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9 Great Performance Cars Under $40,000 for 2019

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author photo by Chris O'Neill August 2019

With hot hatchbacks, muscle cars and a few convertibles all on the table, buyers looking for a fun performance car at a budget of around $40,000 have a lot of options. To help in your search, we've outlined nine of our favorite performance cars available at this price point.

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI

The original hot hatchback, the Volkswagen GTI combines performance and practicality in a refined package that rivals many luxury cars. The seventh-generation, or "MKVII" GTI as it's known, has been on sale now since the 2015 model year. Power comes courtesy of a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 228 horsepower and a healthy 258 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a 6-speed manual or Volkswagen's trick 7-speed dual clutch automatic that comes with paddle shifters and launch control. Inside, select GTI trims come with delightful plaid seating surfaces, while the new-for-2019 "Rabbit Edition" is offered in a trim-level exclusive Cornflower Blue exterior color. The 2019 GTI starts at about $28,000 and tops out at around $38,000 in fully-loaded Autobahn trim. Act now as all 2019 models also come with an industry-leading 6-year/72,000-mile warranty. VW has announced that this awesome warranty will be reduced to 4 years/50,000 miles for 2020 model year vehicles. Find a Volkswagen GTI for sale

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

The Volkswagen Jetta has been fully redesigned for 2019 and as such, its performance-oriented GLI variant is all-new as well. Making use of the same engine and transmission options as the GTI, the GLI offers similar performance to its 5-door counterpart, but in a more value-oriented package. While the GTI pushes toward the upmarket, the GLI keeps things economical, which allows VW to offer it at a lower price than the GTI. Pricing starts at around $27,000 for a base S model with a 6-speed manual and tops out at about $31,000 for an Autobahn model with the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic. A 35th Anniversary Edition is offered in the middle of the range and comes with unique wheels, adaptive chassis control and 35th Anniversary badging. Find a Volkswagen Jetta for sale

2019 Volkswagen Golf R

2019 Volkswagen Golf R

The Golf R is the ultimate Volkswagen Golf, and as such, is one of our favorite affordable performance cars. Unlike the front-wheel drive (FWD) GTI, the Golf R offers all-wheel drive (AWD), not to mention 288 hp. Transmission options are the same as in the GTI and GLI, with both a 6-speed manual and 7-speed DSG on the table. Either way, the Golf R offers a 0-to-60 mph time of around 4.9 seconds. Amenities are good too, with all of the safety features offered on the GTI made standard on the Golf R, as is a leather interior and an electronically adjustable suspension. Worth noting though is that the Golf R is not sold with a sunroof here in the United States -- a move that is almost certainly meant to help Volkswagen's own profit margins on the vehicle. Pricing for the Golf R will force you to stretch that budget a bit, as out the door costs will come in at just over $41,000. Find a Volkswagen Golf R for sale

2019 Subaru WRX STI

2019 Subaru WRX STI

Born out of Subaru's rallying heritage, the WRX STI has long been a rough, aggressive performance sedan offering AWD, a giant hood scoop and a massive rear wing. Two grades are offered: The basic STI comes in at just under $38,000, while the Limited costs closer to $43k and adds amenities like a sunroof, Recaro seats, a power driver's seat and hands-free keyless entry. Under the hood of either trim is a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine putting out a healthy 310 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque and powering all four wheels. 0-to-60 mph comes in around 4.5 seconds. Overall, the STI is a raucous, old-school rally car. It's light on refinement and heavy on fun. Find a Subaru WRX for sale

2019 Honda Civic Type R

2019 Honda Civic Type R

Unlike its rivals like the Subaru WRX STI and Volkswagen Golf R, both of which offer 4-wheel traction, the Civic Type R is FWD. Don't let this deter you though, as most reviewers argue that the Civic Type R is perhaps the best FWD performance car of all time. With 306 hp on tap, Honda's engineers had to be careful to preserve the vehicle's handling, and were largely successful in doing so, as the vehicle exhibits virtually no torque steer despite offering so much power. While it's obnoxious, vent-ridden exterior may not be for everyone, the Civic Type R has an exciting, racy interior, with red seatbelts and highly bolstered front sport seats, also in red. Pricing comes in at just over $37,000. Find a Honda Civic for sale

2019 Mazda Miata RF

2019 Mazda Miata RF

The Mazda Miata offers one of the purest driving experiences of any vehicle on sale today. On top of this, the Miata received an update for the 2019 model year and now comes with 21 more hp than in years prior, along with a new rearview camera and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, among a few other things. Mazda has also adjusted the vehicle's redline, which makes for better power availability. On top of all this, in RF form, the Miata wears an attractive fastback design with a power folding center roof piece. This allows for most of the open-air experience of the convertible, but makes for a quieter, more civilized experience with the roof up. It also looks really, really cool. With few options on the table outside of an available automatic transmission, the 2019 Mazda Miata RF costs between about $34,000 and $36,000. We highly recommend the 6-speed manual. Find a Mazda MX-5 Miata RF for sale

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

2019 Hyundai Veloster N

The Veloster N is the first vehicle offered under Hyundai's new 'N' performance sub-brand. A hot hatchback in the same vein as the Volkswagen GTI or now-discontinued Ford Focus ST, the Veloster blends a potent turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, a variety of performance accessories and the quirky 3-door design of the Veloster. Altogether, it makes for a charming, practical package. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine churning out 250 hp, or 275 with the available $2,100 'Performance Package', which adds a limited-slip differential, ventilated brakes, 19-in wheels with summer tires and a variable exhaust system. The Veloster's only available transmission -- a 6-speed manual -- comes with a trick rev-matching feature as well. Find a Hyundai Veloster for sale

2019 Ford Mustang GT

2019 Ford Mustang GT

While it may seem like a bigger, badder, more aggressive sports car than most of the other vehicles on this list, the Mustang makes its mark as a performance car bargain, and buyers wanting a Mustang for under $40,000 have a few different options. The basic Mustang Fastback with a manual transmission and a 4-cylinder turbocharged engine starts at under $28,000, while the GT Fastback comes in at under $37,000, or about $38,500 with the automatic transmission. The Convertible commands about a $5,000 premium, meaning that buyers content with the turbo 4-cylinder can still get the open air experience for under $40k. For $40,000, we'd probably go with a Mustang GT with the GT Performance Package, which comes in at just a few dollars north of $40k. For your money you'll get 460 hp, rear-wheel drive (RWD), a 6-speed manual transmission and a variety of add-ons that increase both the vehicle's performance and visual appeal. Find a Ford Mustang for sale

2019 Chevrolet Camaro SS

2019 Chevrolet Camaro SS

The Camaro SS is another performance car bargain that, like the Mustang, offers buyers loads of hp for under $40k. The Camaro starts at about $26,000 and is offered with three different engines: a turbocharged 4-cylinder, a V6 and a potent V8. Also like the Mustang, the Camaro offers a convertible body style as well. Factoring in our budget, we like the Camaro SS with the 10-speed automatic, or the 6-speed manual and a few performance options like the available sway bar upgrade or the 1LE suspension package. Find a Chevrolet Camaro for sale

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New 2019 Volkswagen GTI SE
New 2019 Volkswagen GTI
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New 2019 Volkswagen GTI SE
New 2019 Volkswagen GTI
MSRP $34,025
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New 2019 Volkswagen GTI SE
New 2019 Volkswagen GTI
MSRP $33,935
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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New 2019 Volkswagen GTI SE
New 2019 Volkswagen GTI
MSRP $33,935
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
9 Great Performance Cars Under $40,000 for 2019 - Autotrader