Affordable and sporty are two descriptors that are increasingly found together as more and more automakers add a bit of spice to the entry-level segment of their lineups. Hotter engines, spicier body kits and upgraded interiors are some of the perks found on performance-oriented editions of standard subcompact, compact and mid-size cars - not to mention a driving experience that is designed to bring a smile to your face every time you put the hammer down.
Let's take a look at eight sporty cars that feature a starting MSRP of less than $25,000.
01. 2012 Honda Civic Si - MSRP $22,205
The 2012 Honda Civic Si is all-new for the current model year, and the popular sport compact - which can be had in both coupe and sedan form - continues to offer an appealing mix of nimble handling, a rev-happy drivetrain and a snappier look than the standard Civic. In addition to its performance features, the Honda Civic Si also comes with goodies such as fog lights, a rear spoiler and front air dam, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and special sport seats.
The 2012 Honda Civic Si features a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that is good for 201 horsepower. Larger than the motor found in the previous motor, it offers up more torque (170 lb-ft) and helps the automobile hit 60 miles per hour in 6.9 seconds. A six-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox available with the Civic Si.
02. 2011 MINI Cooper S - MSRP $23,000
The 2011 MINI Cooper S offers subcompact shoppers an even more potent of the already agile MINI Cooper hatchback. The MINI Cooper S comes with a stiff suspension system, a dress-up interior and the option of a Sport package, which upgrades the wheels to 17 inches, add traction control and installs HID headlights. Standalone options for the Cooper S include a limited-slip differential in order to help put the vehicle's increased horsepower down to the ground.
The 2011 MINI Cooper S is gifted with a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes use of a turbocharger to produce 181 horses and up to 192 lb-ft of "overboosted" torque. The Cooper S checks in at just a tick faster than the Honda Civic Si in the sprint to 60-mph (6.6 seconds), and both manual and automatic six-speed transmissions can be ordered with the vehicle.
03. 2011 Chevrolet Camaro - MSRP $22,805
The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro is most familiar in its eight-cylinder SS trim, but the V-6 edition of the muscle car offers a respectable level of performance of its own. It is also possible to dress up the Chevrolet Camaro coupe with the RS package in order to give it more a aggressive look that includes enormous 20-inch wheels and HID headlights. Further customization of the vehicle's exterior is also possible to mimic much of the SS edition's stage presence.
The 2011 Chevrolet Camaro's 3.6-liter V-6 is tuned to provide 312 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque - numbers that just a few years ago would not have looked out of place in the top-spec edition of the car. A six-speed manual transmission comes free of charge with the base model Camaro, while a six-speed automatic is also available. With the former installed the coupe can reach 60-mph in a quick 6.1 seconds.
04. 2011 Mazda MAZDASPEED3 - MSRP $23,700
The 2011 Mazda MAZDASPEED 3 is one of the most potent affordable hatchbacks on the market. With its extroverted styling, the Mazda MAZDASPEED3 is tough to miss in a crowd, and the vehicle also comes with a long list of standard features that include dual automatic climate control, a limited-slip differential, the most hardcore suspension system offered on a MAZDA compact car as well as the option of HID headlights, a surround sound audio system and a navigation system.
The 2011 Mazda MAZDASPEED3 cuts loose a ferocious amount of power from its turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The 2.4-liter unit packs a 263 pony punch, backed up by an eyebrow-raising 280 lb-ft of torque that together rocket the small hatch to 60 miles per hour in 6.3 seconds. A six-speed manual transmission handles the shifting duties for the MAZDSPEED3.
05. 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe - MSRP $22,250
The 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe provides sleek looks, the Korean company's traditionally overstuffed equipment list and a rear-wheel drive platform that makes it an intriguing entry-level track option. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec trim also squeaks in under the $25k limit, and it adds Brembo brakes, a limited-slip rear differential, performance rubber wrapped around 19-inch wheels and a road course-oriented suspension system.
The 2011 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T base model and 2.0T R-Spec each feature the same turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Rated at 210 horsepower and 223 lb-ft of torque and matched with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, this drivetrain is capable of launching the Genesis Coupe to 60-mph in approximately 6.9 seconds.
06. 2011 Volkswagen GTI - MSRP $23,695
The 2011 Volkswagen GTI is a mainstay when it comes to inexpensive and sporty automobiles. The Volkswagen GTI enjoys a reputation for balancing point-and-shoot handling with a solid and comfortable ride, and the vehicle features an interior that is bolstered by heated sport seats, air conditioning, and Bluetooth connectivity. A navigation system, HID headlights and a sunroof are optional on the GTI, and both two and four-door editions of the hatchback can be specified.
The 2011 Volkswagen GTI's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is turbocharged to produce 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. A traditional six-speed manual transmission comes with the base GTI, while a unique dual-clutch automated manual featuring launch control can also be ordered with the car. The dash to 60-mph in the Volkswagen is accomplished in 7.3 seconds.
07. 2011 Scion tC - MSRP $18,275
The 2011 Scion tC has been re-engineered in order to provide more confident handing, a stiffer ride and a look that once again manages to flaunt the dedication to style that Scion has become associated with. The Scion tC also offers an in-depth customization program that allows owners to order factory performance parts as well as body kits, interior trim pieces and entertainment gear for the compact coupe.
The 2011 Scion tC's four-cylinder engine has grown to 2.5-liters of displacement, and its 180 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque give it a decent punch when the accelerator is floored. The Scion tC matches the Volkswagen GTI in terms of accelerating to 60-mph (7.3 seconds), a figure which is achieved behind its six-speed manual transmission. An automatic unit, which also features six forward gears, can be ordered as the tC's lone option.
08. 2011 Ford Mustang - MSRP $22,145
The 2011 Ford Mustang continues to pull in bargain-hungry performance fans thanks to a brand new V-6 engine as well as a one of the more attractive implementations of retro styling currently available. The Ford Mustang V-6 model also offers the Pony package which gives the car a GT-like appearance, and a number of other go-fast options that help to beef up the car's suspension and brakes.
The 2011 Ford Mustang's 3.7-liter V-6 delivers 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, channeled to the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. 60 miles per hour arrives quickly from a dig, with the six-cylinder Mustang hitting its mark in just 5.1 seconds.