The typical SUV or minivan is perfectly suited for sitting in traffic down the Cape, but what about making the most of the open road? It’s a universal truth that a sports car is the preferred method of transportation on twisting backroads, straight-shot highways, and many stretches in between.
Surprisingly, there are plenty of affordable, fun cars on the market. Here are nine models you should consider if your budget is under $40,000.
The Challenger has impossibly fun throwback looks, while also offering the practicality of a large trunk and spacious back seat. Even better, you can get the Challenger R/T Scat Pack for $37,995. Under the sculpted hood is a 6.4-liter V8 that makes an impressive 485 horsepower.
The Pony-Car styling of the Ford Mustang GT is backed by a 5.0-liter V8 making 435 horsepower. With a base price of $33,195, you’ll still have money left over for the GT Performance pack (a $2,995 option), which includes special 19-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, a limited-slip differential, and upgraded suspension.
The Chevy Camaro shares a platform with the Cadillac ATS. That comes through in the refinement of the Camaro’s performance. The Camaro SS defines affordable power, with a 455-horsepower V8 and starting price of $36,095. The SS also comes standard with 20-inch wheels and Brembo performance brakes.
Starting at $25,495, the BRZ is the epitome of thrifty, lightweight, corner-carving goodness. Co-developed with Toyota, the BRZ features an opposing-cylinder engine with a low center of gravity that’s ideal for hard cornering. It makes 205 horsepower, but with a curb weight of about 2,800 pounds, it’s more than enough. If you enjoy a car like the Mazda Miata but want a coupe layout or a stiffer suspension, the BRZ is a solid option.
The Toyota 86 shares a great deal with the BRZ, save for some minor cosmetic changes. They’re both capable of as much as 32 miles per gallon on the highway, in addition to their fantastic driving dynamics. Unlike the similarly spry Miata, the 86 has a back seat, and unlike the unruly Mustang, the 86’s perfect handling setup works for beginners, too. The base MSRP is just $26,975.
Take the handling and reliability of the Mazda Miata, inject a turbocharged powerplant and timeless Italian styling, and you have the Fiat 124. This best-of-both worlds roadster is closely based on the Miata, as evidenced by the interior. But the 124 Spider has an exterior styling all its own. Even the range-topping and more powerful 124 Abarth starts at just $28,195.
Mini Cooper JCW
The Mini Cooper is something of a choose-your-own adventure car. The base Cooper is a cute little runabout, the Cooper S is an affordable enthusiast car, and the John Cooper Works — or JCW — is a true performance machine. Starting at $30,900, it offers 228 horsepower, which is more than enough to move around such a small vehicle. The short wheelbase makes it one of the most fun front-wheel drive cars on the market.
Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio
When you hear the Fiat 500 Abarth approach, you’ll be amazed the howl emanating from this little turbocharged machine. The tight handling and brisk acceleration leave you feeling like Fiat built a go-kart for adults. The retractable cloth roof further emphasizes that feeling. At $21,490, the Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio is perfect for unleashing on the weekends.
Mazda Miata RF
The Miata is the ultimate affordable roadster. The Miata RF takes the soft top and replaces it with a retractable roof panel. Mazda has offered a hardtop Miata in the past, but what sets the RF apart is the sculpted fastback setup. Not only does it provide protection from the elements, but it gives the Miata a whole new coupe-like profile.