Here in 2019, you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to get a fun sports car to use for anything from track days to just making your evening commute a little more enjoyable. Thanks to the rise in popularity of hot hatchbacks and sporty compact coupes over the past decade, there’s a great affordable sports car out there for just about anyone. Here, we’ve outlined six of our favorite used performance cars available for $10,000 or less.
2010-2014 Volkswagen GTI
Any list of affordable performance cars should start with the Volkswagen GTI. On the market since the late 1970s, the GTI is the original hot hatch, and offers serious performance credibility in a seriously sophisticated package. The MKVI — or "Mark 6" — GTI, offered here in the states from the 2010 to 2014 model years, can be had in 2- and 4-door hatchback body styles and comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine putting out 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Transmission options consist of a 6-speed manual or a fast-shifting 6-speed dual clutch automatic Volkswagen brands as the direct-shift gearbox (DSG) that includes paddle shifters and launch control. The DSG is good for a 0-to-60 time of right around six seconds flat, or less, depending on who’s testing you trust. Additionally, the GTI comes with an upscale interior oozing with smart design and high-end materials. High-end plaid fabric seats come standard; opting for the top-of-the-line Autobahn package gets you leather. No matter how you option it, the GTI will not disappoint, and there are currently around 200 2010-2014 examples listed on Autotrader for around $10,000. Find a Volkswagen GTI for sale
2006-2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The third-generation Miata, known by the model code "NC," was sold from 2006 to 2015, and is criminally undervalued as far as Miata heritage goes. Heavier than both its predecessors and the vehicle that replaced it, the NC offered somewhat compromised performance as far as the Miata purists are concerned. But as far as sports cars go as a whole, the third-gen Miata is still a blast, offering great balance and handling, worthy of everything from track days to top-down summer cruising. There is no purer driving experience than navigating tight turns behind the wheel of a Miata.
The NC Miata also offers smart, conservative styling that has aged well and is sure to do so well into the future. Right now on Autotrader, there are close to 200 2006-2015 Mazda Miatas listed for around $10k, with most coming from early on in the model run. Of these, around 40% offer the 6-speed manual transmission, while the rest come with the automatic. Although it limits your options a bit, we recommend targeting a manual. Find a Mazda MX-5 Miata for sale
2012-2018 Fiat 500 Abarth
If you’re looking for a fun track car and are less concerned with being able to fit a lot in it, the Fiat 500 Abarth is an absolute steal. Offering a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine cranking out a healthy 160 hp, paired with a 6-speed manual transmission and emanating a fun, grumbly exhaust note, the 500 Abarth is an excellent performance car package. It’s also only 12-ft long, allowing for exceptional maneuverability, especially when you factor in its great handling. Interior quality leaves something to be desired, and since Fiat’s status in the U.S. looks to be on life support, 500s tend to experience rapid depreciation, the Abarth included. Factor in that a brand new 500 Abarth can be had for around $15,000, and it makes sense that used examples would hover around the $10,000 mark. Still, there may not be a better performance car deal out there, and there are over 100 Fiat 500 Abarths listed on Autotrader for around $10,000 or less, some with fewer than 20,000 miles on the odometer. Find a Fiat 500 for sale
The Mazda Mazdaspeed3 (yes, it’s correct to say the "Mazda" part twice) first went on sale alongside the first-generation Mazda3 back for the 2007 model year. A heavily revised version then came out for 2010 and was sold through 2013. Offered as a competitor to the Volkswagen GTI and the Civic Si, the Mazdaspeed3’s calling card was power, and lots of it. In an era where the GTI and Civic Si both put out around 200 hp, the Mazda3 made a whopping 263 hp from its turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder. The downside of this power is torque steer, and the Mazdaspeed3 is notorious for exhibiting more of it than any of its performance-oriented front-wheel drive (FWD) competitors. Still, the vehicle offers hatchback practicality in a comfortable package and a love-it-or-hate-it hood scoop.
There are currently around 100 2007-2013 Mazdaspeed3s listed on Autotrader for around $10,000. Around two-thirds of these are the more conservatively styled first-gen model, while the rest are the more in-your-face second-gen. Find a Mazdaspeed3 for sale
2006-2011 Honda Civic Si
Hondas are known for offering great reliability and resale value, and the Civic and its performance-oriented Si counterpart are no different. With a 2.0-liter iVTEC 4-cylinder engine, the Civic puts out 197 hp, but only 138 lb-ft of torque. Every Civic Si comes with a 6-speed manual transmission. Honda quoted a 0-to-60 time of 6.7 seconds for the eighth-gen model. The Civic Si is also unique as it’s the only performance-oriented compact car to offer a coupe variant in an era when most manufacturers have abandoned the body style. As mentioned before, the Civic Si holds its value quite well, and right now on Autotrader there are only around 150 eighth-gen examples listed for about $10k or less.
Buyers wanting something newer and willing to be patient can target a 2012-2015 model from the Civic’s ninth generation, although these are still tough to come by at our desired price point, with only about 50 listed that fit within our budget. Find a Honda Civic for sale
2013-2016 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
Unlike the other vehicles on this list that come with sport-tuned suspensions and other performance-improving features, Hyundai opted to keep things simple with the Veloster Turbo, and performance upgrades are limited to little more than a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine putting out 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, and either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed dual clutch automatic. Even if it won’t eat up a track day like the other used performance cars on this list, the Veloster is a fun ride, and is also fun to look at thanks to unique wheels and turbo-specific styling that includes ominous-looking dual center-outlet exhaust pipes. Additionally, while you may not realize it, the Veloster offers a truly bizarre 3-door design, with two doors on the passenger side and just one elongated door on the driver’s side. Needless to say, whether you’ll be into the Veloster and all of its quirks is a matter of taste.
There are currently about 100 Veloster Turbos listed on Autotrader for around $10k. Of these, around half come with the manual transmission, while the other half offer the unique dual-clutch automatic. The Veloster was also offered in a unique matte gray color, but there are just two listed in this hue. Find a Hyundai Veloter for sale