The old saying used to be “cheap, fast, reliable – pick two.” Nowadays, however, automakers have stepped up to the plate and offer an impressive list of inexpensive, fun-to-drive vehicles that provide respectable performance for not much money. They also come with full warranty protection and great dependability. Everyone has their own definition, of course, of what defines cheap. For our purposes, we’ve chosen the $30,000 MSRP as our cutoff mark. Once you move above this price point, you start to come across luxury and premium vehicles that don’t exactly fit into the “inexpensive” category. The sweet spot between $20,000 and $30,000 offers some interesting takes on the compact performance formula, as well as a few surprise entries to keep things interesting from a variety perspective.
Now that we know the price range we are operating in, the next step is to determine just how “fast” an automobile needs to be in order to be included on this list. In some cases, we’ve made our decisions based on the manufacturer’s published acceleration specs – specifically, 0-60 mph times – but in others, we’ve taken a look at what the aftermarket has to offer in terms of tuning and performance parts for each model. Often, the difference between a quick car and a very fast car is just a few thousand dollars of investment under the hood – or in the automobile’s ECU programming. Let’s take a look at 10 of the cheapest, fastest cars currently available.