For many, buying their dream machine is out of reach for the simple reason of cost. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun, fast and furious ride on the more affordable side. There are plenty of options on the market for used cars that will give you all the style and speed you’re looking for in a daily driver or a weekend speedster. Here are five great choices you can find for under $15,000.
2013–2014 Ford Focus
The Ford Focus ST is the perfect example of a fun hatchback with lots of gusto. This little dynamo is motivated by a turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecoboost engine that produces 246 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, and ties to a fast-shifting 6-speed manual transmission that delivers a very sporty driving experience. The Focus ST also does well in corners, with lots of grip and balance, invoking a sense of confidence on the curviest of roads. The Focus is also a showcase for all the latest technology. Take a test drive and see what makes the Ford Focus one of the most surefooted and advanced used cars on the road today.
2002–2006 Mazda Miata
The Mazda Miata has been the epitome of a lightweight roadster for the past quarter century. Its sole purpose is to be driven spiritedly and to thrill unequivocally. Known for its precise steering and superb driving dynamics, the front-drive Miata is expectedly responsive on all road types, especially quick switchbacks with lots of hairpin turns. The car’s fast-revving 142-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine is mated well with the car’s 5-speed manual gearbox, but there’s also an available 6-speed manual. Both grant easy shifts and short throws, but the 6-speed’s extra gear gives the driver a little more to play with on the open road. If you’re looking for wind-in-your-hair excitement, the Miata is the modern roadster at its finest.
2013–2014 Scion FR-S
Scion may be gone, but they left us with a very well-conceived rear-wheel-drive sport coupe co-developed by Toyota and Subaru. Youthful and sporty, the FR-S is motivated by a 2.0-liter flat-4 engine channeling 200 hp through either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic. But the manual is clearly more fun. On the road, the FR-S benefits from its lightweight, concise dimensions, low center of gravity and balanced chassis. All of these characteristics result in a tremendously stable and enjoyable experience. And the FR-S — along with its Subaru twin, the BR-Z — is easy on the eyes with its sleek, racecar-inspired styling. It’s hard to go wrong with any of that.
2006–2008 Subaru Impreza WRX
The Subaru Impreza WRX is all about pushing your car to the limits. As one of the quickest and best handling compact cars around, this little all-wheel-drive road runner evokes images of rally cars endlessly drifting around tight turns and hairpin curves. If you want to learn how to slide your car sideways, the WRX is the car. With its sporty good looks and cockpit-like interior, this Subaru delivers a performance experience that’s as over-the-top as it is unique. Armed with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, the WRX delivers 224 hp to go with its lightening fast reflexes. Feel free to take to the pavement or the dirt — the WRX is exceptional on both.
2008–2011 Volkswagen GTI
This stylish hatchback racer is bold, despite its small size. Not only does it feel stable and solid at highway speeds, the GTI is very well-mannered on the road through virtually any kind of driving. Embodying German engineering, the GTI touts a combination of responsive handling, civilized ride quality and impressive fuel economy. The 2.0-liter inline-4 engine produces 200 hp and ties to a standard 6-speed manual gearbox or an optional 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. Within, the well-appointed cabin exudes plenty of refinement and high-quality materials, while providing generous cargo capacity to those who need a little extra stuff on their speedy adventures.