The Fastest Cars for Everyday Drivers
If you feel the need for speed but don’t have the deep pockets for a Ferrari, Corvette, or other high-end vehicle, never fear. Most carmakers produce reasonably priced vehicles that help everyday drivers turn those little white lines on the pavement into long blurry streaks. Let’s look at a few.
Seven Common Cars with Uncommon Performance
Look over this list of seven affordable cars that will put the bugs on alert and send the wind through your hair.
Honda Civic Si
Starting around $25,000[i]
You can find this sporty model as a sedan or a hatchback. It has earned several awards since 2018, including 10 Car and Driver 10-Best and Editor’s Choice awards for 2018 and 2019. US News gives it an 8.4 out of 10, ranking the 2020 model No. 2 out of 12 in the compact, hatchback, and small car categories.[ii]
The sport-tuned Honda Civic Si offers a 205-horsepower engine, direct-injected and turbocharged, with a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, a helical limited-slip differential, and an adjustable two-mode damper system. New for 2020, Honda shortened the final drive ratio by six percent for an improved feel when accelerating.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
Starting around $28,600
The 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback scores top honors as No. 1 in US News compact, hatchback, and small car categories, and they give the 2109 model an 8.4 out of 10. It comes with an autobahn tuned suspension for increased handling, a 2.0-liter TSI engine capable of churning out 228 horsepower, a six-speed manual transmission with overdrive, and an option for a seven-speed automated manual transmission. The standard, all-season tires sap some of the performance according to Edmunds, so you may want to invest in a premium set to get the most out of your time on the road.
Starting around $27,500 manual transmission/$31,700 automatic
Available with a 2.0 liter or a 2.5 liter turbo, the 2020 Subaru WRX starts with the ability to put out 268 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and generates 258 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 rpm. For about $1,171, you can add an optional STI performance exhaust.
Edmunds ranks the WRX 6.9 out of 10, citing as cons excessive wind noise, a rough ride on the high-performance suspension, and an interior that lags behind that of the competition. US News gives the 2020 WRX a 7.3 out of 10, a ranking of 11 out of 12 in compact cars, and 24 out of 29 in small cars. The reviewers liked the powerful engine and exceptional handling but listed a “rock-bottom predicted reliability rating and a less-upscale design” among the cons.
2019 Ford Fiesta ST
Starting around $21,340
Edmunds gives this little Ford an 8.2 out of 10, calling it a sporty handler in turns and a zesty performer.
The Fiesta comes with a 1.6-liter, inline four-cylinder engine capable of 120 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 112 foot-pounds of torque at 5,000 rpm. The five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive add a 30 MPG combined gas mileage to the performance. For the modest cost, Edmunds recommends the SE model for extra features and optional SE Appearance package.
US News gives the vehicle a 7.4 out of 10, citing a nimble and lively performance among the pros. While not an out-and-out speed demon, the Fiesta will give you a fun driving experience.
2019 Fiat 500 Abarth
Starting around $20,500
With a 7.2 out of 10 rating from US News, the Abarth version of the Fiat 500 does things the other models don’t. Named after Italian racecar tuner Karl Abarth, this model has a pair of concentric exhaust outlets that give it a distinctive voice. The 1.4-liter, inline four-cylinder engine can produce up to 160 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 170 foot-pounds of torque at 2500 rpm. The subcompact hatchback has been reported to go from 0-60 MPH in 6.9 seconds, eclipsing the other versions.
Edmunds lists its nimble size and comfortable ride among the pros, calling it a car with “lots of personality for the price.”
Hyundai Veloster N
Starting around $27,600
Enjoyable performance and sporty turn handling top the list of Edmund’s pros for the 2020 Hyundai Veloster N, and they give it an 8.3 on a scale of 10. Hyundai offers two packages to help make the Veloster N your own.
The standard package comes with a 2.0-liter, turbo GDI four-cylinder engine capable of 250 horsepower, high-performance brakes, a six-speed manual transmission with rev matching for smoother and faster shifting, and electronically controlled suspension. Four adjustable drive mode settings let you calibrate the chassis and powertrain settings for perfect performance.
The Performance package comes with a 275 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo GDI four-cylinder engine, an N Corner Carving differential, and an Active Sport exhaust system.
Along with outstanding performance, both offer 22 MPG in the city and 29 MPG on the highway.
Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack and Widebody
Starting around $40,300/$45,000 Widebody
Several V8 engine choices top the list of pros on this stylish incarnation of the American muscle car. It offers a comfortable ride, per Edmunds, and earns a rating of 7.8 out of 10. Both models come with a 392 V8 SRT Hemi, high–speed engine controller, Severe Duty II engine cooling, and active exhaust standard. Options include the MDS variable displacement technology version of the 392 V8 engine for both models, a potential of nearly 797 horsepower. All-wheel drive, and ventilated seats available.
A six-speed TREMEC manual transmission comes standard on both, with an option for a TorqueFLite 8-speed automatic.
The normal body comes with a high-performance suspension and rear stabilizer bar standard, with options available. The Widebody has an active dampening system, and both have independent SLA (double wishbone) front suspension and a five-link rear suspension.
Ferrari, Pantera, and Corvette always sit on the top of the list when it comes to fast, good-looking cars. They also top out in the budget category. But you don’t need ridiculously deep pockets to get a fast, stylish car and smooth ride.
Check out the models listed in this article, look at the specs, and check out some of the alternatives suggested by sites like Edmunds and US News. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself with the wind in your hair and admiring stares in the rearview.
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