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8 Great Used Performance Cars Under $15,000 for 2019

Affordable performance cars have grown popular over the past couple of decades thanks to the proliferation of hot hatchbacks, turbocharged engines and lightweight technologies. Still, with most starting at around $25,000, many shoppers may be turning to the used market to get their affordable performance fix. Here are eight of our favorite used performance cars that you can get for around $15,000.

2015-2017 Volkswagen GTI

2015-2017 Volkswagen GTI

The GTI is the original hot hatchback, and has the performance credentials to back up its legendary reputation. The GTI is beloved for its nimble handling, great interior quality and practical hatchback body style. It’s also an excellent performance car bargain, and brand new models can be had for as little as $28,500, leaving plenty of great options on the used market for around $15,000. Buyers can choose between a smooth-shifting 6-speed manual transmission or VW’s clever, lightning-quick 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, which comes with paddle shifters and launch control. Thanks to depreciation, right now on Autotrader, there are close to 150 2015-2017 GTIs listed for around $15,000 or less. Of these, more than half come with the DSG transmission, while 37 are the rare 2-door model, which was discontinued after 2017. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a manual or an automatic, or two of four doors, a used GTI is one of the best performance car bargains available today. Find a Volkswagen GTI for sale

Toyota 86

2012-2017 Toyota 86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ

Co-developed by Subaru and Toyota, the Subaru BRZ, the Scion FR-S and the Toyota 86 are basically the same vehicle. While the BRZ has been offered from 2012 all the way to today, the Scion FR-S was produced through the 2016 model year and became the Toyota 86 starting in 2017 after Toyota discontinued the Scion brand. Regardless, drivers love the "Toyobaru" twins for their low center of gravity, balanced steering and rear-wheel drive architecture, all of which serve to make them extremely approachable by drivers of all skill levels. Powering the FR-S, the BRZ and the 86 is a naturally-aspirated 2.0 liter 4-cylinder putting out 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Both 6-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available. A combined search on Autotrader for used 86, FR-S and BRZ models returns close to 300 results for around $15,000. Of these, around 130 come with a manual transmission. Find a Toyota 86 for sale or Find a Scion FR-S for sale or Find a Subaru BRZ for sale

2014-2018 Ford Fiesta ST

When it comes to used performance cars, the Fiesta ST represents an excellent value, provided you can tolerate its small size. The Fiesta ST uses a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making an impressive 197 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque, which is comparable to many larger sporty compact cars from the era like the Volkswagen GTI and the Civic Si. Offered exclusively as a 4-door hatchback, the "FiST," as it’s known colloquially, offers practicality to go with its great handling, style and efficiency. There are currently over 170 Fiesta STs listed on Autotrader for around $15,000. Find a  Ford Fiesta for sale

2013-2018 Ford Focus ST

2013-2018 Ford Focus ST

Competing in a class up from the subcompact Fiesta ST, the compact Focus ST came out for 2013, and was aimed squarely at vehicles like the Volkswagen GTI and the Honda Civic Si. The Focus ST offer impressive performance credentials, thanks to a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine making 252 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. The Focus ST also offered a fun 6-speed manual transmission, along with performance styling cues like a body kit, sport seats and a center-outlet exhaust. Overall, the Focus ST is a fun, tossable hot hatch with great handling and acceleration. There are currently around 220 Focus STs for sale on Autotrader for around $15,000, over 50 of which are even the updated 2015-or-newer model. Find a Ford Focus for sale

2006-2015 Mazda Miata

2006-2015 Mazda Miata

Thanks to its lightweight RWD platform, the Mazda Miata is one of the best driving vehicles of all time. Introduced way back in 1989 and now in its fourth-generation, buyers can currently find third-gen examples of the Miata, known as the "NC" generation, for around $15,000. The NC Miata was introduced for the 2005 model year, got an update for 2008 and another update for 2013. Power came from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine putting out 170 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque with a 5- or 6-speed manual, or 158 hp if you opt for the 6-speed automatic. For anyone on the fence about the convertible top, the Miata became available with a clever power-folding hardtop starting with the 2007 model year. Currently on Autotrader, there are over 350 2005-2015 Miatas listed for around $15,000. Of these, around 150 come with a manual transmission, while 60 are the updated 2013 or newer model. If you’re willing to be patient, there are even a few 2016-and-newer models from the Miata’s current "ND" generation listed for around $15,000 as well. Find a Mazda Miata for sale

2012-2015 Honda Civic Si

2012-2015 Honda Civic Si

The Civic Si is powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine making 201 hp and still returns around 25 miles per gallon in combined driving. Both sedan and coupe body styles are offered, either of which comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission. Unlike a comparable Focus ST, the Civic Si is understated, with conservative styling and minimal design elements that differentiate it from lesser Civics, making it great for anyone that wants to fly under the radar. The Civic also offered excellent interior fit and finish, all backed by Honda reliability. Currently on Autotrader, there are over 250 2012-2015 Civic Sis listed for around $15,000 or less. Find a Honda Civic for sale

2009-2014 Subaru WRX

2009-2014 Subaru WRX

Subaru’s WRX is unique in that it offers all-wheel drive in a segment dominated by front-wheel drive vehicles. Powering the WRX is a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making a respectable 265 hp and 244 lb-ft of torque and mated with a 6-speed manual transmission, good for a 0-to-60 mph time of under 5.0 seconds, making it the fastest vehicle on this list. Additionally, the 2009-2014 WRX was the last one to be offered in the convenient hatchback body style. Whether you opt for a hatchback or a sedan, know that you’re getting an affordable, all-weather performance car with the WRX, even if the interior quality isn’t quite on par with that of the competition. Right now on Autotrader, there are around 150 2009-2014 WRXs listed for around $15,000 or less. Find a Subaru WRX for sale

2012-2018 Fiat 500 Abarth

2012-2018 Fiat 500 Abarth

The tiny Fiat 500 Abarth is another great performance car value. Power comes from a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 160 hp, which may not seem like a lot until you consider that this tiny city car comes in at around 12 feet in length. This allows the 500 Abarth to get from 0-to-60 mph in 6.6 seconds, and combined with its great handling and fun, grumbly exhaust note, makes for an invigorating ride. Since a brand new Abarth can be had for right around $20,000, it isn’t hard to find used examples for around $15,000 or less, and there are currently around 160 listed on Autotrader that would fit the bill. Interior quality leaves something to be desired, but as used prices can dip below $10,000, it’s hard to be the Abarth’s overall package. Find a Fiat 500 for sale

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

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