23,625, 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.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 08 - 2013 Mazda MAZDASPEED3
The 2013 Mazda MAZDASPEED3 can be thought of as the Ford Focus ST's more brutal nemesis, a muscled-up hatchback that doesn't offer the same lithe chassis or power management as the Blue Oval model but which delivers exceptional straight-line performance for its price. $24,300 buys you 263 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque from the Mazda MAZDASPEED3's 2.3-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine, and a limited-slip front differential is standard with the hatch. 6.3 seconds is all it takes to hit 60-mph from behind the wheel of the MAZDASPEED3, providing you can properly manage the vehicle's ferocious output.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 09 - 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR
The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR is a street-legal rally machine that makes our list of fast affordable cars by way of its motorsports credibility and ultra-precise handling. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR starts at $34,995, and it delivers 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission shunts this output to all four wheels via the car's advanced all-wheel drive system, which in turn allows the compact sedan to hit 60-mph in under five seconds. Stepping up to the still-inexpensive MR trim adds the wrinkle of a six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual gearbox.
10 Fast Affordable Cars - 10 - 2014 BMW M235i
The 2014 BMW M235i stretches the limit of what could be considered 'affordable' with its MSRP of $43,100, but given that the new 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 last year's 135is coupe, which means a 322 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 332 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. 60-mph ticks by in just 4.8 seconds for the BMW.