Amazingly, $25,000 is on the low end of the automotive price range these days. Still, there are an abundance of interesting choices when it comes to the most fun to drive cars under $25,000. It's an ecclectic bunch too, there’s a nice mix of sedans and hatchbacks with both two-doors and four, and one can even find a two-seat convertible sports car. Variety being the spice of life, this bodes well for the enthusiast driver regardless of lifestyle, family situation, or other obligations. In other words, whatever your practical considerations, chances are good there’s still a ride for you.
Check out our list of the most fun to drive cars under $25,000.
Let’s say you’re looking for something with crisp Italian lines, a spacious interior, strong safety scores and a nice selection of available features. When it comes to fun to drive cars under $25,000, the Dodge Dart GT compact sedan might well fit the bill. Power comes from a 184-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 171 ft-lbs of torque. The front-drive powertrain uses a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, while a six-speed automatic is optional. Other standard features for the handsome four-door include 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, and leather upholstery. Pricing starts at $21,495.
The high performance version of the funky little Fiat 500 is a blast to drive. With its 160-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder growling, popping, and spitting out 170 ft-lbs of torque, you’ll have a ball winding it through the gears. For the best results, go with the five-speed manual transmission – though there’s a six-speed automatic offered too. Either way, this hot little Italian firecracker delivers loads of pleasure for under $25,000. Standard features include a sport-tuned suspension system, 17-inch alloy wheels and performance tires, aerodynamic exterior trim pieces, automatic climate control, Bluetooth, and big brakes. Pricing starts at $22,495.
When it comes to fun to drive cars priced under $25,000, Ford’s Fiesta ST is indeed a party on wheels. The sporty, compact little Ford hatchback finds its way onto practically every list of fun to drive cars. The 197-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 202 ft-lbs of torque. This is routed to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission – there is no automatic option. Other standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels with “summer” performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension system, keyless entry and ignition, automatic climate control, dual exhaust tips, and foglights. Pricing starts at $20,495.
Photo by Ford Media
As much fun to drive as the base Ford Focus is, the Focus ST is much more at home in the "most fun to drive" category. For the 2015 model year, Ford’s product planners folded in some nice new touches as well. Front and rear styling is refreshed, the center stack layout has been revised, and a really cool flat-bottomed steering wheel has been added. Power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder with 252 horsepower and 270 ft-lbs of torque. The front-drive powertrain uses a six-speed manual transmission with hill start assist. Pricing starts at $24,370.
Offered in both coupe and four-door sedan body configurations, the Honda Civic Si has a very strong fan base among enthusiast drivers; and for good reason. Its 2.4-liter, 205-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine is so rev happy it almost feels like you’re driving a racecar. The 174 ft-lbs of torque are transmitted to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. No automatic option is offered. The Civic Si comes with 18-inch alloys, foglights, a rear spoiler, a limited slip differential, a sport tuned suspension system, sport seats, and an aluminum shift knob. Pricing for the coupe starts at $22,890. The sedan starts at $23,090.
Photo by Christian Wardlaw
The first two-seat compact hybrid model to offer a manual transmission, the sleek little Honda CR-Z makes the most fun to drive list by dint of its remarkably agile handling characteristics – more so than its power. One of the most svelte two-seaters on the market today under $25,000, the Honda CR-Z has the added advantage of returning strong fuel economy when it isn’t being driven for performance. The 1.5-liter four is paired with an electric motor for a total system output of 130 horsepower and 140 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual is standard; a continuously variable transmission is optional. Pricing starts at $20,145.
If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd, Hyundai’s three-door compact hatchback Veloster Turbo will definitely get you noticed. For a lot of people, this alone would make it fun to drive. To make your Veloster really stand out, the R-Spec kit adds side skirts, sport tuned suspension and steering, a brake-actuated torque vectoring system to tighten cornering, and an active sound feature to channel the engine’s sound through the audio system. Power for the front-driver comes from a 201-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four with 195 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard; a dual-clutch automated manual transmission is optional. Pricing starts at $21,600.
Fun to drive can take many forms; for some people it’s less about outright performance than style and features. If your tent’s in that camp, check out Kia’s Forte. With that said, if you’d like an air of sportiness too, concentrate on the Forte Koup SX and Forte 5 SX. Power comes from a 201-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter engine with 195 ft-lbs of torque. Transmission choices include six-speed manual and six-speed automatic. Standard features include 18-inch alloys, keyless entry and pushbutton start, Bluetooth, heated mirrors, and adjustable steering. Pricing for Forte Koup SX starts at $20,590; Forte 5 SX starts at $20,890.
Photo by Kia Media
Mazda is known for building fun to drive cars, and one of its best is the Mazda3 compact. With its reputation of crisp handling, peppy acceleration, and a smooth ride, the Mazda3 is one of the top models in the under $25,000 category. While the most powerful versions clock numbers above our price ceiling, the 155-horsepower, 2.0-liter four with 150 ft-lbs of torque still motivates the little hatchback more than adequately. Buyers can choose between a six-speed automatic and a six-speed manual transmission. Available features include Bluetooth, cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alerts, and navigation. Pricing starts at $18,495.
When it comes to mid-size sedans, the fun to drive Mazda6 has few peers in the under $25,000 range. The truly remarkable thing about the Mazda6 is it is more than roomy enough to serve a family, yet it still offers reasonable pricing and an engaging driving experience. Power comes from a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 185 ft-lbs of torque. Transmission choices for the front-drive powertrain include six-speed manual and six-speed automatic. Available features include Bluetooth, a touchscreen interface, keyless entry and ignition, automatic headlights and rain sensing wipers. Pricing starts at $21,495.
Photo by Benjamin Hunting