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8 Great Performance Cars Under $35,000 for 2019

There are currently loads of affordable performance cars on the market, although not all of them look like your stereotypical sports car. Here we’ll outline eight of our favorites, covering hatchbacks, sedans, convertibles and even a tiny little city car.

2019 Volkswagen GTI

2019 Volkswagen GTI

It’s hard to beat the Volkswagen GTI. Combining performance, practicality and luxury, the GTI does it all. Now in its seventh-generation, the GTI also offers great infotainment tech including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, an electronically adjustable suspension, and a variety of active safety features including adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and automatic emergency braking, among other things. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a smooth-shifting 6-speed manual or a clever 7-speed dual-clutch automatic that comes with both paddle shifters and launch control. Pricing for the GTI starts at around $28,000 and tops out at $38,000 for a loaded Autobahn trim. As an added bonus, all 2019 model-year VWs come with an industry-leading 6-year/72,000-mile warranty. Find a Volkswagen GTI for sale

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Just like the basic Jetta, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI has been fully-redesigned for 2019 and offers much of the value-oriented features you’ll find on the GTI, but in an even more affordable, more economical package. The new GLI shares its powertrain options with the GTI, meaning that buyers get a 228-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with either a 6-speed manual or a dual-clutch automatic. As the GLI is less practical and slightly less luxurious than the GTI, the GLI carries a lower price, and base models come in at around $27,000 while a fully loaded GLI Autobahn crests $31k. Find a Volkswagen Jetta for sale

2019 Subaru WRX

2019 Subaru WRX

The WRX is an old school rally car in a modern compact sedan package. Previously offered as either a hatchback or a sedan, the present-day WRX is only available as a sedan. Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder putting out 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque and sending power to all four wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission. Pricing for a base model starts at just over $28,000 while a loaded WRX Limited comes in at just under $33k. Of course, buyers wanting more power and more in-your-face styling can opt for the more potent WRX STI, although that vehicle carries a starting price of around $37,000 — north of our $35,000 target. Find a Subaru WRX for sale

2019 Mini Cooper S

2019 Mini Cooper S

We like Mini for its offering of good driving dynamics, quality interior, and unique character. Three main powertrains are offered across the range: base, S and John Cooper Works. We think the S models offer the best value and are most worthy of the title of “affordable performance car.” Mini offers a variety of models that all follow a very similar design ethos. There’s the basic 2-door hardtop, shown above. A version of that same hardtop with four-doors, a wagon variant known as the Clubman, a 2-door convertible version of the hardtop, and a well, mini SUV known as the Countryman. While front-wheel drive is standard across the range, the Clubman and Countryman are both offered with available all-wheel drive. S trims come with a 189-hp 4-cylinder and tend to fall within the $27,000-$35,000 price range, depending on options. We’d probably opt for the 4-door hardtop. Find a Mini Cooper for sale

2019 Mini Cooper S

2019 Toyota 86

While it’s often criticized for being underpowered, the Toyota 86 offers a pure driving experience not unlike that of the legendary Mazda Miata, which also appears on our list. In addition to it being a blast to drive, we love the rear-wheel-drive 86 for its low starting price of $28,330, while a fully-loaded TRD Special Edition model comes in at $33,425. As it was co-developed with Subaru, under the hood of every 86 is a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed naturally-aspirated Subaru 4-cylinder putting out 205 hp, but only 156 lb-ft of torque when paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, or 200 hp and 151 lb-ft when fitted with the optional automatic.

Given that it bore the bulk of the development responsibilities for the car, Subaru offers its own version of the 86 known as the BRZ, which is priced similarly and offers virtually the same options. Find a Toyota 86 for sale

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

The new Veloster N is an excellent performance car value. The first vehicle to be offered under Hyundai’s “N” performance brand, the Veloster N packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 250 hp in base form, although there’s an optional $2,100 performance pack that increases output to 275 and introduces bigger ventilated brakes, a limited-slip differential, 19-in wheels with summer tires, and a trick variable exhaust system. A six-speed manual is the only available transmission and offers a unique rev-matching feature. On top of the performance features, the Veloster offers a convenient hatchback body style with a unique 3-door design: one long coupe like door on the driver’s side and two smaller doors on the passenger side. Pricing stays well under $35,000 regardless of how the Veloster N is optioned. Base models start at around $28,000 while a fully-loaded example with the Performance Pack comes in at just under $30,000. Find a Hyundai Veloster for sale

2019 Fiat 500 Abarth

While it’s the smallest vehicle on this list, the Fiat 500 Abarth is also the cheapest, with a starting price of just over $20,000. The diminutive 500 Abarth uses a small turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 160 hp, which is a respectable figure for such a small car. This engine comes paired with a six-speed manual transmission directing power to the front wheels. The Abarth rounds things out with funky performance bits, a sport suspension, tight handling and a delightful grumbly exhaust note, which really serves to give the vehicle some of its character. There’s also a “Cabrio” model with a retractable fabric roof. Fully loaded, a regular Fiat 500 Abarth tops out at just $27,000, while the Cabrio comes in at around $28,500. Find a Fiat 500 for sale

2019 Mazda Miata

The Miata embodies everything a sports car should be and is one of our favorite performance cars of all time. It’s RWD. It’s offered with a 6-speed manual transmission (although an automatic is also available). It’s got exceptional handling characteristics. It’s got a very-usable 181 hp, which is enough to have fun with, but not enough to get you in trouble. And it’s got a convertible top. This all combines to make the Miata one of the most awesome-to-drive vehicles on the market. It’s also got a very reasonable base price of around $27,000 when factoring in destination fees. Three trim levels are offered: a basic Sport model comes with just the essentials, the Club model offers Brembo brakes and a few other features that increase the Miata’s track performance, while the Grand Touring introduces a limited-slip differential, Bilstein dampers, and a few luxury appointments. Fully-loaded, the basic Miata tops out at about $32,000. For those wanting a fixed-roof option, there’s also the Miata RF, which comes in an attractive fastback body style with a power-retractable roof panel. Find a Mazda MX-5 Miata for sale

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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